Katharine Murphy deconstructs Abbott

Comment & opinion By Barry Tucker                    29 January, 2014

The taxpayer funded ABC is supposed to be impartial, according to its Charter. For practical reasons it attempts to be balanced over time. It is not an arm of government policy. During the past three years, at least, the ABC supported the Liberal National Party federal Opposition while being openly hostile towards the Labor government — there is absolutely no doubt about that in my view; I watch and listen constantly. I was a Labor supporter but I’ve withdrawn due to the party’s incompetence. I now focus on exposing the true nature of LNP leader Tony Abbott.

Of all the problems facing Australia early in the life of the new federal “Liberal” Conservative government, support from the ABC is low on the list. The “Liberal” party’s policy development arm, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), recommends the privatisation of the ABC and its sister SBS. These organisations are not the only almost independent sources of news and commentary, but they produce a range of programs and diversity that commercial enterprises come nowhere near matching. The fodder that free enterprise newspapers, radio and TV produce is akin to the mind-numbing drugs that are fed to asylum inmates to keep them quiet, unquestioning and happy. Australians deserve the kind and range of stimulating product that ABC/SBS produces.

Rupert Murdoch (I’m sure you know who he is) disagrees. In the UK and here, he wants publicly funded broadcasters sold off because they compete with his news and entertainment empire. Rupert’s father, Sir Keith, was an originator of the IPA. The IPA was one of the bodies/interests that launched the Liberal Party of Australia in the following year.

Before the 7 September 2013 federal election Abbott and his now Treasurer Joe Hockey said the ABC would not be privatised if they won government. Hockey said any “waste” would be cut from the ABC budget. Since the “Liberals” won the election the News Corp/IPA inspired campaign to discredit the ABC (but, curiously, not the SBS) has gained considerable momentum. The ABC is criticised for doing its job, which is about as bad as the situation can get.

In the latest irrational outburst today Abbott claimed the ABC instinctively took “everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should show “some basic affection for the home team”. You have to wonder to whom Abbott is referring in the term “home team”. In the “Liberal” view, if you are not 100 percent behind them all the time you must be biased against them. Today’s “Liberals” are not Liberals. They sometimes behave like neoFascists. They are in fact Conservatives, with a political philosophy inheritance from the time preceding the French Revolution: God, King, church, nobility, backed by the military, and everyone else is a peasant. Know your place and stay in it. An Army general heads the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders and a former Army general (Peter Cosgrove) is the Governor-General designate. The Attorney-General’s COS is a former ASIO spook. Dole and Disability Pension recipients are prime targets for the government’s savings program, although cutting their welfare will yield a pittance.

Here is a transcript (on a government website) of the Hadley/Abbott interview.

Here you will find Guardian Political Correspondent Daniel Hurst’s take on today’s remarks by Abbott.

Here is Ben Packham’s report on Abbott’s remarks (in Murdoch’s The Australian, no pay wall), with partial video of Abbott’s appearance on shock jock Ray Hadley’s radio show and quotes from others.

Finally, a link to Guardian Deputy Political Editor Katharine Murphy’s article.

Before the election Abbott said his government would do after the election what it said it would do before the election. This is nothing less than the political utilisation of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s clumsy handling of the introduction of carbon pricing. His capacity for lying is well established. I still don’t understand why he was not carpeted for misleading the House on the effect of the carbon tax (pricing mechanism) on household electricity bills — a deliberate distortion for a political purpose. You have to wonder if our two major political parties don’t sometimes self-sabotage in order to give the other mob a go at government.

In my opinion, Australia has elected the most blatantly cynical government in its history. Now that it has demonstrated it can act as it pleases with impunity, you can expect worse to come.


Political journos get their just desert


By Barry Tucker                    26 October, 2013

Nothing unusual about Australia’s political leaders having folks around for dinner. It’s part of the job: hobnobbing with diplomats, industrialists — even journalists.

Peter Munro must have missed out on an invitation. He’s a bit narky in this report for the Federal Politics section of The Sydney Morning Herald on tonight’s do.

