Gillard and Rudd: a short history

by John Q on July 14, 2013

I was asked in comments a while back to say something about the recent developments in Australian politics, in which Labor PM Kevin Rudd, deposed in favour of Julia Gillard three years ago, has returned to office. I won’t explain the mechanics of the process here, but instead talk about the personalities, policy differences and the issue of gender and misogyny. I’ll disclose up front that I supported Rudd’s initial selection as Labor leader, opposed his deposition, and supported his return, and that my views of Gillard are generally negative. For a reasonably balanced pro-Gillard case, you can look at this piece by Julia Baird.

A crucial point in understanding the issue is that Rudd was, and is, well-liked by the Australian public, but disliked, even hated, by many of his colleagues and other insiders.[^1] By contrast, Gillard was, and is, well liked, by her colleagues. This positive view was mostly shared by the general public, at least, those who cared enough about politics to have a view, until her installation as Prime Minister, and even for a short while thereafter. As Deputy PM, she was generally seen as the heir apparent to Rudd, and no one (AFAICT) foresaw any big problems for a female PM. We’d already had women as premiers and party leaders in most states, and the assumption was that there was bound to be a woman PM before too long.

However, beginning with her coup against Rudd, which was a complete shock to most voters, she came to be hated by large sections of the Australian public, with a venom that I can’t recall for any other public figure since John Kerr (who, as Governor-General, sacked an incumbent Labor Prime Minister in 1975). As a result of Gillard’s unpopularity, Labor was headed for a catastrophic defeat in the elections due this year. At least initially, Rudd’s restoration has turned things around, with the two parties now running level in the polls.

For a long time, the insiders believed that, if they could only tell the public how they saw the characters of Rudd and Gillard, their view would be accepted. This was reflected first in a campaign to present the ‘real Julia’, and later in an all-out denunciation of Rudd by many of his (then) former ministerial colleagues. Both were spectacular failures. The ‘real Julia’ campaign reinforced the view that her public persona was a fraud, while the attacks on Rudd reinforced the view that he was an outsider who had been punished for going up against a ruthless party machine.

Although there were a lot of policy issues that contributed to Gillard’s downfall, the crucial one was climate change policy. Rudd campaigned hard on the issue in 2007, and spent a long time trying to build consensus in support of an emissions trading scheme. But these efforts failed, about the time of the Copenhagen conference, which was also seen as a failure.[^2] Rudd ducked the option of calling a special election on the issue, which he would probably have won. As a result, he was unable to resist when Gillard and other senior ministers demanded he drop the policy altogether. This about-face led to a sharp drop in his popularity, and then to his dumping as PM by the very people who had forced the change on him.

In the leadup to the 2010 election, Gillard did her best to run away from the issue, with absurd proposals like a ‘citizens assembly’ of 150 random people[^3] who were supposed to reach the consensus that had eluded the politicians. And, in an unguarded moment, she promised ‘there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead’.
As it turned out, the election produced a minority government, dependent on Green support. Gillard was forced to implement a policy that included a fixed-price for emissions permits, at least initially.[^4] For practical purposes, this was equivalent to a tax, and Gillard sealed her fate by admitting as much. From this time on, she was widely derided with epithets such as ‘Juliar’. In a sense this was unfair – in her pre-election promise, she had surely not contemplated a minority government, and it was possible to argue that the fixed carbon price was not really a tax. On the other hand, given her record of twists and turns on the issue, it was poetic justice. There were other mis-steps, but this was by far the worst.

Although she was notionally associated with the left of the Labor Party, Gillard was to the right of the party on most issues, beginning with those that had caused trouble for Rudd – climate change, mining taxes and asylum seekers. Most notably, she cut benefits for single parents, and opposed equal marriage, even though she herself lived in the Prime Ministerial residence, unmarried, with her (male) partner. She gave no explanation for her stance on equal marriage, but the most plausible explanation is that she needed the support of a Catholic trade union boss, notable more for his anti-gay stance than for any achievements on behalf of his members.

This brings us to the issue of gender and misogyny, which briefly brought her worldwide fame. There’s no doubt that some of the opposition to Gillard was driven by hostility to the idea of a woman leader, though most Australian states have had women as premiers/chief ministers and none has aroused this kind of vitriol.

More important, I think, is that the political hostility for things like the gyrations over climate policy was expressed in misogynistic and gendered terms, as has happened in other cases such as those of Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. The Thatcher-Gillard parallel is particularly close – ‘Ditch the Witch’ as an anti-Gillard slogan coincided with the UK popularity of ‘Ding Dong: The Witch is Dead’, following Thatcher’s death. Gillard herself summed it up reasonably well, saying that gender didn’t explain everything about her rise and fall, but it also didn’t explain nothing.

Gillard’s experience shows that women in politics have to deal with attacks that men would not experience. On the other hand, the attacks were probably a net positive for her in political terms. The government’s popularity recovered from its lowest point after her misogyny speech, before falling again to disastrous levels as a result of new policy failures and the exposure of spectacular corruption in the political machine that backed her.

The last few years of Australian politics haven’t been an edifying spectacle. None of our leaders, on either side of politics, have covered themselves in glory. On the other hand, the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments, with Green support, have accomplished a lot between them.[^5] Since 2007, Australia has avoided the global financial crisis, introduced an emissions trading scheme, made substantial progress towards a publicly owned national broadband network and disability insurance scheme, to name but a few. Rudd’s return offers the chance that these achievements will be protected from the calamitous prospect of a conservative government, or at least that any such government will not have complete control of the Parliament.

[^1]: We actually have a TV program with that name, which I refuse to watch.
[^2]: In retrospect, Copenhagen looks more successful than it seemed at the time. Despite the absence of any binding agreement, most of the big emitters seem likely to meet the targets they committed to in Copenhagen.
[^3]: Coincidentally or not, about the same as the number of members in the House of Representatives.
[^4]: As a member of Australia’s Climate Change Authority, I have to advise on various aspects of this policy, which constrains what I can say about it.
[^5]: Inevitably, the question of how the credit should be divided is itself divisive. Most of these measures began under Rudd, but were implemented under Gillard.



Peter R 07.14.13 at 7:03 am

I might have a bit more positive to say about Gillard than you do, but (speaking as a non-Australian watching the whole thing unfold from down here in Victoria for several years now) I think that’s an excellent assessment of the overall picture. Gillard unquestionably came in for a huge amount of misogynistic crap flung at her that would not have been matched had she been male. She also got a lot of stick for bog-standard political actions that did not stir up similar outrage when done by others: her replacement of Rudd via leadership spill was somehow a unique affront to democracy and decency, whereas Abbot replacing Turnbull – or Turnbull replacing Nelson, or Keating replacing Hawke – was somehow just hardball politics-as-usual. I certainly don’t have much sympathy for her in being replaced the same way; live by the sword, die by the sword, as it were. But I do find it interesting to see an awful lot of people who I generally am in reasonable agreement with on politics blame her removal as PM almost exclusively on misogyny and gender issues, rather than the very real political issues related to her leadership (not least the catastrophic defeat they seemed to be headed for in the next election).

