The words ‘touch, pause, engage’ are the usual call to becoming interlocked in a muddy, all-in team battle over possession of the football. However thanks to a new low in Australian politics, the call changed to ‘misogyny, sexism and abortion’. These three words were the call sign for the Gillard Ministry and Labor caucus to muster a last ditch attempt at reclaiming possession of the political football which has been in the hands of the Coalition opposition for nearly three years now.
Unfortunately (for the PM) the end is not in sight as her inability to run the country and failure to win favour within the wider Australian community, alongside her bitterly divisive leadership team was exemplified in Sydney – a political war-zone for Labor – by her desperation for support when launching the ‘Women for Gillard’ campaign. The campaign lies within the Prime Minister’s political strategy – which resounds childishly as ‘re-elect me’ – and is strikingly similar to her left-wing fellow, US President Barack Obama and his ‘Obama for Women’ campaign that returned him to office. One key difference between Obama and Gillard’s campaign: Obama’s got him re-elected, Gillard’s was met with severe backlash.
Saying that Australia is becoming more and more like the United States has never been truer. The 30th January 2013 marked that date, the (sad) day our political system jumped onto the bandwagon of change. Pushed to be more accurate, just like the draft media laws that also were not allowed to take their natural course. January 30 gave effect to September 14, and despite the PMs word, marked the beginning of Australia’s longest political campaign. Similar to that of a US President, you might say? Yet another poor performance by an out-of-touch Prime Minister, pretending to offer certainty by attempting to highlight alleged foul play by the opposition.
“Game on” said Julia Gillard, and from there it has been shots on and the mud has not stopped being slung. Playing the ‘poor me’ card may have worked when we actually got to see ‘a feisty woman’ compared to an otherwise robotic and scripted Prime Minister. But yet again, the Australian public read through the lines and saw the real ‘policy weak[ness]’ lay with the Prime Minister.
If that wasn’t bad enough, another hit below the belt was served to the Australian public by resurrecting the gender wars. Not only was the misogyny card played, again, but the Prime Minister drew the last card out of her hand, ‘Abortion’. A free penalty to the opposition, a quick but small game changer until the ‘Menugate’ lineout, which could have the political football end up in the possession of either side. The ref, also known as the Australian electorate, blew the whistle and awarded a 5% drop in support of the government in the following weeks opinion polls. A complete miscalculation by the PM’s camp in a bid to cut down the opposition’s lead in the polls in its tracks. With a failed move from the front bench, it was up to the keepers – the back benchers – to prevent the coalition in breaking through the final line of defence before the try line. One problem, they are all lining up at the strapping tent, getting re-stitched from Australia’s longest political campaign.
But never fear, Kevin is here. Out of the pack of the media scrum comes that constant reminder of how Julia came to office, the knifing of Kevin 07. Kevin the wrecking-ball, Kevin the destabiliser and Kevin the leaker. Like a pit-bull, he simply cannot be told; although this doggy is not protecting his own. Rudd’s constant leaks to the opposition of the government’s next move, is just in his nature. Julia Gillard is not the first person on his own team who he has cut-down; Laurie Brereton, Kim Beazley and Simon Crean, some of Labor’s best men, just to name a few. It just proves that if Rudd isn’t the one scoring himself, then no one on his team can. But he is no messiah of politics himself, not even hanging onto the political football for a single term, having it stripped off him 2 years and 205 days into the initial Labor government that had also ‘lost its way’. After the failed emissions trading scheme, abusing RAAF servicewomen and a bungled Building Education Revolution scheme, to put it simply, the Rudd government ‘had to zip’.
Despite public sentiment, Kevin is no more and no less the Lady Macbeth of the ALP than Julia – they both have multiple political deaths to their names and no matter which one of them is leader, it is going to take more than water to clear them of this deed. That penalty will be awarded on September 14th.
So who is the real winner out of this vitriol of ‘misogyny, sexism, abortion’ and the ‘Menugate’ saga? The truth is no one wins, not the opposition nor the government. It can be said however, that this week widens the smile of at least 2 people, them being Gough Whitlam and William McMahon as Julia cements her new membership to their otherwise lonely club – Australia’s Worst Prime Ministers.
All in all, Julia Gillard and her government have not helped themselves, nor have the opposition. The difference is, the Coalition has not disgraced Australia’s highest political office by sparking gender wars and using abortion as a political football. With less than 100 days left until the federal election, all we are waiting for is the ref to blow full time on what has been a government that has failed the Australian nation.
Alec Teevan is studying Law and Communications (Business) at Bond University.