Abbott’s first gathering of the Australian media is an invite-only affair of conservative columnists and broadcasters, Munro writes.

“Many are disagreeable but, happily, rarely so with the nation’s 28th leader.”

Who got an invite and who didn’t? Several are named in Munro’s story.

For an interesting exercise, check the names in the story against what those people write or say on tv — shows like the ABC’s Insiders, The Drum or Ten’s The Bolt Report or Meet the Press, newspaper columns and stories by members of the Canberra Press Gallery in the Fairfax and Murdoch papers.

Here’s a little oddity from Munro’s story. He reports that: Abbott this week divided Australia’s media landscape into two broad camps: ”There tends to be an ABC view of the world, and it’s not a view of the world that I find myself in total sympathy with. But, others would say that there’s a News Limited view of the world.”

It’s curious that the Liberal party still insists that the ABC exhibits a Left-wing bias. It certainly hasn’t done so since Abbott became Liberal Parliamentary Party leader on 1 December, 2009. Apparently, if you’re not consistently 100% behind the Liberals you must be biased against them. They’re an intolerant lot.

Oh, and “News Limited” has been News Corp since 1 July, 2013. We all make mistakes — even Abbotts.

Here’s another strange thing. It’s related and it’s not. Last night, 25 October, Channel 9’s Breakfast co-host Lisa Wilkinson delivered the Andrew Olle Lecture.

What’s amazing about that (apart from the fact she is only the second woman journalist to have done so) is that there is not a single mention of the furore over political news reporting during the two terms of the previous federal Labor governments.

It’s like, “we’ve done nothing wrong; we were proper and correct; nothing to see here; move on”.

Almost all of the fuss occurred in social media and in the independent online magazines and news sites. You will find plenty of that recorded in this resource centre.

To Wilkinson, and the rest of the commercial and publicly-funded news media, it’s as if nothing unusual happened. There was no palpably biased reporting against Labor or favouritism for the relentless negativity of Abbott and his cohorts.

Wilkinson, quite rightly, spent a lot of time commenting on the sexist depiction of women (and their fascination with it and themselves, it has to be admitted) and asked when, if not now, will the mass media get over itself and its preoccupation with this topic. It’s time the mass media treated women equally, not differently and not as sexual related objects.

The reality is, as the mass media keeps telling us, women make most of the buying decisions and pampering to them and their concerns (apart from liberation) is the lifeblood of advertising revenue.

Wilkinson deals with Twitter and Facebook, with the new electronic media generally, and says it is now an indispensable part of journalism. But she makes what I think is an error by claiming that the old established MSM is the sole guardian of the truth when it comes to accuracy, and that consumers of news will always fall back on old media when seeking the facts.

Old media is dying, and old journalists can’t face that fact. In talking about old media, Wilkinson gets into stuff like tradition, legitimacy, intimacy among journos, encroachment upon sacred turf by the insolent new media — anyone with an iPhone or laptop. It is those things that make it hard for some journos to let go of the old and get with the new.

Abbott’s a media control freak


By Barry Tucker                   3 October, 2013

In his first overseas diplomatic mission as head of the Murdoch Government of Australia, Anthony (Tony) Abbott barred Indonesian journalists from attending a key news conference.

The presser was held in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on the morning after talks with Indonesian leaders that encompassed Abbott’s plans to stop the flow of refugee-seeker boats and trade, especially the live cattle trade.

Indonesian journalists were told the ban was imposed at the request of the Office of the Prime Minister. Australian journalists who have since sought a reason for the ban have not received a reply.

The head of the Jakarta chapter of the Alliance for Independent Journalists, Umar Idris, said: “We cannot accept whatever reason Australia gave for limiting access to information for Indonesian journalists.”

Mr Umar said the ban was not just discourteous, but criminal.

“The press law in Indonesia says it is a crime to limit journalists to get access to information. The penalty for that is two years’ imprisonment,” Mr Umar said.