On the other hand, her treatment of those dependent on Newstart was shameful, as was her refusal (for no really good reason, as you note) to support gay marriage. Unfortunately, the worst black mark against Labor in my opinion is the increasing brutality of its policy on refugees and asylum seekers, and this doesn’t seem to likely to change regardless of who is leading the party. Labor seems dead-set on out-Liberaling the Liberals on asylum seekers, and nobody in the party leadership seems to have the guts or human decency to stand up and say ‘enough’, and to make the argument to voters that they’re being stirred up over what is really a very minor issue in terms of the country’s problems as a whole.

And now I look at the Age and see a headline declaring that Rudd’s planning on scrapping the fixed carbon price earlier than planned, which doesn’t fill me with confidence about his climate change policy. Mind you, any Labor government would be better than the Coalition on those grounds. I rather liked the minority situation that really gave the Greens some heft, but I think I’m rather in the minority myself on that question.


John Quiggin 07.14.13 at 7:16 am

I rather liked the minority situation that really gave the Greens some heft, but I think I’m rather in the minority myself on that question.


leinad 07.14.13 at 7:51 am

A good analysis, JQ.

The only thing I’d add is that Gillard’s difficulties were magnified by the hung parliament after 2010. While she was an excellent negotiator and did well to secure a working legislative arrangement, overcoming a relentless Opposition, dodgy MPs and crossbench ultimata (notably Andrew Wilkie’s dead-man switch over gambling reform) the process of horse-trading while unremarkable in many multiparty democracies ran counter to public perceptions of how parliament and prime ministers conduct affairs in Australia’s “two-party”* system. Having already come to the office in somewhat sketchy circumstances, this failure to outright win the subsequent election and govern in her own right cruelled Gillard’s ability to establish prime ministerial authority.

*never mind that Liberal/National coalition or proportionally representative Senate business, the Australian public thinks it has a Westminster parliament and a Presidential PM


Tony Lynch 07.14.13 at 9:27 am

For many of us the problem was- as you hint on the gay marrige issue, and was manifest with her coup members and subsequent cabinent appointments – was her inability or refusal to take on the shocking and entrenched corruption of the Right faction and it’s toxic source in the New South Wales Right.


Tim Worstall 07.14.13 at 10:04 am

“Gillard was forced to implement a policy that included a fixed-price for emissions permits, at least initially.4 For practical purposes, this was equivalent to a tax, and Gillard sealed her fate by admitting as much. From this time on, she was widely derided with epithets such as ‘Juliar’. In a sense this was unfair – in her pre-election promise, she had surely not contemplated a minority government, and it was possible to argue that the fixed carbon price was not really a tax.”

I understand the politics of it (helped by the explanation above). But how sad that one of the world’s most sensible climate change policies leads to the defenestration of the politician seen as responsible for it.

Certainly there are differences between Stern, Nordhaus, Tol, Weizman, Hansen and so on and on, but a general agreement that given the externalities of emissions the solution is a Pigou Tax at some arguable rate which is made revenue neutral by, say, increasing the personal allowance, reducing social security charges or even a citizens’ dividend.

Which is largely what Oz instituted: the carbon tax with a hefty rise in the personal allowance. In theory they did the right thing: and don’t the voters hate them for it?


floopmeister 07.14.13 at 10:54 am

Actually the Age has just reported on a poll result which reported the majority of Australians supporting the retention of the climate tax now…

…but only because we want the give to keep that money (presumably due to all the bleating from Abbott about ‘The Debt’).

Seems we’re happy to keep it now, but for the ‘wrong’ reason.


floopmeister 07.14.13 at 10:55 am

Oops – should be ‘we want the gov to keep that money…


Neil Levy 07.14.13 at 12:24 pm

John Quiggin is well informed and as entitled to his opinion as any commentator on this issue. He is also an astute commentator on the policies. But I think he is quite wrong in claiming that the misogyny was a net positive for Gillard. On his blog he has refused to countenance the possibility that Gillard’s unpopularity is due, in part, to sexism (rather, he sees the sexist as coming from the right alone). At least that’s what he seems to believe (apologies, John, if I have this wrong). I think it extremely likely that implicit sexism has been an important contributor to negative perceptions: what might have been seen as forgivable (eg introducing the carbon tax and especially toppling a sitting prime minister) in man was unforgivable in a woman.


basil 07.14.13 at 12:24 pm

It is interesting to think about the contrast, brought out in the OP and later by leinad @3, between the public and party understanding of what a desirable PM is.

IIRC, and with respect to those who know better, one of the reasons Rudd was so little liked by the party the first time around was his ‘presidential-style’, a euphemism for his idea that the mandate was given to HIM, KRudd the Celebrity, and not to Labour, that he was the boss and director, not merely the facilitator, spokesman and chief-negotiator working out the will of the parliamentary party, on behalf of millions of voters situated in a broad left of centre political tradition. He wanted to be Blair.

Many Australians I know didn’t understand his ouster or think it fair. They saw it as a coup. PMs they said, should be voted out. They shouldn’t resign or be ejected.

It seems clear that as elections approach, the public and the party views are more closely aligned. PMs who are shown through polling to be an asset, will be tolerated even if unloved, and those who are seen as a liability will be defenstrated even when loved by the party.*

In such a political culture, it is clear why PMs would take it upon themselves in their lofty wisdom to shift course midstream, as if on a whim, and to revert again should they think it convenient. They are after all, vessels of the public will, held to account not by a party programme or longer-term vision of society, but by their ability to win elections. Their striving after personal glory also seems justified, as again they suffer alone should they fail to craft and convert policy into votes at the election.

I find the public attitude, as reinforced by media and much of the analysis I’ve read, interesting and distressing. It presents itself as a desire for the concentration of power, for a conservative American-style messianism. Politicians respond to this in ways that lead to increasingly dictatorial conduct in the party and the government. In political analysis this leads to a failure to understand the shaping of the terrain of political possibility or the importance of broad movements and people power. Achievements or failures are credited to individual leaders, not to the party. Its membership in parliament and its activisits become ciphers, waiting for instruction and commands rather than participating in designing the future and creating coalitions that support this vision. Politics then is a pageant for TV, KRudd making pledges on Twitter and Gillard knitting or in her kitchen, and only the smoothest operators are suitable for participation.

*This especially in a country with compulsory voting, and so ostensibly with an electorate that’s much more representative of the public will than elsewhere.


basil 07.14.13 at 12:49 pm

Too long a post, but what I’m getting at is that in a world of politics that’s a pageant, it is really difficult to tell what a PM is loved or loathed for. Is it policy or personality, and how does that work out when the PM in question is female, or an ethnic minority?


Eszter Hargittai 07.14.13 at 3:04 pm

Thanks, John, very helpful and interesting to put into context what I saw bits and pieces of last summer when I was there. My request for a future post is the following, if you’re so inclined. I’d love to hear more about the issue Peter R refers to: policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers. This was in the news when I was there and brief conversations with locals suggested that the relative numbers weren’t even that large, but the treatment awful. (I realize that if the treatment wasn’t so awful, the numbers may increase and that may be a concern, but I just don’t know the details and would love to hear your take on it sometime.)


