Tony Abbott yesterday failed to make a case that Julia Gillard had acted in a manner unbecoming of a prime minister by allegedly lying over her involvement in the AWU slush fund scandal. And given the Opposition Leader has actually made the more serious allegation that the PM may have in fact committed a crime, the onus is on him to prove that she did.
But this was never the object for Abbott. To use the parlance of the pugilist, Abbott is an infighter, not a slugger. He doesn’t go for the knock-out punch. And in this fashion, while Gillard remains on her feet, the internal damage may have already been done.
Where Abbott succeeded yesterday was in delivering on his strategy of leaving Gillard’s leadership battered and bruised as parliament rose for its three-month summer recess. Her plans of going to Christmas with her caucus solidly in her corner, and a new-year election agenda in front of her, have been left a bloodied mess on the political canvas.
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Julia Gillard had two big goals for the second half of 2012 and was on track to achieve both of them. The first one was simple enough: to survive. If a doctor’s guiding dictum is “do no harm,’’ the political equivalent is “being there’”.
For any leader, and particularly an unpopular one, merely making it through the closing days of parliament – the so-called “the killing season’’ - is something of an achievement.
The second goal was to finish off the year well allowing Labor to hit the ground running in 2013. That too seemed to be working. Progress through the second half of 2012 had been steady and encouraging just as she promised.
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The debate over what Julia Gillard did or should have done 17 years ago is bogged down in the arcane territory of solicitors’ paperwork and a handful of disputed assertions. None of the assertions would lead to accusations of criminality, and the Prime Minister used a press conference yesterday to invite anyone with evidence of law breaking to come forward. As if it hadn’t crossed their mind already.
The paperwork debate, spurred by legally-trained Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop, might establish that 17 years ago Ms Gillard was not a supremely competent solicitor and missed a few tees which needed crossing.
But it is unlikely to produce a police charge. The so-called AWU “scandal” appears to be not only a victim-less crime but a criminal-less one. That is if one makes the difficult decision there has been a crime at all. The Opposition is taking a risk that if it is seen to be chasing a phantom broken law it could look more like Inspector Clouseau than Hercule Poirot. So why is the Opposition chasing this episode so vigorously while the general public is finding it so tedious?
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Tony Abbott likes to spread the idea he is a passive and dispassionate observer of Julia Gillard’s tussle with matters of two decades and another career ago.
“Now, as I’ve said repeatedly this week, I am prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt,” the Opposition Leader told reporters on Saturday.
This is, of course, total buncombe. At issue is what Prime Minister Gillard might have done for and with her then union leader boyfriend and one other official of the Australian Workers’ Union when she was a Melbourne lawyer in the early 90s.
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Paul Howes chooses to damn John Howard with faint praise.
In his most recent Sunday Telegraph article Mr Howes credits John Howard as having put in place the conservative wish-list of policy changes. He would no doubt like to do the same for the left wish-list.
He writes “If you want to enact real change, you have to do it slowly. There is no point in making sweeping changes if you only get three years in which to do them”.
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“Out, damned spot! out” moaned the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth after the murders committed to ensure that Kingship came to Macbeth. “What will these hands never be clean”.
“Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”.
And yet the “spot” seemed to be worn as a badge of honour on Sunday morning TV with the newly anointed Prime Minister choosing Joan Kirner giant polka dot jacket to begin her reign.
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It was so simple for the Opposition. Keep hammering Peter Garrett on the details of when exactly he saw Minter Ellison warnings about the risks associated with the Government’s home insulation scheme.
If they didn’t get his scalp, they would at least have a strong message about Ministerial incompetence in the Rudd Government for the Federal Election campaign.
Then this morning Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham jumped the shark.
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I have a confession to make. I have a soft spot for the Australian Workers Union.
Before anyone gets too excited, let me explain. My great, great aunt was Dame Mary Gilmore, the first female member of the AWU. Dame Mary was one of Australia’s greatest ever poets who now graces our ten dollar note.
Dame Mary edited the women’s page of the Australian Worker before heading off to South America in 1900 to be part of William Lane’s ‘New Australia’ commune in Paraguay.
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Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said yesterday on Meet the Press that the government choosing to buy Australian made products was like him doing his 15 year old daughter’s homework.
I’m not sure what he means by that, but it’s clear he hasn’t been doing his own homework when it comes to using the government’s stimulus packages to create the most jobs possible.
In fact, the government choosing to source products overseas is like getting the neighbour’s kids to come over and mow the lawn, and then wondering why your own kids are hitting you up for pocket money when you go to the shops.
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