As Julia Gillard’s car drove past a small crowd gathered outside the official residence of the Governor-General last night, an ABC News reporter approached a woman holding a sign that read “Thank You Julia”. Standing beside her in the cold was a much younger woman, possibly her daughter, holding another sign with the words “From the Women of Australia”. When asked by the reporter whether they held any resentment towards Kevin Rudd, the women answered “Not at all”. I think this sums up how many women in Australia are feeling.
Re-installing Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister is a correction of the egregious error made by the ALP three years ago and when you think about it this way, justice has been served. But this doesn’t mean we are not sorry and saddened to see her go.
Julia Gillard was a strong, intelligent and gutsy leader and under any other circumstances, history would have remembered her as one of the best leaders our country has ever had. Putting aside the circumstances under which she became the PM for a moment, any woman who has leadership aspirations could do worse than to follow the example set by Julia Gillard. Composed under pressure and gracious in defeat, she was everything a good leader should be. But as anyone who has held a leadership position will tell you, a leader, even one as talented and capable as Julia Gillard, can only be as effective as the team he or she leads.
Considering the level of dysfunction we now know exists in the Australian Labor Party (especially at federal level), it’s amazing to me she was able to achieve anything as leader in a hung Parliament. But the Gillard government was able to push through more than six hundred pieces of legislation, a real testament to Julia Gillard’s skills as a negotiator. Whilst I don’t support all Gillard’s reforms, even her most staunch opponents must agree, the lady got things done!
Although many of us welcomed the appointment of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, like many in the electorate, I never liked the way Julia Gillard was installed in the top job. Her biggest mistake was trusting the Labor power-brokers who axed Kevin Rudd during his first term as Prime Minister. If they can do it with you Julia, they can do it to you.
Perhaps Julia Gillard’s legacy as Australia’s first female Prime Minister will be of a woman who was ahead of her time. The electorate wasn’t ready for her and the Labor Party certainly wasn’t ready for her.
To rephrase what Kevin Rudd told the media on more than one occasion before he was dumped as leader in 2010, Julia Gillard would have made a good Prime Minister, some day.