Jun 29, 2013

It's (mostly) just politics

This is a true story: on the night Julia Gillard was replaced with Kevin II as prime minister, my dog stood near me and shook himself vigorously, and a small piece of poo flew out of his butt and landed on my shoe.

He's such a misogynist.

International readers, please excuse this diversion into the past week in Australian politics. What follows may make little sense to you. Unless perhaps you read the UK Huffington Post.

Fellow Australians, what do we think of the role of gender in the deposing of Julia Gillard?

I think gender played a big part in the shabby treatment and lack of respect she was given by radio shock jocks and some of the public.  It took people a long time to get used to having a female PM, and sadly I felt we had just about reached the point of accepting it as 'business as usual' when she was removed.

But I don't think gender had much of a hand in forcing her out.

I certainly don't agree with this kind of opinion that implies female MPs should all have voted to keep Gillard because she's a woman. Wouldn't that be making it all about gender?

What about loyalty?
Politicians have never been loyal against numbers. It's always about winning the next election or jockeying for personal position. Always has been.

What about the role of the media?
Unlike many on Twitter and in the letters pages of the newspapers, I don't think the mainstream media, the ABC, The Age, the Murdoch press or the Canberra press gallery are to blame. They might have overdone the coverage of the Labor leadership issues, but that's how news works. As a journalist I once saw tweet to a critic who told him to write about 'the real story' and not the politicking responded: "It may not be what you WISH the story to be, but it IS the story today."

Oh, you expected the papers to ignore all the internal division and upheavals and talk up the government's achievements? You're annoyed they eulogized the achievements only after Gillard was gone?

Wouldn't you be a bit suspicious if journalists ignored real problems within government and started talking up government achievements while governments were in power? I think I would. Thankfully, I've never seen it happen.

So then?
No one could have governed well in the circumstances Gillard had to work with. The combination of global financial crisis, minority government and relentless undermining by the previously deposed PM made it impossible.

Gillard gets everyone's respect for her strength, her resolve and her hard work, for "getting on with it" and "getting things done." In my opinion she did well under impossible circumstances and delivered some good things for the country. But we also do need our leaders to be communicators, and charismatic to some degree. And one's not enough without the other.

Paul Strangio in The Age summed the whole thing up quite nicely in this piece, which reminds us:

the highwire act of public life almost inevitably ends in failure and defeat

Paul obviously got that idea from my blog post from 2010 where I said CEOs and other public leaders are paid so well as compensation for the fact that some day they will suddenly (and maybe unfairly) be judged as having failed and will be fired.

So Julia Gillard's turn came this week.

It made international news. Here it is in the UK Huffington Post:

And here is a selection of my favourite tweets from the night.

Politics. Makes me glad I work in a gentle, nurturing industry like finance really.


  1. Great post Jackie. There were some awesome tweets going about on the night - it was just all so very surreal, wasn't it? I think you hit the nail on the head about Gillard having really no chance under the circumstances to truly be an effective leader - I wish she could have had that opportunity under less challenging circumstances, I think she could have been a truly great leader. So glad to have found your blog, have followed your facebook page too!

    1. Thanks so much Kirsty!
      Yes it would be interesting to see what Gillard would have been like in different circumstances.

  2. Agreed that Julia being a woman leaned to her shabby treatment by the media. After being through a bulling incident at work recently where I was repeatedly treated like a second class citizen - I'm aware that misogyny is about. It's better than it was, but it's still there. I liked Gillard. I don't mind Rudd - different people, different roles. Still think we should have an elected president / leader so we never have to put up with the leadership crap again.

    1. Good point about elected leaders vs leadership tussles. Hadn't thought of that but it certainly is an ongoing annoying feature of the Westminster system.
      There is definitely misogyny and Julia Gillard definitely put up with a lot of it. I just don't think it was the reason she was shafted in the end.
      I liked her too. Used to like Kevin but not much anymore.

  3. Hi Jackie,

    Yes - the soap opera that is Australian politics made the news headlines here in the UK too. From a distance it does seem like there are gender issues but in reality it proves to me at least that politicians are the same the world over.






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