Sexism and left wing politics - the work in progress page

 21 September 2017
As I've noted on the blog, the project is now formally closed. Ethics approval for the project ended on 12 September 2016 so research with human participants closed on that date. Comments on the blog are considered as evidence until that date. People can still keep making comments but I won't treat them as formal evidence, just as background information.

Most of the information on this page was not from this blog but from other blogs, so I have treated it as observation for the purpose of discourse analysis. All the information comes from sites that are open to the public. I hope some time to analyse all this information more deeply but for the purposes of my thesis I have concluded thus:

During the time I was running this blog I also became drawn into commenting on some other blogs, particularly some left wing blogs run by academics in Australia and internationally, where I often tried to put a feminist perspective. There was a lot of discussion on these blogs about feminism and sexism related to Julia Gillard and, later, Hillary Clinton. As someone who had worked with Julia Gillard for two years when I was a political researcher in the Victorian Parliament, I was distressed to see some of the derogatory comments that were being made about her by prominent left wing academics and their supporters, and felt I had to respond. This led to an ongoing presence on a number of blogs. Although this was not formally part of the project, I discussed these experiences on the project blog and also started a separate page where I recorded some of the exchanges I had seen and been involved in. I have summarised some of the issues in Appendix three of my thesis.

I emphasise that this did not happen within the project or on the project blog, but on more ‘mainstream’ blogs which appeared to be somewhat male dominated, and were largely run by male academics, particularly from the disciplinary areas of economics, politics and philosophy.  As this occurred outside the formal scope of the research, I consider it as observation for discourse analysis. What my observation suggests is that mainstream academic discourse, at least in these disciplinary areas, still reflects the discourse of ‘scientific rationality’ that Merchant (1989) has shown to be influenced by patriarchal assumptions. While many of these academics would undoubtedly be supportive to the cause of promoting equity and environmental sustainability in this project, their discourse appears incommensurable with health promotion discourse in significant respects. This is an important gap that requires further research and action, but my own attempts to bridge the gap in online discussions were largely unsuccessful, mainly because I was so frequently misinterpreted and trivialised by men who could see that my views were different from theirs, but apparently could not accept that they deserved equal respect.  My response to this often was to become angry, which didn’t help the cause, but it is difficult to know how to deal with this situation. Overall my experiences seem to accord with a large body of evidence that attempting to introduce feminist perspectives in academic and community settings is likely to meet negative responses, particularly from men but also at times from women (Dodd, Giuliano et al. 2001, Frisby, Maguire et al. 2009, Langan and Morton 2009, Roy, Weibust et al. 2009, Gardiner, Mansfield et al. 2016).

13 September 2017
This page remains a work in progress, but I am signing it off for the purpose of my research today. I hope to follow up some of the issues raised here later if possible. 

In the Methods chapter of my thesis, I explain my position on feminist theoretical perspectives when I started the research project (page needs updating) drawing on work by Frisby and colleagues
(Frisby, W., P. Maguire and C. Reid (2009). "The `f' word has everything to do with it: How feminist theories inform action research." Action Research 7(1): 13-29.) who said feminist perspectives were valuable for  action research but that incorporating feminist perspectives or gendered analysis in research in either the academic setting or the community setting may produce resistance. I started the research project with a feminist perspective but not an over-arching one. Over the course of the research, I have found that the ecofeminist perspective offers the best over-arching explanatory theory for the findings of the project.

During the development of this position I have taken part in many debates over feminism, both on this blog and on other blogs. I have also given one verbal and two poster presentations at three conferences. 

Some evidence and reflections from participation in online debates is included below. The evidence is not systematic and this subject is far too large for me to summarise effectively for my thesis so I can only suggest some apparent themes:
- there is evidence that commenters who are or appear to be male make comments about women both as public figures and as commenters that belittle or trivialise women or their perspectives
- there is evidence that women in various contexts see themselves as being belittled or trivialised
- my attempts to discuss these issues were frequently very fraught and I was accused by men, and sometimes also by women, including women who identified as feminist, of being too angry or aggressive or as attempting to hand down wisdom from on high, or similar
- I did also at times receive positive feedback from women and occasionally men, including in emails which are not included below at present (might try to include some brief examples later if I have time)
- while I accept that there is likely to be some truth in the repeated assertions about me being angry or lecturing/superior in tone, they may also reflect popular stereotypes of feminists and a view of women as not being legitimate authorities

Overall this situation bears out the suggestion that attempting to introduce feminist perspectives in academic and community settings is likely to produce resistance. I have not been able to work out how to resolve this. Within my research project I have not met any such resistance, from participants or supervisors, but the feminist perspectives were only presented to participants in the final feedback sessions and there was very little time to discuss them.


Why sexism and left wing politics?

(I am not sure when I wrote this originally - sometime in 2013)

The left in Australian politics is - ostensibly- more committed to the principle of fairness - or equity-  than the right.

Amartya Sen suggests that in contemporary democracies, some form of acceptance of the principle of fairness is a condition of legitimacy. Thus for example, the right might argue that competition and wealth accumulation is necessary, but will also attempt to justify this by saying that it will ultimately make everyone richer, though some get richer than others. They are thus appealing to the principle of equity in saying that all will benefit, through increased income or wealth, even though society may become less equal in terms of wealth and income distribution.

The left has traditionally rejected such reasoning on the ground that distributional equity - a lesser gap between rich and poor - is a good thing in itself. More recently, particularly in public health following the work of Wilkinson and Pickett, sections of the left have argued that above a certain income level, increased income or wealth in a country does not in itself contribute to greater health and wellbeing: rather that at the same average income level, those countries that are more equal (lesser gap between rich and poor) enjoy greater health and wellbeing.

Although I have focused on economic inequalities, there is a similar situation with social and political inequalities. Although both the left and right are ostensibly committed to ending discrimination based on sex, ethnic background or other attributes, the right has generally argued in terms of rights and opportunities. Thus the right argues that everyone should have the same rights and opportunities, and outcomes should be decided by merit. If women, or people of colour, fail to reach positions of authority, the implicit suggestion is that they didn't have the necessary merit. The left however has traditionally accepted that there are structural forms of discrimination, and that these need to be addressed through measures such as legislation, regulation or affirmative action.

In summary, the result is that while all political parties in a democracy are ostensibly committed to equity in some form, left wing parties are in theory more likely to achieve equity of outcomes: societies where income and wealth are distributed more equally, and power and authority are distributed in a way that is more diverse and inclusive. 

Since it is equity of outcomes that is related to improved health and wellbeing, it could be suggested that public health practitioners would naturally ally themselves with the left of politics. Alternatively, as one participant in this research project suggested, we should be trying to go beyond 'left and right' to establish a social consensus that equity (aiming for increased equity of outcomes) is a fundamental principle of governance. My view is that in practice we need to do both: work with the left to strengthen the left's commitment to equity of outcomes (particularly because in the ALP, the largest party of the left, it is actually quite weak) and work towards a broad social consensus. In practical terms I think the movement towards a social consensus has to be led by the left, because if the left is not fully committed to this, I think there is very little chance of getting the right to commit. Others may see this differently, but that's my take at present.

One very important part of achieving a commitment to equity is to get a commitment to gender equity. As I've argued in earlier posts, I see this as important to achieving a fair and sustainable society because historically those values common to both environmentalism and social justice - caring for each other and the earth - were subordinated in patriarchal societies. They were seen as belonging to the lesser sphere of the natural and the feminine, rather than the political sphere, which was about contests between men (for land and women, as Weber remarked). 

In this light, I was deeply disappointed during the era of our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, when I became aware that there was still a lot of entrenched sexism in left wing politics. I became aware of this particularly when browsing some prominent left wing or progressive blogs written or originally authored by men, such as Larvatus Prodeo, John Quiggin and Left Flank. Over recent months I've been engaging in discussions on these blogs, and trying to do an analysis of them to explain to people why I think they are sexist. It's proving to be a difficult task to analyse them, largely because they are popular blogs and there is a huge amount of material generated by them. I think in fact that this would be a good subject for a PhD thesis, but as I'm already doing a PhD thesis, and this issue can at best be only a small part of it, I can't do that particular thesis. Within my limitations however, I am trying to some analysis to explain to people why I see these blogs as sexist, and hopefully to get this issue addressed. As part of the analysis, I've cut and pasted a lot of content below, and in subsequent posts I'll analyse the features of this that I consider sexist.

I will also later include some reference material on sexism, maybe on a separate page.

