On Monday, Australia’s Prime Minister attended the launch of a group of female supporters called “Women For Gillard.” This was a chance for her to get the troops fired up to help the first female Prime Minister to be reelected at the coming election. Gillard was installed as Prime Minister by the Labor Party’s “faceless men” who dumped the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in a backroom coup.
Preaching to the converted, the Prime Minister certainly did get them fired up by trotting out the great standby strategy for politicians who have nothing much to say. Rather than talking about a vision for Australia or a list of positive achievements, Ms. Gillard resorted to pumping up a sexist gender war, playing the abortion card, and scaremongering that women would be removed from the corridors of power.
This is a formula that often works, especially if you can get the TV, radio and newspaper media to beat the opposition with the words used. Most political parties are capable of doing this, but the left side of politics seems to do it more, and they are more effective because they appeal to the young and the politically naive. I know this because a long time ago, I was firmly in those categories myself.
Sometimes, when a party goes too far, even their own members stand up to be counted. That was the case this time, as some Labor Party backbenchers weren’t happy about injecting sexism and abortion into the debate, when there was no need, and certainly no provocation. It seemed to be just a convenient way to get her supporters fired up.
Gillard told her female supporters that the conservative opposition would “banish women’s voices from the core of our nation’s political life.”
“I invite you to imagine it: a prime minister – a man with a blue tie who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie.
“A treasurer who delivers a budget wearing a blue tie, to be supported by a finance minister, another man in a blue tie.
“Women once again, banished from the centre of Australia’s political life.”
Pundits from both left and right were dismayed, and even feminist Gillard supporters thought she had gone off the rails, setting back their cause. Sleeping dogs ought to be allowed to lie down, undisturbed, but that doesn’t fit Julia Gillard’s modus operandi.
Press were blocked from attending the “Women for Gillard” event, but her staff and others produced the damning video footage later, probably hoping to inflame other supporters. Whoever is providing her with advice lately is doing a very poor job.
The Prime Minister had recently redefined the word “misogynist,” in a terrible outburst, attacking the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott. Abbott is married, has three daughters and three sisters. His deputy is a woman. He is clearly not a misogynist, but the Prime Minister uses her bully pulpit to get what she wants. She gathered around her other women who felt they have been poorly treated at some time, and who didn’t mind misappropriating a perfectly good word with a defined meaning to make the opposition look bad.
The big problem for the Australian Labor Party is that it can’t get its act together, and according to recent polls, they are facing an electoral wipeout at the coming election. Their problems are almost all of their own doing. The Prime Minster has cast herself as someone who cannot keep a promise, cannot operate ethically, supports corrupt backers, and is prone to nonsensical public outbursts.
I did wonder whether Julia Gillard might be getting advice from Barack Obama or his team. When you have a terrible record in your first term, your strategy becomes to just attack the opposition because you hold most of the cards, and the opposition can’t get access to the government information they need to respond.
To take some pressure off the Prime Minister, it was reported today that Mal Brough, a Howard-era conservative politician, who organized a fundraising dinner to support his campaign at the next election, authorized a sexist menu that made ugly fun of the Prime Minister. There were calls from the left to have him disendorsed by his party, but those calls were brushed aside as being ridiculous. Brough immediately apologized for the menu, even though he hadn’t seen it. The shadow treasurer condemned it, saying although he was at the dinner too, he didn’t see the menu, and Abbott condemned it.
It turns out that the restaurant owner created a mock menu, that (almost) nobody saw, because he thought it would be fun. He is not a member of the party. As far as we know, the menu did not make an appearance at the dinner, and it is unknown how it came to be public.
The really bad thing for Australians is that parliament is still sitting, and electoral campaigning hasn’t officially started. They have around 94 more days of this waffling, bickering and infighting to look forward to.
Roll on election day.