Sunday, June 30, 2013

Julia Gillard:  A failed feminist flop and a warning to women in politics

Before she is totally forgotten in Australian politics (yesterday?), I thought I might point out an unintended truth in La Gillard's claim that her term in office has made it easier for other women in politics.  She has indeed.  She has shown them what NOT to do.

She didn't even start out well.  She gained power not by winning an election in her own right but by being propped up by turncoat conservative independents.  The voters of the two electorates represented by the said independents voted overwhelmingly AGAINST the Labor party but got Julia anyhow.  So she led what was essentially an illegitimate government.  From the very beginning she was not much of an example of female success.

And what does one make of the fact that Kevvy got nearly double  her poll numbers as soon as he replaced her?  That is about as harsh a reproof as one can get in politics.

What led to her final downfall, however, was her feminism. When half the voters are men, feminist ideas have to be promoted gingerly.  Julia did not do so and her final poll numbers among men were around 20%!

Her first big gaffe was the one that got her most praise at the time.  It was the speech that gave feminists orgasms worldwide, the speech where she condemned Tony Abbott as a misogynist. 

Unfortunately for her, however, she gave examples of where she thought the conservative leader had uttered misogynisms, and they were the sort of thing that would cause many men to say: "Hey!  I think that too".  She was in effect  criticizing Abbott for saying that men and women are different.  That may amount to misogyny among feminists but for most people it is just commonsense.  It is even commonsense that is amply backed up by science.  So she got a bit more of the feminist vote (which she mostly had already) but showed herself as a feminist extremist to most other people.  And that is a big "most".  Feminists of Gillard's stripe are still a small and cranky minority.

And then she really blew it with her "blue tie" speech, in which she claimed that her loss of power would lead to Australia being led by men in blue ties to the permanent exclusion of women. Tony Abbott, like many conservatives, often wears a blue tie.

The claim was however never plausible in any way.  The deputy leader of the opposition conservative parties is the very effective Julie Bishop, an unmistakeable female!  And because Australia is a monarchy, the ultimate legal authority in Australia  -- as Gough Whitlam found out to his rage -- is the Governor General, who also happens to be female.  And are we forgetting federal parliamentary conservatives like Jane Prentice, Natasha Griggs, Karen Andrews, Nola Marino etc.?

Julia's little bit of hysteria about her own importance did however have one amusing sequel.  Kevvy embraced it.  He has been wearing blue ties ever since!  It was indeed men in blue ties who took power from her, though not the group she foresaw.

So that speech was the last straw for a lot of men.  Her poll numbers among men dropped off a cliff almost immediately.  Most men give feminism some leeway but hysterical feminism was too much.

And right to the end she was pushing feminism -- setting up a commission of inquiry into how badly treated women are.

So the reasons for her disastrous poll ratings and her ignominious dismissal are clear, and I think they show  that women with leadership aspirations should do as Margaret Thatcher did:  campaign on the rightness of her policies, not on the basis of what she has between her legs.

There is  a rather amusing attempt to vindicate La Flop by one of her advisers, a British Leftist,  John McTernan.  He attributes her downfall to "a brutal and unfair misogynist culture" that we apparently have in Australia.  No mention of her poll numbers or the fact that it was the LEFT who deposed her. Those misogynist Leftists!

He has a point however in saying that she was a good "parliamentary performer".  Her ability not to answer questions was indeed non pareil. She was the queen of bluster instead.  I once saw Tony Abbott ask her the same question three times in a row without him getting an answer on any of those occasions. Verbal fluency she had.  Honesty would have been better.

Why Rudd is speaking from his nether region

RECYCLED Prime Minister Kevin Rudd didn’t learn a thing during the three years and three days he spent in the wilderness.

Yesterday he had the opportunity to deliver a gift to the Australian people - the gift of an election - and he squibbed it.

Instead, he used his first address on his return to parliament as Prime Minister to utter platitudes dripping with hypocrisy and cant and publicly demonstrate he has not changed.

Humility is clearly not in his complex vocabulary either in terms of what he might consider “detailed programmatic specificity” or as a “complementarity that could be developed further in the direction of some form of conceptual synthesis”.

Clearly his brief tribute to Julia Gillard, the nation’s first female prime minister, the woman he had brought down less than 24 hours earlier, was as fine an example of a conceptual synthetic as so many of his other arrogant musings.

Observing him standing at the Despatch Box again and musing on the need for politicians to try and be “kinder and gentler” with each other with Gillard’s blood still dripping from his dagger was hard to stomach - but when he then went on to pay tribute to the woman he had so spectacularly deposed as a “standard bearer for women” - his performance lapsed into the delusional.

In Rudd’s world, Gillard was a major reformer with a proud record of great achievements.

If he believed this in any small portion, he would have given her a skerrick of genuine support instead of working tirelessly over the past three years to white-ant her.

Rudd says he has benefited from the perspective of spending time in what he termed “the nether regions” and a “distant place” within parliament but whatever the beneficial effects of his period on the backbench may have been they have yet to be revealed to the public.

