Is Julia Gillard ‘prime ministerial’? And if she isn’t, does it matter?

As Australians get to know their new leader — and it’s still early days on that journey — what is becoming evident is that the Gillard formulation of national leadership, in both style and substance, is entirely different to anything we have known before.

What we now have in Australia is a PM who publicly admits she prefers being in classrooms to meeting world leaders. Who mainly speaks like a mid-level bureaucrat giving a Powerpoint presentation. Whose style often appears to exaggerate her working-class origins.

Julia Gillard’s only real prime ministerial moment, arguably, came on the day she took Kevin Rudd’s job, when she acted and spoke like a leader with a powerfully articulated vision.

Since then, Australia has been led with managerial competence. But the kind of gravitas, boldness and aura of leadership that gets wrapped into the somewhat elusive description of being ‘prime ministerial’ has, so far, failed to emerge.

Does that matter? Is this kind of commentary elitist? Or is it an important ingredient in the leadership of a modern developed democracy, with fairly major aspirations?

Peter Fray

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