One down, 499 days to go
Strap yourself in, and stock up on supplies, because if you thought politics had become a bit exhausting the Prime Minister gave us a not so subtle reminder yesterday that, barring something unforseen, we’ve still got a long way to go until the next election.
Ironically, Julia Gillard delivered this wake-up call with a speech that sounded suspiciously like a campaign launch. It’s no secret the real campaigns now begin well out from when the starter’s gun is fired five or six weeks before an election.
But Gillard’s point was clear when she addressed the ACTU Congress in Sydney yesterday. She’s remembered she’s a Labor Prime Minister and she’d like even a half-decent shot at the next election.
I am absolutely determined to do that and prepared to take all of my energy and all of my vigour into the next 500 days as we move towards the election campaign and beyond, to keep striving for the Labor cause, and I know that you will be doing that with me.
500 days from yesterday is the 27th of September 2013 - a Friday - so maybe it will be 501 days. That’s a long time to stay on message.
Ever since Budget night a week ago the Government has flapped around a bit on its pitch.
Wayne Swan’s Budget speech was about sharing the proceeds of the mining tax. Then the Labor team spent a few errant days waging class war, raising suspicions it wasn’t about sharing the mining tax but about sharing the incomes of the citizens of Mosman.
By the weekend it had become the “battlers’ budget”, a “Labor budget” all about values and the party roots.
It was this theme that Gillard ran with yesterday, and it worked for her.
Perhaps buoyed by a correction in Newspoll which lifted the Government’s prospects out of the catastrophic back into the merely disastrous, and maybe also spurred on by Tony Abbott’s budget reply that was actually more about Tony Abbott than the Budget, the PM gave a speech that lacked her usual catch-phrase bingo.
It was clear. It flowed. And it was appropriately pitched to her audience.
It was delivered with confidence and (shoot me now) she looked great.
Her voice, which has been known to waver with emotion during personal anecdotes, stayed firm as she reaffiremed her Labor roots.
My parents, John and Moira, taught me many things, but of all of them, first and foremost, they taught me to cherish family, they taught me to study and to work hard, they taught me to respect other people and they taught me to always, always, always carry your union membership card.
They didn’t overestimate or underestimate their position in Australian society, but they did know that whilst workplaces are overwhelmingly full of decent bosses and decent working people, that sometimes things can go wrong, and that’s when you need your trade union.
My parents always understood the value of joining with others in their workplace, bringing their strength together in the trade union, and they were proud union members all of their lives.
I’ve taken those values with me. And just like my parents taught me about Labor’s vision of workplaces, they taught me about the broader Labor vision for society.
She was preaching to the choir in a room full of union members looking for something good to cling on to in the wake of the HSU debacle. But even allowing for a stacked crowd, the PM sounded more convincing than she has for a while.
It helped that she was honest about just what an uphill battle she faces.
In reference to the HSU horrors for the union movement:
But, friends, we are also the party of realism and we gather today in what are not easy days for the Labor Movement or for the Labor Party itself.
I know that that dismays you and it dismays me as well, and whatever the ultimate findings of the courts and tribunals are about all of this, we know that in some parts of a union, members have been let down very badly.
And on the Government’s dire lack of support in the electorate:
But, friends, whilst I will never succumb to government by opinion polls, I can read the opinion polls and I’m under no illusions about the depths of the political challenges that confront our Government. I understand that, I get that
This honesty will serve Gillard well. One of the things that has struck voters as inauthentic about the Prime Minister has been her ability to stand in the face of a barrage of bad news and appear totally unaffected by it. Sometimes it doesn’t look like strength but delusion.
To acknowlege how tough things are, and to do a bit of plain talking, is just what the electorate is crying out for.
So day one - a good one for the PM. Just 499 to go.
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