A guest post by Inga Leonora
“… If she [Julia Gillard] was less concerned about herself and her own survival, there would be an election.” said Tony Abbott in his press conference minutes after the outcome of the ALP leadership spill was announced this afternoon.
Mr Abbott seems to have momentary forgotten that Ms Gillard called an election for September 14 2013. In February. And what’s even more strange is his unusual consideration of Ms Gillard’s need to be concerned with her survival.
Quite without reference to the importance of today’s earlier events for thousands of Australians as the PM delivered an apology to victims of forced adoption and completely overshadowing a moving speech by Ms Gillard, (and the unfortunate event during which Mr Abbott was heckled) Simon Crean had a tanty in the halls of Parliament House. And the hero of his tanty fairytale, Kevin Rudd, elegantly smiled and short termed his way out of the looming epic leadership challenge shortly after. Which left us with a fat load of nothing, according to most everyone.
It’s not completely clear why Crean decided to call his little press conference, and put himself forward as a candidate for Deputy PM. He’s probably wondering the same thing now he’s moved to the backbenches. I have my suspicions that it has to do mostly with the MSM, who have been talking about it until finally, someone, like Crean, bought it. Points to them, proving that some people still read newspapers. But he admitted he hadn’t spoken to Kevin Rudd in over 48 hours. So, he just thought he had that level of clout? Certainly the ABC commentators several times referred to him as an ‘elder statesman’ of the ALP during their coverage. Possibly a reference to his growing confusion, rather than the influence Crean is under the impression he wields.
But whilst the media will continue to focus on a plethora of opinions on the events, least of which Mr Abbott’s, and break down the ‘timeline of events’ in blue graphic glory, they will fail to highlight the most important aspect of today. And that is Gillard’s behaviour in the face of the absurdity.
Gillard was not ’emotional’. Aggressive. In minutes she announced a spill, catching all off guard, and threw down in front of Abbott, who managed nothing more than to deliver a loop of previous statements and sound bites, and my absolute favourite (because I am convinced this is the only thing he actually understands in terms of the procedure in the House) motion to suspend standing orders followed by a no confidence motion. That was never going to happen. And always seems to be accompanied by circus music in my head. In response though, the PM delivered a list of policy, legislation and commitment to that policy and legislation. Without skipping a beat. The House divided, Abbott lost, and within seconds, QT was over. Because the PM said so. 5pm rolled around and Gillard emerged from Caucus, and not one of her colleagues contested a single leadership role.
Oh yes, I see what you mean! Here is a woman on the edge, completely out of control, desperately moving for numbers in her own party to cling hopelessly to the leadership. Fighting for her survival. Maybe you saw this too, the pained, strained and emotional women in front of the cameras pleading for her job? The men emerging to tell the tale of their compromise and pity? No?
No. What I saw was a bunch of time wasting men who for whatever reasons declared the instability of the government from both sides. The instability was caused entirely by Simon Crean, who Abbott lauded as respected college in his little number in the House (and the Press Gallery, let us not forget, they’ve been convincing people of whispers of rumours of unnamed sources regarding the ALP leadership for over a week now). Is it possible that these men hoped you would not notice? That in fact the desperate, unstable behaviour in the Parliament today came not from our female PM, but the ol’ boys?
If any of these men had clipped, contained and felled a leadership spill in the time, manner and elegance that the PM did today, with her almost air of disdain for their tomfoolery, we would call him a ‘real leader’. We would say, here is a ‘bloke you don’t mess with’, and perhaps that ‘these other ‘Nancys’ should go have a lie down’. We would say, ‘well he sorted that out.’ But we don’t when it comes to our current PM. And I am beginning to believe we won’t for a long time yet.
There is no prowess this woman can demonstrate, there is no complete deftness at debate and confrontation, no skill in adversarial situations this woman can show in real time, that could possible overcome the fact she is in fact a woman. This is the only concrete difference I can pin point to the complete failure to apply the standardised terminology in these cases. And here is a talent in those situation if ever there was one. Over and over and over again Gillard has demonstrated some of the most brilliant ad hoc speeches the House has seen. Journos and pollies alike who have no where near her skill scoff and blunder about her ineptitude. The woman is quick, aggressive and I would not want to find myself in a court room where she was on the other side. An elder statesman of the ALP called for a spill, and she handed it to him, just like he asked, and not one person in the caucus contested either leadership role. Someone in that room got served, and it was not the ‘desperate and unstable’ Julia Gillard. It would seem Crean was handed several things by Gillard today.
Ms Gillard is not fighting for her survival. It would appear that she does not have to fight at all. And does more than simply survive, Kevin Rudd survived, just. No, she is leading, and not even breaking a sweat in situations that would cause me and most people to have an anxiety attack. And that’s comforting. This fills me with a sense of stability. I know I can rely on Gillard to always deliver in the House, under pressure, with the same aptitude, every time. She always does. Like a leader. Dare I say it, like a man.
No male leader who behaved like that in the house today would be described as anything other than decisive, strong, effective, squashing dissent, demonstrating his skill at demolishing those who oppose him. Peter Reith is busy telling ABC24 that people have seen Julia Gillard in action and they don’t like what they see. Even as I type this. Compared to what? Christopher Pyne only this week and his “a desperate comment from a desperate prime minister” outburst?
Drama, shambles, instability, chaos, failed. These are the terms of today. I must’ve been watching the wrong channel or following the wrong hashtag, because I saw a leader who was decisive, infinitely capable of conquering a House and caucus within minutes, and it seems to me that this level of aptitude must be why they have managed to get so much legislation through the house. The “failed experiment” according to LOTO Abbott. And she didn’t have her head fly off in a rage to do it.
Am I wrong? Is this all about policy? I don’t even like ALP policy, as a whole, nor intend to vote for the ALP in the coming election. I have a long time thought the ALP was in function and premise two parties, that should divide and separate, but I would not call Gillard’s behaviour weak or desperate or shambolic. The continue disparity between the terminology applied to our first female Prime Minister and what we would apply to any other male political leader was never so obvious as it was today.
The problem continues to appear a biological one. So let me suggest that perhaps Simon Crean has what the Australian people and the media are looking for, now, detached and useless, and maybe even still on the platter they were served to him on, that the PM might borrow for a bit.