31 October, 2013

Book Review: The Stalking of Julia Gillard

From Goodreads: This is the story of one of the most extraordinary episodes in recent Australian political history, of how a powerful media pack, a vicious commentariat and some of those within her own party contrived to bring down Australia's first woman prime minister.
'Don't write crap. Can't be that hard. And when you have written complete crap, then I think you should correct it.' Julia Gillard
When Julia Gillard took the reins of the Australian Labor Party on 24 June 2010 she did so with the goodwill of the majority of her party and a fawning Canberra press gallery. The man she had supplanted, Kevin Rudd, led an isolated band of angry Labor voices at this surprising turn of events. The collective political and media verdict was that his time, short though it had been, was up. But when Gillard announced in February 2011 that her government would introduce a carbon pricing scheme, Rudd and his small team of malcontents were already in lock-step with key Canberra and interstate journalists in a drive to push her out of the prime ministerial chair.
Never has a prime minister been so assiduously stalked. Cast as a political liar and policy charlatan, Julia Gillard was also mercilessly and relentlessly lampooned for her hair, clothes, accent, her arse, even the way she walks and talks. Rudd, on the other hand, could barely do any wrong. His antics were afforded benign, unquestioning prime-time media coverage.
This is the story about one of the most extraordinary episodes in recent Australian political history. It focuses on Team Rudd and the media's treatment of its slow-death campaign of destabilisation, with its disastrous effect on Gillard and the government's functioning. It is about a politician who was never given a fair go; not in the media, not by Rudd, not by some in caucus.

Thoughts: The reality is, if you didn't like Julia Gillard, if you truly believe she was lying, back stabbing bitch who nearly ran the country into the ground (something that a lot of the facts do not bear out), you most probably won't like this book. If you do not agree with the view that Kevin Rudd is an egotistical, power hungry, narcissistic man, who struggled to make decisions, insisted on micromanaging the government into paralysis and refused to believe he was no longer the saviour Australia needed, you will dismiss it as the one eyed view of a pro Gillard loyalist - and nothing will change your mind.
The book reads very much like a diary or a blog. In fact Walsh makes sure in her introduction that you know this is the case. She doesn't pretend it's an indepth analysis of the Rudd/ Gillard stoush. Instead she recounts what she observed and saw over the period of time from Gillard taking the leadership, through to the unsuccessful second challenge. Unfortunately the book came out just after the final successful challenge which handed Rudd back the leadership. That's a pity because I would be interested to know what she thought about that whole incident!
What this book does is outline how Kevin Rudd and his small, but powerful band of followers (who, despite what the mainstream media and the Liberal party would have you believe,  were not faceless, but very, very up front and obvious!)white anted and undermined the Gillard government and made it near impossible to get any good publicity. The mainstream media (also known as the fourth estate)bought into the whole thing, focusing on a leadership challenge that had no legs. (Rudd never had the numbers needed) Coupled with the fact that the media rarely, if ever reported on the success and skillful management of a minority government,* Gillard had little to no hope of retaining leadership, let alone government.
I believe this book gives a good account of the egotistical, self centred personality that Kevin Rudd appears to be. A man whose desire to lead over rode everything - including the best interests of the party he professed to love.
Walsh recounts and notes the major news stories during the time. She also notes the lack of coverage of other events. She shows the media's bias and how they failed in their duty to the Australian public. Little wonder people are losing faith in the fourth estate.

*Regardless of your view of Gillard and her government, they manged to pass close to 600 pieces of legislation during the minority government. Given the negotiation that would have had to happen to get any legislation passed, this can only be seen as successful and a testament to their ability to negotiate with independents and other members of parliament.  In fact,  an analysis by Nick Evershed in the Guardian online, showed that Julia Gillard and her minority government passed more acts per day of their term than any other Australian government - ever!

Challenges: Ebook Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge