Friday, June 25, 2010

Julia Gillard's first interview, my first impressions

So we've established that Australia's new Prime Minister is both a woman and a ginger, but might it just be possible to go a tiny bit deeper than that? Prime Minister Gillard gave her first interview on the 7:30 report last night. It's hard to get much more than stylistic impressions from these things, but two pertinent factoids did seem to stick out.

First, the style: Gillard seemed, for a politician, relatively straightforward about her answers. She didn't answer some questions but in each case that she didn't answer she made it clear that she had no intention of answering, usually saying something like "I'm not going to disclose the contents of private conversations with my work colleagues". She was also fairly forward about challenging the editorialising that from time to time came from Kerry O'Brien's questions, eg Kerry: "So after working with Kevin Rudd for so long, was it hard to stick the knife in?" Julia: "Well I certainly don't accept that characterisation of events, Kerry...". Her technique at taking questions as input and then massaging the meaning into one that offers Labour talking points like "our Government has been good for health, for education" as output, was also fairly good, without coming across too much as trying to dodge questions. Gillard talks slowly, which could get slightly annoying over the long term

More substantively, the new PM flat out stated "there will be an election this year". So the government will be calling an election before they would be required to in March/April next year.

The second more substantive point is on refugee policy. Gillard sort of danced around the question, stating that "Australians want to ensure that the borders of this country are well-managed", without actually ever stating what "managing" the borders effectively would entail in her government. She also stated something along the lines of "I understand that the Australian people are anxious to know that the country's borders are being managed, but it's irresponsible for the Opposition to increase those anxieties for political gain".

She didn't exactly accuse Tony Abbott of fear-mongering on the issue, since that would entail the politically risky move of claiming that the fears Abbott is tapping into are groundless, and no voter wants to hear that their concerns are not taken seriously. She doesn't like the politics of fear on boat people, though. Gillard seems to be walking a fine line here, and my initial impression is this is the thing most likely to give her the most trouble the soonest.

I haven't checked the headlines today to see what else has happened, so this is just my initial impression based on a first look at our new Prime Minister in a press environment. I'm sure impressions will change at a fairly quick pace, how ever they may do so.