Labor diary: the difference between Julia and Tony
Note: Labor MP Richard Marles and Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella are among our favourite contributors to The Punch, and we have asked them to write a piece every Friday during this five-week election campaign giving their take on events.
Julia Gillard speaks from the heart. She is the best performer in the federal parliament.
Through five weeks of controversies this is a proposition that is not controversial. The Liberals may quibble about how she uses notes, but for anybody who follows politics her ability to perform is beyond debate. Yet this is just one attribute of Julia Gillard.
Having known Julia for more than twenty years and having seen her operate at close range, I know something of what makes her tick.
Julia has ideals. She has always been about the promotion of opportunity for all: through great education, through fair employment, through having the ability to protect one’s health. She is compassionate and sensible. She has idealism tempered with a hard nosed sense of what’s possible. Even in her twenties, when many were all over the place in what they thought and said, she was making sense.
Julia has judgement. She has the capacity to apprehend quickly the full landscape of a decision. She has an instinctive sense of which alternative best advances the national interest. In a world of complex problems and competing views, Julia has long been a voice that people listen to.
Julia is accessible. I spoke to one Labor MP who expressed the view that Julia was the first PM who she felt was one of us. And that is because Julia does not live in an ivory tower. She has an open door. She is generous with her time.
Julia is joyful and funny. I know a person – not involved with politics herself – but who has a lot to do with Julia, who observed that Julia’s office is always filled with laughter. Julia knows that life without laughter struggles for meaning. She also knows the power of good humour in navigating a crisis. And Julia’s staff love working with her.
Julia is calm. I have never seen Julia Gillard lose her temper. I have never met anyone who has. It is an enviable quality.
Indeed as a politician trying to become better at my craft hers are the qualities I would most want to emulate.
In short, Julia Gillard is a class act.
I also know something of Tony Abbott and I recognise that he is a good man.
The Tony Abbott I know is a man of firm beliefs. Aside from the shroud that has been placed over them in the last month, they are beliefs which he has held throughout his life with sincerity.
They are legitimate beliefs but they are not mainstream beliefs.
Deep inside, Tony does harbour an old fashioned view toward women. He believes in a workplace where the rights of an employer are held to the exclusion of those of the employee. He has a fundamentalist belief that governments should never have a role in the market, even in the depths of a financial crisis, which is why he did not support stimulus in 2009 even though he knew the result would be hundreds of thousands more people on the dole queues.
In his heart Tony hankers for the safety of the 1950’s. And when your frame of reference is a world which pre-dates the internet or climate science it is little wonder you believe that climate change is crap and that broadband is there for the kids to download songs.
What worries me most about Tony Abbott is that his rigid beliefs are for him the basis of combat. They are there to be ordered into battlelines.
His thinking is fixed and he is not generous to other views or other fields of enquiry to the ones he has pursued himself.
Tony is not interested in economics. And his dismissiveness of that field of enquiry is the only explanation of why a man of his undoubted intelligence has not taken the time to get his figures right in the biggest campaign of his life. If you thought economics mattered even a little bit would you have allowed yourself to be at odds with your shadow treasurer over election promises to the tune of $8billion as he lined up for his treasurer’s debate?
Tony is not interested in science and technology. And being dismissive of it is the only explanation of why he hasn’t bothered to get his head around even the basics of broadband or the unambiguous consequence of climate science.
It is this ideological combativeness which is the most glaring contrast with Julia Gillard, for she has an open mind that is keen for new knowledge and enjoys hearing the ideas of others.
For Tony Abbott leadership is about ruling via the division which inevitably flows from intellectual conflict. For Julia Gillard leadership is about bringing people together and finding the consensus in public policy which can unite a country.
Tomorrow the choice is stark.
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