Marc 07.14.13 at 5:53 pm

@8: Or, alternatively, she did things that would have been unpopular in any leader; and people expressed their opposition in sexist terms. It’s hard to fault Labor for deciding to attempt to win the upcoming election, as opposed to going down to a record defeat on principle.

One question for John: to what extent is the Murdock press responsible for public attitudes towards Labor, and to what degree are their problems self-inflicted?


Matt 07.14.13 at 6:55 pm

I’d love to hear more about the issue Peter R refers to: policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers. This was in the news when I was there and brief conversations with locals suggested that the relative numbers weren’t even that large, but the treatment awful.

It doesn’t get up to the present date, but Matthew Gibney’s excellent book, _The Ethics and Politics of Asylum_ has an excellent discussion of the development of law and policy towards refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, German, and the US, from the 80’s up until the early 2000’s (when the book was published). Only in Germany could the actual (or likely) flows be called “large” in any plausible ways. The anti-refugee backlash was especially strong in Australia and Germany, and heavily racialized. So, the book won’t give you current developments, but is excellent for background. (It’s one of the best books on immigration issues w/ a philosophical aspect in general, I’d say, but is, unlike most philosophical discussions, very strong on the law and policy issues as well.)


john c. halasz 07.14.13 at 7:50 pm

I’d read that the carbon tax was key, but what of the mining tax? If I were an Aussie, I’d be seriously worried about the “Dutch disease” and a tax on excess mining rents, to curb that tendency and form a reserve against the coming day, would seem to be just the thing. I’ve read that what was passed by way of a minimal mining tax has been an utter flop.


Phil 07.14.13 at 8:33 pm

Tony @4 seems very persuasive to me. I was deeply impressed when somebody pointed me to Gillard’s demolition of Abbott’s sexism – less so when I looked into the background. In a review of Peter Tatchell’s The battle for Bermondsey (which I don’t think was ever published, so you’ll have to take my word for it) I argued that the Labour Party’s key problem was that “the Left of the party is in hock to the Right of the party, and the Right of the party is in hock to Old Corruption”. That was thirty years ago (and 10,000 miles away); plus ça change eh, plus ça bloody change.


John Quiggin 07.14.13 at 8:36 pm

@jch Rudd proposed a resource rent tax, designed by Treasury. The mining lobby mounted a ferocious and effective campaign against it which was still going on when he was dumped. Gillard negotiated a compromise which greatly reduced the liability of the big miners. Then prices fell, and the tax raised virtually nothing.


John Quiggin 07.14.13 at 8:48 pm

I’ll try to write about asylum seekers soon. In the meantime, here is a good summary from the Parliamentary Library research service


Helen 07.14.13 at 9:18 pm

USians might miss, from above, the fact that both of our major parties have replaced their leaders quite frequently. Therefore, the presentation of Gillard’s PMship as a “coup” (and other ruder epithets) displays a double standard of which speakers and writers are generally unaware.


Brian Schmidt 07.14.13 at 9:40 pm

In 2008 I ignored the fact that John Edward’s colleagues obviously disliked him. I’ve since decided that collegial dislike might be an important indicator. John Q, any sense of the reason why Rudd and Gilliard are liked or not? You don’t seem to weigh it very heavily in your support for Rudd.


John Quiggin 07.14.13 at 10:31 pm

@Helen As I point out in the linked piece, replacement of Opposition leaders is commonplace. Replacement of a sitting PM by their party is very rare – before Gillard it had happened only twice since WWII (in fact, I believe only twice in our history).

@Brian Rudd was/is a workaholic and something of a control freak. From very limited contacts, I can’t say I like him much as a person, but I don’t think being easy to work with is a crucial qualification for a political leader. Gillard is good at doing deals and doesn’t have any particular political views, which makes for likability in Oz politics, but doesn’t recommend her to me.


William Berry 07.14.13 at 10:35 pm

Though I found this post very interesting (especially wrt the light it sheds on the misogyny/ gender issue), I know very little about Australian politics, and have no comment to make concerning same. I just want to compliment JQ on the editing of the post, especially the in-page links to the targeted footnotes. Maybe I have just been asleep or something, but I hadn’t noticed that before.

Very sharp.


Eszter Hargittai 07.15.13 at 12:15 am

Matt – Thanks for that book recommendation, I’ve requested it from our library.

John – Thanks for that pointer, it’s a super helpful resource with exactly the kinds of data I was curious about as well as helpful explanations (nonetheless, if you do get around to it, would love to hear your thoughts on the situation as well).


leinad 07.15.13 at 3:04 am

pursuant to Helen@18 and JQ@20:

As well as the rarity of removing a sitting PM (not to mention a first-termer) the term coup is entirely appropriate for the speed and secrecy with which Rudd’s overnight removal was executed. This was possible because it was the work of senior figures in the ALP factional leadership and Rudd lacked a factional base of his own. There was no forewarning and the immediate justifications of the parties involved were far from satisfactory.

That night, politics junkies were confronted with the presence of AWU (a union with strong links to the ALP’s Right factions) National Secretary Paul Howes explaining on national TV that his union had to lost confidence in Rudd and he had to be removed in the best interests of its membership. The rest of Australia woke up to a new Prime Minister the next morning.

That’s a coup, if any party leadership challenge in a democratic state with rule of law can be fairly called one (will agree that the press gallery’s giddy talk of ‘bloody knives’ and ‘blasting him/her out’ is both tedious and actively harmful to their work and that of those they cover). That it is held against Gillard by her detractors with venom and in gendered language isn’t in question either, but there was more to public bemusement and antipathy to the circumstances of Gillard’s ascension than that.