I've also copied here a comment I made in relation to some genuine enquiries on John Quiggin's blog, which I think does provide a useful starting point for analysis:

Megan and Nathan

I’ve thought about this further and I think I understand where you’re coming from – I think your question is how can you distinguish between genuine criticism of a woman and sexism, right?
I’ll try to answer briefly and put more info on my blog soon. Firstly, sexism in contemporary society often expresses itself as bias rather than outright criticism of women per se. There been a fair bit of research on this, eg showing that if you put a female name on an assignment or CV, it will tend to get less favourable responses than if you put a male name on the same CV or assignment.
So given that it’s bias rather than outright criticism, the question about what is fair criticism becomes a judgement call, but the things I would advise you to look for are:
Going beyond the evidence – eg Gillard didn’t just fail to get a good deal on the mining tax, she did so because she was prepared to sell Australia out in order out to realise her ambition to overthrow Rudd (even though there is clear evidence that caucus preferred her to Rudd)
Conspiracy theories – eg Gillard made Rudd back down on the CPRS because she wanted to make him look bad and overthrow him.
Rejecting counter evidence – eg when former staffers like myself, or caucus colleagues or Independents say that Gillard is a decent person who is very competent and good to work with, that evidence is dismissed as bias.
Maximising and personalising failures and minimising or generalising achievements – eg, ‘Gillard’ was opposed to a carbon price but ‘the government’ actually passed reasonably carbon price good legislation (Fran Barlow on several occasions produced evidence that Gillard was not opposed to a carbon price, but it was ignored)
Applying differential standards – eg Gillard was reprehensible when she shifted to the right on asylum seekers, but when Rudd did the same even more harshly, it was merely “puzzling”.

I’ll put reference details and examples on my blog later.

Content - Examples from John Quiggin's blog:

John Quiggin April 8 2013

I do Gillard the credit of treating her as I would any other political leader, rather than judging her on different criteria because she is a woman. She lost my support early on with cash for clunkers and the consultative assembly, both disastrous ideas that were subsequently dumped. Her performance since then has been consistent with those beginnings – she has failed miserably on asylum seekers, equal marriage, single parents, mining tax, media reform and many other issues, either doing the wrong thing or making a mess of the politics.

It’s true that, as her unpopularity has increased, the attacks on her have become more personal and, from a significant group on the right, misogynistic. But on the whole those attacks have rebounded – she is unpopular despite the antics of Alan Jones and similar, not because of them.


March 28th, 2013 at 06:38 | #7 Reply | Quote
@Jill Rush
It is certainly true that angry, old, sexist, right-wing white men hate Julia Rudd with a vitriol that is very ugly. It is certainly true that that hatred springs from both extreme right-wing views and extreme chauvinistic sexism.
It is not true however to characterise all opposition to Julia Gillard as vicious chauvinistic sexism. Any considered view of Julia Gillard will note;
1. She betrayed her PM whan as Deputy PM she was entrusted to talk to the mining magnates re the Resources Rent Tax. Instead of doing the job she was entrusted with, she conspired with the Mining Unions (who have reactionary officials), conspired with the mining magnates themselves and conspired with the rightist faction of power brokers in the Labor Party.
2. She undertook this treachery out of pure opportunism and ambition.
3. She essentially sided with the interests of the over-rich, capitalist, plutocrat, oligarchs of the mining industry against the interests of ordinary working Australians and ensured that the major slices of Australian mineral wealth continued to go into the pockets of the super rich here and overseas.
4. Any considered long term view of Julia Gillard’s entire past and past statements will note her opportunist changes of tack where she has said different things, even opposite things, at different times based on what she assesses will be the most populist line at the time with the particular audience in question. She has no essential ideological underpinning or concept of political economy in total. She certainly has no sincere belief in traditional Labor values nor in workers’ interests.
In summary, Julia Gillard is treacherous, opportunist, deceitful and essentially a fifth columnist for plutocratic capitalist interests. In this, she may be no different from many of her male colleagues in her own party and all of the memebers of the Liberal Party. I treat her the same. I condemn those above characteristics in all politicians and certainly do not make any special allowance or extend exoneration because a politician is a woman. To do so would be sexist.

Jill Rush

March 28th, 2013 at 09:40 | #8 Reply | Quote
@Ikonoclast – I don’t suggest that there be special rules based on the sex of a politician and that is my point. Julia Gillard has been judged by a different standard and is expected to be better. In your assessment I notice that you give her no credit for any of her achievements. She always knew it would be hard for a woman to be PM because she would be judged so differently to males and that many men in the media and in politics would tear her down as has happened to every capable women politicians before her. She initially gave her support to Kevin Rudd to be leader because of this.
On the night of Kevin Rudd’s demise she knew that if she didn’t take that opportunity then it might never come again. Kevin Rudd was so spineless at that point that he didn’t even go to a vote. While there has been much made about the “backstabbing woman”, what she did was little different to any other leader who has wrested leadership. That you continue to think that it is pivotal to her character shows how deeply entrenched attitudes against women being as driven as men for leadership are. Why is it so much worse that she took her opportunity than every other leader before her?

Alan 28 March

Gillard herself created her opportunity by destabilising Rudd’s leadership with her opposition to the CPRS, her compromised negotiations with the mining magnates, a series of leaks pre-empting caucus from considering the future of the CPRS, and her failure as deputy to confront Rudd honestly over the governance issues. Once again, we have a Gillard defence based on a state of the world that does not exist.


March 28th, 2013 at 11:07 | #10 Reply | Quote
@Jill Rush
I disagree. You have focused here solely on the gender issues. Julia Gillard sold out to the capitalist mining bosses and betrayed the interests of working Australians. The fact that capitalists are allowed to suborn democracy and buy connivance of the major parties matters profoundly. That is the real substantive issue here. I give Julia Gillard no credit for achievements for she has none in the political sphere. Her “leadership” has been an inept disaster and a betrayal of Labour politics. That several Labor leaders before her also betrayed Labor values is no exoneration. I take a hard line on this. Class traitors are class traitors. They have thrown their lot in with the capitalist oppressors. They are turncoats and sycophants bought off with a place on the plutocrat’s footstool.

Jill Rush

March 29th, 2013 at 09:00 | #20 Reply | Quote
@ Megan I can assure you I have no clout at all in the Labor Party (nor any other). The risks of a landslide to a Coalition which is so much further to the right than Labor however because people aren’t happy with how right wing Labor is, seems to be stupid. All I am suggesting is that people stop wholesale condemnation of the Prime Minister, who is not the devil incarnate, because this will lead to total power going to a coalition which will be far more rabidly right wing.


March 29th, 2013 at 09:48 | #24 Reply | Quote
The impending wipeout of federal Labor could be very easily averted by dumping Gillard, reinstalling Rudd and adopting real Labor policies. It really is that simple. However, the egos of Gillard and her supporters are such that they would rather see Labor crash and burn than see Labor win without them.
Dumping Rudd was the stupidest thing they ever did. What other party had ever been stupid enough to dump a highly popular, successful and intelligent leader who delivered them a crushing victory and first term? It was so moronic it’s unbelievable. Then sticking with a stupid decision is the next stupidest thing you can do. Gillard didn’t even win the last election in her own right. She’s been a lame duck from her day 1.
Gillard is so neocon and follows all of Howard’s policies she might as well be in the Liberal party. However, I agree the Liberals will be worse. So vote Green or Socialist first pref and then pref Labor.


March 29th, 2013 at 11:30 | #26 Reply | Quote
@Jill Rush
People who have made a stupid decison and then want to sweep it under the carpet are usually the ones who say “we shouldn’t live in the past, we should move on.”
I won’t play that game. I remember history and remind them of their stupid decisions WHEN they show a propensity for sticking to those stupid decisions. It is unempirical and revisionist to say we should forget the past. Remembering mistakes, rectifying them and avoiding similar ones is called “learning by experience”. It’s clear that Gillard and her party supporters have learnt nothing and have taken no lessons from experience. That is the essence of stupidity.


March 29th, 2013 at 13:51 | #31 Reply | Quote
@Jill Rush
“The Greens will suffer as a result of Labor negatives being harped on about..”
It was Labor who attacked the Greens even when they were in an alliance with the Greens to deliver minority government. Labor are putrid under Gillard


March 29th, 2013 at 16:01 | #32 Reply | Quote
The Gillard defence is fascinating. You can see it not just here, but scattered far and wide across most forms of social media.
There are undoubtedly sexist attacks by the extreme right and those attacks are then undoubtedly dog-whistled by people within the Coalition. Arguing that Gillard faces generalised opposition in terms of gender is drawing an incredibly long bow, although not as long as one commenter on a noted social media site who worshipfully called her ‘our homegrown Hypatia’.
When the gender argument fails you move into this weird world where anything but uncritical 100% support for whatever bright idea most recently moved the prime minister is supporting the Coalition. That is a concept of leadership that belongs more to Beijing in 1968 than to contemporary Australia.
Leaders earn respect. Leaders earn loyalty. This endless demand for unearned loyalty is just trying to get the band to play louder on the Titanic.

Ikonoclast 30 March

But I am saying that Labor must get of the right-wing reactionary elements in its own party and Julia Gillard is the leader of right-wing reactionary-ism in the Labor Party. She is anathema to all true Labour and worker values.


March 30th, 2013 at 09:00 | #42 Reply | Quote
@Jim Rose
I am not sure I have ever suggested that Julia Gillard is anything but either or both of a knave and a fool when it comes to election campaigning. Indeed when she uttered the Great Misogyny Speech I think I said here that it was


March 31st, 2013 at 15:46 | #4 Reply | Quote

@Jill Rush
'However arguing how bad the ALP is on blog sites and other places will encourage the LNP and its supporters and undermine the ability to get a senate to scrutinise LNP policies. If that is what you want keep on with your negativity about the ALP and ignore the LNP shortcomings.'

