Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Querying Julia Gillard’s Political Identity


Well over a year on from the election that saw Julia Gillard installed as Prime Minister some remain puzzled about her political identity, her policy substances, her true ideological convictions, values and beliefs. Many elected leaders across the world subvert effective policy creation to opportunism and pragmatism, but the degree to which our Julia has done so both during her rise and, as Prime Minister defies logic and lends itself to questions of a paradoxical nature. We distinctively knew what Hawke, Keating and Howard stood for by the time they became leaders and mostly this was reflected in their policymaking during their tenure as Prime Minister. Conversely, Julia Gillard presents as a fluid, unconstructed persona, driven only by political opportunism, pragmatism and a misleading appeal to romantic sentimentalities.

Looking back, Julia Gillard was an active member, leader and editorial representative of the socialist forum. As a notable contributor, she espoused calls for totalitarian control via environmental activism, calls for re-regulating the exchange rate, a return to tariffs, reducing imports and duties on luxury goods and energy imports. Such social and economic prescriptions may appear ridiculous when appraised from a capitalist viewpoint but to the socialist who believes that the production and distribution of goods be substantially controlled by Government’s, and that private wealth generation and individual profit are dirty deeds, they are entirely proper.

Fast forward to 2012 and Julia is Prime Minister of one of the world’s top 10 capitalist economies alongside the U.S., Hong Kong and Singapore. I am willing to bet that at a sub-conscious level Julia Gillard is troubled about her political identity within a very capitalist market based economy, one defined by business, trade, monetary, fiscal, investment, financial and labour freedoms – common criteria deemed as principles of capitalism.

The PM’s uneasiness may partly explain her rhetorical genuflecting of the past few years. When for example, she addressed the U.S. Congress in early March 2011 she suddenly sounded like a Capitol Hill Hawk, a term ascribed to those who have a political stance toward aggression, by diplomatic and ultimately military means, against others to improve the standing of their own government, country, or organization. Whereas just a few years earlier she was akin to a peacenik dove which alludes to the more peaceful dove or Pacifism.

“You have an ally in Australia … An ally for war, peace, our values are shared, and our people are friends …” she told Congress.

While recalling her opposition to John Howard when he chose to support the U.S. in its response to 9/11 and, the war on terror, consider if you will, a few more lines from her address.

Your darkest days since Pearl Harbour were 10 years ago in Washington and New York.

And we were with you.

My predecessor John Howard was quite literally with you and he came to this Capitol when you met on September 12 to show you that Australians would be with you again.

And after 50 years, under a new prime minister and a new president, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked.

Within Australia's democracy, John Howard and I had our differences. But he was and is an Australian patriot and an American friend, a man who was moved by what he saw here in that terrible September.

When John Howard addressed you in 2002 we were already with you in Afghanistan.

And we are there with you today.

I want you to know what I have told Australia's Parliament in Canberra - what I told General Petraeus in Kabul - what I told President Obama in the Oval Office this week.

Australia will stand firm with our ally the United States.

Did I mention that Ms Gillard as a paid member of the Socialist Forum also played a role in drafting its constitution and amongst the proposals was a suggestion that the ANZUS treaty be scrapped.

During her address to Congress, the PM added that America – champion of capitalism – was indispensable to maintaining world order now and in future. As impressive and true as this is, how does it measure up with her socialist past?

Other inconsistencies leave us shaking our heads, like the moment she painted herself as a social conservative who defended the Bible even though she remains atheist. When interviewed on Sky News earlier in the year she baffled some by referring to herself as a “cultural traditionalist” who respects family values and, like Tony Abbott sees a place for the bible and its teachings within the national curriculum. This is interesting because during her time as Education Minister in the Rudd Government, the ALP influenced History and English curriculum fails to mention the bible. Once again, we ponder about whether she is being honest with the electorate about her views.

We continue to muse at her evolving self because our culturally traditional PM also described herself as a “socialist and feminist” in 1985.

It gets even more perplexing when we consider the PM’s address to the Sydney Institute in 2003. During her speech, she attacked John Howard in no uncertain terms, portraying him as a neoconservative whose social opinions were fuelled by “bile and venom”. Then a few short years later John Howard was again vilified for promoting social norms that were, according to Gillard premised on “unfairness, division and exclusion”. Here she was referring to his stance on gay marriage and euthanasia but forward to 2011 and she too, argues that marriage must be between a man and woman and that euthanasia is wrong. Thus when it suits, she embraces the very same views she attacked her Liberal Party predecessor for.

Julia Gillard can only blame herself for any electoral confusion about the “real Julia” Think about it, she came to the fore from the hard left and then exceeded Menzies, Hawke and Howard in her praise of America before the U.S. House of Representatives as only one of four Australian Prime Ministers to address the Congress. Moreover, how we chuckled when during that address she heaped praise on John Howard.

One wonders how an experienced HR recruiter would view a curriculum vitae that indicated a general disposition for American exceptionalism and all that this stands for in “war and peace”, the virtues of capitalism and elements of conservatism coupled with an active and professional history of embracing Socialism and Progressive values. Such unconcealed inconsistencies cannot and should not, go unnoticed.

For the Prime Minister, the window of opportunity has firmly closed. Julia Gillard remains an unknown quantity with Australian voters, and political pundits alike however, and as I alluded to earlier, I remain convinced she is one of the left at core. Therefore, she was in the least, insincere to the U.S. Congress and our voting public. More significantly and sadly, she appears to continue publically betraying herself.