R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I referred in one of my earlier posts to Julia Gillard’s popularity appearing to be in direct inverse proportion to her power in Australian politics. The Anne Summers interview broadcast on ABC News24’s Big Ideas program on Monday night could not have been a more perfect demonstration of this. The crowd that filled the Sydney Opera House barely stayed quiet enough to hear any of the questions or answers in between thunderous cheering and applause.

Granted, Gillard was amongst friends. Friends who had chosen to part with their hard earned money and line up for hours to go and see her first interview post-beheading (or post ‘June 26’ as the events were continually referred to during the program). Admittedly, I did find myself getting swept up in the moment on more than one occasion – her entrance to a rousing rendition of RESPECT by Aretha Franklin was borderline embarrassing (indeed, even she seemed to be laughing in a very self-conscious manner) but it made the point.

I find it very interesting that it has taken losing power for respect to finally be ‘earned’ or, perhaps, acknowledged.

It would seem that there is an element of guilt attached to how the public now views Gillard. It is only very recently that she has spoken openly about the mental and psychological anguish that she suffered at the hands (or more specifically, pens and keyboards) of some of the country’s more cretinous trolls. While all politicians should expect a certain level of personal criticism and taunting during their time in office (especially as Prime Minister), the nature of that directed towards Gillard really did seem to go to a new level – even in the mainstream media.

On the other hand, there were some real issues with Gillard’s Prime Ministership that appear to have been conveniently forgotten. It was Gillard who decided to implement a carbon tax merely weeks after stating that she would categorically never introduce one under a government that she led. She was also responsible for the decision to move single parents onto the Newstart Allowance, a decision since criticised by both Albanese and Shorten as a bad one. And most importantly, from a polling perspective (and that was her undoing in the end), Gillard failed at all points to communicate the excellent job that her government had done in navigating a vast array of legislation through the hung parliament.

The other, less tangible, factor in Gillard’s poor public perception was that she herself wasn’t able to be easily understood. Her motivations in life to do the things that she did were not typical and therefore quite foreign to a public that is used to politicians presenting a caricature of “Australian life”. It’s been analysed to death already, so I won’t dwell on it. But the Tim thing, the house in Altona, the lack of religion but opposition to gay marriage, the knitting and the unrelenting stoicism all conspired to present a very complex picture that did not welcome empathy.

I will read Gillard’s book with interest when it is published, however I suspect already that it will be a hard-headed and straightforward account of the facts with humour used to deflect from the more emotional and troubling moments – much like her appearance on Monday night.

I hope it contains an explanation for ‘Women for Gillard’ though. That was a little bit bizarre.

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