No-one here is arguing how bad the ALP is. We are arguing how bad the present leader of the ALP is and pointing out that the same policy and campaign choices this leader advocates have led to electoral oblivion in three states.

I return to my previous question. How well did not arguing how bad the leader of the ALP is on blog sites and other places work in New South Wales, in Queensland, in Western Australia?
Politics is not football, except in the minds of politicians who, days before they challenge the leader, say their chance of challenging the leader is as good as their chance of appearing in the Collingwood line-up.


April 6th, 2013 at 14:55 | #18 Reply | Quote
@Jill Rush
The problem with your comments on this thread is that you simply disregard anything that is said by those of us who disagree with you and then use some magic mirror to discern our unconscious motivations. As with your arguments about the Gillard policy record, you simply refuse to support your magical discernments except by repeating them.

John quiggin post April 15 2011

My piece in yesterday’s Fin. The write-off and headline didn’t quite capture the distinction I wanted to make between Gillard (total embrace of neoliberalism) and Swan (Keynesian but not Keynesian enough).

'Set piece speeches and articles setting out a government’s thinking are something a rarity these days. But in recent weeks both Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have entered the fray. Their contributions provide a lot of insight into the thinking behind the forthcoming Budget, not to mention the contrast between the government’s current approach and that set out in Kevin Rudd’s much-cited Monthly article from 2008.

Gillard’s speech was more notable for its omissions than for its positive content. There was no mention of equality, poverty, unemployment, justice and injustice,, rights or freedom.

Gillard’s rhetoric was more reminiscent of John Howard than of Gough Whitlam, as in her declaration that “We have moved beyond the days of big government and big welfare”.


So, Gillard shares the goals of the political right, but is unwilling to to take any serious action to promote them. In particular, she has effectively abandoned the ‘Education Revolution’ which was the flagship of the Rudd governments attempts to promote opportunity, and has carried on the Howard government’s system of school funding.'


April 15th, 2011 at 16:59 | #1 Reply | Quote
Between the metooism of Beazley on boat people and the lurch to embrace the values of the right from Gillard, it is has become quite apparent that Rudd, flawed as he was, represented the high-water mark for social democratic values in the ALP. The fact that Swan is now on the left of Gillard ought to give pause to anyone who holds similar values.

April 15th, 2011 at 18:23 | #2 Reply | Quote

I think you are right djm. We voted for Rudd and we got Gillard and something big went missing in between.


April 15th, 2011 at 18:41 | #3 Reply | Quote
Im still cranky about workchoices and broken promises. Did big Red done and dust them? NO. She did not.


April 15th, 2011 at 19:48 | #4 Reply | Quote
Interestingly, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Freddy Hayek, and a great variety others who certainly were not in favour of equality or rights, or at least not in their ordinarily interpreted meanings, would also amost certainly subscribe to Gillard’s “to ensure the fair distribution of opportunity”. Although, again, each of their interpretations of “the fair distribution” being somewhat non-standard.
More and more, Gillard seems to be channelling not only John Howard, but that other notatable red-head. Maybe Gillard is already eyeing the post-PM life which may be best supplied by cosying up to the big-end of town.
With the increasing inability of the democratic process to provide any representation at both state and federal levels, maybe now is the time to start wondering when we will have our Arab Spring?

Turnbull for PM

May 19th, 2011John Quiggin
There are three people prominent in Australian politics whom I would happily support as Prime Minister[1]. Of these, the one who has the best chance is, I think, Malcolm Turnbull (it shouldn’t be hard for readers to guess the other two). He’s reminded us again what we lost when he was replaced by the lightweight opportunist who now leads the Opposition, against a mirror-image PM. If the Libs would put Turnbull up again, they would get my vote for the first time.

fn1. That reflects a fairly pessimistic view of what progress can be made. A competent government with a decent and consistent policy on climate change is as much as we can hope for at present.

Freelander May 19 2011

As for Gillard, clearly she is a mirror of Abbott. Neither seems to have a moral compass. Both like Howard just want to be PM. That said, Gillard has to be better than the drongo she replaced – Kevin, whatever his name was?

John Quiggin

May 20th, 2011 at 11:56 | #12 Reply | Quote
For the record, the other two are Kevin Rudd and Bob Brown

Carbon tax – instant reax

July 10th, 2011John Quiggin
The proposed carbon tax is a substantial improvement on the heavily compromised emissions trading scheme agreed between the Rudd government and the Opposition under Malcolm Turnbull. Although there is substantial compensation for emissions-intensive industry it is temporary and based on historic emissions level, so that the incentive to reduce emissions is not compromised. The design of the compensation package for households is also welcome.

The government has avoided the temptation to pretend that everyone will be better off, and has taken the reasonable position that high income households do not need to be compensated for the introduction of necessary reforms. This has permitted the very welcome measure of raising the income tax threshold and thereby taking more than a million low-income workers out of the income tax system.

While the primary focus of the package is, correctly, on the imposition of a price on carbon emissions, there are a range of supporting measures designed to encourage energy efficiency and innovation. On the whole, these seem more carefully designed than the measures introduced under previous governments.

Chris O'Neill

July 11th, 2011 at 17:17 | #38 Reply | Quote
"This has permitted the very welcome measure of raising the income tax threshold and thereby taking more than a million low-income workers out of the income tax system.

The government has done well. Perhaps it will raise Professor Q’s opinion of Julia Gillard relative to Kevin Rudd if the government gets it implemented. I just hope they don’t waste too much money on Tony Abbott-style “direct action” schemes.

I may be some little time …

August 26th, 2011John Quiggin185 comments
I’ve been planning for a while to write a post arguing that the one thing Julia Gillard can do to (at least, potentially) salvage her place in the history books is to secure passage of the carbon price package (and preferably the other outstanding items left over from the Rudd era, such as the mining tax legislation and health reform), then step aside, and let the Labor party choose a new leader. I was going to wait until the package was passed, but for various reasons, I’ve decided it’s time to speak up on this.

I’ve been very critical of Gillard, but I’m probably less hostile to her at this point than the majority of Australians. On the other hand, her success in holding a fragile government together, and in securing agreement on some complex pieces of policy, suggest she is much more appealing in person than her public persona would imply. My limited contacts with people who’ve worked directly with her support this view, as does the clear belief of her supporters that, if only we could see the “real Julia” we would all like her.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer a relevant possibility. After more than a year in office, there seems very little likelihood that the negative view of Gillard, based on her public record, is going to change, no matter how many rebranding exercises she undertakes. Her last chance, a big bounce when the release of the carbon price package showed the spurious nature of Abbott’s scare campaign hasn’t come off. Moreover, despite her contribution to getting the package together, she can never get past her promise that there would be no carbon price under her government. Only with a change of leader can Labor sell the carbon price.

As regards the choice of alternative, my natural inclination is for Rudd, but it seems clear that his colleagues won’t go that way, and he is doing a good job as Foreign Minister. Wayne Swan has been a good Treasurer, but he is too closely tied to the coup against Rudd and the dumping of the CPRS. Greg Combet would be my preferred choice, but Stephen Smith would also be good.

Given a change of leader, and if they aren’t forced to an election early, I think Labor still has a good chance. Abbott is incredibly unpopular, considering the circumstances, and the hostility towards Labor is very much focused on Gillard personally. If the government can survive long enough to see the carbon price in place, Abbott’s scare campaigns will collapse completely.

John Goss

August 27th, 2011 at 16:41 | #10 Reply | Quote
Your post is very depressing John. I read it after reading Peter Van Onselen’s article in the Australian today suggesting Gillard stand aside for Stephen Smith, and yesterday I read Graham Richardson’s article saying there was no hope for Gillard. (Much as I dislike Richardson’s power at all costs approach, he does have very good political attennae). So three very diverse people saying Gillard should stand down. (Richardson did not say that, but it was implied). Are they all wrong?
I’ve decided that I don’t care whether they (and you) are correct. I will not support any change to the leadership, because it would be the wrong thing to do. Damn the consequences of not changing the leader. Labor was wrong to do it to Kevin Rudd and consequences ensued because it was wrong, and it would be wrong to do it to Julia. If there is any justice in the world, then the people of Australia will eventually see that the Gillard government is better than the alternative. And if we do not get a just result at the next election because of the campaigns by News Ltd and superficial journalists of all camps, and because the Australian electorate is sexist, and because Abbott is very good at misleading the public, then that’s the way it is, and we just have to live with it.
We’ve got to draw the line somewhere, otherwise every decision we make about the policies we pursue or the leader we have, will be determined only by the political advantage we expect to accrue.
I understand there is a role for pragmatic calculation in politics. But in this instance I consider it best to take the idealistic stance.
And 2 years is a long time in politics.

After Gillard

September 3rd, 2011John Quiggin186 comments
I’m not always in tune with the political zeitgeist, but my decision to run a post advocating a dignified resignation for Julia Gillard was made just ahead of the rush. Of course, the option of voluntarily stepping aside has now been foreclosed. When Gillard goes (I don’t think there’s a remaining question of “if”) it will be as a result the usual messy and unpleasant process of assembling a sufficient number of votes (not necessarily a majority) to render her position untenable.

Both because I don’t want to see any last-minute stuffups, I hope the carbon tax and mining tax legislation is passed before she goes. Certainly, whether or not she supported these measures, she did the hard yards to get them through.

