josh rosner

MY PROBLEM WITH GILLARD (AND LABOR)

In Australian Politics on October 6, 2011 at 7:15 am

I recently had dinner with two really good friends. They are both federal Labor staffers, working for particularly well-known ministers. They are, it is fair to say, die-hard, to-the-death, ‘true believer’ Labor supporters – and have been since they were young enough for politics to enter their consciousness. Nothing wrong with political conviction. I wish more Australians would take an interest in politics and develop greater political awareness.

This dinner started, as it always does when we get together, with a convivial atmosphere. But before main courses were finished, it descended – as it almost always does – into a political discussion. This time, it centred around the performance of the Gillard Government, and the Rudd Government before it.

I’m on record as consistently criticising both Rudd and Gillard, albeit for different reasons. With Rudd, my problem was his propensity to micro-manage everything to such a degree that it was only a matter of time before mistakes were made, public funds were wasted and poor policy decisions were made. That, as history now records, became the reality.

I was attending a function at Parliament House (Senator Nick Sherry – who I used to work for when Labor were in opposition – was celebrating his 20th anniversary in the Senate) barely 4 or 5 metres from the Prime Minister’s office on what became Rudd’s last night as PM. I’d been at the gathering perhaps 30 minutes before Rudd came in and gave one of those silly semi-private speeches he liked to do. Afterwards, he left, returning to his office. I left shortly thereafter, as a cacophony of ministerial and staffer Blackberry’s started to beep and vibrate. So long out of the game was I, I didn’t stop to question why. Passing Rudd’s office – with Faulkner and Gillard behind me (although I didn’t know this at the time…I only realised later when footage was shown on TV) – I saw a phalanx of press gallery journalists, cameras and audio equipment at the ready. Again, I didn’t think anything of it. It was only later – about 20 minutes later – as I was in the car driving home that a text message came from a staffer – one of my friends at the dinner I mentioned earlier, exclaiming that ‘it was on’ (political parlance for a leadership spill).

My invite to Senator Nick Sherry's function at APH on Rudd's last night as PM

By a strange twist of fate, Senator Sherry’s 20th anniversary function was to also be Kevin Rudd’s last evening as PM. I, like many people I know, was outraged that Gillard had the chutzpah to take the leadership from Rudd the way she did. If there is such as thing as Australian-ness (and I doubt there is) then Gillard’s behaviour was quintessentially unAustralian. But therein lies my dilemma. I hated Rudd. He was a bad prime minister. But I also detest the idea of a sitting prime minister being replaced at the behest of his or her party and the unions which control it. It’s a dirty remnant of the Westminster system we inherited from the Mother Country, but it really should have no place in our version of democracy.

Back to my dinner with two Labor staffer friends. Our conversation, and their criticism of me, was about Gillard, not Rudd. I’m a serial Facebook poster. I update my Facebook status many times a day (and cross-post to Twitter) and frequently it is to criticise Labor. At least, as I see it, the criticism is of Labor. One of my friends at dinner suggested my commentaries (in the form of Facebook status updates) were more attacks on Gillard, specifically, than criticisms of Labor, in general. I’ve re-read my postings to Facebook and although I refute the assertion, I’m content to live with it.

The thing with Gillard, you see, is for me it is personal. Way back when I worked for Labor in opposition (when I was still a member of the Labor Party), I met Gillard on a number of occasions. I’ve conversed with her. I’ve drunk beer with her. (Okay, to be fair, only I was doing the drinking). I’ve attended office parties she has organised. We’re not bosom buddies and she wouldn’t remember me, but the point is, I liked her and I particularly liked her left-wing credentials.

But once she became PM, something happened. Something bad. The kind of nightmare it takes the country a long time to wake and recover from.

My problem with Gillard is three-fold:

1. She did a shitty thing stabbing Rudd in the back and even if she had turned out to be the greatest thing that had happened to this country (which is so far from reality it is laughable!) my view wouldn’t change. What she did was wrong. It’s that black and white for me.

2. She sold out her left-wing credentials and, miraculously, became a right-wing sensation over night. The country stood a real chance of reform under a left-wing prime minister, but instead she caved to special interest, a right-wing controlled caucus and some right-wing union thugs who need a little of their own medicine in return.

3. She lives in a mighty fine house, located in a prime Canberra suburb only a stone’s throw from Parliament House, with a staff and a driver – and it’s all paid for by my not inconsiderable tax dollars – and she does so with an unemployed bloke she’s not married to – but then she has the hide…I mean, the biggest hide of all, to tell me…ME, that my 10 year relationship is something less than hers, something not as worthy of formal recognition as hers, and…here’s what really rubs me the wrong way…something that has not been ordained by God! By God, of all made-up creatures!!!

So, indeed, I won’t deny or shy away from accusations that my attacks on Labor are really personal attacks on the PM. Not at all. She is a bad prime minister. She’s worse than Rudd, and until she came along I couldn’t have imagined such a scenario is possible.

I hope the day comes when my values, and Labor Party values, are once again in alignment. Maybe the Labor Party is on a course of change that is taking it away from me forever. I hope not. I hope one day that I can rejoin the Labor Party. That day will never be while Gillard is leader.

Some things I am very certain of. I will not, under any circumstances, cease my criticisms of Labor, Gillard and the government she leads when it makes decisions that warrant criticism. I’ll continue to do so, even if it costs me the friendship of my two staffer friends. I’m also certain – more certain, perhaps, than of anything else in my life – that Labor in government since 2007 has been a miserable, wretched failure and I can’t recall ever being so disillusioned, so shattered, so utterly bereft and so totally disappointed in a political party I was once a member of and spent many years working for, as I am with the Australian Labor Party.

I’m continually told to consider the alternative. I have. I do every day. Do I want Tony Abbott to be prime minister? Of course not – although I am on record as suggesting he wouldn’t be as bad as many belief he might. But the thought of a ultra-conservative Catholic running the country is not my ideal scenario for Australia. So I’m told, Labor is better than the alternative. Are they? Really? Because Abbott scares the shit out of everyone, Gillard’s incompetence is still a better solution? I don’t and won’t see it that way. I won’t vote Labor at the next election because the alternative is too horrifying. I can’t do it.

Here’s a reality check. If Tony Abbott remains leader of the Liberal Party, he will be PM. That’s the stark reality Labor has created for this country. I can’t envisage any scenario in which Labor is capable of changing that. So faced with such a dismal reality, and faced with my inability to vote for Labor, I’m left with only a few options. None are ideal.

I could vote for the Greens. I could vote for an Independent candidate. I could vote for alternate parties.candidates in the House of Representatives to the Senate. I could not vote at all – or at least, only get my name ticked off.

I will reassess my position closer to the next election, but were the election called for this coming Saturday, I would vote as follows:

Senate: Green (I live in the ACT, where we only have two senators who must seek re-election at each federal election, unlike the States, and where it is incredibly hard for a Green candidate to break the one Labor Senator, one Liberal Senator monopoly). I’m more comfortable with preferences flowing to Labor should the Green candidate not win.

House of Reps: The Latham Gambit (also known as the ‘donkey vote’).

I hope things change. I know they won’t. When Labor loses the next election, as it inevitably will, I won’t take joy from it. I won’t whoop for joy. I won’t say I told you so. Not to a single soul. But I will, quietly, lament the final passing of a political party I once loved and gave my all to (besides working for various pollies as a spin-doctor and speechwriter, I have been both president and secretary of my local Labor Party sub-branch of North Canberra) and I will feel little else than sadness that Labor failed me; failed us all.

One day, I hope my Labor friends come to see it as well.

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