Abbott, who studied Law, Economics, Politics and Philosophy (but not Media) worked as a journalist for The Bulletin and The Australian. He, or his minders, carefully chooses which radio and tv outlets he appears on for interviews. His preference is for the Sydney radio shock jocks (eg: Alan Jones) or the part Murdoch owned Sky News while severely limiting his appearances on ABC tv shows like Insiders, the 7.30 Report and Q&A.

The Age’s Michael Bachelard reported on the Jakarta media ban.

After Abbott returned to Australia, he held a news conference with visiting New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, on Wednesday, 2 October. During the presser Abbott controlled questioners turn about: one from Australia, one from NZ. When Abbott tried to end the presser, Mr Key said he wanted to take more questions.

Here is a list of stories on Mr Key’s visit.

And there was this Tweet:

The look on PM Key’s face when Abbott turned to run from their presser was priceless. Guess that’s not how a PM behaves across the Tasman.

Never let the facts interfere …

Political comment By Barry Tucker                   20 August, 2013

The first leaders’ debate finally arrived and went without much of a mention — apart from the fact that it was considered a press conference and a pretty boring one at that. Popular opinion and polls mainly claimed a win for the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

So, if the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lost, why rub his nose in it with an accusation that he cheated and broke the debate rules by referring to a folder of notes?

Andrew Meares photo

Mr Rudd (above) at the debate lectern, with a handful of notes. Andrew Meares is a Canberra Press Gallery photographer for Melbourne’s The Age (Fairfax Media).

ABC TV image

Most television viewers would have seen the ABC1 TV image above. It shows a white package on Mr Abbott’s lectern (right). Apparently this is the writing pad that was provided for both men. Some have claimed that Mr Abbott also had notes, a mistaken reference to the writing pad.

Channel 9 image

WIN TV image

The image above, televised by WIN TV, is from an earlier leader’s debate in the National Press Club between former PM Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Abbott. Mr Abbott has a spread of notes or references on his lectern. I have seen reports that both speakers used notes in the first debate, but it was not made an issue. The rules for both debates are the same: no speaker’s notes or props are to be used. The blue and red lines are The Worm, tracking audience reaction.

The man on the left is David Speers, a National Press Club executive and political editor for Sky News (partly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp). Mr Speers is considered to be a Right wing journalist. He has a clear view of Mr Abbott’s lectern and his notes used in the first debate.

After the second debate a row broke out over Mr Rudd’s use of notes. Liberal MPs, and some journalists, accused him of cheating and breaking the rules. Mr Abbott said the problem was not that Mr Rudd read from notes, but that his notes were not worth reading (cf ABC below).

Referring to the second debate, Mr Speers said it was very hard to be absolutely sure from where he was standing that Mr Rudd was using notes (from The Age story, see below *). A story on the News.com website said that after the debate Mr Speers said the Prime Minister had used paperwork against the rules.

On this second occasion Mr Speers was standing just in front of the audience, between the two speakers and facing them. The lecterns were also different, with side walls.

I believe Mr Speers when he says he couldn’t see what was on the lecterns. But he overlooks the fact and neglects to mention that Mr Abbott used notes in the first debate. The Liberals’ accusation is hypocritical and Mr Speers does not take the trouble to point this out.

Possibly because the second debate didn’t produce much in the way of news, the Liberals whipped up a storm over the PM’s use of notes, accusing him of dishonesty and cheating. 

That doesn’t surprise me in the least. This Liberal Opposition is the most mendacious and hypocritical that I have experienced during and since my career in journalism. Its key members are experts in negative campaigning and the art of projection: accusing others of doing what you have been doing.

And possibly because the news media can’t help itself when it comes to attacking the federal Labor government, it picked up and ran with the Liberal attack. The furore over Mr Rudd’s reference to notes got almost as much news coverage as the debate itself.

Judith Ireland is a Breaking News Reporter for The Age, assigned to the Canberra Press Gallery. She wrote this story in The Age, with some additions from AAP.

The notes issue was covered by all mainstream news media (MSM).

The ABC story on the incident.

The News.com story.

Liberal MPs, their followers, commentators and the MSM, including individual journalists employed by the ABC, continue to deny there is an organised campaign to undermine the Labor government. That is, an organised campaign that goes beyond the Opposition’s campaign to seek a change of government through normal means. That prompted me to send the Tweet below.

