No idea

Julia Gillard - Caricature

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

One of my major beefs about Julia Gillard as Prime Minister is her deeply flawed sense of judgement. How can I support a leader who misread the tea-leaves so poorly again and again, and makes one poor judgement after another? She has her virtues – honest, tough, fundamentally decent, personally capable – but her management of people and issues is generally hamfisted.

The latest example of this is the cabinet re-shuffle this week. As an observer outside of government you can only watch what’s happening and think Julia, what are you doing?

There is some justification for cabinet promotion. I don’t think much of Bill Shorten personally, but he’s capable and a good communicator. Tania Plibersek is very capable, and Nicola Roxon is generally competent and a good news story as the nations first female Attorney General. As for Mark Arbib, and the other sundry movements? Meh.

Out is Kim Carr, perhaps not the most charismatic of cabinet ministers, but immensely experienced and capable. He deserved better treatment than this, and not just because he knows his stuff. Robert McClelland likewise is no great shakes as a communicator, and just an average minister, and though you can justify a move from the attorney general role it might have been managed much better. Others have been shuffled around, with spurious and insubstantial ministries created for them rather than rock the boat too severely. It’s a bit laughable really, and ultimately only goes to demonstrate even further Gillard’s complete lack of authority.

Gillard has promoted her supporters, some of them deserving, and demoted those who where more borderline, some unfairly, to a raft of superficial portfolios.  As Gillard sees it she has rewarded her supporters, and weakened her arch-rival Kevin Rudd. In theory at least.

I wonder at that. In the first instance shuffling them around like this makes her appear weak, as if she had something to fear, and dues to pay. On top of that I don’t know that it really weakens Rudd. In fact I think it makes it certain that he’ll challenge again for the leadership next year. Rudd has little to be proud of in his arch manouevrings from the side, but there is little now to stop him from going on the attack. He has been sidelined, his disfavour made plain, and his supporters demoted. What has he to lose?

Far cleverer of Gillard had she made subtle changes made solely on merit. Shorten deserved his promotion, so fine. Carr should never have been demoted. Combet is smart, but is faction is being played. Arbib deserved nothing more than what he had (Sport), if that. As for the rest, some firm handling would have been more productive. You’re either in the cabinet or not, don’t inflate it with phoney portfolios just because you don’t have the balls to make a tough decision. As for Rudd, if you believe him to be de-stabilising and disloyal then sack him as a minister. Don’t muck around with coy phrases and the back-handed ploys removing his supporter base. Gillard would gain a lot more respect if she did the tough thing for once, rather than checking the numbers and pulling her punches again and again. Voters want to respect their leader even if they disagree with them. That takes authority, decisiveness, bravery.

Ultimately this is what makes me shake my head, and doubt Gillard. Is she so poorly advised that she can’t see the truth of this? I don’t have confidence in her for a bunch of reasons, but central is her lack of judgement. For a leader so concerned with public opinion she has a dud nose for it. With so much she does she’s always at least half a beat off. So much easier, and more honourable, to have a position and decisively act on it. Her failure is that she has no position, no centre as such, and hence without that foundation no authority.

This is just the latest example. For the first time this year she had Abbott on the run. The government has some good wins on the board (though dreadfully sold). The carbon tax is excellent legislation. The super tax is deeply compromised, and hence flawed, but better than nothing. Gradually as the year wore on Abbott’s shrill negativity was wearing thin on the electorate and the government gradually claimed territory. This silly re-shuffle though has negated much of that. It’s terrible and unnecessary timing. Why you wonder? Why? The public are smart enough to see through to the truth. They know, and Gillard pays.

I thought she might survive, might even make it through and win against Abbott in the next election (though don’t be surprised if Abbott gets rolled mid-year). Now I’m certain that Rudd will challenge her sometime in the first half of next year. I don’t know if he’ll win, but despite my antipathy to him he’s a better option than Gillard. And it’s all because of your fuck-ups Julia.

Wikipedia: sniper definition: to shoot at exposed individuals (as of an enemy’s forces) from a usually concealed point of vantage.

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