Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Running On Empty

Whether Gillard wins or loses on Saturday, it's Apres her le deluge:

"Here is how they think these days in the Labor Party: cram a few hundred party faithful into a low, dark room at the Brisbane Convention Centre, hammer them with everything they'd heard before, and somehow the punters at home will see on their television screens a party keen to govern. 'Friends', says Julia Gillard over and over again to the meagre audience before her. 'Friends, we are the party of Medicare...' Somewhere in the past few days, the Prime Minister has begun to channel the Baptist preachers of her youth. She is now the great believer, not speaking from calculation but the heart: 'All my life I have believed in the power of hard work...' Work was the word of the day. She had nothing to say about foreign policy. The words 'global warming' did not pass her lips. Once she had paid due respect to the traditional owners of the slab of South Brisbane on which we met, Aboriginals weren't mentioned again. It was all nuts and bolts, bread and butter, deliberately mundane. There was no red carpet. Bob and Blanche simply appeared in the room. Kevin Rudd was given a standing ovation as John Faulkner steered him to his seat... Three years ago, this was the city of victory. That feeling has seeped away. Once-cheerful kids in Kevin 07 T-shirts have grown older and wiser. The state is deserting the party. But unchanged from those happier times is the rock music pumped into these events. It was always low-key: all repetition, all rhythm, no tune. Thank God for Bob Hawke. He might have to put his feet up for a week after this performance, but to see him raging at the microphone again was absolutely refreshing. Did no one tell him that triumph and celebration were off the agenda? He accused the other side of braying and he should know: at the age of 80 he has the last street-corner voice in Australian politics. Old Labor prime ministers live so long they put Japanese pensioners to shame. Gough is too frail to fly north. We're told Paul Keating had a previous engagement that kept him from the launch. So the two old leaders who turned out for Gillard's show were the betrayed, still honouring the party that clawed them down. That's loyalty. Citing Ben Chifley's Light on the Hill only to modestly abandon the comparison, Gillard took a bow, kissed Tim Mathieson - not an Al and Tipper moment: she took a couple of goes to land one properly - then in the one shining moment of the occasion, gave her parents a long, long embrace. Next she awkwardly kissed the Treasurer's neck, the light's died and that was that." (When invoking work is just the job for a desperate leader, David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/8/10)

PS - From a later edition of the SMH: "This, we were assured before PM Gillard climbed to the stage to deliver her speech to officially launch the government's plea for re-election, was the real Julia, unplugged. There would be no auto cue. No written speech, either. She would rely on nothing but a few dot points, her press secretaries solemnly assured the media gathered in the wings at the Brisbane Convention Centre. Within seconds, hardened hacks were tweeting this development. The point, of course, was that a week before in the same place, Oppostion Leader Tony Abbott had used during his campaign launch an auto cue... Gillard's minders wanted to convey the message that she was braver, more spontaneous and capable of speaking directly to the electors without the limiting filter of a speech carefully prepared for her. Ah, but the distance between myth and reality, as ever during election campaigns, proved as wide as Lake Eyre in flood. As Gillard took the stage, a thick sheaf of typed papers was discreetly placed upon the podium by a stagehand crouching almost out of sight. A video camera and The Sydney Morning Herald's chief photographer, Andrew Meares, captured the moment when the staffer slipped the papers into place. When Gillard had finished speaking and the audience was agog at her ability to deliver an unscripted address (indeed, Gillard herself described it as 'from the heart'), Meares turned his camera on the papers lying strewn upon the lectern. Even a cursory glance showed it was a written speech. A closer inspection showed it was the very speech she had delivered, word for word. It was a near faultless speech, barely a stumble - and the PM hardly glanced at her notes, giving the impression she has a near-photographic memory. But so much for Julia unplugged. A case, you might think, of too much spin. No one would have cared a fig if she had read the whole thing - if only we hadn't been hoodwinked into believing this was a free-form plea from her soul. (The hidden truth behind the PM's 'impromptu' speech, Tony Wright, SMH, 17/8/10)

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