EDITORIAL THURSDAY 29.07.10.
Masterchef might be over, but the knives are well and truly out. Not only is Julia Gillard under attack from within her own Party, but elements of the media appear to have joined the fray with gleeful enthusiasm. The front page of today’s Daily Telegraph features a most unflattering image of our Prime Minister photoshopped to look like a senior citizen, alongside the screaming headline comparing Julia Gillard’s future pension to that received by ordinary Australians. It is, of course, a reaction to the allegation that, as Deputy PM, Ms. Gillard opposed last year’s increase to the old age pension. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister has vigorously defended herself and insisted that her position was misrepresented, it has been enough to fan the fires that threaten to consume her re-election campaign.
Of course, there is a long way still to go in this election campaign, but the early indications seem to suggest that whatever honeymoon period Julia Gillard might have enjoyed has already evaporated. The series of embarrassments arising from the well publicised cabinet leaks has been damaging enough to add to the existing discomfort over the manner of the Prime Minister’s assent to the top job. The notion that any leader is having difficulty commanding his or her own party is enough to call into question their ability to lead the nation. In this way, internal efforts to undermine the Prime Minister can rapidly become self fulfilling prophecies, aided by the salivating hounds of the press eager to pursue any scent of blood, so that the public very quickly begins to ask if the leader’s own colleagues are reluctant to give her their support, why should the people of Australia?
Already, opinion polls are reflecting some impact, with Newspoll and Neilson both showing a fall in support for the Government. A Morgan poll has today identified, for the first time, Tony Abbott as Preferred Prime Minister, and analysis of talk back radio has shown a decline in callers expressing support for Julia Gillard, along with an increase in support for Mr. Abbott. The Daily Telegraph further reports that an on-line poll has shown “more than a third of Sydneysiders believe that a Prime Minister should be married,” and while such things really shouldn’t make a difference to whether or not someone can be the Prime Minister, even reporting such a finding could be seen as validating and promoting it. All in all, it is starting to look grim for Julia Gillard, even though the bookies still have her as favourite to win.
The real question of course is whether or not the same blowtorch is being applied to Tony Abbott’s credibility and credentials. It’s all very well to examine the shortcomings of the Prime Minister and the government that she leads, but that should not be allowed to lead to a situation where Tony Abbott and the Coalition win by default. Why is it that nobody is running a media campaign to undermine Mr. Abbott on the same sort of spurious grounds applied to Ms. Gillard? Why are there not headlines decrying Tony Abbott for opposing increases to the Age pension for the 12 years that he was a front bench member of the Howard Government? Why are there no surveys published indicating how many people think that a Prime Minister should not impose conservative religious views onto the nation? That sort of questioning might not be fair or justified, but it is no less valid than the equally idiotic tripe being served up about Julia Gillard’s martial status.
Let’s not forget that Tony Abbott is the man who told us that we should not believe everything he says because he cannot be relied upon to always tell “the gospel truth”. He is the same man who promised to leave industrial relations policy alone, and then in the next breath said that he could not give a rock solid iron clad guarantee that there would not be some adjustment to the finer details of the Fair Work legislation. He is the same man who has lambasted the Government for planning to introduce a “great big new tax” and then promised to introduce his own great big new tax to pay for a parental leave scheme. And let’s not forget that there was a time when Tony Abbott was opposed to any kind of paid parental leave, but now he wants us to believe that he has been struck by lightning on the road to Damascus.
I have said consistently that Tong Abbott is in it to win it, and can win it. But if he does, I would hate to think that it was because of Julia Gillard’s religious views, relationship status or gender. That would be not just unfair, it would be un-Australian.