Back in 2011, then-prime minister Julia Gillard decided to use the Sydney Institute's annual nosh-up to attempt to define herself and her government better. She'd already used an oration in honour of Gough Whitlam that month to outline a peculiar fetishising of manual labour in which, she explained, "we respect the efforts of the brickie and look with a jaundiced eye at the lifestyle of the socialite". When speaking to Gerard Henderson and co, she went further and devoted most of the speech to the "dignity of work"; Gillard appeared eager to define herself as an avatar of a stern, self-punishing obsession with hard yakka.

Gillard's problem at that point was that it wasn't very clear exactly what her vision for Australia was, and because Kevin Rudd had deliberately sabotaged her election campaign, she lacked a majority government that would have better enabled her to do so.