Will the “real” Julia please stand up or are we seeing our PM for who she really is? And just what is brand Julia? With a political landscape where spin seems to sweep honesty and truth off the agenda, it’s difficult to believe our politicians and their carefully chosen and calculating words that make a mockery of our esteemed parliamentary practice. So often, it’s mud-slinging of the dirtiest kind; denial and denigration of policies that promise a more just, human and equal go for us all. Our traditional heritage of a Fair Go – (Advance Australia Fair) – is but a mere myth where reason is reduced to semantics without eloquence or wit.
When Julia ousted Kevin Rudd (I got so bored and tired of his ‘working families’ jargon!) I was thrilled; a woman at the helm for the first time to introduce some legislative reforms and engender faith in our country once more. She was clever, astute, hard-working and passionate, and as a woman who wasn’t married and childless, her status ushered in the hope that convention, conformity and conservatism were past history for Australia. How wrong was I! I was living in Britain when Margaret Thatcher became that country’s first female PM in 1979 and while I hated her politics, she was a politician of the most steely sort – tough, resilient and without doubt, eloquent and very, very clever, at least in the beginning. I embraced Julia’s new role hoping for the same firebrand determination and resolve albeit of the Labor variety when she took on this country and in her first interview on TV on the 7.30 Report with Kerry O’Brien, I was very impressed.(Indeed, she was even relaxed enough to crack a joke at the end about red heads!) She was in control, cool, calm and collected and I was reminded of Thatcher at her best. It all portended well, but in nearly 18 months at the top, she now seems devoid of inspiration and vision, a powerless puppet with her spin specialists and script writers pulling the strings!
It has been said by some pundits that during Question Time, she exhibits the energy, enthusiasm and empathy that justifies her role as PM, but at all other times she talks in a cold monotone that emanates from the flat and dull printed word. I don’t see Question Time very often (in fact, I now find it hard to believe any words the pollies mutter like so many others in this country!) and when I do see her on TV or read her bites in the newspapers, I am just so disappointed. She appears as a manufactured mannequin on a political catwalk; suitably garbed and coiffured for the occasion but like an automaton, she lacks real credibility and genuine belief. A mere machine in the corridors of power, dispensing discipline and dedication at the keyboard of the public interface. It’s not about supposed broken promises – we all change our minds at different times – it’s not about refusing to introduce same sex marriage legislation, but for me, it’s an abdication of her very essence of being human. She tells us repeatedly how tough she is, but as far as I am concerned, she caved into the psychotic hysteria about asylum seekers when she insisted on the Malaysian Solution and off-shore processing (Thank God for the High Court and for once in my life, applauded Tony Abbott for voting against changes to the Immigration Act!)
Furthermore, in a country where equal pay is still a fantasy and women are still subjected to untold violence, pain and humiliation not just inside their own homes but outside in society as well, she has adopted the macho guise of so many of her male counterparts in failing to evoke a really just and fair society. Yes, women in politics get a hard deal from not just the media, but the public, too (often from many women sadly), and I’ve asked myself, did I expect too much of her? Certainly, Thatcher cared little about the reality for women in the UK, and maybe, because she chose not to get married or have children, I thought Julia would celebrate the fight for real gender equality more fiercely. (How naive was I?) Australia is still a bastion of conservatism and convention and despite Julia’s personal politics, her public agenda is a go slow on the change we so desperately need in this country. So, do any of us really know her? Expectations can often play havoc with our common sense and for me, she remains an enigma; I unreservedly admire her achievement in making it to PM, but her lack of a visionary dream for Australia (I lamented Kevin Rudd for the same inadequacy!) and turning that into reality leaves me wondering whether politicians of any ilk can ever be themselves! And for that matter, can any of us?