Jenny 07.15.13 at 4:24 am

The failure of Rudd in passing the CPRS is worth further discussion. Rudd negotiated this with the coalition when Turnbull was leader of the opposition in in the process of negotiation it became so watered down, so generous to major polluters and utterly locked in to minimal action on climate change that it has been characterized as the Carry on Polluting Regardless Scheme. When the “climate change is crap” faction in the Liberal party organized their coup that installed Abbot, Rudd was utterly unprepared to negotiate with the Greens to develop develop a policy that might actually achieve . The were two Liberal senators who might well have crossed the floor along with the ALP and the Greens to ensure the passage of such legislation through the Senate. Instead Rudd utterly squibbed it on “the greatest moral challenge of our time” Subsequent events suggest this might well have sealed Rudd’s fate particularly when just about a month before he was deposed he dropped any commitment to action on climate change. It was that this point that support for Rudd and the ALP began plummet in the opinion polls which precipitated the events of June 24.
I absolutely agree that Gillard also had to be dragged kicking and screaming on climate change, possibly more than Rudd. it is certainly the case that I was only because the Gillard minority needed the Greens to make up their numbers that we no have a carbon price regime, inadequate as it may be. Gillard’s major fault was her lack of political courage so she seemed to stand for very little but base populism such as joining the coalition in the moral vacuum of refugee policy.
She could do the dirty on Wilkie on poker machine reform as soon as she encountered the negative ads form the pokie lobby. She couldn’t do quite the same to the Greens because they held the balance of power in the Senate.
Unfortunately Rudd seems to stand for no more than Gillard. His current stance on marriage equality smacks as much of rank opportunism as his cutting the so called “carbon tax”.
As for the issue of misogyny, the women are treated in Australian politics was nicely explored in Julia Baird’s Books, Media Tarts: How the Australasian Press Frames Female Politicians, and with particular reference to the experiences of Julia Gillard in recent essays and articles by Anne Summers. The misogynous attacks leveled at Gillard by the media, opposition, shock jocks and bloggers was unrelenting, appalling and utterly inexcusable. What stunned me at the time of Gillard’s “misogyny speech” was that while politicians and the media simply didn’t get it, beyond this cabal women and quite a few men applauded as the speech went viral around the world. It was the media reaction to this speech that to me totally demolished any remaining confidence I had in the judgement of the mainstream (malestream) media.
Following the next election my fondest wish is for another minority government. It makes the bastards less arrogant.


derrida derider 07.15.13 at 7:35 am

Discussions of parochial political machinations are probably pretty boring to non-Aussie Timberites, but I have to tell them leinad @23 has it dead wrong on who did what to whom with the Rudd axing.

It was Gillard – his Deputy – who initiated it, both support and opposition crossed factional lines (as his reinstatement did) and the ONLY people who voted on it and decided it were the elected Labor parliamentarians – of whom a majority had every reason not to give Kevin Rudd the benefit of any doubt (“difficult to work with” is such an understatement it borders on euphemism). I saw Howe give that ABC interview and thought at the time he was full of s**t, massively exaggerating his own importance. Leinad has bought the “faceless men” gibe of the tories – a jibe which in this case (not always) is just plain false. Though it is fair to say part of Labor’s problem is that leinad is not the only member of the public who has bought it.


John Quiggin 07.15.13 at 9:07 am

@DD (With apologies to non-Oz readers) To be clear, there wasn’t a vote, or any kind of proper procedure. Gillard collected the numbers in secret, with the help of people like Howes, then confronted Rudd with an ultimatum.

Everything Gillard did subsequently supported the conclusion that Howes and others like him (de Bruyn, Richardson, Ludwig etc) were pulling the strings. As you concede, they boasted about it repeatedly.

The equal marriage fiasco was the most extreme example – I’d be fascinated to read an explanation of Gillard’s hypocrisy on this issue that’s consistent with your image of Burkean Parliamentarians making their minds up free of external dictation.


John Quiggin 07.15.13 at 9:10 am

@Jenny I agree with nearly everything you say. My only qualification is that Rudd was dumped after a few bad months, while Gillard managed to survive three years of consistently disastrous polls, and repeated unforced errors.

And, on equal marriage, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Unlike Gillard he had a plausible reason for reluctance, given that he’s a Christian (not a big political asset for a Labor leader). And even now, it’s far from an obvious winner – as witness the fact that Gillard stuck with the homophobes to the bitter end.


kevin1 07.15.13 at 9:32 am

John says the enmity towards Julia Gillard was unprecedented, but John Howard the conservative PM from 1996-2007 was hated with a vengeance by the moral middle-class for his capitulation to racist attitudes towards asylum-seekers and aboriginal people.* Howard brought the conservatives out of the wilderness, but the burden for Gillard was that Kevin Rudd as the comparator against which she would always be measured, and found wanting.

In 2007 he was overwhelmingly voted in, but removed in 2010 by Labor’s political hardmen, who gave the prize of PM to Gillard. The subsequent election and ensuing polls show her legitimacy was permanently afflicted, and his status as the people’s outsider, railing against the system’s insiders, enhanced his status. In times when nearly all institutions are on the nose, creeping democratisation is an irresistible force, but the people never had that opportunity to vote him out.

As basil #9 says, the Rudd presidential aura didn’t win him friends in his own party. More than other political players in recent Australian history, Rudd has support across party allegiances but by itself this is a false election signal: it means people who won’t vote for his party still support him in the polls. But the polls suggest many will switch parties.

As Marc #12 says, the opposition to Gillard may manifest as sexist because it’s cheap: any stick with which to beat a brown dog. While the misogyny was disgraceful, her response to it was sometimes too cute, and she was accused of over-reaching by some feminists and Labor women. While launching a Women for Gillard campaign (copied from the Obama playbook?), she warned against “banish(ing) women’s voices from our political life” in favour of “men in blue ties.” Her support amongst men dropped dramatically after this dumb speech. Was it sexism or a rejection of someone fishing for sympathy votes? Her “principle” of hanging on (to deny sexism or through hubris?) also repudiated the preservation of Labor gains, as no-one saw any possibility of an ALP win with her at the helm.

She has since been honored by her replacement, and will be honored by Labor historians, but the policy differences between Gillard and Rudd were very minor, so it was no matter of great principle that she had to go.

* The Not Happy, John by Margo Kingston has recently been re-launched as an e-book.


basil 07.15.13 at 9:50 am


I think it is a really important factor that Rudd has this Presidential attitude about him that deviates from the parliamentary practice. Is that what you mean by ‘control-freak’? I read the idea that Gillard had people Howe, etc pulling the strings behind her, as proof of a more collegial approach to the Prime Ministership – with the PM as first among equals.

I don’t think being easy to work with is a crucial qualification for a political leader.
I’d say this is fundamental in a multi-party parliamentary democracy where the mandate at the election is granted not to Rudd or Gillard but to the ALP. Treating colleagues with respect, valuing their input, taking advice from them and building strategies together seems to me good for democractic practice, and useful beyond Australia’s borders.

Are we recruited to support causes because on reflection we find them worthy, or do we just want a good salesman/ leader directing affairs while we glory in their personal triumphs?


leinad 07.15.13 at 9:55 am

That’s pretty tendentious where it isn’t flat wrong, dd.

The initiative to count numbers was taken by Bill Shorten, David Feeney Mark Arbib and Don Farrell, who presented them to Julia Gillard on the morning of June 23. This was the end result of soundings taken by Arbib and Victorian Right figures some months previously. Gillard chose to challenge based on their count, but in presenting a united front they had left her with a fait accompli. To turn them down was going to invite more unrest, and next time there was no guarantee they’d be presenting the tally to her.

The key players above were all senior figures of the Victorian, NSW and SA Right factions, and were supplemented by QLD Right figures aligned to the AWU – hence the involvement of Paul Howes, who is not as influential as he makes out. (His boss, Bill Ludwig, however…). There was cross-factional opposition to this move, but it was paltry, in part because Rudd had very little good will left in caucus, but also because large majorities of every major State Right faction were already behind the push, and that was plenty.

