It's hard to see how much benefit Julia Gillard got from the Labor conference. Indeed, there's a real question about whether it wasn't a quiet debacle for her.

Let's put all this into a bit of context: after all the media complaints about an ALP bereft of values indulging in sanitised, heavily controlled conferences devoid of spirit, it's a bit rich to flip the criticism around and lament that the Prime Minister's authority has been damaged by how she was rolled -- by her own nominal faction, better yet -- on same-s-x marriage. Finally we saw a party passionate and having serious stoushes over substantive policy issues, which is exactly what everyone believed Labor needed. But the problem was never about where Gillard stood on an issue like same-s-x marriage, so much as her bizarre decision to use her prime ministerial authority to try to fight what in the end looked like a losing battle over an issue that isn't of particular concern to voters.