As usual, the Australian media, corporations, US embassy and the parliamentary opposition have removed another effective prime minister in Australia. They played on the inherent misogyny in Australian politics, in the Murdoch and Newscorp media and truth be told, in the Australian public.
Their strategy was multi-pronged.
First they attacked her for gaining the parliamentary numbers on Rudd. Constant media stories particularly in Murdoch’s main rag, The Australian, claimed that this was unprecedented and that it indicated her disloyalty. So were the musical chairs within the prime ministership unprecedented. Absolutely not. There have been 21 changes of Prime Minister without an election. Reasons include: party-room coups: Hughes, Menzies, Gorton, Hawke, Gillard, Rudd,: Voluntary (or involuntary) departure: Barton, Fisher, Page, Forde, McEwen, Menzies and defeat in Parliament: Deakin twice, Watson, Reid, Fisher, Fadden. Note the list includes many of our most beloved and trusted prime ministers such as Menzies and Hawke.
Part of the problem is that people seem to think of the Prime Minister as something like an American President. They even think that a president is elected directly by the people whereas as all Americans know (particularly Al Gore), the Electoral College elects them. In Australia, Prime ministers are elected from amongst sitting members by a caucus of their party i.e. they are the prime or first ministers (think of class captain). Therefore, Gillard becoming prime minister did not do so “Behind the backs of the Australian people” but rather was acting in the good old Australian tradition of counting the numbers in parliament. If the two independents had switched sides, there would have been a complete change of government.
The press constantly criticized Gillard for increasing costs for ordinary Australians particularly with the Carbon pollution tax (the corporations took out full-page ads, wonderfully profitable for Murdoch) In fact, Gillard paid the working and non-working classes recompense for the increased charges industry imposed because of the carbon price to prevent their pollution. (Pollution did fall with the carbon price)
Treasurer Wayne Swan kept interest rates to their lowest ever and the Gonski reforms meant that working class kids got the education funding they needed. Would Australians rather keep the previous Howard government’s system of private school kids getting three times as much as a worker’s kid from the worker’s taxes?
Patrick O’Connor said, “In Gillard, the Obama administration found a compliant instrument to realign Australia with its aggressive “pivot” to Asia in order to encircle, and prepare for war against, China.” However he was wrong. Gillard was the consummate negotiator who managed to negotiate Washington’s request for four major bases across the North of Australia (Think Camp Bondsteel) down to permission to share some of our facilities mainly for R&R and training. Of course, she could not get out of the treaties signed by earlier governments for all the smaller facilities that the US uses for monitoring such as Pine Gap. She also was firm about US requests to stop trade with China and traveled to Beijing to reassure the Chinese, imagine the job situation in Australia if she had not.
Mass layoffs of thousands of medical, education, public service and environmental workers and the selling of state assets such as schools by right wing state governments following an American agenda are unfairly laid at Gillard’s door. In fact, as has happened, they were the agenda of the current government under Abbott and Newmann.
Then there are the corporate economic pundits who try to sow panic with “The Australian dollar is now plunging in value against other currencies, driving up the cost of fuel and other imported products upon which working people depend.” Again, this is a deliberate attempt to sway readers with false information. A low Australian dollar means more jobs in Australia, more exports, more manufacturing and it is not imported products such as iPhones, on which workers depend. It is homegrown food and housing and the more that is home grown, the more jobs there are.
The widespread popular hostility towards Gillard was started by the media, continued by the media, never let us forget it by the media, 5 pages demonizing Gillard in every edition of The Australian, media. As Obama said, “If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth”. It is the media, (Murdoch, Newscorp and Fairfax) that are pushing the Yank line. It is the media that is undemocratically trying to remove the Labor government leaving the way for a right wing pro-American Abbott government. The media is the true ‘anti-democratic’ force in Australian politics
Patrick O’Connor sees the danger ahead for Australia “the ruling elite is demanding nothing less than a European-style social counter-revolution, with permanent, sweeping spending cuts to public education, healthcare, welfare, other basic services and social infrastructure.” He should have added that national assets would be stripped in the biggest fire sale in history, the national parks and the environment would be hardest hit, that conscription has been mooted and the US would have free reign to build bases. Queensland is the example of what can happen. Australia would be virtually the 51st state, but then he goes into la-la land when he thinks Australians are ripe for revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth; Australians are too comfortable. We won’t revolt unless they try to take Medicare away from us.
None of the media mentions any of the socially responsible (very un-American) things Gillard’s government has done. As Van Badham said – Julia Gillard navigated Australia through the financial crisis, presided over a 14 per cent growth in the economy and pushed through several impressive policy reforms including:
- ·Australia’s first National Disability Insurance Scheme, of direct benefit to the 500,000 Australians living with disability
- ·Introduction of carbon pricing and an Emissions Trading Scheme which has reduced carbon emissions in Australia between 8-11 percent and recompensed Australians for any flow on effects
- ·Overseeing the Gonski review for the revolutionary overhaul of the entire primary and secondary education funding sector
- ·Seeing that Australia take up a seat on the UN security council for the first time
- ·Instituted life-changing policies for improvements in indigenous literacy
- ·Overseeing a national broadband network for a high-speed internet
- ·Economically, her government maintained a commitment to Keynesian policy, unswayed by popular faulty spreadsheet economics that have impoverished other developed nations. Australia was the only developed economy to survive the global financial crisis, and under Gillard’s leadership, the economy grew by 14%.
- Then there are all the smaller things such as funding alternative power projects across Australia and environmental initiatives – the latest protecting old growth forests in Tasmania.
- ·One initiative she was working hard to achieve when she was ousted, was to include dental care with Medicare.
As Van Badham says “It must beggar belief in other developed nations to see a leader who has delivered low unemployment, low interest rates, low inflation, three triple-A credit ratings and the third-lowest rate of debt in the OECD shafted so brutally by the press and her fellow parliamentarians.”
Patrick O’Connor, The Political Crisis in Australia, 2013, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35430.htm
Van Badham, Julia Gillard ousted: Achievement does not equal respect if you’re a woman, The Telegraph, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10143834/Julia-Gillard-ousted-by-sexism-Achievement-does-not-equal-respect-if-youre-a-woman.html