Watching Julia Gillard speak to Anne Summers on Monday night, during her first interaction with the Australian media since her rolling by Kevin Rudd back in June, was unusually spellbinding; especially for a political interview. Especially for a politician whose rhetoric, while in office, was so monotonous that even insomniacs would have felt sleepy listening to it.
Julia Gillard’s Government was woeful, both externally and internally. On the outside, the carbon tax malarkey, massive debt, dodgy business with Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, and the constant niggling of Kevin Rudd repeatedly showed a Government struggling to lead the country. At its head, was Australia’s first female Prime Minister! But unfortunately, she appeared to have the charisma of a brick and operate a constant state of damage control. The state of the Government was so bad, that in this time I became a rusted-on Liberal.
We heard straight from the former Prime Minister herself during the interview with Summers that the shambles inside the Government were just as bad. Behind the scenes factional warring, faceless men, stroppy Unions and numerous cabinet reshuffles made it all too easy for Tony Abbott to pillory the Government at every Question Time. So before the Coalition could conquer old JG, her own teammates cut her out of the leadership after a dramatic betrayal by Bill Shorten, who flipped to the Ruddites right before the ballot.
At the time, it seemed like the comeback of the century for Kevin Rudd, and with the awfulness of the Gillard Government so fresh in our minds it seemed as though this was a good move for the Labor Party. But in Kevin’s few months before the federal election, the electorate was reminded of his phenomenal egocentrism. The everlasting image of Kevin Rudd burned into my own mind is the lopsided and constipated ‘selfie’ expression that stained school halls and shopping malls throughout the election. It will be difficult for the collective memory of the Australian electorate to ‘untag’ that from their imaginations.
So when Julia appeared on the ABC this week, composed, content, smiley, and sincere it became clear that she would go down in history as the victor in the popularity contest between her and Kevin. For starters, he’s only got the claim of toppling John Howard (who was going to give the top job to Peter Costello anyway) she’s got the claim of being the first female Australian Prime Minister. Then, when Kevin rolled her in 2013, we saw that he’d spent the last three years relentlessly plotting his revenge rather than focusing on being a good Foreign Minister. Even when his short second spell as Prime Minister was terminated, thankfully, in the 2013 federal election, he likened himself to Barack Obama in a terribly longwinded concession speech. After hinting at a third term as Prime Minister, the memory of Kevin Rudd that Australians are left with is that he was an irrational, egomaniacal bastard.
Gillard, who has a bigger claim to fame from the onset, will be forgiven for knifing Rudd in the first place, because he sunk just as low for knifing her back. Gillard’s media silence distanced her from Labor’s comeuppance in the latest election, and her intentions of writing, lecturing and contributing to a think-tank in Washington positioned her as enlightened women concerned with tackling issues bigger than the Gordian Knot of Labor Party politics. “Good on her,” I thought, “give that woman an AO!” Because of this favourable image, the successes of her Government, such as making Bob Carr Foreign Minister and the National Disability Insurance Scheme will overshadow its woefulness, which will be attributed to Kevin and his destabilising efforts.
So in the end, I think history will portray Julia as a tough politician, but ultimately a down to earth human. I think history will portray Kevin as a cancerous twat, vindictive and bitter to the core; while all his ‘selfies’ will remind the sorry owners of those images of what a phoney he really was. I think history will be kind to Julia and cruel to Kevin.