The Ballad Of Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard towards the end of her term

Like most Australians I watched the tumultuous years of Julia Gillard's reign with growing disquiet. I was dismayed that she had stolen Kevin Rudd's job on June 24, 2010, in a deal with the back room boys but was prepared to judge her on her deeds. In my opinion her deeds were not so bad, but they weren't so good either.

The relentless brain-dead attacks by Tony Abbott and his cronies did not help matters and in fact muddied the waters so much that it was difficult to see what was really happening. The constant reminder that Kevin Rudd was still there, lurking in the shadows, sharpening his knife, was an additional stress for her and I would have been sympathetic except for the fact that she had brought it on herself.

When it was finally all over on June 26, 2013, there were a variety of reactions around the country from glee to tears. Many feminists got behind Julia and praised her achievements and lashed out at the "misogynist" attacks that she had supposedly been unfairly subject to. At this point I began to wonder what these achievements were and what the terrible attacks were.

Barry Cassidy produced a list of her achievements but on analysis I found that many of them belonged to Rudd. I viewed a clip of "misogynist" attacks on Gillard as put up by feminists but most of them were of the execrable Alan Jones and ignorant talk show callers, hardly mistreatment by the parliament or respectable media.

I researched these matters as best I could and wrote the following poem to attempt to put the record straight. It is not intended as an attack on Julia Gillard but neither is it intended to gloss over the facts. Personally I was dissatisfied with her term but it could have been worse, it could have been John Howard...

Thanks and credit to Wikipedia for providing most of the detail in the footnotes.

In Barry in Glamorgan back in nineteen sixty one,
Was the life of the raddle-headed1 Julia begun.
In sixty six the Gillards immigrated to the sun,
And settled down in Adelaide to see what could be done.

She went to Melbourne Uni where she studied up on law,
Got involved with unions early2, perhaps her fatal flaw,
For they took her to the top but always kept her in their claw,
And she was Chief of Staff for Brumby3 in ten years if not before.

The Labour Party lured her as a dog might a flea.
She even ran the Carlton branch whilst taking her degree.
So highly did they think of her down at the ALP,
That they gave the seat of Lalor, as safe as it could be.

She rose up at a steady rate inside that ancient firm4,
And was in the shadow ministry upon her second term.
She took Industry and Health, her Union links to reaffirm,
And was deputy to Rudd after Beazley's5 final squirm.

The election in November at two thousand years and seven,
Suggested Rudd and Gillard was a marriage made in heaven,
The public's general weariness with Howard was the leaven,
Of the landslide cake of victory for Julia and Kevin.

Under Kevin, Gillard naturally got major ministry,
And to oversee the mission took responsibility,
"Work Choices" was replaced with "Fair Work"6 at her decree,
And a sixteen billion plan to avoid the GFC7.

It was clear from the beginning that the Ruddster was fanatic,
And he ruled the Labour Government in style autocratic,
Yet he was a man of vision with a touch of charismatic,
And he ushered in great changes in a manner quite emphatic.

It's a failing fact of politics that shiftiness survives,
And the "Faceless Men"8 of Labour calmly sharpened up their knives.
So when Kevin ran afoul of the western miners' drives9,
They tapped Gillard on the shoulder to add meaning to their lives.

Undoubtedly, a captain's spill has its time and place:
The principal should face the pack when he has lost the race.
But to cut down, still in his prime, the man that gave you face,
When all he did was tax the rich: Now that is a disgrace!

That signal act of treachery, as now she understands,
Would taint her and would haunt her like a ghost that e'er withstands,10
And despite her best endeavours with the pow'r that she commands,
Like Lady Mac11 could never wash the blood from off her hands.

The election that then followed this in August, twenty ten,
Saw Julia and Labour back in power once again,
Thanks to deals with the Greens and the Independent men12,
But a lower house minority was quite beyond their ken.

Rudd formed the NBN Co back in two thousand and nine,
And determined fibre optic to the home was the design,
It's true it didn't pass until well after his decline13,
But to chalk it up to Gillard is a little asinine.

"There will be no carbon tax..."14 she said before the vote,
But she went back on her words with a Green noose 'round her throat15,
And now she takes the credit when it's time to sit and gloat,
But it was Rudd and the Greens who built the plan and made it float16.

With noble Andrew Wilkie, Gillard signed a contract clean,
To bring in pre-commitment here for each poker machine,
But when the TV stations and the football made a scene,
She blithely broke the deal and changed the colour of her mien.17

It was the Mining Tax that really brought the Ruddster down,
For the notion sound was hated by the fat big end of town,
Yet Bob Brown still insisted that it not be left to drown,
So 'twas passed emasculated making Swan look like a clown.18

The Murray Darling Basin Plan is taken in her name,
But its birth goes back to Howard and to Rudd who lit the flame,
"Seven thousand giga-litres!" did Authority19 proclaim,
But less than 3 delivered and more bores to her great shame20.

Julia the greenie was a most distasteful part,
With a lifetime love of unions, an industrialist at heart21.
She demurred and delayed and reneged right from the start,
Til Christine Milne had had enough and took the deal apart22.

Each PM needs a legacy of pride which they can keep,
And National Disability Insurance made her weep,
To double your support for such people is not cheap,
But more that twenty billion every year seems far too steep23.

The Gonski plan is something else on which to hang her hat.
She thinks 'twill change the nation, but I have my doubts at that:
I don't accept that extra funds will make a smarter brat,
And stealing cash from tertiary is dumb as a fruit bat.

There are other minor items in her CV to let loose,
Like Cigarette Plain Packaging and the Flood Levy sluice.
She suspended cattle exports, better treatment to produce,
And the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse24.

Each PM has her failures, sure as land must meet the sea,
Most obvious: her crap Asylum Seeker Policy25.
She slashed defensive spending by too much you may agree,
Down to one point six percent of Australia's GDP26.

The press just love a scandal and Julia had her store,
With a dodgy union slush fund while she practiced at the law27,
And the HSU's Craig Thomson with a penchant for a whore28,
And she bribed Peter Slipper to get numbers on the floor29.

Yes, she was treated roughly, but that's politics I say.
Her opponent a dense pitbull30, but that often is the way.
There was dumbness from public and the media making hay,
But full credit for the toughness that she showed in the affray.

I don't accept her treatment was misogyny so plain,
Cartoonists can be cruel for sure31, but that is their domain.
To laugh at people's bodies is bad taste we may maintain32,
But Abbott in his Speedos also copped his share of pain.

She is lionised by feminists as something clean and bright,
And ridiculed by Liberals as a bad egg and a blight.
But what she was is clear if you use objective sight:
A puppet of the unions and the Labour Party Right.

They set her up and taught her how to play the traitor's game,
And kept her numbers solid through the trouble and the blame,
But when it was their own seats under threat did her disclaim33,
They had made her and had kept her and they broke her just the same.

And that is the story of our first PM female,
A clever girl for whom the thrill of power was her grail.
Without a clear vision, she in policy did flail,
Til finally her backers came and dropped her like a nail.

Warren Mars - July 2013

  1. diminutive formed from Old English rudu - redness
  2. Her boyfriend in early 1990s was Bruce Wilson, an official of the Australian Workers' Union (AWU).
  3. John Brumby, Premier of Victoria from July 2007 - December 2010. When Gillard worked for him (1996-98), he was State Opposition Leader.
  4. ie the Australian Labour Party.
  5. Kim Beazley was the Federal Labour Leader while in opposition from 1996-2001 when he was defeated by Simon Crean and then from 2005-2006 when he was defeated by Kevin Rudd. He was full of bluster but lacking in content and quite ineffective as a leader.
  6. In her role as a minister, Gillard removed the WorkChoices industrial relations regime introduced by the Howard government, as well as some earlier reforms of the Hawke-Keating Government, and replaced them with the Fair Work Bill.
  7. The "Building the Education Revolution" programme that allocated $16 billion towards the building of new school accommodation, such as classrooms, libraries and assembly halls. The programme was part of the government's economic stimulus response to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and its expense became controversial.
  8. A name revived by Tony Abbott to refer to the backroom power brokers of Labour's Factions. In this case the right-wing "Labor Unity" faction, including Bill Shorten (MHR for Maribyrnong, ex National Secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, ex Victorian State President of the Labor Party, ex member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive), David Feeney (Senator for Victoria, worked in the national office of the Transport Workers Union, ex Victorian State Secretary of the Labor Party and ex State Labor Campaign Director), Mark Arbib (then Senator for NSW, ex General Secretary of the ALP (NSW Branch), member of the ALP National Executive, ex State Labor Campaign Director), and Don Farrell (Senator for SA, National President of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA)), with the support of Paul Howes (National Secretary of The Australian Workers' Union).
  9. ie the drive of the large mining companies based in Western Australia to continue amassing huge profits for themselves and particularly to swell the pockets of their Chairmen who all had large stakes in their companies. These people included Gina Reinhardt (Executive Chairman of Hancock Prospecting and Australia's richest person), Clive Palmer (owner of Mineralogy and other natural resource companies), Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest (non-executive chairman and previously the chief executive officer of Fortescue Metals Group, in 2010 he was Australia's richest person though he has since slipped considerably). The Mineral Resources Rent Tax (originally titled: "Resource Super Profit Tax") was an initiative suggested by the Henry Tax Review to allow the nation to get some reward for the natural resources that these companies were digging up basically for free. So vehement, coordinated and well funded was the media campaign unleashed by these greedy miners that it stopped the tax and brought down the Prime Ministership of Kevin Rudd.
  10. Banquo's ghost - Macbeth Act 3, scene 4.
  11. Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare's Scottish play, Act 5, scene 1: "Out, damned spot! out, I say! ... who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"
  12. The 2010 election returned a draw between Labour and the Coalition for the first time in history: Both sides had 72 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives. The remaining 6 seats were held by crossbench members. Either party could have formed government were they prepared to offer suitable deals to those non aligned members. As it happened, Tony Abbott was less accommodating than Julia Gillard, and she was able to stitch up a deal with the Greens' Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, who declared their support for Labor on confidence and supply, allowing Gillard and Labor to remain in power in the lower house with a 76–74 minority government.
  13. The NBN legislation finally passed on March 26, 2011. Much of the credit must go to Senator Steven Conroy who was Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy through the period.
  14. "There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead. What we will do is we will tackle the challenge of climate change. We've invested record amounts in solar and renewable technologies." - Network 10 interview August 2010. View the interview here at offset 2:20. Some commentators have attempted to let Gillard off the hook by suggesting that what she subsequently brought in was NOT a tax. However, since at present there is no cap and big emitters must pay a set rate for each tonne it IS effectively a tax and Gillard herself later admitted that she was comfortable calling it that.
  15. One of the requirements for Green support was that the Gillard Government form a cross-party parliamentary committee to determine policy on climate change. The MPCCC agreed on the introduction of a fixed carbon price commencing 1 July 2012, transitioning to a flexible-price cap-and-trade ETS on 1 July 2015
  16. The initial momentum for carbon pricing was Kevin Rudd's who commissioned the Garnaut Climate Change Review in April 2007 while he was leader of the opposition. Garnaut recommended a price between $20 and $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide with a rise of 4% each year. Gillard was mildly opposed to the idea as you can tell from her pre-election speeches in 2010 and only went along with it because the Greens forced her to.
  17. Blatant amoral political expediency at its worst. Anyone who thinks Julia was a highly principled person need only look at this to be disillusioned.
  18. Due to the success of the Mining Industry's ad war, Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan watered down the Tax. The result of this in addition to the downturn in the global iron ore price was that the revenue raised by the Tax in 2012/2013 was just $200 million instead of the $3 billion predicted, contributing to a massive budgetary shortfall.
  19. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority
  20. According to a study by Wentworth Group, the MDBA originally planned to start buying the 2,750 giga-litres of water and to INCREASE groundwater extractions by 2,600 giga-litres at the same time in March 2011. Much of the groundwater is linked to river systems, but the Plan does not count it in the models.
  21. Julia Gillard has been closely tied to the AWU, going back to her days at Slater & Gordon when her then boyfriend was an official. Her strongest backers as PM were AWU leaders Bill Shorten and Paul Howes. The AWU is right wing industrial union. Today it represents workers in the metals, aviation, oil and gas, mining, construction, food processing and retail industries, as well as its traditional base in the pastoral and mining areas.
  22. Christine Milne took over as leader of the Australian Greens on the departure of the charismatic Bob Brown. In February 2013 she announced the end to their formal alliance with Labor, saying that it has become clear that Labor no longer has the "courage or the will" to work with the Greens on a shared national agenda. She later stated: "The Tarkine decision, the attack on single parents, the unwillingness to act on coal seam gas or the mining tax, and fossil fuel subsidies - all those things send a very clear message that Labor's priorities lie with powerful mining interests, not with the people and The Greens."
  23. The cost of Disability Care Australia has been a point of contention at a time when the Federal Government is suffering huge revenue write downs. In 2012, a Government report predicted the cost would be $22 billion in 2018. According to the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, the program will effectively double the cost of supporting those with disabilities. A $22 billion handout means $1,000 taxed levied upon every man, woman and child in the country. Effectively accounting for at least $2,000 annually from each tax payer.
  24. It's full name is: "The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse". Sorry I couldn't fit that into the rhythm of this poem.
  25. In his first term as PM Rudd had dismantled key components of the Howard Government's asylum seeker policy, including the Pacific Solution offshore processing system. On 15 December 2010 a ship containing 89 asylum seekers crashed on the shore of Christmas Island, killing up to fifty people. Some months later Gillard would announce "The Malaysia Solution" in response, which was struck out by the High Court. In April 2011 immigration detainees at the Villawood detention centre rioted in protest of their treatment, setting fire to several buildings. In August 2012 the government re-opened the Pacific Solution processing centres at Nauru and Manus Island.
  26. The lowest by proportion since the 1930s.
  27. The AWU affair refers to allegations of embezzlement via a fund established for the AWU Workplace Reform Association in the early 1990s by Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt, officials of the Australian Workers' Union (AWU). Wilson and Blewitt raised $400,000 from major construction companies, and have been accused of using the funds for personal benefit, including diverting funds for the purchase of a house in Fitzroy. Julia Gillard, was the partner at law firm Slater & Gordon who provided pro-bono legal services to Wilson, with whom she was romantically involved, for the establishment of the Association and for the purchase of the Fitzroy property. Gillard's conduct was the subject of an internal investigation by Slater and Gordon. After stating that she had no intention of leaving Slater & Gordon, Gillard left the firm prior to the conclusion of the investigation and resigned to pursue a political career. The alleged misappropriation of funds and related activities have been the subject of police and media investigation.
  28. Craig Thomson: MHR for Dobell and ex National Secretary of the Health Services Union (HSU). In December 2008, auditors engaged by the Health Services Union alleged improper use of Thomson's union-issued corporate credit card. In his speech to the House of Representatives on 21 May 2012 Thomson said that there were credit cards which showed expenditure on escorts and prostitutes for at least two other officials. Fair Work Australia, the federal workplace relations tribunal, conducted a three-year investigation into improprieties in the use of union funds which they tabled in the Senate on 7 May 2012. The Fair Work Australia (FWA) report concluded that Thomson had spent almost $270,000 of HSU funds on his 2007 election campaign to win the seat of Dobell on the NSW Central Coast. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are continuing investigations. On 15 October 2012 Fair Work Australia launched civil proceedings against Thomson related to his use of HSU funds. Thomson stated that he would contest these charges. On 24 October 2012 members of the NSW Police conducted a search of Thomson's residence and electorate office on the Central Coast. Eight officers loaded vehicles with computers and five large boxes of evidence. Thomson was arrested at his Central Coast electorate office on 31 January 2013. He is facing 173 fraud and theft charges relating to his time at the Health Services Union. During Question Time on 16 August 2011, Prime Minister Gillard was asked if her confidence in Craig Thomson was based on a thorough investigation of his credibility. She replied, "I have complete confidence in the member for Dobell. I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long, long time to come." Gillard later moved to suspend Thomson from the ALP on 29 April 2012, saying "At the moment, Australian voters see a dark cloud over Parliament. I have made a judgment about the Parliament and about respect for the Parliament. There is a line which has been crossed here." Clearly Thomson's doings are not Julia Gillard's fault, but having your party members charged with fraud and theft is not a good look.
  29. Peter Slipper: MHR for Fisher. Elected as a Liberal National Party candidate he became an independent after Julia Gillard offered him the Speaker's Chair. In November 2011, Harry Jenkins, a member of the Australian Labor Party, unexpectedly resigned as 26th Speaker of the House of Representatives. Slipper was nominated unopposed and installed as Speaker on 24 November 2011. This move changed the numbers on the floor of the house giving the Gillard government one extra vote and the Coalition one less. Julia used this advantage to renege on the deal with Andrew Wilkie. In April 2012 he stepped aside as Speaker while charges of fraud and sexual harassment were investigated. On 9 October 2012 a motion of no confidence in Slipper as Speaker of the House was narrowly defeated. He resigned as Speaker several hours later. In December 2012, Slipper successfully argued that sexual abuse charges leveled at him were vexatious, and the case was dismissed. In January 2013, Slipper was summonsed to appear before court facing charges of dishonesty relating to alleged use of Cabcharge vouchers during 2010.
  30. Tony Abbott: MHR for Warringah, Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Federal Opposition since 2009. A relentless, unimaginative, boring and cautious politician, notable for staging the most negative, small minded and repetitive campaign that I have ever seen. Even two months out from an election he is unwilling to release more than a couple of policies, instead preferring to make a small target and rely on attacking the incumbent government on the same 3 issues he has used for years.
  31. Cartoonists often portrayed Julia Gillard with a huge backside, long neck and a great pointy nose. Some may decry this as insulting, sexist or misogynistic but a cartoonist has to exaggerate what he sees, even if it makes the figure look ridiculous. This is true for all politicians... Tony Abbott was often portrayed with huge ears, a lifesavers cap and wearing budgie smugglers.
  32. A reference to the menu at a fund raising dinner in June 2013, organised by Mal Brough, ex Liberal MHR for Longman and ex President of the Queensland Liberal Party. The menu was claimed to be a private in-kitchen joke and not supplied to the guests. The menu was peppered with jokes putting down the Labour Party and Greens including: "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box". Gillard described this as: "grossly sexist and offensive" and called for the Opposition to dump Mal Brough. Certainly it was in bad taste, but it was just a rerun of the famous Hillary Clinton Chicken Special and in the same spirit as other items on the menu such as: "Rudd's A Goose Foie Gras", "Simon Crean Pollen" and "... eat up all your greens, before they take over completely". The head of the opposing team will always be subject to the strongest attacks and Gillard knew this. Those attacks will not always be fair and not always in good taste. Such is the dirty game of politics.
  33. Bill Shorten even gave a press conference BEFORE the final vote to announce that he would be voting against his charge.