A canny leader admits faults. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie was a master at it. Voters liked the honesty and liked the impression that they were been heeded and lessons were being learned.
None of that applies to Julia Gillard. Nothing, nothing is ever her fault.
It’s as if she is taunting voters, putting her fingers in her ears and pretending not to hear. Or maybe it’s just a deep personal flaw to deny fault – and deny inconvenient truths.
Consider. Her party’s poll numbers are catastrophic. Her government is bitterly split. Her government has run out of money and has bungled everything from boat people policy to media “reform”. Yet none of that is Gillard’s fault:
LEIGH SALES: Why should we trust Labor’s plans for future when you’ve had so many problems and so much dysfunction in your past?
JULIA GILLARD: People are entitled to look at what we’ve achieved, what we’ve said we would do and what we have done. We said we’d create jobs and keep strengthening our economy and we’ve done that… We’ve also done some big, hard controversial things, like putting a price on carbon…
LEIGH SALES: Well, Prime Minister, you’ve given me a laundry list there, so let me give you one back. When people look at what you’ve done, they also see a promise not to introduce a carbon tax broken, they see a promise to deliver a budget surplus this year broken, an East Timor solution for asylum seekers proposed then withdrawn, a Malaysia solution proposed and then abandoned, even as today we see a ship sink and people killed in another incident, a ban on live cattle imports imposed and then withdrawn, the disastrous appointment of Peter Slipper, the redesign of a mining tax so it now returns a fraction of what was banked on. I return to my earlier question: how do you expect the public to have any faith in what you’re planning to do going forwards?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, Leigh, I’m happy to go through those one by one if you would like. We said we would introduce a price on carbon. I always wanted to see an emissions trading scheme. And by the time people vote in September, we will be less than two years from that emissions trading scheme and the end of the carbon tax. On things like …
LEIGH SALES: But Prime Minister, you’re not addressing my central problem there, which was that there was a broken promise …
JULIA GILLARD: Well, I’m not agreeing with your list, Leigh…
LEIGH SALES: Some of your own colleagues when they decided to step down from cabinet, Martin Ferguson and Simon Crean, have raised concerns about the process of government and in particular the media reforms last week saying that it was mishandled and that it was a debacle. Doesn’t that go to the very heart of the way you run government when senior ministers in your own team have stepped down and made that criticism?
JULIA GILLARD: …On media law reform, we got through two important pieces of legislation during the week, including of course broadening the ambit of what the ABC does and that’s a good thing. Leigh, it was always going to be a controversial debate…
LEIGH SALES: If we judge – sorry, Prime Minister, to interrupt. If we judge the process on the end result, you put up six pieces of legislation and only two of them got through, so therefore on any assessment you’d have to agree that it was a mishandled and a botched process.
JULIA GILLARD: We have a minority parliament, Leigh. You come to this minority parliament. We’ve got an amazing track record in these circumstances of a minority parliament of getting things through, but we haven’t been able to get everything through and I wasn’t prepared to cross-trade and do any deal to get these bills through.
LEIGH SALES: So you were quite happy with how that process was handled last week from woe to go, the media reforms?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, the last fortnight has been the last fortnight, but the point I’m putting to you, Leigh, is that there was a long period of review and reflection that led up to the last fortnight…
LEIGH SALES: … Isn’t the reality though that many of your colleagues are in despair about your leadership and about the ALP’s prospects in the election, but that they just don’t see a viable alternative?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, Leigh, it’s done, it’s dusted, anybody who had the – anybody who wanted to had the opportunity to nominate for consideration in Labor caucus last Thursday. No-one did… I don’t think that any of this is worth speaking about anymore.
The denial is astonishing. It is also lethally counterproductive.
Is Gillard truly arguing she has not made a single error? That nothing she has done has produced this chaos, division and dysfunction?
No, it’s always someone else’s fault. Dennis Shanahan:
Instead of simply saying that as Prime Minister she took responsibility for the government dysfunction, which of course included the spectacularly unsuccessful media law changes put forward by ultra-loyal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and acknowledging that Labor was aware of its shortcomings, Gillard simply blamed Rudd and promised more of the same.
Can any blog readers remember a single instance of Gillard admitting as Prime Minister to a political fault of her own?
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am. He is also heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.