Slater And Gordon
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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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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Let’s not beat about the bush. Tony Abbott tells lies. So what? Is there anything surprising about that? After all, he’s a politician.
But it needs to be pointed out because the central message from Abbott supporters is that the prime minister is the liar - Ju-liar, in fact, according to the likes of Alan Jones. The opposition leader is portrayed, and portrays himself, as the epitome of honesty. A man whose word can always be trusted.
Abbott’s lieutenants were even pleased when he was tossed out of parliament on Monday because it got his offending comment - accusing Julia Gillard of lying - into the headlines.
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Julia Gillard just stood at the podium in the Blue Room in Parliament House fielding a barrage of questions about her conduct as a young lawyer. For about 45 minutes her personal credibility was the only topic of discussion.
She was clearly furious, but she was also clearly in her element. That sounds like a strange thing to say about a Prime Minister who is being attacked on fronts ranging from the lunatic fringe on the internet to inside her own party.
But if Gillard was this clear and direct in her communication over policy matters she may well be a lot more popular. It was an extraordinary performance.
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