New PM

It would be somewhat remiss of me not to comment briefly on our new PM. Congratulations to Ms Gillard for making history and all that…

By my reckoning she’s the first “ranga” PM, the first female PM, the first challenger to oust a sitting PM in their first term, the stager of the fastest bloodless coup in history and the PM with the best hairstyle (which I put down to having a hair stylist for a partner).

Surely everybody saw this coming from the moment Rudd and Gillard formed an uneasy relationship as leader and deputy. K-Rudd’s love-hate relationship with the Australian public and the ALP respectively came to an end in a pretty abrupt moment. Labor has form for ousting elected political leaders in favour of party apparatchiks. It’s not uncommon for the party to foist premiers upon the unwilling denizens of our states – and Channel 10 are about to remind us that it’s all to typical of Labor at a Federal level as well – with its docu-drama Hawke. Labor does anything to hold on to power – even sacrificing one of its own, even if its own happens to be the most popular PM ever – who ousted the PM they loathed.

Rudd’s problem was his chalk and cheese relationship with those around him – the voters, who knew him not, loved him. His party, and any members of the opposition who knew him, reserved incredible disdain for the man. In my former role I dealt with pollies and political pundits, I shared a desk briefly with the PMs infamous chief of staff (as he phoned through some interview transcripts). Of all the people I’ve met, and of everything I’ve read, the impression I get is that Rudd operated with a veneer of courtesy which covered over a multitude of flaws and sins. His outbursts of rage – now common knowledge – were apparently typical of his treatment of those in his way. David Marr’s fascinating political obituary shows where he went wrong.

He had to do everything himself. He couldn’t trust and didn’t delegate. He worked his staff ruthlessly. His temper was formidable. The office operated in a strange atmosphere of rush and delay. Everything happened at the last minute, more often than not to suit the next media hit. This didn’t change when he became PM. While he rode high in the polls it hardly mattered. His party accepted Rudd’s demands for near absolute control. Cabinet was reduced to a shadow of itself.

Part of the problem was Rudd’s old ambition to find decent solutions to the nation’s problems. Decency is personal, intuitive, hard to delegate. Marry that to a sense of indispensability that is right off the Richter scale, and you had a recipe for ruin. Once again, Rudd had enemies everywhere.

Rudd is what happens when ruthless efficiency meets the intention to do good things. His motives were pure but his methods were not.

I couldn’t figure out where Abbott was for the first 24 hours of the coup. Had he come out strongly against Labor and the murky backroom operations of the factions and the unions Gillard’s political nose may have been bloodied from the opening moments of her ascension to power, instead, Labor get a bit of a bump in the polls.

The reaction amongst my Facebook friends was interesting – most seem unhappy with the manner in which Rudd was dismissed, happy to see the back of him, and split on the question of whether Gillard’s hair colour or gender was more historic. Having had the chance to see which way most of my friends swing politically in the last few days I’m struck by what a conservative batch they are. Maybe I’ll vote ALP just to be contrarian…

What I can’t understand is Gillard’s appeal. She seems merciless. She’s the most extremely left wing PM we’ve ever had. And she sounds like a character from Kath and Kim.

The Labor PR machine was impressive. Every Labor talking head, from union bosses to exiled former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie (speaking from Wyoming), had their talking points in order. They praised her as a “strong and decisive figure,” “a born leader,” “an excellent communicator,” and the person who would get Labor’s focus back on the big issues. And each person mentioned the same issues. This was all impressively “on message.”

Possibly my favourite part of the post-coup coverage was Crikey’s collection of photoshopped versions of Julia Gillard (henceforth J-Gill) in the situations she said were more likely than her challenging K-Rudd.
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