  • Tweet 3

Bias in the Canberra Press Gallery

Political opinion by Barry Tucker                    20 August, 2013

This opinion piece may seem to be simplistic and it may seem to be biased. Having looked at the problem for many months, I am satisfied that what I am about to write is true and I will do my best to keep my personal bias (pro Labor) under control.

Allegations of anti federal Labor government bias in the Canberra Press Gallery are not new. I am not aware of any statistical analysis that would support or disprove these claims. Anyone’s impression of bias relies on casual observance, personal bias and a lack of carefully compiled evidence. Therefore, the allegations cannot be proven and must be formed by emotional reaction due to personal bias.

Proving bias is extremely difficult. The researcher would have to collect and study all of the radio and tv broadcasts of commercial stations, the ABC and the SBS, the major and minor newspapers (their social, financial and even their sports pages in addition to the main news pages), the news agencies (AAP, etc), their interweb equivalents including the webzines (Crikey.com, The Monthly, etc) and the tweets and blogs of their staff. It’s a monumental task to collect the data and a strictly impartial approach is required to interpret it accurately.

Bias can be hard for the casual observer to judge accurately because impressions are coloured by personal bias. One negative comment may be interpreted as “totally biased”. Some think ‘if you’re not 100 percent behind us, you must be biased’. My opinion of which journalists are biased, and which way, varies from time to time. Suffice to say, if a journalist is consistently and persistently biased in favour of the Left or the Right then you have a proven case. I could name several who fit the category and I am sure you could too.

Journalists vary their approach to interviewees, depending on many things: length of interview, time allowed for broadcast, time to pass before deadline (urgency), set questions, outdoor ambush, breaking story or follow-up and their opinion of whether the subject is inclined to be evasive. These variations can form an impression in the mind of the observer. Proof of bias can be found by comparing what the journalist writes subsequently with what you witnessed during the interview — if you watched the interview or ambush (or door stopper).

That was a cautionary backgrounder. Now to get to the point.

It’s my opinion that the anti-government bias that seems to dominate political news reporting can be sourced to policy stuff-ups during the first Rudd PM era. Two things need to be taken into account here. 1) This was a new government and new governments are likely to make mistakes. That’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. 2) During that period Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (nee Limited) started to become critical of the Rudd government it had previously supported. It was an attitude that influenced other news media (the so-called “following” phenomena).

I have worked in a few Press Galleries (PG) and I can say it is a dynamic and sometimes intimidating environment. The long-term journalists in the PG see themselves as players in the political game, believing they can call shots, influence politicians and set the theme of the day for the junior journalists to follow. If you are young, ambitious and arrogant you may try to ignore them — at your peril. The consequences are that you will find yourself on the outer, given the cold shoulder, ridiculed, criticised and left out of the loop. Stories will break and you will not be told about them. At the same time it will be made clear to you that you must pass on anything that you hear because “we are all one happy family”. Workplace bullying for sure.

It is through the practices above that senior PG journalists set the theme of the day, focus the interest of other journalists, divert attention from analysis of other policies, and so on. It leads to “following” and “the echo chamber” of journalists interviewing each other and confirming each other’s point of view. Journalists and vested interest commentators are more likely to disagree.

The early policy failures of the new Labor government fed directly and conveniently into the lines being pushed by the News Corp media and the Liberal National Party (LNP) Opposition. Failed policies (or experiments) like “petrol watch”, “grocery price watch” and “cash for clunkers” fed the bad news cycle. It continued with cost blow-outs on PM Rudd’s schools buildings program, roof installation and issuing of pocket money cheques to keep the economy alive during the Global Financial Crisis. The deaths of young men involved in installing roof insulation and subsequent house fires were tragedies that almost finished the Labor government. The Coroner’s Court and other inquiries take a different view than the federal Opposition, but that is not as widely reported.

You could argue about the rights or wrongs of policies that are either experimental or designed to avoid financial recession. From the Liberal party point of view, anything that is experimental or an unprecedented change with an unknown outcome is anathema. So is spending money. Money in the Treasury should be used to reduce business taxes, full stop.

