An in-the-moment comment on the fall of our first female PM


Cartoon by Mark Sehler

by Margo Kingston
27 June 2013


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  1. The ethical confusions of an ordinary (female) voter

    I am an “ordinary” voter, although I admit to an over-developed interest in politics because I believe they have an impact on every aspect of our lives. I feel deeply sad for Julia Gillard, but need an outlet for my pent-up frustration, despondency and anger stemming from personally internal co-existing contradictions.

    Jane Caro is right. Despite acknowledgement that Gillard has much to be proud of (NDIS, Gonski, e.g.), as a female she would have had to have been “amazing”; to have achieved twice as much to have been deemed half as good – a sentiment women are too familiar with. Despite the white-anting by Rudd and his supporters, Gillard’s achievements need to be honestly acknowledged by the ALP, Rudd especially, and the wider community. This will be difficult given the anti-Gillard propaganda that has spewed from the mouthpieces of Murdoch et al. Gillard’s courage in calling no less than three spills was extraordinary. She also displayed remarkable courage, grace and dignity in the face of an unrelenting, unprecedented waterfall of vile and immature and unsophisticated misogyny (yes, not just sexism) from which the Opposition leader refused to distance himself. Nonetheless, Gillard’s political actions can be seen outside the prism of her sex and judged for good and ill appropriately as Annabel Crabb’s thoughtful essay points out

    Rudd was initially voted into office by people like me who wanted an alternative to Howard, a divisive figure who was guilty of political hubris and of opening the vein of fear-fuelled racism. His treatment of those on the ‘Tampa’ made me feel ashamed to be an Australian. Howard was also of an earlier vintage that didn’t recognise the special place or plight of Aboriginal Australians. So, Rudd’s long-overdue apology was magnificent. Much of his later behaviour however, was outrageous. As the chaos increased, so did my despair. I could not imagine rewarding his bad behaviour by voting for him, nor for the other alternatives in the Reps. Then Gillard acted. I was shocked at the way it was done, and at what appeared to be a disregard for the optics. I felt the same when the government broke its contract with Wilkie, a dishonourable act that reached a nadir when Slipper was chosen to nullify the need for Wilkie. Such blatant and naked politicking was underpinned by nothing more than an attempt to stay in power and that is exactly how it looked. I thought it was shameful for the breach of promise, and stupid for pre-emptively ignoring the obvious reaction to it. The criticisms of Gillard’s actions then were warranted. The circle of joint (Rudd-Gillard) political opportunism and bastardry was then closed on Wednesday when Rudd’s three-year war of attrition against Gillard reached its apogee. Rudd’s hypocrisy galls even more as I read his email of yesterday stating that ‘negative personal politics has done much to bring dishonour to our parliament…’.

    The choice (I won’t say ‘failure’) of women within the Parliamentary Labor Party to not vote for Gillard must have been excruciating. At the end of the day, they were faced with an ethical dilemma not easily assuaged by the clarity(??) of gender issues, or by political certainties except one – that Labor would be defeated in September. A question for me is: who ethically should have first call on a Member of Parliament’s loyalty – their personal friendships or the Party responsible for elevating them to their current status and whose interests should be beyond the strictly personal?

    On one horn of the dilemma, Labor members of Parliament were formally obliged by those who voted for them to ensure their voice was heard, although in September that voice might have rejected a vote for Gillard or Labor. On the other horn was their membership of a minority within the Parliament, of females who have had to struggle to be recognised and whose number needs desperately to be increased.

    I cannot answer my own question. At the end of the day, I am deeply grateful that I was not in the position of having to choose between voting for a courageous, dignified and acutely intelligent woman and a person who might (possibly, maybe, pick any synonym for ‘God knows’), prevent Labor’s annihilation in September.