Federal Politics

Credibility gone, PM should fall on her sword

JULIA Gillard should consider falling on her sword for the good of the Labor Party, because she can no longer present an even slightly credible face at the election. Her spectacular U-turn on everything she'd said before on Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper has left her looking nakedly expedient, and further exposed the state of crisis within the government.

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At one point in her news conference Gillard wrung her hands. It was a metaphor for what the caucus is doing. Her claim that suddenly ''a line'' had been crossed, so she had to act to preserve Australians' respect for Parliament, came out as a workshopped confection she could not explain. After months of declaring Thomson had her support, after a week of backing Slipper returning to the Speakership if he was cleared on criminal allegations, she wants us to believe she arrived back from Gallipoli and suddenly realised that the public see a dark cloud over Parliament?

What actually happened is that she and whoever she is listening to observed a storm enveloping the government that could threaten her leadership.

Refusing to utter criticism of Thomson was always defending the indefensible. When Gillard then had Slipper added to her political burden, the weight simply became too heavy.

The Slipper affair tipped the balance, because she wasn't going to be able to sustain her stand. The opposition and crossbenchers had the parliamentary numbers to keep him out of the chair. In more normal circumstances, Gillard might deserve some credit for doing the right thing, albeit late. But when she said black was white so vehemently and, in the Thomson case, for so long, her cynicism overwhelms any other impression.


While on Slipper she acted because she was cornered, she could not deal with him without distancing herself from Thomson, because the parallels were too close. Bearing down on her also was next week's budget: hence the need for speed.

Gillard's belated change of position is made even less convincing because she has not been willing to acknowledge her own past lack of judgment and her trampling of propriety.

Julia Gillard at her news conference yesterday.
Julia Gillard at her news conference yesterday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Defending Slipper last week, she pointed to what Labor had been able to do with the extra number gained by his defection. But the Slipper deal was always grubby politics.

And when Gillard talks about Australians expecting ''the highest standards'', what are they to make of Anthony Albanese last week pre-empting the police investigation by declaring Slipper cleared of the criminal allegations?

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If Labor had any functioning party elders, they would be advising Gillard to consider the good of the party and relinquish the leadership gracefully. That would lead Labor down another fraught path, but it could hardly be worse off than now.

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Gillard's belated change of position is made even less convincing because she has not been willing to acknowledge her own past lack of judgment and her trampling of propriety.


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