I saw the above article lauded on Twitter (click it to read). But I thought it was rubbish. To read it you’d conclude we are a nation of mysogynists and that is why Ms Gillard lost power. The real reasons were bad luck and bad politics.
The incidents the journalist cited are well known (‘dumped in a chaff bag’, ‘Tim’s gay’…). But she represented them as typical – in fact they were the ugly media extremes, collected and compressed. The article heroically concluded that these attitudes led to children throwing sandwiches at Gillard, creating the impression of barrages of flying salami. There were actually two reports of a sandwich being thrown. The PM probably visited 150 schools during her tenure.
‘Opposition MPs appeared at dinners where her “small breasts, big thighs and red box” were literally on the menu’. Dinners? There was one. It was pretty clearly established that the bad taste menu was written by a restauranteur, wasn’t even used at the fundraiser and was done without the knowledge of any Opposition MPs. It was roundly condemned by both sides of politics, though most of the media happily reported most of what was written.
I agree with the author that a number of unconscionable statements were made – but they were rare and highly reported. They were not what brought down the PM. Here’s what went wrong – the causes are in bold.
1. The manner of Rudd’s removal allowed Abbott to invoke (cue music) the faceless men. Abbott kept saying it and the media went hook, line and sinker. Instead of concluding that a change was a sensible decision. Messy transition. Bad politics.
2. The mining tax was a disaster. Lack of consultation, the mining companies’ successful fear campaign, then the embarrassment of not collecting any money. It just made Swan and Gillard look incompetent. If they’d taken it to an election as policy the population would probably have loved it. Bad politics.
3. Carbon tax. Always seems to work great to call your opponent a liar. Gillard gave Abbott a big stick when she said ‘there will be no carbon tax’ and then introduced a price on carbon. A price on carbon and a trading scheme does not equal a carbon tax but Abbott kept saying it and the media kept repeating it. If only she’d hedged a bit. It’s not her style. Bad politics.
4. Failure to solve the boat people issue. Well obvs. Had the Malaysian solution not been knocked out by the High Court Gillard would have scored with the electorate. Mind you, it was an ugly solution. Bad luck. Abbott fear campaign.
5. The Government took advice from Treasury and that advice was poor. The downturn in commodity prices cruelled the planned surplus and that badly damaged the Government’s economic management creds. Labor Party vulnerability exposed. Bad luck.
6. The states fought education & health reforms. The media reported every objection so Gillard couldn’t get any public traction on these important initiatives. The states. The media. Ambitious programs.
7. The Libs went with them on the Disability Insurance Scheme, blunting what should have been a big Labor advantage. Good politics from Abbott; also the right thing to do.
Gillard was a good performer in the Parliament and within her party. But the other side of contemporary politics is how things occur in the media. She didn’t have a handle on it and she clearly didn’t have good advisors in that area. Misogyny had nothing to do with it.