As one unnamed participant in the proceedings said at the time:

“This crypto-fascist made no effort to build a base in the party. Now that his only faction, Newspoll, has deserted him he is gone.”

Godwin’s Law aside, expressed in this statement is the basic truth that in the minds of the people who orchestrated his removal Kevin Rudd is an alien body inside the ALP’s system, drawing his power from outside the caucus and possessing neither respect for or obligation to the traditional structures of ALP internal governance.

Explanations that ignore this dimension and focus on his personality and dysfunctional governance fall short. If it was motivated by the fear that Rudd was putting Labor in a losing position, why did the first soundings begin in April, when ALP polling was still in a strong position, and why was the move consummated in late June, when a turnaround was in evidence? The electoral basis for the removal of Rudd was non-existent. These were numbers that Gillard would have killed for in the months to come.

The idea that Rudd had become so abrasive and dismissive of his colleagues that all could see an intervention was necessary is even less credible. If that was the case why was the party room blindsided by the actions of June 23, 2010, with senior Cabinet members abroad or left in the dark? Why was this a push from the top rungs of the Right factions, rather than a backbench revolt? And Bill Shorten and Mark Arbib as the noble tribunes of good manners and respect for colleagues? Please.

Instead, as we’re already seeing with his intervention into NSW Labor and the presentation of plans for rank and file voting for ALP leadership and a 75% caucus majority to remove ALP leaders, Rudd represents a direct challenge to the traditional power structures of the ALP. It was against his brand of politics that Gillard sought to define the ALP as a Labor party, to the exclusion of social democrats and progressives, and it’s the total lack of public interest in a said Labor party and the much-touted ‘Labor values’ that saw her ultimately undone.


basil 07.15.13 at 10:01 am


John Quiggin 07.15.13 at 10:21 am

Alert: Basil’s link is to the most notoriously dishonest, and rabidly rightwing, culture warrior in the entire Murdoch stable. Don’t bother following.

Basil, I’ll assume this was a mistake, but please don’t link to Bolt again.


basil 07.15.13 at 10:34 am

Oh dear! My apologies.

But what would you say JQ about the broad argument, that Rudd is a move right-ward to a more American-style messianic presidency?


floopmeister 07.15.13 at 10:36 am

Basil’s link is to the most notoriously dishonest, and rabidly rightwing, culture warrior in the entire Murdoch stable. Don’t bother following.

Well, without clicking on the list, let me guess…

Piers Akerman?

Or Andrew Dolt?


John Quiggin 07.15.13 at 11:00 am

@Basil Apology accepted. The move to a Presidential system happened a long time ago, and some of Gillard’s exercises of Presidential power were more egregious than anything Rudd has done. She overreached when she tried to back Likud over observer status for Palestine, but the fact that she tried was revealing

The only solution, I think, is to replace the G-G with an elected President who would represent some kind of check on the PM.

@floopmeister Dolt – he’s far worse than Akerman.


pedant 07.15.13 at 12:02 pm

Any explanation of ‘Juliar’ joke? Just not getting why adding an ‘r’ to the end of her name expresses derision.


leinad 07.15.13 at 12:14 pm



Ken_L 07.15.13 at 12:43 pm

It’s simplistic and one-dimensional to describe the venom directed at Gillard as misogyny. She was hated and resented not so much because she is a woman as because of the kind of woman she is: single, living with a hairdresser partner, childless, irreligious, strong working class accent, product of the socialist left, strong links to trade unions … she represents pretty much everything that a certain (not uncommon) kind of Australian thinks is wrong with the contemporary world. Not all of them are either male, or old; I was stunned to hear the spontaneous comments from my young female undergraduates about Julie Gillard in a class discussion last year.


Jenny 07.15.13 at 12:56 pm

I agree with your qualifications. I suppose to shamelessly plagiarise Oscar Wilde, to dump one PM might be unfortunate but to dump two smacks of carelessness. In addition possibly Gillard was still seen as preferable because she showed more “loyalty” to her backers. It is something of a puzzle to me why she was so constantly flat footed because she is smart and thinks quickly on her feet. Poor advice is not in itself a satisfactory answer.
As for Rudd on marriage perhaps we will have the opportunity to wait and see what happens after the election. Would Rudd be prepared to make ALP policy on marriage equality binding on the party room. You never know a few liberals might even cross the floor. I suspect you are right that marriage equality is not necessarily a vote winner. Although it is supported by 60-70% of the electorate, it is probably not a vote changer for many except maybe enticing some Greens and Sex Party voters in the last election back to the ALP but he would have to at least fake some sincerity on the issue for that to happen.
However at the moment beyond Rudd’s ever so polished rhetoric, I’m really not sure what he actually stands for. The election campaign should be interesting.


m0nty 07.15.13 at 2:17 pm

There are several omissions in the OP as has been laid out above, but to me the most egregious is the airbrushing of the relentless campaign of bastardry that Rudd and his supporters waged against their own party leader through the media. Not a week went by for three years when there wasn’t a major leak by Joel Fitzgibbon, Bruce Hawker, Doug Cameron or one of his other apparatchiks to destabilise the leadership. Gillard had two opposition leaders to deal with at once. Of course the media lapped it up, Rudd had many more friends in the media than Gillard did – most notably because Gillard didn’t notify any of the journos about the coup, so they all missed the scoop. Rudd was able to drip feed a long series of spurious stories about caucus numbers shifting towards himself, which were all completely baseless and lead to two failed challenges where it was clear that the numbers hadn’t changed at all. Yet still the stories were printed, day after day, for three years straight, creating a bubble of unreality that only existed in the minds of the Rudd backers and their journo poodles. I would challenge any leader to work under those conditions.

This destructive and cancerous strategy has now been mysteriously forgotten by Ruddites, conveniently warehoused with all attention back on the 50:50 polls. Gillard and her people have been almost faultless in their conduct post the change last month; I have seen one or two desultory whinges but that’s it. Rudd followers like Prof Quiggin should at least acknowledge the large gap in their political analyses, which is the big black hole where Rudd’s bile duct used to be.


john c. halasz 07.15.13 at 5:15 pm


Think of it in an Aussie accent.


John Quiggin 07.15.13 at 8:07 pm

@Jenny I argued here that Rudd should hold another session of Parliament and demand a free vote for both sides, with the alternative of binding all Labor members to vote yes

Although I don’t have a clear view of the numbers, I think a free vote would pass both houses.


Matthew Shugart 07.15.13 at 10:21 pm

Fantastic thread. Thank you, John. With the help of some Australian readers, I’ve been following this at Fruits & Votes, too, but this offers much extra depth.

Just one rejoinder: one should avoid phrases like Australia has “moved to a presidential system.” In actual presidential systems, parties do not replace their own leaders when they are serving as chief executive of the nation. It just does not happen. In fact, that the party can toss out a sitting executive is the very essence of Australia’s continued parliamentarization.


