Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This column is, again, critical of Julia Gillard. I've attempted to use rhetorical devices to make it interesting to readers. But the key point is located three-quarters of the way down.

A nation state needs to look after its workers. I don't believe the move to get foreign workers to mining projects is in this country's best interests. As a result I'm critical of any PM who allows this to happen . . . 


There’s absolutely no doubt about the timing. Julia Gillard’s office was informed, in detail, of the deal to bring in foreign workers at least a week before it was announced. What happened to it once it got there is another matter. It should be possible to forensically trace the flow to discover the exact moment at which it was brushed aside until it exploded over the front page.

Doing so might reveal the culprit – the person who couldn’t understand that Australians would be outraged that, as a nation, we seemingly can’t even provide workers to dig up the mineral wealth that’s currently sustaining our economy. But even ascertaining the root cause of the emptiness in the PM’s office wouldn’t do anything to fix the problem. It would be like attempting to perform surgery on a stuffed toy. Dig around all you want, but you won’t discover either a brain or a heart inside the packaging. It’s a problem that no number of transplants will ever succeed in rectifying.

Perhaps Gillard was told and it just didn’t sink in. It seems unlikely she was being kept in the dark until the light was switched on and Chris Bowen could shout, “Surprise!” But there is no doubt that this is the end of the road for Gillard. She is no longer part of the future story. Anything she says or does can safely be ignored as irrelevant, because instead of months we can now number her time remaining in the Lodge as a matter of weeks. The longer the transition period drags on, the worse it will be for Labor.

The possibilities of spin fell apart long ago. People have made up their mind exactly who the ‘real Julia’ is, but instead of seeing a cuddly doll with flaming red hair they find they’re looking at a transparent robot.

Only one week ago this column opined that Labor had nowhere to go other than return to Kevin Rudd. It’s important to note that none of his backers urged me to write that. Quite the reverse. Rudd himself has been silent. He knows he cannot seize power – he needs the party to come to him. Back then it appeared as if the leadership transition might occur just before parliament broke for the winter recess. This is the obvious time for a change, which explains why Gillard chose that particular moment to stab Rudd two years ago. Today, however, it seems doubtful that she could manage to hold things together for even this short period of time.

There’s no simple formula that can be used to measure the fall of a PM. Blunders multiplied by personal culpability (but divided by popularity in the polls) might provide an indication of the probability that a given leader will be replaced. This doesn’t, however, incorporate any measure of the momentum for change. After a certain point is passed this grows at an exponential rate and itself drives further destabilisation. That’s the point we’ve reached today. From here there can be no recovery – it’s just a matter of time.

Gillard’s obstinate, small-minded inability to recognise she’s not up to the job, together with her determination to cling on, ignoring the opportunity to hand over to someone actually capable of doing the job, is crippling Labor’s alternative candidates.

Australian’s expect their government to be able to manage the economy. Critical to this is providing jobs and ensuring wealth remains in the country. The decision to allow our wealthiest Australian to bring in foreign workers so she can exploit the mineral resources of the outback is bizarre. It represents the absolute inability of the government to harness our own workforce. Now there may well be good reasons why many people don’t want, or aren’t able, to work on mine sites, but there are obvious reasons why a minerals company (no matter who it’s owned by) would be keen to employ foreign labourers. These have to do with skills, conditions, and willingness to work. It’s a simple deal. The workers place their body at the absolute disposal of the company for a limited period of time and they are well compensated for doing so. Labor input is reduced to merely another factor of production, like a piece of machinery. Sometimes they break, so you replace them. Sometimes they need lubrication, so you grease their palms. It’s the perfect model for the minerals business where, at the moment at any rate, the biggest problem is getting rocks out of the ground fast enough.

But a country is something more than a business, or it should be, at any rate. Citizens need a story; a future to believe in. But nobody, least of all Gillard, is attempting to explain to us exactly why importing foreign workers might be a good idea. Our PM’s gone missing in action. She seems to shrug while telling the unionists, “you know it wasn’t my idea” while, at the same time she’s winking to the plutocrats and intimating, “you see, we can do business”. It’s multiple personality disorder being played out on the national stage. 

And that’s perhaps the biggest problem Labor has. Now everyone’s getting in on the act. People like Chris Evans are finding live microphones and using them to broadcast their own opinions. Now of course, he would be unlikely to ever mouth anything even remotely controversial or interesting, but there is a danger in allowing him to wander. The remote possibility always remains that a few people in his audience might remain awake. And, if they do, they might begin to think. And if they think, they might begin to notice that whatever he’s saying is nonsense. There’s only so much collateral damage a government can stand.

There’s sense in allowing polished performers like Craig Emerson out, because he can argue logically why black is white one day and not the next. A secure chain keeps Anthony Albanese locked to Question Time, but imagine if it broke! He’d be out loose, terrorising children and snapping at pensioners. It’s time for a leader to assert control. Unfortunately, that’s not Gillard.

It seems the PM has determined to bring the party down around her. At least it won’t have far to fall.

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