So Labor’s experimental errors outweighed its financial initiatives and the negative news cycle continued. PM Rudd began sliding in the opinion polls, and he’s on the bottom again today. Victory was in sight for the journalists banging on day after day about policy failures and spending and for the LNP Opposition who quite rightly felt it had the government on the ropes. Then came the disaster of disasters. The Deputy PM rolled the PM and it was suddenly a whole new ball game.

The 2010 election that new PM Julia Gillard called early, in order to legitimize her reign, resulted in a draw with Independents holding the balance of power. Gillard won the negotiations with the Independents. Opposition Leader Abbott proclaimed that a government that found it hard to govern with a majority would find it impossible to govern with the support of Independents and one of the most negative Opposition attack campaigns in Australian political history began. The Press Gallery, looking down on the antics in the debating chambers, had little option but to report on one negative attack after the other. Had I been in the PG at the time I would have soon got sick of it and gone looking for other stories, but that’s another story in itself.

The question for PG members, their employers, the consumers of political news and the politicians is: Did the journos have the focus right? That question is epitomised in the PG’s reporting of the famous/infamous “Misogyny Speech”, which went viral over the interwebs. While feminists and their supporters saw it as a watershed moment for their interests, the PG for several days at least saw it as the shrill ranting of a madwoman. There was something wrong with “the nuance”. The LNP Opposition pretty much agreed with the PG but also saw it as an unwarranted attack on their leader, Abbott, who does seem to have an ongoing problem with his view of women.

Even before the Misogyny Speech, nothing was off the table as Abbott tried to ensure he did not become “… the best Opposition Leader never to have become Prime Minister”. I could go on with details, but books have been and will be written about the past six years of this federal Labor government, its Opposition and the news media’s role in developments. It’s my belief that the news media (in its many forms) shapes the opinions that are expressed in the polls — a subject that is scarcely considered or debated. The fact that newspaper companies have a financial interest in some of these opinion poll companies is disturbing, given their potential to influence public opinion.

I want to put on record that there is an alternative scenario to the past six years: Labor’s early experimental policies were designed to make a difference. Rather than merely criticise them, the news media could have analysed them and the reasons for their failure. We could have learnt something useful. In reality, that’s a bleeding heart scenario. Politics is a rough game, played for big prizes: the right to decide what happens next and control of the purse strings and the means of filling (or emptying) the purse.

For those interested in the relationship between the news media and politics, spend some time finding out who owns what and what their motives are, or might be. It’s worthwhile because it explains a lot about what you read in the newspapers and which bits are believable.

To finish, the newspaper industry (as we all realise, I’m sure) is in decline. Unless it tapers off in the next few years, newspaper sales are on course to hit rock bottom by 2020/21. This picture is being obscured by some who amalgamate newspaper sales with subscriptions to their pay wall content on the web version. Crikey.com yesterday published an article that claimed newspapers are fiddling the books on sales as they try to cling to what’s left of their business model. (Read the mUmBRELLA version.)

Good news doesn’t sell. Bad news and delicious scandals sell papers, which makes me wonder why the Ashbygate affair hasn’t been properly exposed in the Press and elsewhere, especially by the ABC’s 4 Corners. I leave the rest to your imagination and for your sake I hope it’s as cynical as mine. “Good night and Good Luck.”

An appeal for decency

Comment by Barry Tucker                    5 July, 2013

The Victorian Women’s Trust today ran full page newspaper ads critical of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and certain sections of the mainstream news media (MSM) for their attitude and behaviour towards Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The ad said the 2010 election delivered a hung parliament, but one that governed full-term and effectively with the support of two key independents.

“However, from the outset, and despite its democratic legitimacy, the Gillard-led minority government sparked an unheralded series of hostile reactions from different quarters across the country.