Jenny 07.15.13 at 10:37 pm

I don’t think recalling Parliament is an option Rudd is considering because of the reductions in the carbon price he is proposing. These changes would also have to be legislated and unless he demonstrates a capacity to negotiate with the Greens, a task he manifestly failed at during the CPRS debacle, then the legislation would be dead in the Senate unless he could secure coalition support which I suspect is even less likely than Greens support. His history of negotiating with the coalition on clmate change is not that flash either.
The most likely way Rudd would seek to compensate for the loss of carbon price revenue would be to slash funding for clean energy along with tokenistic reductions in compensation to industry rather than addressing the generous to a fualt public subsidies to the dirty end of town. I don’t think Rudd and his advisers are so naive to think they could have the Greens negotiatie away a commitment to action on climate change for marriage equality, which is probably a short to medium term inevitability.


Alphonse 07.16.13 at 12:48 am

Can I point to aussie punters’ nose for authenticity?

Howard did nasty things but his saving grace, politically, was that they reflected the long held beliefs of a familiar character. He might have lied but you knew why. He was never a fake. He was the bastard you knew and loved/hated.

By contrast, Gillard woodenly mouthed focus-group-derived talking points. While her navigation of the hung parliamentry shoals bespoke perceptiveness, competence and personability, the punters got no sense of it. A promise to be “the real Julia” only deepened the disconnect, underlining the inauthenticity.

I’d also note that the cracks in Gillard’s fake exoskeleton invited Murdoch’s crowbars. The rest of our ‘balanced’ media then duly reported on the widening.


derrida derider 07.16.13 at 1:13 am

Sorry, but it is a matter of record that Gillard did nothing about the very widespread discontent with Rudd until Rudd sent his 20-something advisor to Gillard’s office demanding she pledge obedience and loyalty. Only then did she lose her temper (yes she’s a ranga but she rarely does her nut – unlike Rudd), demand an immediate meeting, and sit down in private with him for 3 hours (an unscheduled 3 hours! – does anyone here realise how unthinkable that is for a senior minister? The private secretary would have been having a heart attack). Only AFTER that did she go and talk to her parliamentary colleagues.

Not one single MP anywhere complained their preselection was threatened or they were otherwise heavied by outsiders – and later there were plenty who had every motivation to so complain. Rudd’s removal by his colleagues was so nearly a complete consensus that he did not choose to fight it.

Now the knifing was ugly – knifings always are – and perhaps unwise, but I don’t see how you can portray it as grossly undemocratic or a conspiracy by unelected eminences grises. If ’twas, you’d have to conclude that every single knifing of an Opposition leader (of which Australia has had plenty on both sides) was. A PM is not a directly elected President but primus inter pares, and one part of being a pares is you get a say in your primus.


Mel 07.16.13 at 1:13 am

Gillard Labor had the support of 34% of women voters.

Current polls show Rudd Labor has lifted support among women to 38% (1).

Apart from a few misandrous feminists and their fellow travellers, no one is going to miss Gillard and her homophobic inclinations. Hopefully Rudd has learnt from his previous failed leadership experience and will help turn the upcoming federal election into a contest.



John Quiggin 07.16.13 at 1:36 am

@DD These points are addressed in the linked piece in the Conversation, which is probably more relevant


Jenny 07.16.13 at 1:58 am

I agree about Gillard’s apparent lack of ‘authenticity and this is the one issue that really puzzled me about her term as PM. When she was left to herself she was smart, incisive and passionate. This was the Julia you saw speaking on education, much of her performance on Q&A and the blowtorch to the belly she delivered to Abbot in her misogyny speech. Although I disagreed with her at times, this was the Julia I admired. On the other hand when we had Julia (aka “the real Julia”) parroting the autocue scripted by her minders she was awkward, flat footed and fake on issues of climate change, refugees and marriage equality. This left me constantly wondering what does she actually stand for.
As for the of whether Gillard was largely supported by “few misandrous feminists and their fellow travellers” I can state that I have been a feminist for most of my adult life: I would not vote for Gillard if she were running for the ALP but she would probably get my second preference after the Greens candidate.
Despite this however I found the concerted and unrelenting misogynous attacks against Gillard for her whole term as PM shameful and offensive. They ranged from the bile of Alan Jones and other “shock jocks”, the disgraceful standards of “journalism” of the Murdoch media; opposition politicians gleefully posing in front of signs saying “Juliar”, “ditch the witch” and “Bob Brown’s bitch”; the circulation of obscene cartoons among the parliamentarians and press gallery; and of course the standards of parliamentary debate.
Julia Gillard was a deep disappointment to me because the ALP, who I once supported out of conviction, are a deep and abiding disappointment to me because they stand for so little that matters.


gordon 07.16.13 at 2:04 am

Janny (at 44) –

The ABC has a report on Rudd’s new proposals to compensate for loss of the carbon price revenue here:


m0nty 07.16.13 at 2:08 am

Those looking for further reading on the background of this issue should read The Stalking of Julia Gillard.


gordon 07.16.13 at 2:18 am

Eszter Hargittai (at 22) –

Australians’ attitude to refugees is often described by reference to racism. This is at best only a part of the story. Australians’ attitude to immigration in general is also very important. This relates to population policy – a policy area which both the ALP and the Liberal/National coalition dislike addressing. I suggest this piece by Dr. Kathleen Betts (from 2010) as a useful backgrounder on how attitudes to population affect attitudes to refugees:

She remarks:
“Most Australians, however, want stability. They dislike the argument that we should take our skilled workers from other countries and nearly half of them point to the damage that population growth is doing to the environment. For a long time Labor parliamentarians have been far more likely to support high immigration than have Labor voters.62 The CPUR does not yet have data on attitudes to population growth by party preference but, on the ques-tion of population growth, the current Labor leaders seem to be even more distant from the people who vote for them than they have been on immigration in the past”.


John Quiggin 07.16.13 at 3:11 am

My general assessment of Gillard is that to the extent she had any political views, they were very close to those of John Howard (the last conservative PM). Her speech about Labor standing for workers who ‘set the alarm clock early’, as contrasted with effete Greens could have been delivered by Howard on behalf of the Liberals (conservatives).

But given her gender and class background (lower-middle class Welsh migrants, first in family to attend uni etc), it was natural for her to start her political career in the Labor party, and, within Labor, to be inclined to the “socialist Left”, a label that was already meaningless by the time she joined. Her accurately perceived inauthenticity derives from the gap between her political starting point and her actual inclinations.


John Quiggin 07.16.13 at 3:13 am

None of that changes the validity of Jenny’s final para – the behavior of Jones (=Limbaugh) and the Murdoch press (=the Murdoch press) was disgusting.


Peter T 07.16.13 at 3:23 am

The PM sets the tone for the operations of government. As a mid-upper level bureaucrat at the time I can say that Howard’s tone was one where mostly reasonable decisions were made quickly and firmly – and where unreasonable decisions clearly emanated from Howard himself, and also set in place quickly and firmly. He knew what he wanted on some few things, listened on others, made his mind up and acted. Rudd never seemed able to either make up his mind, or tell people what he did not want, so there were a lot of loose cannons (most notably the Department of Finance, which can’t tell sensible spending from silly spending – it hates both and has to be constantly managed by the PM’s department and Treasury). Ministers were neither left to get on with the job or given firm guidance – a demoralising experience that undermined support for Rudd. Let’s hope he has learned.


ajay 07.16.13 at 9:53 am

Her speech about Labor standing for workers who ‘set the alarm clock early’, as contrasted with effete Greens could have been delivered by Howard on behalf of the Liberals (conservatives).

