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Feb 21, 2013

From one ex-Labor flack, some advice: this Julia they might like

Did we see yet another real Julia at last night's community cabinet meeting in Adelaide? This Labor Prime Minister the people might actually like.


I watched the Prime Minister appearing live on television last night at a community cabinet meeting in Adelaide. I was surprised.

Her voice was different, her whole manner was different. The aggression was gone. She seemed confident, knowledgeable, in control.

It was a far cry from the Julia Gillard delivering a stilted-sounding message to an Australian Workers’ Union congress or the supercilious mouthing of platitudes at a parliamentary question time. She listened to a question — invariably a critical question — and gave a considered answer; she was not patronising, but not defensive about not agreeing with the questioner, either. She treated her questioners politely as the sensible, serious people that most of them were.

Hey, this is a political performer to whom people might actually respond because she sounds both on top of her briefs and honest. This is the Julia Gillard that Labor needs to expose.

So forget the photo opportunities wearing the fluoro vests and the funny hats. Leave the show business to the other team. Make Labor the serious lot. Instead of pretending interest when talking to manufacturing workers when walking factory floors, have lunchtime factory gate meetings where a Prime Minister actually answers real questions about things that worry real people.

Instead of set speeches about the importance of small business, make an occasional visit into the lion’s den of a local chamber of commerce and industry. Let the audience set the agenda in the way that worked so effectively in Adelaide yesterday.

And forget those daily door stops where idiot reporters ask idiot questions. Forget about breakfast television and shock jock radio. The 24-hour news cycle is the media’s problem, not yours. Go back to the past once every two or three weeks and have an old-fashioned formal press conference. But do it in the organised fashion of a US White House, where the parliamentary press gallery has to impose some order on the near-hysterical screeching that now passes for interrogation in Canberra.

Above all, make a reality of the claim that until the August drive to Government House the prime concern of the government is governing, not campaigning. Spend far more time in Canberra doing just that. Days when you are not all over the television, radio and newspapers means you have far more impact when you are.

And perhaps, after all, that really is the real Julia Gillard.

*Richard Farmer worked on the 1977 campaign of Gough Whitlam, for Bill Hayden in 1980 and for all Bob Hawke’s campaigns except for 1984


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20 thoughts on “From one ex-Labor flack, some advice: this Julia they might like

  1. Lee Miller

    Here, here, she’s bloody brilliant when she just gets on with it and gets the message out. Makes the opposition look like a bunch of animated cliches.

  2. Joe Magill

    Couldn’t agree more. I, an average voter, just want to be treated as an adult. The media refuse to deliver the serious analysis (view this for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqek48WWpRk&feature=player_embedded). It has to be the pollies speaking direct to the voter. There’s a lot of talent in this government, why not put it on public display?

  3. The Pav

    Couldn’t agree more.

    When Gillard goes into “free form” interactions then she is at her best

  4. john willoughby

    a full ashby inquiry..no more doorstops.. ration the message..take Milne up on her offer of taking a big stick to the miners … Mitch Hook needs a left hook.. He of the all bets are off
    if the mining rebate is revisited.. onshore processing of refugees.. at least start to resemble a Labour government

  5. wilful

    I think we need to discover the real Julia. I mean, after three years as PM and many more years in the public eye, we hardly know her.

  6. zut alors

    She should cease playing the media game. What’s the worst that can happen?…they’ll turn on her like vipers. Ooops, it’s too late.

  7. JMNO

    Here,here. And fix the mining tax.

  8. Kristian

    Good luck with that, Richard.

    Your expectations of the “ordinary Australian voter” are tragically high.

    For what it’s worth, I completely agree with you.

    Oh look, Tony’s wearing a hi-vis vest. What a guy!

  9. klewso

    “Real” Julia indeed?
    So what does “Real Abbott” look like – without the horse’s rump contamination – so we can recognise that?

  10. The Pav

    Regarding Abbotts recent comment that his policies have an Australian Accent” and that he didn’t import policies I wonder why he wasn’t pulled up on the fact he said he a while back that he couldn’t visit the troops because he was meeting the new British PM to learn how to do it or the fact over the Xmas holdays he spent the time in Euprope and in poarticular the UK learning from the Tories.

  11. jennifergrant jary

    My father was part of the Labor movement in Canberra in the 1970s and early 1980s. He used to mention the Farmer brothers. I now live in Sydney with a school aged child and really wish that Julia Gillard would appear every day doing what Richard Farmer has just described.

  12. David Shaw

    I couldn’t agree more . The “misogyny speech” was as important as much for the content as the delivery . She is an impressive speaker in an informal situation and as PJK says that leaders need to have a narrative . Not just “working families “!! They need to inspire and excite the populace , not pander to the masses like Abbott , pretending he’s one of them . I believe if she gets this right, she’ll wipe the floor with Abbott .

  13. John Anderson

    This is the first sensible comment you have made in along time. I watched community cabinet too. She was very impressive as she is at press gallery conferences. Gillard is a quick thinker, has the measure of all in the press gallery, and if there is a policy wonk in the government it is she. Just look at the legislative/policy record. Sadly, no one is listening right now.

  14. Peter

    It’s too late for Julia…she has baggage and people just don’t like her. All those major stumbles over the past few years will be drawn to the public’s attention ad nauseum in the lead up to September 14.

  15. klewso

    …. and she’s a “woman”?

  16. lulu2503

    Richard, my thoughts exactly! Thank you for expressing them for me. I tweeted the PM recently asking her to ‘speak our language’.

  17. klewso

    Maybe if Gillard didn’t insist on surrounding herself with this “bundle” of dead-wood kindling (igniting as it does when it gets too close to naked ambition, as in the “flaming press”) meant to be advising her, she wouldn’t get burned so much?
    Do they get to play “Devil’s Advocate”, or just to say nice things? If they don’t get that chance to pose worst case scenarios, and thus alternate plans, maybe they should be relabelled “courtiers”, instead of advisors?

  18. iggy648

    Anybody got a link to the Community Cabinet speech?

  19. Dogs breakfast

    “….she sounds both on top of her briefs…”

    Great to hear that she has her underwear sorted out.

    Apart from that, I agree entirely. From the very first day of the previous election period when she repeatedly said some awkward phrase (was it ‘working families’?) a thousand times, I have been urging the PM to either get rid of every PR/Media adviser in her circle, or else keep them there and do exactly the opposite of what they are telling her.

    They perform the function of parasites, and are killing the host.

  20. AR

    How I long for the DPM Gillard, light on her feet, full of wit, wisdom & humour and able to make valid contributions in English rather than monotone SussexSt shyte.


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