Thursday, 27 June 2013 07:18

We who sit and watch salute you

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Well! What a night that was. Julia Gillard sunk under the weight of opinion and Kevin Rudd is our "new" PM. But Julia Gillard has left a legacy that will remembered for generations to come. Not just because she was our first woman Prime Minister, but for her efforts to create the conditions for a better Australia.

I was once a Labor voter. I was 16 when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister of our fair country. The "Its Time" campaign rang in everyones hearts and thoughts and, with the Vietnam war raging, we all thought that a revolution had occurred. A bloodless coup d'etat which remodelled our political landscape and captured each and every one in Aus and won the day with a ringing "Its Tiiiimmme"...

I voted Labor when I was 18 in '74 and re-elected this god-like figure who had ended conscription, withdrew our soldiers from that foreign killing field, who had given us universal health coverage. Labor had brought Australian politics out of the exclusive purview of the business class, where it had been stuck for over 20 years, and gave us working people back our dignity and our rights to have a view.

Well everything went pear-shaped and Whitlam dismayed our national appreciation of Labor policy. From 1975 on, I thought that Labor was incapable of managing our national economy. Regardless of Labor values, it seemed that the Party was just a mob of labourers, no better than my very poor self, who didn't have a clue.

Hawke came and revitalised my idea that Labor could give us ordinary people back our dignity and restore our rights, but he seemed quite a different figure and was tainted by his association with Big Business. Again, despite the good that Hawke achieved (remarkable good that enabled me to access a university education and proved that Labor could indeed manage our economy with benefits that reached every Australian), I became disenchanted with Labor. There was something that nagged at me... There was a distinct yet subtle ambience around Labor that didn't sit right.

I became a swinging voter. I longed for what I thought was REAL democracy. I joined the Democrats and found them to be no different from the other parties. I flirted with the Greens and valued independant thought and tried to find politicians who I felt were "good and honest men".

I thought that I had finally found this in Kevin Rudd. His 2007 election campaign gave many a sense that finally we had a politician who could change our nation from one of profound shame under Howard to a home we could once more feel proud of. A nation where justice and concern for our long-term future would rule our national governance.

Rudd's unseating from the Prime Ministerial chair seemed quite appropriate after the debacles which followed. His erstwhile charisma corroded quickly under the caustic effect of his personality. Julia Gillard had done what was necessary and right and, although she seemed strange with her schoolteacher speech and lack of personality, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Julia Gillard gave me back a sense that our nation would be run with consultation and negotiation. She showed tremendous determination and judgement. She was intelligent and, after her election in 2010, she formed a Government.

Now to form a Government is a huge thing. You who may be in business know something that I don't; how to delegate and manage others who do your work with a propriety that allows the employee to get on with the job without your needing to closely monitor them, to select people who are capable, efficient and responsible.

By the accounts given by some, this was the mistake Kevin Rudd made in his term as PM. He didn't choose the right people and he meddled in their management of their portfolios. Thus there were dramatic failures of governance.

Julia Gillard showed her tremendous skill as an administrator with her selection of her team. She also had to convince the Independents, particularly Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who were very demanding in their determination to choose a side that they believed could form and manage a responsible Government. 

Moreover, she managed a minority Government, in consultation and negotiation with a series of disparate people. With this millstone to constrain her own agenda, she set about the business of achieving some of her lifetime ambitions: - to provide people with a disability with services that had always been lacking or deficient, and to improve the system of funding and management education to enable the maximum growth of student potential.

Both these areas have been debated for decades with sporadic attention and piecemeal improvements being made. John Howard's reforms in education were based upon his idea that, like hospitals, a private system of education would provide sufficient improvements to enable an elite to develop with minimal Government interference. But after 12 years of Howard there were more anomalies and disparities than ever before.

Gillard commissioned a thorough review of the entire education system, both in terms of funding and education modelling, and set herself the extraordinary task of obtaining the agreement and co-operation of the States and Territories, most of whom were intrinsically against her ideologically.

Over 500 pieces of legislation is an amazing achievement on its own. Added to that the significance of the reforms and the thoroughness which those reforms were researched and negotiated, and we have what has been probably the greatest achieving Government in Australian history.

