More reasons why I admire PM Gillard

The previous piece Why I admire Prime Minister Gillard spoke of PM Gillard’s courage, vision, and her focus on getting things done. This piece highlights her competence, her personality and her integrity.

I suspect even her sworn adversaries would concede, at least in private, that PM Gillard is highly competent. Indeed it is her competence, her capacity to understand issues and get things done, that gets up their nose.

Grounded in industrial relations, she brings around twenty years of experience to bear on this area. Her record as Deputy PM was outstanding in ridding this country of WorkChoices and introducing Fair Work Australia. It is not yet perfect; more work is being done to accommodate the concerns and needs of business. As Minister for Education she was instrumental in bringing about the changes to the education system we witnessed. She loves education and enjoys being with schoolchildren and their teachers and parents. No one would deny her competence in this area.

She worked with Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner, and the then Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, to fashion a plan to combat the global financial crisis. So successful was it in every way that we now have the best economy in the developed world, the envy of every other country, with its low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, low national debt, triple A ratings from all three ratings agencies, and a burgeoning mining boom with billions of dollars in the investment pipeline, an economy over which PM Gillard still competently presides.

Since becoming PM she has expanded into the myriad areas that the nation’s leader must encompass. Initially reserved about international affairs, she now embraces them with skill and charm. She is popular among the world’s leaders when she visits international forums such as the G20 and APEC. She contributes there through major speeches, involvement in the business of these forums, and in bilateral talks with leaders. That we don’t hear much about this on our news bulletins can be laid at the feet of journalists too often more interested in asking questions about leadership, or local issues, than coming to grips with complex international matters.

She has given numerous speeches to public forums, such as the National Press Club, conferences, and a clutch of private institutions. On these occasions she shows her strong grasp of the subject matter. While it is easy to read a prepared speech, it is not so easy to answer questions from the audience, sometimes a hostile one, that often asks questions about unrelated matters. Yet she does this with aplomb. Have you seen her caught short of a plausible answer? Have you seen her flustered and out of her depth? If you believe you have, tell us all about it.

Moreover, she has shown how capable she now is in handling a rowdy and sometimes rude media scrum, among which there are always those looking for a slip-up, a gotcha, a chink in her armour, a ‘scoop’ for the 6 pm TV news. She learned to dismiss stupid questions, adversarial questions designed to embarrass or trap, and questions irrelevant to the subject. She controls the pack, and gets a schoolmarmish tag for her trouble, but they do often behave like school kids don’t they!

She stays the distance until questions are exhausted or other commitments demand her attention. Her marathon press conference about the Slater & Gordon matter was classic Julia Gillard sticking in there until every question was exhausted.

She excels in community cabinet meetings where she answers questions or passes them onto her ministers, and stays until all questions are addressed. On these occasions her charm and friendliness is displayed for all to see.

When addressing business forums she is not unwilling to speak her mind, even if her audience doesn’t appreciate what she says, as was the case when she spoke to the miners in Perth last week about the importance of their support for education to give them the geologists and engineers they need. The media reported that they didn’t like her ‘lecture’. Too bad!

Have you been as impressed as I have been at her grasp of every topic she addresses or is asked about? She is particularly adept at answering the unexpected ‘off-the-cuff’ question. The only time I have seen her somewhat nonplussed was when Laurie Oakes hurled his question in 2010 at her pre-election NPC address about her conversation with Kevin Rudd the night before his replacement.

Whatever the topic, whether education, industrial relations, the economy, health, taxation, climate change, the NBN, agriculture, business or industry, she knows what she is talking about. No matter whether she is addressing questions in Question Time or in the many other forums she addresses, it needs a commanding intellect and memory to encompass this vast array of areas.

Her competence extends to finely honed negotiating skills born of her industrial relations experience. It was she who won the day when negotiating with the Independents to form minority government.

Of course her armchair critics, usually looking through their retrospectoscopes, delight in questioning her judgement – on, for example, a community group to achieve consensus on climate change, on asylum seeker policy, her East Timor idea and her Malaysia arrangement, on carbon pricing and the changes to the initially announced arrangements, and on several other moves PM Gillard has made. Being never in the position of having to make decisions on such complex matters, and with the benefit of hindsight, her critics can always be smarter than she was, always right! So be it. She wears the brickbats; pity it wasn’t more often balanced with the occasional bouquet.

