Julia Gillard: What goes around comes around

Gillard’s legacy is one of failure, unpopularity, and defeat

Lights out for Julia Gillard
Joseph Power
On 27 June 2013 09:57

What goes around comes around. Julia Gillard politically assassinated Kevin Rudd in 2010, only to have the same knives she stuck in Rudd’s back taken out, washed, and stuck right back into her.

Gillard’s legacy will be mixed: On the one hand, she was Australia’s first female prime minister. On the other, she happened to be one of the most unpopular prime ministers in Australian history, abandoned by her party in a desperate grab for popularity before the looming federal election in September.

The last three years of leadership turmoil, culminating in last night’s debacle and Kevin Rudd’s return, highlights the rotten core of the bitterly divided Australian Labor Party (ALP) and paves the way for a Tory victory later this year.

Gillard broke a pre-election promise by introducing a carbon pricing scheme two years ago. Her popularity immediately dropped. Last October, a video of her tirade against sexism in Parliament went viral on the Internet and her approval rating lifted slightly. She attempted something similar earlier this month, with a speech warning of ‘men in blue ties’, which fell completely flat as a failed PR stunt.

Gillard achieved some good during her time as prime minister. Her introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), for example, is a very noble piece of public policy that achieved bipartisan support. She made headway in reforming Australia’s education system, but did so by hacking funding for Australia’s world-class tertiary education. She also oversaw the beginnings of a Royal Commission into child sex abuse within various institutions.

But her utter failures in regards to the protection of Australia’s borders and asylum seeker policy will linger around Labor for years. Gillard sparked a renaissance of union power and influence – she was hoisted into the top job by the support of the union factions within the ALP – only to have them abandon her in the hopes that Rudd will be able to claw back Labor voters who’ve been fleeing the party in droves.

Her government attempted to mirror Britain’s Leveson Inquiry/Hacked Off campaign with a clumsy attempt by Stephen Conroy to push through legislation that would’ve destroyed the hard-fought rights of journalists to do their jobs independent of the Australian Government.  The legislation was ultimately defeated in Parliament.

Gillard’s legacy is one of failure, unpopularity, and defeat, interspersed with policy and legislation. Some – like the NDIS – will be kind to her. Others, like the Carbon Tax, will not.

Regardless, Kevin Rudd and Labor have approximately three months to reverse Labor’s unpopularity and avoid a humiliating defeat before they go up against Abbott’s Tories. 

Joseph Power is a freelance writer from Brisbane, Australia

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