However, what makes Gillard's achievement even more remarkable, she did all this while facing the most abrasive and destructive Opposition, who would take every opportunity, or create opportunities, to undermine and destroy her work. Tony Abbott was described by the Liberal Party as "the most successful leader we have ever had!" This claim always sounded to me a bit like Obama being given the Nobel Prize for just one speech - a bit dodgy. Yet Abbott brought the challenge that he wished to make right up to Gillard's face. He kept poking and prodding with slander, innuendo or even lies in order to undo her and her work. I have never before seen such a savage, determined and prolonged assault. If this had happened in an ordinary workplace, Abbott would be disciplined for bullying. Yet Gillard kept her professional composure throughout, losing it only once that I am aware of, and gained the world's applause for her "mysogeny speech".

I truly believe that it was due to Abbott's determined assault that she fell terribly in the polls. I cannot accept that anyone who looked impartially at the achievements of this Government could ever have found a reason to not support her work. Her fall, I believe, is down to Abbott's slanderous accusations and disinformation, along with his decision to use the worst Howard strategy; xenophobia and fear of "boat people" and "people smugglers". He was helped enormously by willing Mainstream Media who, I suppose, saw the opportunity to lift their own sales through sensationalism.

To face all this took amazing courage and strength. Yet, throughout all this she had Kevin Rudd and his group undermining her authority. Another case of workplace bullying that would not be tolerated in any ethical business management model. Kevin Rudd was as persitent as Abbott, and used his own brand of subterfuge and sleight of hand to further his own ambitions.

All said and done now however, as Kevin Rudd has finally won the day. And the Abbott camp has already shown how prepareed they have been to attack Kevin Rudd. Almost as soon as the Labor leadership spill was decided, the coalition released an ad on YouTube using the words of Rudd's own Parliamentary colleagues to remind us, quite rightly, of why Rudd was found unsuitable as Prime Minister.

But this is what we now have. I can understand why Ms Gillard lost the Caucus ballot. Rudd's exercise a few weeks ago when her got out in Chris Bowen's electorate proved that Rudd still has the pulling power and the ability to turn the tide of votes flowing away from the Labor Party. According to polls and that testing of the waters, Rudd will return Labor to a position where they now have a fighting chance. 

But I am not one to accept the veracity of polls. Rudd will now have a tremendous battle ahead of him against the most determined and unethical (read here sleazy and slippery) opponent. And Rudd's weakness is his own colleagues whom he bullied. He has earned their ire through a very poor management style.

My personal view is that if Gillard had been able to articulate her message in a manner which connected with the public, she may have sttod a good chance of beating Abbott. I think that Abbott thought this too. I consider that Abbott wanted Rudd as leader because he knows he can beat Rudd. Against Gillard, he had his doubts and little ammunition with which to fight her. Against Rudd he has Rudd's own party and history. Easy peasy mate.

I believe that Julia Gillard will be remembered as a most effective and efficient Prime Minister. Her legacy, if not undone by either Rudd or Abbott, will be appreciated for generations to come. I also consider that Australia will deeply regret what transpired last night. Regardless of whether Rudd or Abbott becomes our next PM, Julia Gillard will be held as the finest example of Prime Ministership to have graced our nation. 

I accept right away that few people will agree with what I have written. Hey, I may be wrong. I haven't discussed Ms Gillard's faults as I notice that many others are doing that, although quite a few others are saying very positive things.

The years will flow by and, as we now think of the Howard Years with all its obvious faults (yes a few good things too, but Howard's legacy is bitter community division, alienation and fear, not generosity and the Australian Spirit) and excellence (gun laws, GST etc), we will remember Julia Gillard for her committment to high values, fairness and the betterment of the Australian National Interest, establishing an education system which allows all children to flourish and achieve their potential and a disability system which does the same for all those with a disability.

She also established our move toward a more sustainable and greener economy. The Carbon pricing system has not cost us individuals much and big business are doing what they are supposed to do under the Carbon system; leaving carbon intensive industry (hence the reduction in mining jobs). If this system remains unchanged, I believe that the Australian economy will make a significant turn with new industries arising to build a sustainable future for all Aussies.

What a legacy indeed. We may have a new PM who is more popular and more able to win the next election. But we have a better Australia for the efforts of Julia Gillard.

 
Read 6751 times Last modified on Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:43
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