“An Opposition Leader, stung by being denied what he saw as his due, proceeded to launch a ‘seek and destroy’ mission centred on opportunistic appeals to people’s prejudices and fears. A deposed Prime Minister, stung from being removed so decisively by a Caucus that had lost faith in his capacity, spent the next three years currying allies on a parallel treacherous
‘seek and destroy’ mission – with Prime Minister Gillard squarely in his sights.

“Significant sections of the mainstream media fuelled these separate but powerful agendas by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the minority government with Julia Gillard at the helm. Her many achievements went largely unproclaimed while her mistakes were amplified — and continually referenced. Instead of delivering dispassionate reporting, seasoned journalists and broadcasters became players in the game.”

The sentiment contained in the ad is one of the neatest summaries of the past three years that I have read. It concludes with an appeal for a return to decency in Australian society.

Read the advertisement in full. The ad may appear as a .pdf file and it may not. It takes about two minutes to download and your browser may time out. I’ve reproduced the text of the ad below.*

Mary Crooks AO, is executive director of Victorian Women’s Trust and author of A Switch in Time — restoring respect to Australian politics, which you can download here.

Biased news reporting in action

Incidentally, the ABC News Radio report on the advertisements gives observers of news media a chance to see cherry picking, spin and bias in action. If you read the advertisement first and then read the ABC story you can clearly see what the reporter has done.

1. Criticism of the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is used for the introduction of the story, although the advertisement is equally critical of the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and the MSM.

2. The phrase “seek and destroy” is used in relation to Mr Rudd although, in the advertisement, it is first used against Mr Abbott. The ABC story does not say this phrase was also applied to Mr Abbott.

3. References to biased and unbalanced reporting by the MSM, of which the ABC is part, is pushed further down in the story than it is in the advertisement.

4. The ABC story begins and ends with references to Mr Rudd.

The main fact of the story — the full page newspaper ads — is news. The criticism of Rudd, Abbott and the MSM is nothing new. As a journalist, I would have made more of the advertisement’s appeal for a return to decency in Australian society. That is the news — that is where, hopefully, we are headed.

*A copy of the ad.


Credit where credit is due

WE HAVE all witnessed something
extraordinary in Australian politics over
the past three years.
The 43rd parliament came to a close with the
removal of Julia Gillard as the nation’s first
female Prime Minister: the first woman ever to
hold the position after one hundred and ten years
of federal political leadership that saw 26 male
Prime Ministers elevated to the highest office.
The frenzy of the forthcoming federal election
campaign will change the nation’s focus. Before
it’s too late, we want to pay public tribute to those
who made this period of democratic minority
government a successful one – against the odds.
The federal election of 2010 delivered a hung
parliament. Prime Minister Gillard successfully
negotiated and formed a minority government,
the fourteenth in our history. This coalition of
the ALP, Independents and the Greens, opted to
provide careful, thoughtful, stable government
for a full term, so that our national government
could get on with the business of governing in
the national interest. And it did just that.
However, from the outset, and despite its
democratic legitimacy, the Gillard-led minority
government sparked an unheralded series of
hostile reactions from different quarters across
the country.
An Opposition Leader, stung by being denied
what he saw as his due, proceeded to launch
a ‘seek and destroy’ mission centred on
opportunistic appeals to people’s prejudices and
fears. A deposed Prime Minister, stung from
being removed so decisively by a Caucus that
had lost faith in his capacity, spent the next three
years currying allies on a parallel treacherous
‘seek and destroy’ mission – with Prime Minister
Gillard squarely in his sights.
Significant sections of the mainstream media
fuelled these separate but powerful agendas by
refusing to accept the legitimacy of the minority
government with Julia Gillard at the helm. Her
many achievements went largely unproclaimed

while her mistakes were amplified – and
continually referenced. Instead of delivering
dispassionate reporting, seasoned journalists
and broadcasters became players in the game.
Low showing in opinion polls was attributed to
her poor communication and her government’s
performance, without factoring in the damaging
impact of the on-going duplicity within her
own party. The very day in March this year that
Prime Minister Gillard delivered a majestic
Sorry speech on forced adoptions, a speech that
belongs to the store of great national oratory, she
had to contend with yet another destabilising
leadership meeting at which her opponent failed
to declare himself.