It also sounds disturbingly close to one given over here (up here?) by David Cameron:
I have, I have lost count in this election campaign of the number of people who’ve told me how angry it makes them. One person said to me, ‘I get up at six, I go to work at seven, and I walk past house after house where the curtains are closed and I know that person isn’t going to work, even though they could go to work. Why should I pay my taxes so that someone else can choose to live on welfare?’


Phil 07.16.13 at 11:23 am

given her gender and class background (lower-middle class Welsh migrants, first in family to attend uni etc), it was natural for her to start her political career in the Labor party, and, within Labor, to be inclined to the “socialist Left”, a label that was already meaningless by the time she joined. Her accurately perceived inauthenticity derives from the gap between her political starting point and her actual inclinations.

Then again, David Blunkett made quite a nice career out of conservative authoritarian moralism, validated by referring back to his (genuine) socialist and working-class roots – and he never did come unstuck. Perhaps Gillard just went too far too fast – combining conservatism with socialist roots is one thing, combining cynical deal-making (and conservatism) with a rhetoric of newness & principle (and socialist roots) is just a bit too rich.

I still find her weirdly likeable on a personal level, I have to say; I still want to wish her good luck & happy great-aunt-ing. She’ll probably pop up again in a year or two in some ghastly not-quite-political lobby group; then I can start disliking her properly.


Gorgeous Dunny 07.16.13 at 1:09 pm

As somebody on the Gillard side of this divide, I must say that this is about the most objective post I’ve seen from the pro-Rudd side. Congratulations for that and for highlighting the essential differences between the two: that Rudd has had the stronger public and media appeal, while Gillard is the stronger on implementing policy and working with her colleagues. In the end it was the former that decided the issue. In a nice bit of irony, the full house of policy achievements should give Rudd enough to get him over the line, with public acceptability restored.

The comparison with Howard is interesting but not for the grounds you’ve mentioned of ideology similarity. On education alone they are polls apart, with Gillard doing much to address equality of opportunity. You could say much the same on health and disabilities. Gillard also did much to restore infrastructure investment, which had run down during the Howard years. I see the parallels more with their attitudes to leadership. Howard never complained and never blamed (albeit others often did for him). Similarly, Gillard has never sought to shift responsibility for anything she’s been accused of, nor left others high and dry as scapegoats.

Rudd in contrast has had difficulties with that. On the Batts thing his Peter Beattie-type Mea Culpa only gave legitimacy to a bullshit beat-up, and ultimately left Garrett out to dry (he actually finished up becoming a very good Education Minister under Gillard). It was the same with running away from ETS. Even though he said later that he “accepted responsibility” for it, he qualified it by saying that others (read Gillard and Swan) made him do it. Not the sign of a true leader, in my view. You should take the hit without mitigation, as he did so brilliantly with the Apology.

There’s no mention of the leaks to Oakes and Hartcher that sabotaged the 2010 campaign. In 50 years of following Labor’s fortunes and feuding and despite all the bastardry and revenge practised over the years, I have never known ever the most determined of enemies to rat in the heat of a campaign against the tories. The closest is what Lang tried to do to Chifley in the 40s, but even that didn’t involve leaking of cabinet discussions out of context.

It may well be that Gillard was less committed to climate action and that only the accident of minority status and agreements with the Greens and Independents forced her hand. I agre that the community forum idea sounded like a stalling device, but it could have just been a political survival instinct. It was always likely to be near-suicidal without a consensus-type of commitment. She never handled the politics well at that time, but this pice in The Australian
Suggests that what she did was fairly consistent with what she alluded to with Shanahan and Kelly. there was certainly never a lie, and hardly even a broken promise – more a changed circumstance.


Jenny 07.16.13 at 1:20 pm

As expected Rudd cut environmental programs to fund the changes to the carbon price regime. I suppose one thing he got right is cutting funding to carbon capture and storage (so called “clean coal”) This was always vapourware technology which for the last 20 years or so was going to with us in 2o years or so but has never shown any sign of arriving. It really was only ever a sop to the coal industry to fool us into thinking it has a future.


John Quiggin 07.16.13 at 6:48 pm

@Jenny Agreed on CCS. The really striking thing is that no one in the fossil fuel industry has given this technology any support – they know it’s a dud I guess.

The removal of subsidies to cars as fringe benefits was also good, but on current fiscal policy it was inevitable that some of the money would come from cutting valuable programs. What we really need now is more tax revenue generally.


Senexx 07.17.13 at 3:42 am

Where you say Greens, I would probably say Independents or “Independents and Greens”. Otherwise I agree 100%.

As an aside: It is also unfortunate that Gillard said “gender didn’t explain everything about her rise and fall, but it also didn’t explain nothing” after she was removed. The nuance did not come until after the fact.


shah8 07.17.13 at 6:45 am

Man, before I read this thread, the only thing I knew about any of this was an offhand comment by Patrick Chovanec about how the Chinese would have preferred Gilliard because Rudd knew Mandarin and would be harder to push around…

Much appreciated late at night before bed.


ian 07.17.13 at 9:33 am

There’s two reasons why Ms Gillard had to go;
With carbon pricing, mining rents tax, education reform, Disability Care, ADF inquiry, pedophillia in institutions inquiry and all other reforms. Whether those policies were hers is a moot point. Ms Gillard was charged with their implementation, in a toxic, split parliament, and she did so….very effectively. Ms Gillard was forcing Australians to think further and wider. She was, in effect, trying to re-define the way politics is practised, reported and implemented in Australia. Unfortunately, Australians and thinking of any but themselves, is one step too far.
If Ms Gillards Government had won the upcoming election, and I believe she would have, the policy outcomes for this country would have driven the rednecks, chancers, spivs and mug lairs of this country to edge of the cliff, along with all the other lemmings. I would challenge any Australian politician to emulate what Ms Gillard did when faced with the toxic 24/7 media onslaught directed at her. Add the cancerous cowardice of Kevin Rudd and the end was inevitiable.

While it has always been a robust political debate in Australia, the inherent decency of respecting the other veiw has been damaged beyond repair. We are faced with having to elect Punchdrunk and Foppish, the modern version of Punch and Judy. Both puppets, both manipulated by others.

Ms Gillard , at the very least, had the courage to expend what little political capital she had developing, implementing policies that will stand this country in good stead.

Julia Gillard had the courage to ask the Australian people to look to the bigger picture. That they can’t or won’t is not her doing.


maidhc 07.17.13 at 9:59 am

Peter T’s account is interesting, and I’m sure he has much more broad experience than I do. But my story is a bit different.

