Robert Macklin’s latest column on the aftermath of the Leadership spill is here.
IT seems I’m the only columnist left in Australia who thinks Julia Gillard and her excellent government have a reasonable chance of winning the September 14 election.
Call me quixotic if you like, but I just can’t believe that my fellow Australians would toss out a government that has done us such sterling service for an opposition led by Tony Abbott who threatens to undo so much of what we’ve achieved these last five years; and who wants to set us on a path to “austerity” that has done such appalling damage in Europe and the US.
Consider the Government’s achievements: it acted swiftly to save us from recession during the world’s financial and economic meltdown. But just as important, it resisted cutting the Budget to shreds when revenue fell, despite the immense political pressure to do so.
It transformed our schools and our schooling, thus setting us up for the future and giving our children the best possible start in life. It invested massively in tertiary education, including trades, to meet the needs of a growing and changing economy.
It created the National Disability Insurance Scheme from nothing. It raised the pension to a decent level. It introduced paid parental leave. It invested in roads, ports and other infrastructure that was holding us back because Howard ignored it. It improved relations with China while maintaining a strong US commitment. Indeed, in foreign affairs it didn’t put a foot wrong.
It fixed the Murray-Darling river system. It put a price on carbon that will lead to a transformation of our energy generation. It is building the NBN that will transform for the better the way we live and work.
And it did all this as a minority government in the face of obdurate resistance and schoolyard bullying from Tony Abbott. It tried desperately to stem the flow of boat people, but was blocked at every turn by an Opposition that revelled in the political mileage gained from it.
So why am I the last columnist to give them a fighting chance? Well, Julia Gillard has never been given a fair go. People still resent the way she made it to The Lodge after his party rejected Kevin Rudd. Had she been a man, it would have been a political coup and that’s that, but a woman couldn’t be forgiven.
The Murdoch press, and the miners, have vilified Labor for their own vested interests. Sadly, their campaign has set the tone for other media outlets. But that could only be effective in a political landscape where something fundamental has changed in the communication business.
That’s summed up this week in a memorable phrase from “New York Times” columnist Frank Bruni: “The sideshow swallows the substance”.
Policies are ignored. Instead, the “news” is all about fripperies, trivia and the seven-second grab. If you doubt it, aside from the gold-plated parental leave scheme – and slashing at least 12,000 public servant jobs – try to think of a single Abbott plan for Australia.
Oh, that’s right: “Stop the boats”.