On the question of her replacement, I had previously dismissed Rudd, on the basis that his abrasive personality and micro-management tendencies (not apparent in his public persona, but well-attested) would make him unacceptable to his colleagues. However, the High Court decision on asylum seekers changes all that. Rudd has more credibility on this issue than anyone else in the party. Labor has no choice but to revert to a more humane position and stress the point that the Court decision undermines Abbott as well as Gillard. It now seems highly unlikely that a policy based on long-term detention of people who have already been assessed as refugees can stand up, wherever they are held.

Stephen Smith seems like the natural choice for deputy, and it would be sensible to find a ministerial spot for Gillard, all of which would permit a reshuffle.

No one can tell for sure, but I think the return of Rudd would put the spotlight on Abbott’s total fraudulence, maybe even paving the way for the Rudd vs Turnbull election we should have had last time.

The five stages of Gillard grief

September 28th, 2011John Quiggin
The stages of grief when a political leader is doomed differ a little in sequence from the classic Kubler-Ross order, since bargaining is a real process rather than an adjustment mechanism. Altering the order to Denial, Anger, Depression, Acceptance and Bargaining, I’d say the Labor Caucus is now in the Depression stage. Acceptance must happen before too long – the evidence that Labor will be crushed under Gillard is overwhelming and no-one really wants to try a third leader in less than two years.So, after Acceptance, it will be time for Bargaining. The key is for Rudd to accept enough collegial control to prevent a repetition of the failure last time.


September 28th, 2011 at 22:10 | #17 Reply | Quote
I think Gillard’s problem flows from more substantive issues than adverse media. Other Labor leaders have dealt with an adverse media successfully. Gillard seems incapable of communicating in anything but clich├ęs.
At least part of Gillard’s problem is that she has a passion for adopting rightwing positions. There is no issue where she has not adopted a more conservative position than Rudd, including global warming where she was one of the voices (according to Lindsay Tanner) opposing the Rudd ETS, asylum seekers where she appears to have no policy except the peripheral one of opposing people smuggling, the MRRT which she watered down significantly, and economic policy where the surplus is being given priority over everything else.

David Goode

September 30th, 2011 at 12:20 | #40 Reply | Quote
No point in feeling sorry for Gillard. She played the game and knifed a PM on behalf of the Right faction because they weren’t getting their policy bent voiced in Rudd. There was zero publicly acceptable reason for what she did and she is suffering for it. Rudd didn’t deserve to be knifed and was doing pretty OK as PM in comparison to any other first term PM, and would have certainly won the following election.
Gillard’s problem in addition the legitimacy issue has been her ham-fisted handling of some issues, and the dragging of the party to the right. It played right into the legitimacy issues and added one on competence. Like it or not Gillard came tot he job too soon and hadn’t yet developed leadership skill. She maybe thinks her job is to be leader of the caucus and factions and not the people of the country? She is a throw back to old style politician which the public tossed out in exchange for Rudd, a different looking and sounding type.
Rudd would most certainly save a lot of furniture a repair some of the policy damage done to Labor’s ideology by Gillard. But too soon in the job will see him up against Turnbull. However if they stick with Gillard too long she may do further damage to the primary vote, especially if another global financial crisis comes to our shores.
Feel no sorry for Gillard, she will get the same as she gave out, except in her case it will probably by this time justified.

Mr. Eyesore

September 5th, 2011 at 10:09 | #2 Reply | Quote
I was disappointed to see Prof. Q buying into the “Gillard’s gone” meme. I really thought he’d know better.
This was started (if memory serves) a few weeks ago by Christopher Pearson suggesting Simon Crean as Gillard’s replacement. Since then we’ve been through various other alternatives, and now we’ve come full circle (I hope):
As they used to say of Wagner’s operas, “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings”. Now she’s sung; please let this be over.

Fran Barlow

September 6th, 2011 at 14:00 | #36 Reply | Quote
Gillard unveils climate policy
Note date: July 23, 2010
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a re-elected Labor government would impose strict guidelines on new coal-fired power stations and invest $1 billion over 10 years towards converting Australia’s electricity grid to renewable energy sources, as it seeks a community consensus on climate change.

Outlining the Labor party’s climate policy, Ms Gillard also said the government would create an independent Climate Change Commission to explain the science of climate change, and a Citizens’ Assembly.

The assembly would examine the evidence of climate change and the consequences of introducing a market-based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions.

Ms Gillard reiterated the government’s commitment to a market-based mechanism, and said the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) would be used as the basis for community consultation. (Business Spectator)

There’s also this interview with Paul Kelly on 20/8/10:

JULIA Gillard says she is prepared to legislate a carbon price in the next term.

It will be part of a bold series of reforms that include school funding, education and health.

In an election-eve interview with The Australian, the Prime Minister revealed she would view victory tomorrow as a mandate for a carbon price, provided the community was ready for this step.

“I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism,” she said of the next parliament. “I rule out a carbon tax.” (The Australian, 20/8/10)

On October 19 2009, Abbot made clear that he knew the difference between a carbon tax and the CPRS that Rudd proposed, saying:

As currently proposed, Labor’s ETS will raise electricity bills by 12 per cent within two years and is the equivalent of a 2.5 per cent increase in the GST. As this newspaper reported on Saturday, eminent economists who accept the scientific majority on climate change, such as Kenneth Rogoff and Joseph Stiglitz, prefer a straightforward carbon tax to a trading scheme that’s a speculators’ picnic

She certainly failed her promise to introduce a citizen’s assembly and the timeline has been brought forward, but the substantive policy — a market based mechanism similar to the CPRS, has been delivered. This also had a (somewhat shorter) fixed price permit phase. Those paying attention ought to have known that if that, for them, amounted to “a carbon tax” then this was what she was proposing. There was no deceit here.

People voted to give the independents and Bandt, half of whom supported a price on CO2e, legislative influence. Bandt got LNP preferences in Melbourne. They also voted strongly for The Greens in the Senate. Overall, people giving 1st preferences to those supporting the Gillard government in the HoR exceeded those supporting Abbott by more than 500,000 votes. They won the 2PP (just). They commanded a majority. By any reasonable test there was a mandate for these policies.
In fact, it was Abbott who lied before the election saying that Gillard, supported by The Greens will introduce a Great Big New Tax on everything. He had reason to know that was not the case but thought this claim would damage the ALP. The conclusion is urged that those who believed him and objected surely voted for the LNP. Those who disbelieved him were entitled to do so and have not, by Abbott’s definition any business for grievance. Multiple lines of estoppel apply. No such tax has been introduced and no Abbott-defined carbon tax has ensued.
One might say that those who believed him and thought a great big new tax on everything was a good idea could be disappointed but that’s not Gillard’s fault. She never promised it.
Finally, it might be that there are some who somehow missed the LNP ads but one suspects these would also have missed those of the ALP and have not been across Gillard’s claims about the carbon tax and thus didn’t rely on it. Retrospectivity doesn’t apply to mandate giving.


September 6th, 2011 at 17:52 | #6 Reply | Quote
I think the editor at The Australian needs to get out a bit more. Here’s the selection of headline articles from the News website;
Curtain closing on Gillard experiment
Only a miracle can save her now
Let Rudd resume rightful role
ALP says Newspoll drubbing ‘no surprise’
Abbott’s record lead over Gillard
This strikes me as going beyond balanced reporting to the point of unhealthy obsession. If I recall The Australian didn’t seem to run a story on the fact most of eastern Australia had the warmest month of August in 157 years of record keeping. That’s the kind of thing you’d think the national newspaper would report on.

TerjeP September 6 2011

Gillard lied. The general public know she lied. They are pretty pissed off about it. Blaming the Murdoch press or Tony Abbott for making people cranky is blind stupidity. Gillard herself is to blame for the crappy position she is now in. She made a promise to win office and having won office she shouldn’t be reneging on that promise. Especially given the marginal nature of her government. Her and those that advise her have been shown to be inept. As has the ALP in general. They ought to review their entire recruitment strategy.

A long time coming …

October 13th, 2011John Quiggin62 comments
… but the legislation for a carbon tax/fixed price emissions scheme has finally passed the House of Representatives, and is assured of passage through the Senate. Assuming the government can survive that long, it will come into force at the beginning of 2012-13.

Before any analysis, some (qualified) congratulations are in order. The Greens (with my support at the time, for what that was worth) took a big gamble in rejecting the badly-compromised Rudd-Turnbull deal, and have contributed to the passage of a much better bill now. Still, it turned out to be a long-shot. If the Gillard government had either won an absolute majority or lost to Tony Abbott, there would be no carbom tax. Kevin Rudd laid a lot of the groundwork, but failed to call a double dissolution, which he would surely have won, when the first version of the emissions trading scheme was blocked. Malcolm Turnbull has been a voice of sanity throughout, but still voted the party line. Last but not least, Julia Gillard, having almost succeeded in killing the whole idea in 2010 demonstrated her skills in getting an exceptionally contentious piece of legislation through, despite disastrous polls and the most fragile conceivable majority.

