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It’s offical: John McTernan destroyed Julia Gillard’s career

September 1, 2013

One of the benefits of Julia Gillard being dumped as Prime Minister is seeing her communications director and head spin doctor, John McTernan, doing the rounds as a panelist on various news shows. McTernan was the controversial member of Gillard’s staff, hypocritically flown in from Britain and working under the infamous 457 visa scheme. That was the scheme that gave temporary work rights for skilled overseas workers in cases of local businesses having trouble finding Australians. Gillard, now totally discredited on managing illegal boat arrivals, subsequently targeted the scheme as putting Australians to the “back of the queue”.

The big question: had Gillard not been disposed by Kevin Rudd, how would she have fought the election campaign? McTernan sheds light with his disturbing mantra of “fear beats hope”. He’s prone a devilish cackle like a leprechaun when boasting about it, suggesting a deep, sinister affection of the tactic, as already used in a series of ridiculous and unfair attacks on opposition leader Tony Abbott. It would have been ramped up during the campaign proper, as evidenced just prior to Gillard’s axing with her absurd and ultra sexist “men in blue ties” speech.

As proof of McTernan’s delusion about his “fear beats hope” mantra, he bizarrely believe it was working, citing Gillard 50/50 on two-party preferred at the end of 2012 primarily on the back of her idiotic misogyny speech against Abbott and of the unnoticed effect of the carbon tax. If the strategy worked then, it should work again, right? Wrong. That polling data was from Newspoll only (another conspiracy from Murdoch-owned press?). The polls were sporadically up and down over a few weeks and no other poll reflected any real change from the entire year’s trend. At this point in the polls, Gillard was on holidays, so that could have been something. Out of sight, out of mind. Or more accurately, out of ear-shot. Once she returned and the nauseating spin cycle resumed, the Newspolls corrected themselves, and by March another leadership challenge was stoked, primarily to flush out Rudd. He didn’t bite, inflicting, if possible, the already dysfunctional and unpopular government more embarrassment. In reality they had nothing to lose.

About that carbon tax. McTernan believed it, and along with mining tax and education, was one of the Gillard government’s major “achievements”. In truth, to the electorate, the carbon tax was the single biggest evaporator of trust that Gillard had. Instead of pivoting to restore trust and putting the tax to the election (her coalition would have held as they hated Abbott so much), she and her cronies continued to pound, pound, pound away on it, all the time patronising, insulting and alienating the Australian people. The mining tax, while a far easier sell, proved another grand failing of the government: its ineptitude. With all the blown budgets, the one revenue stream they relied on to help (yes, policies were funded in anticipation), the mining tax raised nothing. Credibility shot.

As for education, that’s unfunded and unexplained. Mostly it’s a funding promise – for future governments to manage, and an action of stripping billions from university to help fund increases at the lower level. More disturbing than that, education was to be the key pillar in the election campaign – to wedge the opposition. Everything else was to be ignored. It would be about education, education, education. Pity the opposition would have snuffed that out with their resultant commitment to match the funding over its immediate few years, so it would have carried no steam. Just like the NDIS was cynically used to wedge the opposition to increase the medicare levy (gee, who’d say no to helping disable people?), so was education’s purpose. In reality, if the NDIS and education were so important, why not implement them early in the cycle as most governments do? Then you have something legitimate to crow about, rather than being seen to use them as cynical ploys, and further destroy any credibility that you might have left.

Considering Rudd tried most of these tactics himself, as well as a massive scare campaign on GST and potential cuts, there’s no way Gillard could have succeeded. In fact, given evidence of recent appalling Labor governments in the states of Queensland and NSW, Labor would have been annihilated beyond any comprehensible measure. Probably Gillard’s last stand might have been anti-religious bigoty, attacking Abbott’s Catholicism. Could the Catholic McTernan sell out his own faith for political gain? It wouldn’t surprise.

Since her exit, Gillard has moved back to Adelaide and bought a $2m beach-front property. After everything she subjected the nation to – the lies, betrayal, shocking management of the budget and the sleazy alliances – I personally hold no grudge. I still recall my deep affection for her before she was PM, supported her dumping Rudd, and happily voted for her as I’d done every Labor PM before her (except Rudd 07). That it all went haywire to the point that so many, including myself, were salivating to vote her out, I don’t mind. That’s politics and not everyone can be great leaders.

While McTernan can be blamed for the horrendous strategy, ultimately it did boil down to Gillard appointing him, and continuing to listen to him while things were going so bad and for so long. In trying not to be like the maniacal Rudd, she went too far the other extreme, being too submissive and too willing to accept the snide, devious and anti-democratic path advised by McTernan. True strength is determined by listening to the people, not stubbornly opposing them. That all went missing, preferring to stick with her seedy alliances, not those regular folk that she seemed to represent during her pre-PM carreer. That she embarked on a campaign of sexism, division, sleaze and victimhood after listening to (cough, cough) “a man”, especially a chauvinistic, gutter-snipe like John McTernan, reeks of stunning irony and a gross misjudgement that you’d expect from a truly independent and strong woman. She did deserve better, and I hope she finds it with an enjoyable and peaceful life in retirement.


From → Politics

  1. Bob permalink

    He’s not Irish

  2. Wob permalink

    Where’s the reply ?

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