Date: May 05 2012
There is a certain ''once more with feeling'' feeling brewing in Canberra.
The senior ministers swearing their allegiance to the prime minister. The insistence that numbers aren't being counted (no seriously).
The relentless polls that inspire scary prognoses and unfavourable historical comparisons. And the constant stream of ''off the record'' headshaking by ''party insiders'' who say that change is a comin' round the mountain. We've been here before, haven't we? The only difference this time is that we don't have Kevin Rudd prancing about in the middle of it, saying how happy he is to be the foreign minister.
The notion that Julia Gillard's prime ministership is toast has moved from prediction to accepted fact. However tedious it is to be back where we started, there is a genuine sense that this is the end of the line.
Yesterday, Gillard announced another economic forum for June. Instead of this news inspiring the usual yawns and snores, it raised eyebrows. Um, Jules, should you really be planning things that far ahead? To add insult to job-losing injury, the analysis of alternatives is gathering pace.
To Kevin? Or not to Kevin?
Obviously, the PM will have one last chance to stage a miraculous recovery, post-budget, which we all know won't happen.
Then, ideally, she'll resign peacefully and graciously. And either Rudd or Simon ''I deserve a second chance as much as Kevin'' Crean, Bill ''My mother-in-law is the G-G'' Shorten, Stephen ''I'm so well-rehearsed in press conferences'' Smith, Greg ''If I can run the ACTU I can run the government'' Combet or some backbencher you've never heard of will take the reigns and save Labor from losing every seat in the Parliament.
But should we be so hasty? Swapping prime ministers mid-term is not a casual, simple thing. It happened in June 2010, but that was an exception, not a rule. And it created about 500 litres of havoc.
Gillard has a long rap sheet as prime minister. There have been forehead-slapping dud judgments aplenty (Slipper! Thomson! Carbon tax! Malaysia! What were you thinking?!?). And the girl from Barry has proven to be a leader with real and repeated difficulties in communicating on a broad scale - even though connecting with the country is an essential part of the prime ministerial job description.
But Gillard has achieved stuff and reforms as well. She can tick off more than 300 pieces of legislation. She negotiated a minority government and has so far, kept it cobbled together.
The economy is ticking along, hospitals and schools are still open, people still have jobs. The sky is still up in the air where it should be.
The practical truth is, there is less leeway and less forgiveness when you're in a minority position. You don't have as much moral capacity to banish people or refuse to deal with them, whether they be the Greens, independents or undesirables from within your own ranks.
As we brace ourselves for another feverish speculation session, it is worth asking, does Gillard really deserve the extent of the pummelling she is getting? Is the government as incompetent as its 27 per cent primary vote suggests?
There is much to criticise, but the Coalition is hardly doing a stellar job of it in comparison.
If we have learned anything from the wacky world that is the 43rd Parliament, it's that things don't usually follow the script. We've also learned that Gillard is tougher than an old Anzac biscuit.
From election derailing leaks, to ''Ditch the Witch'' signs, constant Coalition calls for an election, cartoons that ridicule the dimensions of her butt, Rudd running interference, Rudd resigning, Rudd challenging, poll hate, more poll hate, armed and dangerous independents (that means you, Andrew Wilkie) and being set upon by an angry mob, Gillard has remained upbeat, calm and determined. This week, Gillard again dismissed leadership speculation as an irrelevance. Granted she has had plenty of practice at it by now, but she is doing a mighty convincing job of presenting as the only person in Australia who doesn't think her goose is cooked. ''Clearly over the past few days there are stories about deadlines and all of that kind of thing. If I was someone given to keeping newspaper clippings, I'd have filing cabinets overstuffed and toppling over with stories written about deadlines,'' she said.
Away from the cameras, it is understood that Gillard has remained her usual funny, alert, informed, hardworking self in meetings. In taking a hammer to the ''last days of the Gillard era'' it is worth keeping a few reality check pills at hand. As people - MP, voter or pundit - work harder and harder at convincing themselves Gillard is hopeless and must go, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And then what?
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]