Now, a bit of a look towards the future

Read more…


October 13th, 2011 at 09:50 | #13 Reply | Quote
If Julia Gillard does anything worthwhile it is because it is expedient for her at the time. Gillard has no public interest values and believes in nothing (carbon tax included) other than her own advancement. She is an opportunist through and through. She will change her tune, turn her coat and lie through her teeth constantly. In all that, she is no different from 95% of all Labor and Liberal politicians. Tony Abbott btw, is worse.
We ought not to forget that Gillard conspired with union bosses who betrayed the workers and the mining bosses to replace Rudd and axe a tax at the behest of the capitalist mining bosses. Gillard and the professional union bosses are the enemies of working people. The entire Labor party has also (long since) shown it is not the party of the workers in any shape or form. If the Australian people develop any sense, they will destroy Labor and Liberal at the ballot box. Both govern only for the corporate capitalist boses. The continued shift of income from workers to capital is unsustainable and will cause serious problems in our society if not reversed. The continued poor response to environmental and sustainability issues also needs to be addressed uregently. Otherwise we are heading for total disaster.

Please don’t blow this chance

November 24th, 2011John Quiggin105 comments
The desertion of Liberal (or LNP?) member Peter Slipper to take up the Speakership offers the Labor government a great opportunity, but also the temptation to mess things up disastrously. The opportunity is to see out a full Parliamentary term, long enough to put the carbon tax and MRRT in place in a way that the Opposition will either have to accept them, or announce a credible plan to replace them – something that is clearly beyond the capacity of its current leader.

The temptation is that the corrupt hacks who infest the ALP machine will use the extra vote to renege on the promise to Andrew Wilkie to tackle the scourge of poker machine gambling through precommitment. A large section of the ALP has been tied to the hotel and club industry since time immemorial and have obstructed any reform that would challenge the interests of this industry.

Even disregarding the issue of principle, it would be really stupid to break the deal with Wilkie. The government’s only chance is to survive past the point when the scare campaign about the carbon tax and MRRT will be shown up for what it is. If Wilkie abandons them and one ALP member has to leave Parliament for some reason, the government will fall. In that case, electoral support or opposition from the poker machine lobby will make no difference.

Let’s get this show back on the road

January 30th, 2012John Quiggin120 comments
Looking at the latest TV news I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m sick of the confected outrage surrounding the Australia Day incident. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to make the Labor Party realise they have to go back to Kevin Rudd, and sooner rather than later, then I suppose I can live with it.

alfred venison

January 31st, 2012 at 11:10 | #26 Reply | Quote
dear labor party hq
labor under gillard is in trouble because gillard is not really a socialist. i’ll be out with it. she is an amoral careerist who’s career has peaked. it peaked when rudd stood firm on the resource super profit tax while enduring the relentless pressure of murdoch (and his sex-less lapdog the abc) and kloppers & hooke & the other corporate oligarch/bludger.
gillard’s career peaked when she didn’t resist this pressure, like rudd did, but instead, like rudd did not, acquiesced to & colluded with certain labor right figures & allowed herself to be placed at the head the treacherous cabal to topple rudd, jettison rudd’s resource tax & replace him with herself (is it any wonder?). the rest is history: one damn thing after another and now we’re here.
talk of low polling at the time is incomplete imo. as i recall those times rudd was beginning to turn it around (public opinion) on this issue when he was toppled by his deputy & that cabal of foreign-interest serving toadies (australian-american friendship society, in-bloody-deed).
you want her to “stand by her man”? they mock with veiled reference to tammy wynette. well, actually, yes indeed, when “her man” is under enormous pressure from foreign based interests to jettison the resources tax that will benefit the country into the future, that’s precisely what i expect. it was a coup d’etat by proxy & gillard’s amoral careerist acquiescence in it advantaged the forces of international corporatism at the expense of the country. its a zero sum game & australia lost because of her decision. she has to go.
gillard has, and communicates, no vision, because she has none and she has none because she’s not really at heart a socialist. she is a conservative without a cause save advancing her career, and it shows. tanner bloody knew. rudd at least as a christian socialist is a socialist. amoral careerists are empty ciphers available for filling in by the next power broker working on behalf who pays the piper picks the tune.
i like rudd a lot & i for one want him back. and before the queensland election, too. the handling of the gfc was brilliant & the resource super profit tax idea was brilliant and if she’d stood with him, a united front, instead of participating in the shameful coup d’etat by proxy, i’m convinced it would have carried. she didn’t stand by him on that one and i think i know why i sure as hell judge her by it.
put that in your pipe and smoke it labor party strategists if you’re reading this.
yours sincerely
alfred venison


February 3rd, 2012 at 16:29 | #7 Reply | Quote
On all those issues except marriage equality Rudd ranges from somewhat to a long way to Gillard’s left. I’d prefer a candidate like Whitlam or Dunstan but the caucus does not have a lot of people like that anymore. While Rudd may be personally autocratic (although all prime ministers are, at least to some extent) but he does not have Gillard’s authoritarian streak. And he would have a chance of winning the election.

alfred venison

February 3rd, 2012 at 18:03 | #8 Reply | Quote
dear Alan
for what its worth, i agree with you completely. i’ve said my two-bits about gillard earlier so i’ll just note here that imo people who reckon she’s a raving socialist are either (1) lying, or (2) don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.
yours sincerely
alfred venison


January 31st, 2012 at 11:41 | #30 Reply | Quote
I’d argue that returning Rudd to the leadership would be seen as a principled act, precisely because it would be an admission by the factions that they blew it when they installed Gillard. Electing someone else to the leadership would not have this advantage.
Australia is definitely not in a state of crisis. It is a measure of this prime minister’s political incompetence that it is widely believed that we are. It is also a measure of her unwillingness to talk about economic management (apart from her obsession with the surplus) because that would mean pointing at Rudd’s actions during the GFC, actions which she initially opposed.


January 31st, 2012 at 12:30 | #34 Reply | Quote
Labor leaders can expect a rough ride from the media. That’s not fair but it is a fact of life and good leaders find ways to deal with it. This leader has not. She ran the worst election campaign in living memory and has not improved since.
Gillard’s focus seems to be neoliberal ‘efficiency’ with very little regard for fairness. her statements on education, for instance, imply that the education system is the only vehicle available for achieving a fair society.
Rudd is much less populist on refugees. His record in government shows that he does not regard the Washington consensus on economics as holy writ. He was considerably more adept at foreign relations and would not have committed howlers like the Malaysia non-solution. I doubt he would have just opened uranium exports to India, for example, without seeking any concessions at all.
The legislative record of the Rudd government was not inconsiderable, specially when you recall he faced a hostile senate, which Gilalrd does not.

alfred venison

January 31st, 2012 at 13:49 | #36 Reply | Quote
dear labor party hq readers
like Alan said in reply to Megan, and … rudd would not have squandered decades of patient diplomatic work, by successive administrations, and abandon the “abstain” vote on palestine/unesco. where does australia go now with that one? further up amerika’s ass? a little less latitude to move in response to emerging situations – that’s her legacy on that one, the loss of a modicum of independence.
nor would the diplomat in rudd have countenanced cutting of wilkie, who is now, as it were, a “free radical”, definitely not bonded to or beholden to labor and bearing a bent shulder-load of resentement.. remember rudd assiduously cultivating relations with independents when it wasn’t needed for numbers? wasted now, flushed down the toilet by a shallow opportunist. will any of them now trust labor while she’s in charge? i sure as hell wouldn’t
rudd was at least heartening on refugees & had the churchies working with him. gillard is not heartening, and she bumbles it. and that after the earlier neo-colonialist insult that was the east timor solution.
and as for gillard’s statements on education, just one thing: the morphing, under her leadership, of the department of education science & training into part of education, employment & workplace relations says a lot to me. rudd has a greater regard for, and understanding of, the role universities play as centres of excellence, in teaching as well research in depth, and the necessary support required to keep that in sight, as might be expected from someone who did a higher degree program in a foreign language & international relations.
yours sincerely
alfred venison


January 31st, 2012 at 14:00 | #37 Reply | Quote
Apart from anything else, Gillard has had the added burden of a millstone around her neck in the form of Rudd himself and his Machiavellian backers, something Rudd didn’t face (until he was suddenly turfed).

Umm no. We know from Wikileaks that Gillard was canvassing the numbers a year before she finally succeeded. The reality is that Rudd had to govern with a deputy whose principal goal was replacing him and whose conservative instincts led directly to the abandonment of the carbon bills.

Paul Norton

January 31st, 2012 at 14:33 | #38 Reply | Quote
Meanwhile, Simon Crean has raised the temperature somewhat:

steve from brisbane

January 31st, 2012 at 14:35 | #39 Reply | Quote
Alan: Googling up that story again, it seems the US embassy reported one claim that Gillard was “campaigning” for the job – even if true (and this is, after all, a matter of chinese whispers again) turning that into “was canvassing the numbers” may not be the most accurate way of putting it.
In fact, the complete surprise to the media that met the actual removal of Rudd suggests that if Gillard was doing any self interested “campaigning” for 12 months before the event, she was pretty brilliant at keeping it secret.
Contrast the deliberate de-stabilisation by Rudd forces since the election, which Rudd obviously refuses to call off.

steve from brisbane

January 31st, 2012 at 15:49 | #42 Reply | Quote
@ alan
Umm, no, you need to re-read the cable, and not just run on memory. Farrell’s comment in para 11 is ambiguous (certainly, your describing it as “canvassing the numbers” is simply not justified) and Arbib’s comment is in the same paragraph means even less:
If you go back to para 2 of the same cable, you’ll also note this:
“Labor insiders speak admiringly of her ability to understand issues quickly and of her negotiating toughness. Unlike Rudd, however, whose brittle temperament and micromanagement have come under fire, Gillard is seen by most we’ve spoken with as a good manager. She oversees one of the better-managed offices in the Government and her staff seem very loyal.”