I admire her competence, her intellect and her persistence.

I have never met our Prime Minister, but have seen her hundreds of times on TV and in video clips, in QT and on TV shows. To me she seems always to be self assured, calm, in control, charming when in public gatherings and particularly with school children. Our own Patriciawa met her recently at a community forum in Perth and had this to say: “I stayed on afterwards for the special invite for drinks with the PM…All were really happy to hear how popular the PM is out here in the big wide world and promised to pass on those sentiments to her from me, with all of them having something to say themselves about how sensational she is to work with! A staffer standing with us then suggested I should tell the PM myself how I felt! Which I was able to do! I had been reluctant to intrude on her time since she was being extraordinarily generous with the scores of people lining up to get autographs or photos with her. But I couldn’t l knock back the offer of a personal introduction, could I? Imagine being hugged by the PM herself! I found myself willingly hugging her back! What’s all this nonsense about her being cold and wooden?” Indeed, what is all this nonsense!

It seems to me that some dislike her way of speaking, and some believe her too stiff in her formal addresses, perhaps a manifestation of her innate shyness. How many times have we seen journalists write about her ‘wooden’ performances? She is who she is. She is articulate, but she does not have the soaring oratory of a Bill Clinton, or a Barack Obama, or even that of Michelle Obama; she is Julia Gillard, the shy girl from Unley High. Are we so superficial in our evaluation of people that these externals count for more than the inner strengths, the inner values, and the inner determination to endow our nation with fairness through sound legislation that enshrines equality, decency, fairness, and opportunity for all? Why can’t, why won’t journalists recognize and acknowledge those admirable attributes, preferring to highlight the things they don’t like, the things that irritate them? For many, we know the answer.

I admire her personality, her friendliness, and her warmth.

What about her integrity? This is where her adversaries leap to their feet and shout ‘liar’, or ‘Ju-liar’, or ‘untrustworthy’, or ‘not to be trusted’. We’ve heard this every day for two years from the Opposition Leader, his shadow ministers or from their sycophantic admirers and supporters in the media. Some use the words ‘deceitful’, even ‘treacherous’ or ‘back-stabber’, after her ‘involvement’ in Kevin Rudd’s downfall. The ‘liar’ tag was derived from her change of tack when she was unable to achieve an emissions trading scheme without an initial price on carbon because of the insistence of the Greens. She did mean it when she said: ‘there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead’, because she wanted an emissions trading scheme instead. The problem for her was that she was unable to lead any government at all that was intent on introducing an ETS without an initial price on carbon. She had to do this, or have no ETS. She chose to have what she always wanted by agreeing to an initial price on carbon. It would have been better if she had not uttered those words, because the Opposition Leader, who morphed them into incessantly repeated slogans that have heavily damaged the PM’s credibility, opportunistically seized upon them. But there it is. The problem is that this one statement, played over and again on TV programs, has served to impugn her as a habitual liar about everything her adversaries wish to pin on her. One slip up has become her bête noire, and the Opposition Leader’s most powerful weapon against her.

Given that fact of life, what untruths can her adversaries pin on her, or are they just content to call her a liar, specific misdemeanour unstated? Until someone can point out where and when she has lied, I for one discount that label as simply an unwarranted slur. I know some of you will smirk; just give us your evidence.

I admire her personality, her friendliness, and yes her integrity, albeit maligned every day by her adversaries. I admire her grit, her fighting spirit to carry on despite all the venom that is heaped upon her. I admire her decency and her honesty.

So I give her full marks for courage, vision, her focus on getting things done, her competence, her personality and her integrity. I believe we are fortunate to have a leader of her calibre to guide our nation to what looks like a glowing and prosperous future.

If only all Australians could see her that way instead of unthinkingly swallowing the condemnatory abuse that her adversaries heap upon her day after day, and value her for what she truly is.

How do you feel?