I am feeling conflicted, cynical and just a bit cranky. After a day of compulsively following twitter at work, I have arrived home to watch the events of today unfold in pictures. This afternoon I spoke briefly to a local reporter about our new female Prime Minister. The reporter wanted me to say things like, “yes, a female Prime Minister will bring a more feminist touch to the office of Prime Minister”, “of course, she will be inspiring other women to aspire to great heights”, “yes of course, PM Gillard will pave the way for other high profile appointments in industry and business”. I couldn’t say any of these things because I don’t think they will happen. Instead I said that once the euphoria passes, the same problems facing the ALP yesterday will be facing them tomorrow. Julia Gillard is going to have to work hard, probably harder than a male, to prove herself as a leader. She will be judged not only on her intellect and ability (of which I believe she has plenty by the way) but also by her status as a modern woman. Let’s not kid ourselves that Australia has progressed to a point where we don’t judge a woman on her appearance, her hair, her clothes, her voice, her children or lack thereof, the contents of her fruitbowl or lack thereof. I have done so myself. But I like to think that I am equally judgemental of men as well. For instance Kevin Rudd’s continual use of Biggles’ style colloquialisms (balderdash, bunkum, and most recently blubbering) made me cringe and sometimes talk loudly at the television. Frequently I wonder aloud why John Faulkner persists with his Superman spectacles. I enjoy noticing when Anna Bligh is due to get her roots done, and am amazed by Paul Lucas’ chin.
I hope you might forgive me if I’m not overwhelmed with the power of sisterhood in the fact that a woman has finally been elevated to such an office. She’s there because the powerbrokers in the party have decided that she is acceptable, and less likely to lose than Kevin. They are driven by polls, spin and PR. They are not driven by policy, intelligence, creativity or true talent. Don’t be fooled, the mysteries of the alliances are akin to Survivor. Why am I so cynical and jaded? Because today I saw Wayne Swan looking like the Cheshire Cat. More than that though I grew up watching the ALP at a local level. My mother worked for a number of years as an electorate officer for our local Federal member. She was in Canberra during the sitting when Keating first attempted to topple Hawke and missed out. She tells tales of the AWU, the NSW Right, the powerbrokers, the all night counting of the numbers. I have volunteered in many election campaigns stuffing letters in hundreds of envelopes. I have stood at school gates handing out how to votes. I used to be obsessed by following Australian politics. I think I saw too much to take anything we saw today at face value.
So she’s female? I guess my other problem is that I wonder why this needs to be a big deal. We’ve watched the ALP lure and then spit out too many female politicians in the past for me to hold out great hope that our new Prime Minister will be exempt from the blokey culture of the ALP. Remember Ros Kelly, Cheryl Kernot, Carmen Lawrence…where is Maxine McKew…and look out Anna Bligh…even Bill Ludwig won’t save you if your polls continue to dive.
So right now I’m watching Prime Minister Gillard chit chat with Kerry O’Brien. She’s doing a wonderful job of avoiding direct questions and giving direct answers. She’s learned the rules of the game well and no doubt will now do her best to play them. That’s the saddest thing about politics. Once they make it into office, most politicians very quickly forget that their work is about people, not egos. The power goes to their heads and they become dizzy with it. Repeating phrases like “working families” ad infinitum doesn’t endear them to me. Telling folk tales about hard working parents, and working class backgrounds is cliched and predictable. Give us something real, vital, truthful and authentic and I might take an increased interest. Sadly, I just don’t think that is possible anymore.4 Comments »