January 31st, 2012 at 19:23 | #50 Reply | Quote
It is climate change, environmental preservation, sustainability and ditching neoliberal economics that makes me support Rudd. The Gillard leadership has given us two parties with almost identical agendas. We need one major party with a different agenda and that will not happen while Gillard and those she leads in the ALP remain in charge. Gillard acted on climate change only because it was the price of Green/independent support.


February 3rd, 2012 at 09:59 | #49 Reply | Quote
Regardless of the outcome of the current Labor leadreship tensions,I really do not buy this “Rudd was a control freak disliked by caucus meme”. It is irrelevant. Yes Rudd was a control freak. This was well known even back in his time as head of the Qld Office of Cabinet under the Goss government. If caucus couldn’t accept that they never should have made him leader in the first place. Ironically, Rudd’s worst mistake as PM – dumping the CPRS and not going to a double dissolution – was precisely after he listed to Swan and Gillard.
By comparison John Howard was also (accurately) reported to be a control freak, but his party smiled and accepted it as long as he kept winning elections.
So really, this is all about polls and perception. On that basis, there is only one choice for Labor to make. Gillard won’t win the next election. Rudd may not either, but Labor will take less damage under him than any obvious alternative. Rudd was a far better campaigner in 2007 than Gillard was in 2010.
Looking deeper, I think a return to Rudd would also reduce the power of the dominant neo-fascist faction in the Labor Party. Clearly, Gillard is completely dependent on them, even though they appear to have no insight into how repgnantly they are regarded by the electorate. Continuaton of this dominant influence of the neo-fascists will doom Labor, no matter who is in charge.

Problems with probabilities

Who wants Abbott PM?

February 18th, 2013John Quiggin152 comments
We’ve had quite a few debates here about the Labor leadership. While there are plenty of issues, there is one that, at this point in the cycle, trumps all the others. Of the two serious contenders, who is more likely to save Australia from the disaster of an Abbott-led coalition government? The answer to this question is so clear-cut that I find it impossible to believe anyone would dispute it: Julia Gillard has almost no chance of victory at this point, while Kevin Rudd has a chance. There’s certainly room for debate about how good Rudd’s chances are, but none, I think, as regards Gillard’s. And, whatever the stylistic differences, in substantive terms Gillard’s agenda is the one she inherited from Rudd.

The question now is whether we will have another three years to implement that agenda, or whether we have a Newman-style slash and burn assault on the public sector, the environment, science, women’s rights and, of course, the working class. The only thing likely to stop that is an immediate change of leadership.

Chris Warren

February 18th, 2013 at 16:18 | #19 Reply | Quote
All this is just mischief. The claim Julia Gillard has almost no chance of victory at this point, while Kevin Rudd has a chance. has been deliberately constructed by Ruddites feeding to the media.
Rudd could easily call all his ‘supporters’ together and read them the riot act. They can then go off and feed to the media a new message: all united under Gillard. Then Kevin Rudd will have no chance of victory while Julia Gillard will have a much enhanced chance.

alfred venison

February 18th, 2013 at 19:40 | #35 Reply | Quote
as for him being a slave driver: he says he’s learned from that. apparently he has supporters as well as detractors.
icac is a problem for the alp factions especially the nsw right faction. rudd is non-aligned & has leftover business from his partial first (only) term as p.m. re. the alp factions. supposedly with the support of his (ostensibly left faction) deputy. we saw where that took him. he needs to be drafted; there needs to be a build up of momentum; they have to appeal to him. it needs to be about stopping abbott. its not time now; things must get worse for gillard first; then the momentum will build until someone calls for him to “step up to the plate” or cop abbott. the deal must come with demonstrable cross-factional support for reform of the faction system. he provides the credible reform counter-narrative he needs to break with the prevailing narrative of alp corruption a la icac.
rudd’s opponents brought on the last spill while he was overseas on official business serving his country. nevertheless he made a fist of it & a number of labor members were prepared to stick their necks out & be known to have voted for him. before that, of course, gillard deposed him in the middle of the mining crisis in ’10, attributing a necessity for this action to rudd’s good gov’t having lost its way. now the reality of her mining tax sellout – yes, she sold out her country for power – is clear to see for anyone. how base. my feeling is that the mining tax fiasco will haemorrhage gillard’s credibility until rudd is drafted. and a good thing that’ll be, too. closure. -a.v.

Fran Barlow

February 18th, 2013 at 22:11 | #44 Reply | Quote
Speaking as someone unsympathetic to much of what I associate with both Rudd and Gillard …
The best chance the ALP has of staving off a defeat and/or “saving the furniture” entails leaving Gillard in charge. A change on the eve of the election for the second time running would appear, and be, ludicrous. It would show that the ALP had lost all self-respect and was now merely a creature of the MBCM. It would hand Abbott yet another victory.
If the ALP is defeated, then a new leader, untainted by defeat, can be chosen and that is still the lesser harm.
Abbott surely cannot hide forever. When he emerges — or better yet — the ALP force him out, his fragile claims to credibility will come apart.


February 19th, 2013 at 16:09 | #16 Reply | Quote
“So, is anyone actually willing to assert that they believe Gillard can win?”
Of course Gillard can win. The public may not like her, but since when is that important? They are used to her. She’s no less popular than Howard, who was consistently this far behind at this stage.
5 people in 100 – or 3 people in 54, rather – who’ll need to be convinced to vote differently. Less than 1 in 18 of the population who currently say they’ll vote Liberal.
Read the last Essential poll. The Liberals win out marginally on almost every issue except IR reform. But Labor is still judged to better govern in the interests of all groups of people, including the elderly and the employed. They are not the results of a public which has made up its mind. They are the results of a public which sense Labor are probably a better bunch, but for some reason keep refusing to do what the public wants. I reckon I could count six issues with >70% support they’ve chosen to fob off. That is why they are in the position they’re in.
The party who brings the best (yes, yes, most popular) policies in the next 6 months wins it. Gillard appears hamstrung by her factional deals. Would Rudd this time around be any different?
The public might feel a bit of residual guilt over Rudd. He was fun to kick around and make fun of, but…oh crap, we didn’t expect that to happen! That doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for a party who tries that on again.


February 21st, 2013 at 18:49 | #29 Reply | Quote
The sad truth is that to most voters it will come down to who and which Party looks worst on the day in the media – fact or fiction, hype & hysteria, beat-up & bullsh*t – won’t matter…and very, very sadly it looks like policies will lose out to personalities.

There is a world market for maybe five computers …*

April 13th, 2013John Quiggin201 comments
As has been true since 2010, our aspiring leaders seem to be determined to outdo each other in silliness this week. Since Julia Gillard will (with 90 per cent probability) be nothing more than a bad memory in a year’s time, while Tony Abbott will be an unavoidable reality, I’m going to ignore Gillard’s “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” aprroach to funding Gonski and talk about the National Broadband Network.

The Abbott-Turnbull proposal for a cutprice NBN has been an amazing success in clarifying issues that previously seemed too complex to be resolved. Until now, it’s been far from obvious how to assess the NBN – the complaint that we didn’t have a benefit cost analysis was obviously silly in the absence of any easy way of quantifying the benefits. But now that we’ve seen the alternative – a 25MBps network, dependent on Telstra’s failing copper network and non-existent goodwill, it’s obvious that the NBN is the only option that gives us any hope of keeping up with the steady growth in demand for information. The claim that individual subscribers can choose to upgrade to fibre-to-the-premises appears to have collapsed in the face of expert scrutiny. Instead, it seems, we’ll end up with lots of street-corner boxes, which will have to be ripped out and replaced wholesale when their inadequacy becomes apparent.

Given that he is going to win the coming election anyway, Abbott could greatly improve his chances of re-election in 2016 by admitting his mistake and going with the existing NBN plan, maybe with some cosmetic tweaks. As a bonus, from Abbott’s POV, Turnbull would have to eat a lot of humble pie.

The same is true for the other slogans on which he’s relied so far, like “Stop the Boats’ and “Axe the Tax”. Thanks to Labor’s implosion, he can afford to dump them now, and replace them with something more realistic – there’s no shame in changing policies before an election.

I don’t expect Abbott to take this unsolicited advice, but he could look at the cautionary lesson provided by Bligh, Gillard and NSW Labor among others, and consider carefully whether it’s better to take a few lumps now, or gain office on the basis of commitments that will prove a millstone, whether they are abandoned or adhered to.

