According to readers Gillard is still in virgin territory
Labor and Julia Gillard would have been buoyed by the first rush of positive opinion polls over the weekend, just two days after she took over as Prime Minister.
But before the Government is tempted to call a snap election in this suggested honeymoon period, it might want to read the views of people submitting online comments to news sites, providing a finger-on-the-pulse gauge to public opinion.
Official opinion polling is closely followed by both political sides, but it is not always totally effective in exposing the mood of the nation. Late last year, I started noticing a rising tsunami of anger in comments to online news sites against Kevin Rudd over the proposed emissions trading scheme and a perceived failure by the Government to connect with the Australian people.
But it was not until April that the official polls finally began to reflect the collapse in Rudd’s popularity that had been indicated in cyberspace and around the home barbecue for months.
In the latest polling on Gillard’s rise to power, questions such as “Would you rather have a beer with Julia Gillard or Opposition Leader Tony Abbott?” are as indicative of public opinion as asking boozy pub patrons whether they would vote for anyone who shouted them an ale.
As Matt of Toowoomba said in a comment to The Courier-Mail: “Who thinks up these stupid polls? What does it prove? Who cares who people would like to have a beer with? There are plenty of people I would like to have a beer with. And guess what, I wouldn’t vote for any of them!”
Overall, there is still a raw feeling of animosity towards Gillard in online news forums over the way Rudd was deposed in order for her to become Prime Minister.
A comment to ABC Online by Peter is typical of some of the vitriol: “Now the colour of Gillard’s hair matches the colour of the blood on her hands. What sort of democracy do we live in when a small band of union leaders can get rid of the leader of the country?”
Vanessa NR of Keysborough added in The Herald Sun: “Julia Gillard should be ashamed! What she did was stab K Rudd in the back, which is un-Australian and something our country doesn’t stand for.”
David voiced a rebuke and a warning to Gillard in a comment to The Canberra Times: “People voted for Kevin Rudd, not you Gillard. Step aside. You are definitely not PM material. What goes around comes around and you will find out at the next election.”
But as Lara, another Canberra Times reader, pointed out: “There have been many people lamenting that the people voted Rudd into the position of Prime Minister, not Gillard, therefore he should not have been removed. Technically not correct. The only people who voted for Rudd in any capacity are the people who were registered to vote in Rudd’s Queensland electorate. However, practically speaking, a lot of people around the country probably voted Labor because Rudd was the leader. Or was it in fact an anti-Howard vote and it wouldn’t have mattered who was the leader of the Labor Party?”
It has not been all brickbats for Gillard. However, many hoped to see some policy substance behind the new leadership style.
In a comment to The Age, Liz of Sydney wrote: “Good on you Julia! Remember Julia, just because you are backed by unions doesn’t make you a better PM or favour you in people’s eyes. It is what you do that makes a difference between a good PM and a bad PM.”
The media’s obsession with Gillard being the first woman PM of Australia has not been a big selling point in online news forums. However, her marital and no-children status and how this affects her ability to relate to families has come in for some comment.
QBZ of Sydney questioned Gillard’s knowledge of family issues in a comment on News.com.au: “How can our PM understand the average working family of our country if she isn’t part of it? It’s like a doctor who has never treated a patient.”
Same But Not of Melbourne summed up in The Herald Sun some of these and other personal and policy sticking points Gillard will have to face: “Hmm, not born in Australia, not married, no kids. Her policies are/were Kevin’s policies, her portfolio was the education revolution which provided numerous white elephants to schools left wondering. Let’s see what her actual achievements and policies will be.”
The Labor Party may be rejoicing and dancing at the wedding reception stage of their newly-forged bond with Gillard following the weekend’s opinion poll results, but the relationship has yet to be consummated with the people of Australia at the forthcoming election.
Gillard is still in virgin territory as Prime Minister and how she handles the unfinished business hanging over Labor’s head in the coming weeks or months - not the fact she is the nation’s first woman PM - will determine how voters will warm or respond to her in the only poll that counts.
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