The ensuing toxic political discourse
surrounding the Prime Minister and the
minority government gave public licence
across the community, online and elsewhere,
for an unprecedented campaign of sexist
and chauvinist abuse, denigration, double
standards, gross disrespect for the office of
Prime Minister and gross disrespect for her as
a person.
It has been a fraught political environment
and we remain baffled by several of the Gillard
government’s policies – on immigration and
asylum seekers, reducing economic support for
single parents and the Prime Minister’s position
on same–sex marriage. By and large, however,
she has displayed an enormous capacity and
style of effective leadership rarely seen in
parliamentary leaders across the political
spectrum. She oversaw the introduction of a
raft of impressive and far-reaching legislation,
showing high-order negotiation skill, sharp
intelligence and a great ability to command
strategy and detail across complex issues.
Much of this legislation is nation-building,
addressing our common future as Australians
– the introduction of a carbon price, the roll
out of a National Broadband Network, The
Murray-Darling Basin Plan, a ground-breaking
National Disability Insurance Scheme, a much
more equitable model for funding primary and
secondary education, a national paid parental
leave scheme, and the establishment of the
Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
There were many more reforms. Achievements
in foreign policy, including Prime Minister
Gillard negotiating the basis for future high
level discussions with China, were notable and
more far-reaching than those of her recent

On her watch as the nation’s Prime Minister,
our growing economy has been the envy of the
world – low unemployment, low interest rates,
low inflation and triple-A credit ratings.
We salute former Prime Minister Julia Gillard
for getting on with the business of governing
for us, the people; for the skilful negotiation,
resolve and the leadership required to maintain
the confidence of the Lower House; for steering
the government through a full term; for enabling
close to 500 pieces of legislation to be passed; for
introducing significant and visionary reforms
that will deliver great benefit to the Australian
people in the time to come; and for remaining
strong and poised when everything bar the
kitchen sink was thrown at her.
We pay tribute to those male and female
colleagues who worked with her on the nation’s
behalf, respected her capacity and gave her the
loyalty she deserved.

We pay tribute to retiring Independents Tony
Windsor and Rob Oakeshott for their true
independence, their courage and hard work in
upholding democratic values; and for enduring
with dignity, the threatening abuse aimed at
them, their partners and staff.
The success of this minority government has
come at a significant cost.
The past three years have led to a great loss
of civility and common decency, a poisonous
political discourse and a downturn in respect
for our leaders. We now have a climate in which
people willingly and disrespectfully attack
one another in anonymous and often vitriolic
commentary that is no substitute for mature
democratic debate. There is a jaded cynicism
and a sense of deep despair and powerlessness
across much of the community.
With men now back in their perceived ‘rightful
place’ as political leaders of both the government
and Opposition there will be little gendered
attack in political circles. But the seams of
aggressive contempt and sexist abuse that lay
beneath everyday life and which surfaced with
Julia Gillard’s elevation as Prime Minister, have
not gone away.

We have just lost our very first woman Prime
Minister – a woman with a great sense of
purpose and skill, a true reformer. Julia Gillard’s
final observation, in a speech of supreme grace,
was that her experience as the country’s first
female Prime Minister will make it easier for the
next woman, and the next and the next. If this
proves to be the case, she will deserve further
recognition and gratitude.
Smoother passage for the generations of younger
women coming through the ranks will only come
about with more commitment – changes within
political parties themselves, a greater focus on
the benefits to be gained from gender equality,
cultural change that reduces violent abuse and
sexism and social action at many levels of our
The truly ugly aspect of our national life revealed
by the past three years should give cause for us
all to reflect on what else is required to restore
and maintain respect, civility, common decency
and a fair go for women – in our society and in
our democratic politics.

Mary Crooks AO                  Diana Batzias
Executive Director                 Acting Convenor
Victorian Women’s Trust      Victorian Women’s Trust
Author of A Switch in Time

The Board and staff of the Victorian Women’s
Trust wish to thank the generous and thoughtful
women who provided us with the funds to place
this statement on the public record – without
the privilege of tax deductibility