Community Cabinet: Policy sounding without the press gallery fury, froth and bubble

By Kevin Rennie
April 20, 2013
Source:  Labor View from Bayside

There were quite a few surprises at Julia Gillard’s Community Cabinet on 17 April 2013, hosted by Norwood Secondary College in Melbourne’s eastern suburb of Ringwood.

Cabinet members held one-on-one interviews before a public forum that lasted over an hour. The government school is in the Federal seat of Deakin held by Labor’s Mike Symons. Deakin only needs a swing of 2.41% to change hands but Mike certainly is not conceding anything.

First surprise was that the protesters outside came from only one interest group: the Animal Justice party had mustered over 100 supporters. There were no climate sceptics, no refugee advocates, no University students highlighting funding cuts, no representatives of the monied classes protesting class warfare. This was despite the school being well served by public transport and freeways.

Secondly, the usual suspects did not appear to be inside the event either. Registration was open to all-comers, taking three days to fill apparently. Questions were taken at random. If they were rigged then the PM’s slip, in nominating a woman incorrectly as a man, belied that notion.

Someone was handing out the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia newspaper. It is a very reality-challenged organisation – see footnote*** for a taste of their parallel universe.

Somewhat unexpected was the very warm and loud reception Julia Gillard received from the standing-room only crowd. At times it felt more like one of Gough Whitlam’s public meetings, with plenty of true believers in attendance. In addition, the government’s DisabilityCare program seemed to have attracted a significant number of the participants.

The level of civility was also surprising given the depths of public abuse and denigration our political discord has reached recently. Exchanges were good-humoured and without interjections. Great to see that democracy can flourish without descending to some parody of a survivor reality TV program. No testosterone, and no belittling!

In fact, there was very little spin. Don’t take my partisan word for it. Watch the video. It isn’t very entertaining unless you’re a political junkie. (I met one of those at Ringwood station afterwards, a young man complete with suit, who was bitterly disappointed that he had not managed to have his photo taken with Julia. I had to settle for a brief encounter with our outstanding Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.)

Issues raised by the participants included: climate change, legal aid, same sex marriage, the Royal Commission into child abuse in religious institutions, gay rights in aged care facilities, school education funding, industrial relations, pensioners.

One question that brought agreement from much of the audience was a non-policy one: “The Labor Party has been making a difference for the whole of Australia. Why on earth doesn’t the general public know?”. Might sound like a Dorothy-Dixer but it wasn’t: “Labor’s promotion and publicity is absolutely woeful.”

The Community cabinet was sound rather than sensational. Julia Gillard certainly hasn’t given up and her focus was on what distinguishes her government from Abbott’s austere opposition: good policy. Substance over noise!

[*** From the CECA’s The New Citizen: “Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have openly, repeatedly proclaimed their intent to kill some six billion human beings, in order to consolidate permanent, worldwide British imperial rule.” Won’t waste your time by including a web link.]

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  1. Joy Cooper says

    Thanks Kevin for this enlightening article.

    Now we know why this event was given scant coverage in TV news. It went too well as far as the MSM was concerned. Can’t have that. Even the protest, which received more air time than the Community Cabinet meeting, was only briefly mentioned. Not part of The Narrative, I’d guess.

    Tony Abbott will only ever appear in front of an invited audience of true-believers who have to listen to him spouting his brainfarts. Have heard that some people were offered $50 to attend one of his addresses. Don’t know if that was true but if so I would need more than that to waste my time listening to his garbage. Despite all of that we are bombarded with constant TV news coverage of his phony meet-the-people events whereas real events such as this are ignored because they go too well & don’t have any paid “hecklers”.disrespectfully razzing our PM. Disgraceful

  2. The ABC apparently does its best to screen these events- its just that due to ‘ overruns,’ technical hitches and the like they are not screened when they are due – or are partially screened. A more suspicious person would think that there might be an agenda there.

    Agree that the govt needs to get it message out better- don’t let Libs over talk them in Capital Hill and the like- Get spokespeople out immediately to comment on what Abbott says- expose the doubtful ‘facts’. Hold press conferences – send out media releases-expect right of reply

  3. This shows why the polls can’t be trusted …. to deliver “Slick” Abbott the Prime Ministers job.

    People still want to know what the policies are.

    “Has Murdoch made up your mind who to vote for”

    If Mr. 70% has made up Australians minds as to who to vote for then why bother voting, why bother getting out of bed on Saturday 13 September 2013 ?

    And that is why Australians have to keep pressing “Slick” Abbott to show his hand, show his policies.

    Remember, and you read it here first, in the aptly named “Australians for Honest Politics” :

    “Slick” Abbott wants to marry copper to fibre., male to female.

    He thinks that is the natural world order and that will never change.

  4. I was genuinely surprised by the amount and the intensity of support for Julia. Must live in ABCLand too much.

  5. To think Julia didn’t even have to pay each of them $50 to attend like Abbott did the other night.

  6. Its great to hear that people were warm and interacting with the PM- must make a change to all the free flowing bile and vitriol .How she keeps smiling, keeps going I don’t know.