Gillard has only herself to blame

September 24, 2011
Cartoon by Chris Kelly.

If Julia Gillard is deposed as Australia’s prime minister, she has only herself to blame.

Gillard’s ALP is barely distinguishable from the Coalition, varying only by a nuance here or there. More than any other reason, this explains her bottomless unpopularity.

The ALP has continually abandoned its supposed constituency, the working class, in favour of the wealthy, who contribute more and more to the ALP’s coffers.

It’s true Gillard didn’t start the rightward shift of the ALP, but she has taken it so far that Abbott can now attack Gillard from the “left”.

He did this recently, saying Gillard’s plan to process refugees offshore in Malaysia did not protect asylum seekers’ human rights.

But the Coalition cares no more than Labor about the rights of asylum seekers.

Gillard was installed under pressure from Australia’s mining magnates. She ousted Kevin Rudd as PM last year with a promise to junk plans to tax mining company “super profits”.

Rudd’s rather mild mining tax was too much to bear for the billionaire mining tycoons.

After appeasing these billionaires, Gillard delivered a very soft budget for Australian big business, who were asked to pay no price for their part in the world financial crash.

The mining boom rolls on, making the super-rich even richer, while workers are forced to pay higher prices and suffer cuts to government services.

Under the ALP’s Fair Work Australia industrial laws, pattern (or industry-wide) bargaining is still outlawed.

Labor has not abolished the notorious Australian Building and Construction Commission, an anti-union police force dedicated to attacking building industry workers and their unions.

That the ALP government allowed the ABCC to threaten Adelaide building worker Ark Tribe with six months jail shows how skin-deep its concern for workers’ rights is.

The Gillard government has also pushed to “harmonise” state-based occupational health and safety laws. But the plan is based on using the state laws that provide the least protection rather than the most.

Gillard’s ALP is not happy to just cut more unemployed people from the dole. It has also launched an attack on disability support pensions.

The changes will move thousands of people off disability pensions and onto the lower-paying dole.

Gillard has also helped undermine the quality of Australia’s education, attacked teachers working conditions and has pushed for a school system based on neoliberal market principles.

In February, she said schools should adopt mass testing of students to rank schools against one another, like companies competing in the marketplace. A similar scheme in New York has led to poorer student outcomes.

The Gillard government is out of step with the Australian people in several other ways.

The war in Afghanistan is decidedly unpopular, according to recent polls. But Gillard continues to support the US government’s war frenzy and has pledged to “stay the course” in Afghanistan.

Her refusal to acknowledge that the war is unjust and unwinnable means Australian soldiers and Afghan civilians will continue to die.

The Gillard government has now adopted almost totally the refugee policy of former PM John Howard, right down to its own “Pacific Solution” in another guise.

The High Court ruling that offshore processing of asylum seekers is illegal has hardly stopped Gillard. She has tried to shore up a deal to change the law, designed to punish with deportation the small number of refugees that arrive here by boat.

The ALP’s and the Coalition’s policies are indistinguishable on mandatory detention, offshore processing and privatisation of detention centres.

The Gillard government may say climate change needs to be addressed, but its lack of serious action on this issue speaks volumes.

Its proposed carbon trading scheme hands far too much back to the worst polluters and won’t cut carbon pollution fast. Government funding for renewable energy is not even close to what is required to halt climate change.

Seventy-five percent of Australians expect same-sex marriage to be made legal, a recent Galaxy Poll said.

Most state ALP branches have voted to support equal marriage.

But the federal ALP’s current policy is that marriage is between a man and a woman. Pressure is building on the ALP to reverse its stance at the party’s national conference in December.

But Gillard has made it clear she will not accept equal marriage, even if the conference votes to change ALP policy.

Rather than dismantling the hated NT intervention into Aboriginal communities, Gillard has broadened its scope.

The government’s own statistics show the intervention has made life worse for affected Aboriginal communities. But Labor has made only cosmetic changes to the intervention, which have not addressed the adverse impact on Aboriginal people.

The ALP also brought in the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill, known as the “WikiLeaks Amendment”.

The new law strengthened the powers of Australia’s spy agency ASIO. ASIO can now legally spy on individuals and organisations in secret that have broken no laws and who pose no threat to national security, such as WikiLeaks.

Gillard has also continued the harassment of former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. Government prosecutors are trying to confiscate Hicks’ royalties and possible literary prizes for his recently released book Guantanamo: My Journey.

Gillard’s demise is getting closer. But unfortunately, there is no hope a different leader — such as Rudd — would steer the ALP in a new direction.

Like the Coalition, the modern ALP is a political party that serves Australia’s rich. A new hand on the reins won’t change the nature of the beast.


It's all too rare that I find a voice that's so fundamentally at variance with my own opinions, and for that I thank you and this journal. I shall certainly continue to read you and wish your independent journal the very best even though the idea of your philosophies becoming as accepted as the current version of common wisdom scares the hell out of me. In the meantime, it seems we can agree on one thing - Julia Gillard has no principles. I can respect an honest and forthright opponent, but not a creature whose policies are as fluid as public opinion.
The comment by Anonymous that they can "respect an honest and forthright opponent" is interesting. I suspect that one of the reasons Camila Vallejo is popular and persuasive in Chile is that she is clear in stating her views. Even those who disagree with her would know clearly what she believes. Many politicians and representatives adjust what they say to what they think will be acceptable. It then becomes impossible to know what they really think and that leads to distrust. Vallejo and the Chilean students seem to be showing that a clear radical message can be persuasive. Ray Polglaze

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