I had a matter in dispute with the Australian government. While Howard was running things, it just bounced around from one office to another for more than two years. No one would argue the merits of my case, they would just say “Oh well, we can’t deal with that here, so we sent it on to Albury” and so on. I wish I’d been able to go on the nationwide tour that my documents went on.

As soon as Rudd came in, within 3 weeks everything was settled to my satisfaction with a minimum of fuss.

I know that there are many things about Rudd that people dislike, but from a personal perspective I’m rather sympathetic to him. I remember, when he got the boot, saying this to my cousin (our family has supported Labor since back to 1891 and before), and he said maybe we would all miss Rudd before too long, despite the fact that he had a lot of bad things to say about Rudd before he got around to that.

I’m not anti-Gillard though. She did a competent job as PM. The whole intra-party slugfest is not something I want to get into the details of. The election will be interesting.

I agree with John Quiggin that the G-G should be elected by the people.


John Quiggin 07.17.13 at 10:20 am

“If Ms Gillards Government had won the upcoming election, and I believe she would have”

You are in Australia, right? Are you backing St Kilda to win the AFL premiership this year?


Marc 07.17.13 at 2:56 pm

That left a mark.


ian 07.17.13 at 3:09 pm

Yes Mr Quiggin I am an Australian. A retired blue collar Australian at that.

I, obviously,don’t have the wherewithal or cognitive abilities of those such as you to interpret the finer, cynical nuances of politics. I’m just a bloke who saw a strong person fight with everything she had and then, because the finer political nuances weren’t there, got cut down by those of a much inferior intellect and character. I include a lot of academia in that broad description. So, I suppose you have every right to condescend.


Ethan 07.17.13 at 3:13 pm

“the inherent decency of respecting the other veiw has been damaged beyond repair.” Would that be the ‘other view’ held by the “rednecks, chancers, spivs and mug lairs of this country”?


John Quiggin 07.17.13 at 7:35 pm

@ian Apologies for snark.

But if there has ever been a certainty in Australian politics it was that Gillard was going to lose, probably badly enough to give the conservatives total control of the Parliament. If you want to say Labor should have backed her to the bitter end, do say, but be clear about the consequences.


Tony Lynch 07.18.13 at 1:39 pm

Apoligise for being condescended to by someone who says you are condescending because you say there is a real world out there independent of their feelngs? That is nice.


Alan 07.18.13 at 3:37 pm

It is by no means a matter of record that Gillard was an innocent conscript to the Rudd deposition. There are arguments both ways, but I think the innocent conscript theory is simply unsustainable.

Gillard has been a Labor operator for most of her adult life and a very effective one. Maxine McKew argues fairly persuasively in her book that Gillard adopted positions like opposing the ETS well before the Labor Right did. The crucial decision that made Rudd vulnerable was ‘postponement’ of the ETS, a course pressed on him by Gillard.


Gorgeous Dunny 07.19.13 at 1:35 am

That may be right, Alan, but a lot of it is speculative. The fact remains that she got a carbon pricing system in place against the combined hostility of the Liberal-National Parties and News Ltd/MSM. According to Windsor, the inter-parliamentary committee talks broke down at least twice before she intervened to retrieve it.

Considering the trouble it had given Rudd previously, and even currently has led to some confusion, that was no mean achievement.

The prevailing wisdom in western democracies is that it is impossible to get this in place without bipartisanship, simply because of the opportunity for demagogues by opposing with a scare campaign. Getting it into place was a great result, albeit Combet was also critical for ensuring industry was not totally hostile to it.

Mind you, it did ultimately cost her her own popularity and job with the success of the “She Lied” campaign and the misuse of the wording as “Carbon Tax”.


Alan 07.19.13 at 2:54 am

Gorgeous Dunny, you’ve accepted my point. Somewhere up thread it’s claimed that the innocent conscript theory is a matter of record. Clearly it is not.

Equally clearly another reading is that it is much easier to pass a carbon pricing scheme when you have a friendly Senate, as Rudd did not, a House majority that is largely supportive, as Rudd did not, and a loyal deputy, as Rudd did not. Sadly, opposing a thing as deputy prime minister, promising not to have it as prime minister and then passing it into law as prime minister is an excellent strategy for destroying popular support.

Gillard is described as a great negotiator, and that is clearly true as far as internal ALP politics goes. But a prime minister’s first job is closing the deal with the electorate. When it came to popular support, the great negotiator couldn’t negotiate.


Gorgeous Dunny 07.19.13 at 7:57 am

It’s long past arguing about, Alan.

However, I do respect the integrity of Windsor and Oakeshott, both of whom had great faith in Gillard’s integrity and her ability to negotiate and deliver.


Gorgeous Dunny 07.19.13 at 8:11 am

I forgot to add, that she did not ‘promise not to have it as Prime Minister’, Alan.

See my link above to The Australian election-eve story . Shanahan and Kelly (and The Australian for that matter) could hardly be described as pro-Labor or pro-Gillard sources.

The ‘she lied’ meme was based on a Liberal Party editing of an interview, where she did say she wanted an ETS. And she was a shade unlucky, or possibly naive, in having the fixed price described as a ‘Carbon Tax’ anyway. See Oakeshott’s account


John Quiggin 07.19.13 at 11:26 am

GD@ 75 To quote the OP

In a sense this [the she lied claim] was unfair – in her pre-election promise, she had surely not contemplated a minority government, and it was possible to argue that the fixed carbon price was not really a tax. On the other hand, given her record of twists and turns on the issue, it was poetic justice. There were other mis-steps, but this was by far the worst.


Harry Won A Bagel 07.19.13 at 11:29 am

I think any half way decent politician could have sold the carbon tax/ETS reversal from a minority government in a hung parliament after the 2010 election, and I vehemently disagree with any pricing of carbon. As a voter in an Australian state that had a lady Premier 23 years ago I have to say that Ms Gillard being female was completely unremarkable here. I agree with Mr Quiggin that she was a well known and well liked Senior Minister before becoming PM. The real issue is hard to illustrate for an international audience. From the moment she became PM she demonstrated a very rare form of extreme political tin ear. I have been following politics for 40 years here and I cannot think of any senior politician in that time who has demonstrated such a fundamental misunderstanding of the electorate on almost every issue she touched. It was uncanny, a strike rate near zero . The sexism issue was raised by her and her alone. It was a terrible negative for her and the opinion polls showed it immediately with huge loss of support among men and just a large loss of support among women. I think it was last straw for her colleagues.


Bobrovski 07.20.13 at 5:41 am


John Quiggin 07.20.13 at 7:29 am

@Bobrovski A post on this coming soon, when I can get it done.

A quick observation is that, for better or worse, it’s essentially the same approach tried unsuccessfully by Gillard (PNG and Malaysia solutions) and Howard – it’s unclear whether Rudd’s version will be more successful. Regardless, neither the Australian public nor its elected leaders have shown themselves in a good light here.


Tony Lynch 07.20.13 at 11:03 am

One sometimes wishes this hostility to “illegal” boat arrivals was the dominant and effective position in 1788.

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