[Comments are closed]

* I know, this quote attributed to Thomas J Watson is apocryphal, as is a similar one attributed to Bill Gates, but lots of similar statements have been made in reality, and they’ve all proved to be silly. For example, I can remember people saying in the early 80s that 8-bit address space of 64k (a double octet) were all we would ever need. Many more people said, well into the 1990s, that graphical interfaces were an unnecessary luxury and that personal computers would always start with a C:\> prompt.


April 13th, 2013 at 23:32 | #4 Reply | Quote
I’m amazed by how many times Gillard can score an own goal, even without any pressure from the opposition. I’d like to know from anyone with a good handle on opinion polls whether there is any evidence pointing to strong support for coalition policies or whether the main focus is on a rejection of Gillard’s leadership. Is it still too late to hope for a leadership change? It’s about time someone called BS on all these bogus cost/benefit analyses, where only fools believe there is sufficient insight into the future to be accurate calculations.

Sheila Newman

April 14th, 2013 at 01:51 | #5 Reply | Quote
I think this anti-Gillard thing is a Murdoch/Fairfax beat up that has convinced a few bloggers that the public don’t like Gillard. I loathed Big Kev.
I note that Simon Crean is now being used as a spearhead by Murdoch. It is all very undignified. I find Crean’s and Kev Rudd’s actions and attitudes creepy. Why anyone would want any of the opposition or the creepy coup faction is beyond me.
What scares me even more than the creepy people is the idea that Gillard may ultimately fall in line with Murdoch under this continuous pressure of nonsense leadership challenges he has created out of straw men.


April 14th, 2013 at 04:31 | #6 Reply | Quote
Hoping for any good from an Abbott government is to go light years beyond astoundingly optimistic. The election of an Abbott government will pretty much seal our fate. There will be no way back from the mess he creates. Australia’s chances will be finished. Mind you, Gillard is so stupid, perverse and right wing she could probably wreck us nearly as thoroughly as Abbott.

John Quiggin

April 14th, 2013 at 10:30 | #10 Reply | Quote
@Sheila Newman
Rather than saying that the anti-Gillard thing is a media beatup, how about a substantive defence of her policies? Do you think cutting uni and TAFE funding (but not payments to wealthy private schools) to pay for school funding is a good idea? If so, make the case.
Similarly with 457-baiting, cuts for single parents, equal marriage, Afghanistan war, US deputy sheriff, citizens assembly, cash for clunkers etc etc – Murdoch and Fairfax didn’t make these up.


April 14th, 2013 at 16:45 | #18 Reply | Quote
@Sheila Newman
What I find creepy is the Gillard defence that assumes people do not know enough to make their own decisions. It varies from Jill Rush’s recent claim that criticism of Gillard is sexism to your own that criticism of Gillard is an artefact of a hostile media.
The weakness in both your arguments is that you do not engage with anyone questioning Gillard’s extraordinary conservatism, her extraordinary opportunism, or her mediocre political skills. I submit the media bias and sexism arguments are being pushed by the ALP, the PMO in particular, because they are actually the only arguments they have. These two arguments also have the additional advantage of being inarguable.


April 14th, 2013 at 19:15 | #21 Reply | Quote
I’ve tried twice to send a long and impassioned plea to stop writing off the Gillard government, and both times I’ve managed to lose it, so here’s hoping it works this time. The gist of it is:
Yes, the government and Julia Gillard have done things that are politically stupid and ethically wrong.
Nevertheless there is a problem with way they are being treated, not just by the right, but by people, like so many on this website, who are ostensibly left.
They are being written off as hopeless even when, as in this post, their policies are seen as better than those of the opposition.
Implicit in this treatment is an assumption that it’s their (her) own fault, that they (she) are to blame and deserve to be beaten.
This is related to sexism.
Why? Because sexism in contemporary society is not usually manifested through direct discrimination, but through bias. Women are judged more harshly than men. That is exactly what is happening on this blog. People are so busy bagging the government and Julia Gillard that they don’t even look at the bigger picture, which is about the alternative – Abbott. Even when you are saying the government is doing something right, like the NBN, you can’t resist ‘yeah but look at all the stupid things they (she) have done’. I read a classic the other day (not on this blog but in the Age) where the writer said that Gillard had an unqualified success in China, but it was ‘too little, too late’ (ie we can forget about it and go back to bagging her).
I worked with Gillard for almost two years, in the very difficult circumstances of opposition under the Kennett government in Victoria (when she was John Brumby’s chief of staff) and I can tell you, even though I am no longer involved with the Labor party, she is both extreme competent and genuinely kind. I am not surprised that her colleagues support her, or that she was able to form government through negotiation.
As I said, I don’t agree with a lot that the government has done: for example I am appalled by their – and Julia Gillard’s specifically – position on asylum seekers, sole parents and the dole. I understand why they are doing these things but I also think they are both wrong and incompetent in the way they are handling these issues. I believe it would be ethically and politically better to take social justice positions and lead on these issues. Nevertheless I still recognize that Abbott is worse.
I can also recognize that on some issues, particularly climate change, the government and Julia Gillard have acted in a historically significant way. For the first time, we are seeing positive action. Emissions from the electricity sector have actually declined and carbon price appears to have contributed to this. There are other factors involved, there’s a lot more needs to be done, and it was the Greens who pushed them into it in this term: nevertheless, Julia Gillard said she wanted to put a price on carbon and a government led by Julia Gillard did it. Now we are in danger of losing all this and going backwards on this and other issues, like Gonski and the NDIS. How many of you have read the IPA manifesto? Because Tony Abbott won’t do all of that, but that is the directions we will go in if he gets in. Yet so many on this blog are still too busy bagging Gillard to think seriously about this. I honestly believe that if Tony Abbott gets in, the responsibility will lie as much with people on the left who could not stop bagging Gillard, as with the Murdoch press.
For what it is worth, here’s my attempt to explain why some people cant stop bagging Gillard. For Kevin Rudd, and unconsciously for many men (and some women) who identified or sympathised with hi, to be forced to step down in his first term, for a woman who was supposed to be his loyal second in command, was the ultimate humiliation. He could not let go, and he could not hand over graciously (cf Baillieu in Victoria). In these circumstances, many people including many men (and as I say, some women) on the left, simply could not accept her as a legitimate leader. For some, including some commentators on this site, it goes further than that: they can only see her as devious and sneaky. This is a classic response of a dominant group when challenged by those they see as subordinate: they can’t accept that those people have a right to challenge, and they have to see them as devious and sneaky. (Judith Brett wrote very well about this in class terms in Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People).
I believe that if Abbott gets in, some people on the left are going to look back and be horrified at their part in contributing to this. And I also believe that the reason they can’t stop bagging the Gillard government, even when discussing issues like the NBN, where the government hasn’t done anything wrong, where it’s irrational and likely to lead to outcomes they don’t actually want, is emotional and is related to sexism. I’m sure many wont like this and there will be a tendency to reject it out of hand, but I do implore you to think about it. I’m not saying that you are misogynists or you hate women – I’m just saying maybe you are biased, maybe you judge women in positions of authority more harshly than you do men, and maybe in some cases you, like Kevin Rudd, are clinging to emotional feelings about being betrayed by the kind of person who is supposed to be supportive (and supposed to put men first).


April 14th, 2013 at 21:07 | #22 Reply | Quote
Val did you actually read the post? There is no ‘bagging’ of the government over the NBN – quite the reverse.
This meme that any criticism of the government is crude sexism started the day after Rudd was replaced as leader. It relies on a completely untestable (and patronising) belief about the motivation of the government’s critics, ignores the fact that many of us were equally critical of Kevin Rudd (and indeed of Kim Beazley, Mark Latham, and a bunch of other Labor heavyweights) and strikes me frankly as a flight of fantasy by people who don’t want to confront the reality of the ALP’s self-destruction.

David Rohde

April 14th, 2013 at 21:44 | #23 Reply | Quote
I see where you are coming from here Val, but I think you are mistaken. The disappointment in Gillard is not related to gender for many of her critics. I should add for me this _is_ real disappointment, I was confused, but hopeful for her when she became prime minister and genuinely pleased to see a first female pm.
From a policy point of view, I agree 100% with you (I think). I also agree with you that the carbon tax is historically significant. The problem I have with your line of argument is that it was Gillard’s shifting position on the CPRS as deputy and then prime minister that damaged first Rudd’s reputation and then her own and now she is unwilling to make the elementary economic argument against the coallition’s direction action policy. The actions of Gillard, Shorten and Feeney have fatally wounded Labor and for what purpose? While she has achieved much; most of it is the Rudd legacy she inherited. When she differentiated herself from Rudd she has almost consistently made blunders based upon the assumption that the best way to broaden Labors base was to appeal to xenephobia in the suburbs. Rudd didn’t need to do this to be popular. Everyone says Gillard is tough, I don’t disagree, but on arguing for a carbon price she has a long record of absolutely lacking either courage or conviction.
I am currently very confused, I really want the carbon tax to remain. I also want the factions punished for what they have done, I see labor party reform as extremely important and yet incompatible with a miraculous labor win. There is no contradiction in not wanting an Abbott government and feeling anger at the labor party’s factional system. It is grossly unfair to dismiss opinions of this sort as sexism, in fact the sexist argument has become extremely convenient to labor’s powerbrokers.

