Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is the real political relevance of Ms Gillard's attack on Tony Abbott?

Normally the material in this post would be a postscript on other posts, but this time I am doing it as a separate post because it better presents a thread. It's not a profound post, just a record.

My 1 October post Will PM Gillard win the next election? And possibly why concluded: I must say that I'm really tempted to call the next federal election for the ALP. That's really chancing my arm! Yet the probabilities look far better than I had expected. My focus here was mainly on economics. I did not refer to my earlier discussion on  the difficulties the PM faced in finding that quiet place in the midst of turmoil on which to stand. I should have.

Then the Slipper matter broke. Here in Abbott, Gillard - time to stop! I expressed my dislike of developments:

Mr Abbott's call back in 2010 for a kinder, gentler polity - a call that Ms Gillard appeared to endorse - now comes to back to haunt both of them. Get real, chaps. A lot of us are just tuning you out. If, as apparently appears to be the case, you want to hate each other, please do it in private.

It was pretty clear at the time that my views about the nature of the attack by the PM on Mr Abbott were not shared by a fairly substantial minority, including my youngest daughter.  On 13 October in Saturday morning musings - gender & the possible rise of Mr Turnbull?,  I said in part:

To my mind, the most important immediate political issue is whether Ms Gillard has been able to wound Mr Abbott to the point of political gangrene. We have seen this before. Political machines are pretty ruthless. Depending on the way all this plays out, there is a fair chance that Mr Abbott will be amputated before the next election, replaced by Mr Turnbull. That would change the dynamics at once, effectively taking the gender issue out of the equation.

I followed this post with Words - gay, misogyny, with just a dash of heterosexism looking at other issues in the debate. Since then, the most recent polls released show a shift to the ALP.

Now when I'm trying to write as an analyst, I have to put my own views about right and wrong, good taste or bad taste, whatever, aside and try to write objectively.  Now here there are a couple of things that I think that we can say.

The first point is that the polls have been showing an improving trend to the Gillard Government for some months. In other words, there is a pattern. Further, leaving aside the atmospherics around the Slipper issue and the PM's associated speech, the Government is getting enough wins to seem credible in office. In a way, that's all it has to do to restore its position for it undermines Mr Abbott's core charge of Government incompetence.

Where does the PM's speech fit into all this?

I don't think that it does. Yes, the detail of the most recent polls suggest that it' has had some impact at the margin in terms of voter perception, but it actually doesn't affect what is happening in the real world. Yes, it has damaged Mr Abbott, perhaps terminally, and that may have outcomes that none can foresee. But it doesn't affect the basic thrust of policy or events on which people finally base their voting decisions. It doesn't even contribute to the basic question of equality of opportunity independent of gender. Does anybody really believe that beyond an impact on politically acceptable language it will result in one real policy change?

I have phrased this as an assertion to make challenge easier. I still think that the Gillard Government has a chance of winning the next election, but I don't think that Ms Gillard's speech is relevant to that outcome. There are just too many variables, too many permutations and combinations, involved.  


Anonymous said...


Still inclined to think there is no ongoing political significance to this stoush, but I wanted to mention that I thought it was actually the three independents that asked for a gentler kinder approach - not Mr Abbott?


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. It was, but Mr Abbott responded.

Evan said...

Seeing Julia just made life tougher for single parents (mostly women) I don't think speech is likely to be a vote changer. If Labor had moved to make policy that benefited single parents and such that would have been a big vote changer I think.

Tony, during the negotiations after the election, did talk about a new way of doing politics yada yada. To fit in with the independents no doubt.

Jim Belshaw said...

He did indeed, Evan, and for that reason.