PLIBERSEK WRITES THE GILLARD YEARS
“We will never know how successful Julia Gillard could have been if she’d led a united party. That is one of the great sadnesses for me.”
Reflecting on Julia Gillard’s years as Prime Minister, Tanya Plibersek recalls many things. A magnificent speaker, a political operator with clear vision, generous charm, and a sense of humour. She recalls phenomenal dignity in adversity, and a PM who managed a hung parliament effectively.
She also has some fascinating insights into what went wrong.
Writing in a new collection of essays Bewitched and Bedevilled – Women Write the Gillard Years (Hardie Grant, $24.95) the deputy Labor leader is in a reflective mood, thinking about Gillard the PM, Gillard her friend, as well as the Labor Party, mistakes made and lessons learnt.
Yes there’s the well documented undermining from within the party, but in explaining the mysterious disconnection between government and public – the failure to deliver the message – Plibersek says it may have been a matter of a government achieving too much.
“It was our responsibility to find a way to talk to the people and I think one of the difficulties we had with that – and one that I wouldn’t wish away – was that we were simply doing so much.
“The classical political communications strategy is to first spend time describing the problem, then spend time talking about potential solutions, then decide on one of those solutions and finally sell that solution. We were in such a rush to get things done that we would jump straight to solution and then move on to the next problem. So, we missed valuable opportunities to explain the problem and to really sell the solution.
“I guess that’s a weakness in our communications strategy but it was motivated by the very best intentions, which was to get as much done as we could.”
While Plibersek defines the Gillard years through the larger prism of the Labor movement, most other writers in this collection are looking through the gender glass – how can it be any other way with 15 women recalling the unique moment in time when Australia had its first female Prime Minister?
They do so in varied ways: Emily Maguire writes a very personal story, cleverly and candidly documenting her own experiences with sexist abuse so that by the time she brings us to the subject of the “misogyny speech” it is perfectly contextualised as the speech that struck a nerve with women around the world.
In Helen Razer’s hands, the same speech is “a moment of bravura nonsense.” She can’t stand the prevalence it has been awarded – instead Razer applauds a little known speech made on Keynesian economics that she says “best evokes Gillard’s Labor bequest to the nation.”
As expected, Kathy Lette employs every pun under the sun in her amusing letter to Gillard; Jane Caro looks at brand Gillard; Tracey Spicer considers her daughter’s dreams; journalist Claire Harvey provides a reporter’s view; Clementine Ford, Shakira Hussein, Eva Cox, Chloe Hooper, Catharine Lumby, Ruth Hessey, Helen Pringle, and Carol Johnson complete the list.
Speeches by Anne Summers (The Newcastle Speech) and Julia Gillard’s resignation speech are also published.
Brought together by editor Samantha Trenoweth, this roll call of great writers present a fascinating collection of perspectives.
“I imagined (optimist that I am) that would approach a cross-section of women, that they would fall into formation, and a passionate defence of the then prime minister would be off to the printer before you could say “moving forward”. But the editorial process proved much more complex and interesting than that,” Trenoweth writes.
“This book was conceived and largely executed in the final months of the Gillard Government, and it reflects the whole palette of emotions that this group of insightful, brilliant, provocative women navigated as they watched its demise.”
* This post is sponsored by Hardie Grant. To learn more about our sponsored posts, go here.
We’ve got 10 copies of Bewitched & Bedevilled – Women Write the Gillard Years to giveaway.
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