Ian Milliss

April 14th, 2013 at 23:03 | #24 Reply | Quote

I’m 100% with Val on this. I think even the left has internalised the relentless media campaign against Gillard and now blames the ALP for the constant misrepresentation and lies the media subjects them to. Do they have some appalling policies? Yes they do and so has every other Labor Government I have known, the Hawke government in particular was far worse – just think what Hawke did to universities. Nonetheless Hawke was generally supported in ways Gillard has not been probably because the sad old men of today could identify with his boozy groper style. They are stricken now not just by the fact that Gillard is a woman but also by the fact that she doesn’t bluster, she demands negotiation and compromise, the very thing they hate about their wives. I suspect they find the success of her extreme pragmatism far more discomforting than the prospect of Abbott’s clown car of a front bench ending up in power.  
 7 October 2013
There is a separate post in the main blog about the arguments on Larvatus Prodeo here

 12 September 2017 
This is so awful and tedious I can hardly be bothered writing about it, but I have just had an online fight with a philosopher. He has decided to ban me from commenting on his posts. I haven't been banned altogether at the site where he posts but I've decided to stop commenting there anyway, because they should have better policies. And also because I feel very hurt by this.

We had a long fight online which ended up with another commenter there impugning my integrity as a researcher. So I emailed the philosopher and asked him if he'd take that comment down, and he said he wouldn't, but I would be banned from commenting on his posts in future. We had some back and forth emailing and he gave me his version of the problems between us. He has asked me not to publish his emails and so at present I won't do that, though in the long term I might have to.

Possibly the most telling thing in his emails is where he talks about why I might be upset with him. He suggests that I might think I was making some arguments and be upset he didn't engage with them. (He actually said it much more rudely and sarcastically than that, but that's the gist).

That is correct. I did think I was making some arguments, and I was upset he didn't engage with them. But whereas his assumption is clearly that I wasn't making any arguments that any reasonable person would bother to engage with, mine is that he just didn't want to engage with them.

He also suggests that I might think he was gas-lighting me, whereas according to him he was just engaging in Socratic dialogue with me. This is a bit disturbing because I actually did think at one point that he was gas-lighting me, but I dismissed it as too far-fetched. But in fact I reacted very much like a person who was being gas-lighted. I became more and more upset, and more and more fixated on proving that I was making arguments that should be taken seriously. It's a bit disturbing in a way that he can see the possibility that he's gas-lighting me, but just discounts it.

I wish I hadn't engaged with the discussion. (Removed earlier bit here) So depressing. Whether it is sexism I don't know, he might have done the same to anyone he perceived as criticising him, but it sounds so much like the descriptions I've read from women in philosophy, some of them on that same blog, ironically.

Also I had the experience of saying something and having it dismissed by various people including the philosopher, and then having a man say something similar and it being treated with respect. That happened twice. I don't think any of the women on that blog will do anything because they think the problem is me. They also may think he has some problems but that won't make any difference.

I thought I was engaging in genuine conversation but I wasn't. There were some people talking genuinely there, but most of the people I was talking to were men who wanted to defeat me or prove me wrong, as far as I can see. They kept asking me to explain what I meant and answer their questions, but they didn't really want to know what I was saying. I'm not saying it was their sole motive to humiliate or bully me, but they wanted to show that I was wrong. And I like a fool, kept trying to answer their questions, kept believing they were genuine. Well not all of them, not all the time, but enough to keep trying.

Some people said I was aggressive and rude, and I think I was sometimes. Sometimes it was just being blunt, but sometimes I was annoyed. Most of the time though I just kept trying to be polite and answer the questions. I have to let go of this somehow. It has been terribly distressing but I have to get over it. I will move this to the end tomorrow and then browse through all this and see if I can come up with a summary of all these reflections.  I think I will have to quote some of his email though. That line about me thinking that I was making arguments and wanting to share my wisdom - when all the time in his eyes I was just some misguided person he was making fun of. Regardless of whether it's directed at me specifically as a woman, it is clearly the kind of thing that happens to those perceived as weak or inferior, and it was being directed at me by him and a group of supporters who appear to have been predominantly male (though there was one woman). Obviously humiliating those who are seen to criticise you doesn't just apply to women (or people of colour), it's about establishing hierarchies, so other men have to be put in their place too if they get out of line. But that particular style of put down, to say that someone thought they were making arguments or was trying (illegitimately) to share their wisdom, does seem like the way you would talk to an inferior, rather than a rival.

I should say say that he apparently thought I had seriously insulted him - or tried to seriously insult him - in one of my early remarks. I have to say 'apparently' because I find it a bit hard to believe. I said that the discourse he was talking in seemed close to one where power wasn't considered (I was specifically referring to remarks about citizens and the state, not the whole post), which seems to me more an invitation for clarification or rebuttal than an insult, so I do find it hard o believe. Anyway it seems he is saying that it was an insult, but he didn't take it as an insult, or something. It's confusing.

People said and say generally that I take things as sexist or accuse people of sexism when it's not there, in these discussions. But his email to me makes it clear that he sees me as an inferior rather than an equal. I find it hard to believe he would treat another man that way.

Comments from a discussion on gender divides in philosophy and other disciplines in 2011

Sally: "I left Philosophy as a major during my Freshman year because it was a bunch of guys arguing with each other. Any statements I made in class were entirely ignored. Women leave fields that don’t want them around."

Caroline: "What Sally (#11) said. I am a female recipient of a PhD in molecular biology (2010), and the ease (or lack of it) with which women can participate in discussion varies between disciplines, and seems quite relevant to women’s individual pursuit of the doctorate in a given field."

(And in a later comment) "Women are regarded as being in some way trivial compared to men by society at large"

Ingrid Robeyns: "my mathematics professor in my first term at university made a remark to the effect that ‘the boys could after class explain to their girlfriends in case they didn’t understand’. I wish I had kept a notebook, but I do remember that as an undergraduate student (1990-1994) we heard the occasional sexist remark, mostly wrapped as a joke. Actually, I think I became a feminist at university, which is telling about my experiences as a student"

Alison P "When I studied philosophy I found there was a lot of talk about violence against women. I mean that rape, torture and so on were used very much as examples and metaphors, and in ‘thought experiments’. My feeling was that this was a way for the profs to prove they were above emotion, both at an overt level – ‘look I am able to talk about horrid things in a dispassionate way’ – and at a lower level, that they were symbolically trashing the female/emotional aspect of themselves. 

I think sometimes overt hostility to women is a kind of self-trashing by men. Trashing the weak part of themselves. And the rigidity and fear of softness which leads to self-trashing is stronger in some disciplines and some arenas, and the need to prove you are not weak. But of course as they act out these internal dramas, the girls around them are discouraged and dismissed. So it’s not just some tragic little psycho-drama they are publicising." 

CC Fuss
"Oh, Alison, you experienced the rape-as-illustration-of-‘interesting’-theoretical-point thing too? I once tried to ask, as the only female participant in a discussion group, if they would not please cut it out and find another damn example. Ten male faces turned to me with exasperation, before resuming their conversation. 

There is a hell of a lot of machismo bullshit in philosophy. I tried for years to be OK with it, to ‘harden up’. But three years after getting tenure, I finally realized that I was never going to be a full member of the Super Sekrit Menz Club. Right now I am retraining and halfway out of the profession, hoping to be all the way out by the end of this year.

One of the problems, in my view, is that many male philosophers will be happy to admit there’s a problem in the abstract, but will immediately dismiss as self-evidently false any suggestion that they themselves might harbour any kind of sexist attitudes, subconscious or otherwise."

13 September 2017 - The post above refers to the blog Crooked Timber

 I keep having the same fights and getting the same outcomes. What does this mean? It's hard for people to change?
A criticism that seems to come up is that I am trying to dispense "wisdom". What does that mean? I lecture people, or people won't accept wisdom that challenges the status quo from a woman? Possibly both. I have tried very hard to be civil and polite in my discussions but in the end I seem to end up in the same place - being told that I am lecturing people or being aggressive or rude or similar things. Presumably a lot of people wouldn't say the same thing if there was not something in it, but on the other hand the blogs are still male dominated, women's voices aren't being heard much, and ideas like mine are still ridiculed. Does being nice change the system? One of the participants in the research talked about Greens councillors showing, "in a nice way" that there is a different way of doing things. I guess that's the answer, being positive, showing that there's a different way of doing things. But the relentless attacks on Julia Gillard from men on the left in 2013, documented on this page, show that there is a problem. The fact that women who tried to defend her were dismissed as biased shows that there is a problem. The fact that comments from women in philosophy on CT from 2011 show some of the same themes I complain about from my dispute with John Holbo (the philosopher mentioned in the discussion above), shows that there is a problem.  In the end I don't think you can get away from the fact that he said to me (and I am going to quote) "I realise the sticking point is that you really think you are offering arguments". Yes that is the sticking point. I do think I am offering arguments and I do think they deserve to be taken seriously. Whatever my faults - and I admit that I have them - there is a problem here. He said that he was using the socratic method, but what he was doing was trivialising my point of view. 

There is, as I said earlier in this page, another PhD here, but I can't write it. It's an issue I will have to leave open in my thesis, but there are some themes here. Relating to chapter four of my thesis, this is about the difficulties of doing feminist research.

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