No saving grace in Gillard's change of heart
The clamour for an early election will escalate for as long as Julia Gillard does not display the sound judgment that Australians expect of their Prime Minister.
Even before yesterday's stumble, voters had scored her card very poorly. The resultant perilously low ratings in public opinion polls has rattled caucus.
On Saturday this paper reported Labor MPs were discussing (another) leadership change as they despaired over the government's plight.
Their opinion the combined Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper scandals had made it all but impossible to win the next election is an indictment on their leader's judgment.
They have watched, perplexed, as the PM talked about the presumption of innocence while the public objections to the scandals built to a crescendo.
Around the country, Labor MPs could see what the problem was - Gillard was perceived as weak and indecisive. Now, back in Australia, she has suddenly changed her mind.
For months she has been backing Thomson. Until yesterday, she had not seen the ''dark cloud'' hanging over Parliament.
Now, suddenly, she has booted him out of the Labor Party. Inexplicably, there was no apology for putting up with him previously.
What is this line that she says has been crossed about the ability of Australians to confidently have respect in Parliament?
One possibility is that the report by Fair Work Australia is damaging. Thomson has repeatedly declared his innocence and says he has nothing to hide. Yet last week his lawyers asked a Senate committee not to make public the report on the Health Services Union, arguing that its release could prejudice any legal action taken against him.
Although Gillard does not have the report, this curious turnaround may be a critical element that woke her up to the outrage in her caucus and the community.
As well as telling Thomson to take a walk, she's told Slipper to stay in the sin bin and not appear in the chamber. But he still retains the office, on full pay.
In acting against Slipper, Gillard was reacting to the inevitable outcome in the House of Representatives, where the cross-bench MPs are determined to uphold the dignity of the Speaker's office.
However, these long overdue actions should be unambiguously good news for the government - the PM showed some spunk after all. But sharp reversals need justification. Under repeated questioning, Gillard did not explain how the line had been crossed.
The lack of clarity leaves questions hanging, unnecessarily. Worse, an about-turn without adequate explanation serves to highlight the poor judgement of the previous position.
She still professes the presumption of innocence - but is moving on Slipper and Thomson regardless.
''What's motivated me here is what is right in these circumstances.'' Qué? She can't blame Kevin Rudd for her too-little, too-late stance.
The PM must surely realise that the real line that has been crossed is the one on the exit door as punters flee the Labor Party.
Their responses to pollsters suggest they are deeply disillusioned and prepared to make Tony Abbott the prime minister by default.
But who will be his Labor opponent at the election, particularly if it is not held until the scheduled time late next year?