It is now six months since Gillard launched the longest election campaign in the nation’s history - during a speech at the National Press Club. It was a huge mistake, which fed into the general paralysis of her Labor-independent-Green minority government and highlighted its serial policy failures.

That was not her intent, of course. Gillard said she believed her early announcement would permit business and consumers to “plan their year”.

They people of Australia certainly did plan their year. They effectively drew the curtains on 2013. They withheld investment, they withdrew their confidence, and the economy shrank.

Gillard said it should be “clear to all which are the days of governing, and which are the days of campaigning” but, while there was a lot of campaigning, she was fighting a raging civil war within her own party that left scant time for governing.

Rudd, had he learnt anything, had he listened to anyone during his frequent trips to shopping centres around the nation over the past three years, would have understood that the millions of Australians he claims were clamouring for his return really only wanted a circuit breaker - and they saw his resurrection merely as a means to curtail the longest election campaign in our history.

But his time in exile was wasted. Nothing he offered yesterday was new. He said the hardest thing was to offer a policy plan for the nation - and he proved his own point.  He offered no policy plans.

Yet, when last he was prime minister, he changed the Howard government’s successful border protection policy, which had emptied the camps on Christmas Island and stopped the boats, to an open border policy which has led to 45,000 illegal boat arrivals.

On the day before the 2007 election, he said that he would turn the boats around and then never did. He signed Australia up to the United Nations’ hysterical global warming agenda and opened the door to the carbon dioxide tax through an emissions trading scheme campaign - which he then turned around and dumped.

He started FuelWatch and GroceryWatch - and subsequently dumped them as well.

He launched the pink batts insulation scheme - which cost four lives and a billion dollars to fix.

He said he would fix public hospitals or take them over - but walked away from the policy - and he promised to deliver budget surpluses over the economic cycle and failed in that, too.

After Question Time, Sky News anchor David Speers astutely observed that Rudd had slipped right back into the prime ministerial chair. Nothing had changed. That’s the problem.

Three years ago Rudd did not even stand against Gillard in the leadership ballot when his disgruntled colleagues told him he was Labor’s problem.  Three years on, overnight polls notwithstanding, he remains Labor’s problem.

If the first Rudd government was dysfunctional, this incarnation embodies dysfunction on steroids.

We all know how disparaging those who worked with Rudd have been about his character, labelling him variously as an egomaniac, narcissistic, disloyal psychopath. That was on a good day.

It would be in his interest, and the interest of the Australian people, to keep the number of days voters must wait until the next election to a minimum.


The contemptuous political class

The political class has contemptuous attitude towards the Australian public. And I am not talking about our new Prime Minister. The case in point is the upcoming referendum on whether to recognise local government, which in reality expands the powers of the Commonwealth.

The referendum seeks to amend section 96 of the Australian constitution to read: ‘Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or to any local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.’

If the referendum is successful, not only will the Commonwealth have expanded powers into areas that have traditionally been the responsibility of the states, but it will duplicate state bureaucracies at a federal level.

The expansion of government power is coupled with a $32 million public information campaign that treats the public with utter contempt.

The contempt arises from the fact that $31.6 million of taxpayer funding is for the ‘Yes’ campaign, while only $0.5 million is for the ‘No’ campaign.  If the case for reform were strong enough, such asymmetrical financial support would not be necessary.  By way of comparison, for the republic referendum, the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns each received $7.5 million.

The political class is spending your money to convince you that they should be more powerful.

Despite the excessive spending on a public information campaign, there is evidence that government ministers don’t even understand the logic behind the efforts to expand Commonwealth powers.

With overwhelming electoral and financial support for the referendum from the political class (with several exceptions), it is important for individuals, communities and civil society at large to organise themselves against the further encroachment of government into their lives.

If you want to get involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign, you can read more on the Australian Local Government Association’s campaign website,  and if you want to get involved with the ‘No’ campaign, visit the Vote No To Canberra’s Power Grab website.


A good enough reason for a trip to Adelaide

AUSTRALIA'S finest pasties are baked at Glenelg's Orange Spot Bakery.  The Anzac Rd institution is again officially home to the country's best pasties after being awarded the top prize in the national "Great Aussie Pastie Competition" this month.

The bakery has won the coveted award, dished out by the Baking Associations of Australia, four years running.

It took eight judges three days to sample 1500 pies and pasties in Melbourne this month.

"We're really pleased. We've worked really hard as it takes a long time to get it down pat," Orange Spot owner Nick Davey said.

He said changing his pastry recipe was the key to his success. "I'm not going to go into too many details, but the head judge told us it was the best pastry he's tasted in 25 years of judging.

This year Mr Davy changed the formula, production and baking process.

"It's not something that happens overnight. It took us six months to perfect, so there's a lot of stuff that's thrown in the bin along the way."

Top-quality local ingredients were crucial, he said.


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