THE well-merited elevation of our own Senator Kate Lundy to the Gillard ministry was almost lost in the excitement of the Bob Carr coup. But, in the longer term, I suspect it will be revealed as much more important.
Certainly, the Carr appointment as Foreign Minister revealed a Prime Minister prepared to back her own judgement against the opposition of two senior allies, the gossipy Craig Emerson and the mediocre Stephen Smith, both of whom had their eyes on the Foreign Ministry slot.
More significantly, it ruled a decisive line under Kevin Rudd’s stewardship of the portfolio, which he used as a soothing balm to a bruised ego and a springboard to keep himself in the news as (in his mind) a viable contender for the top job.
Immediately after the Gillard/Carr press conference, Twitter was alight with the rather unkind remark that “Suddenly Kevvie is sooo yesterday”.
And he is. Julia Gillard now has the clear air she craved to sell her policies and crush Tony Abbott. The election, in my view, is now hers to lose. Her only real problem is that if she succeeds too well in the interim, the Libs will replace him with Malcolm Turnbull, who will be much harder to defeat. For Malcolm has succeeded against the odds in becoming – and least in the public eye – “a man of principle”.
But either way, it is the promotion of Kate Lundy as Minister for Sport that will hold the key to Ms Gillard’s success. Not, I hasten to add, that Kate’s performance in itself is all that pivotal. She will do an excellent job and be very visible in this Olympic year excusing our relatively poor performance in London.
Instead, it’s the fact that she joins no fewer that six other highly competent and formidable female ministers. Count them: Jenny Macklin, Nicola Roxon, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, Kate Ellis and, of course, Gillard herself at the vanguard of Labor’s offensive. Against them, all Abbott can field are the two Bishops – “death-stare Julie” and “batty Bronwyn”.
Julia Gillard is perfectly aware of the electoral power of this favourable imbalance. These days she continually opens her speeches with the salutation, ‘Women and men…’
This feminisation of the government is fine by Canberrans. We have no problem at all with a female Governor-General, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, and two of our four representatives in Federal Parliament.
But out in the boondocks it needs to be handled quite carefully. A machismo backlash is always possible. However, I suspect that even there it’s slowly dawning that women are far better equipped than men to handle the business of politics.
Ego trips and excessive testosterone are the real impediments to good governance; firmness of purpose allied to the capacity for compromise are much to be preferred. And that’s women’s business.