Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the QT: Julia shows how it's done.

Ok, it's pretty obvious I'm a bit of a Julia Gillard fan. She's the soul of the ALP at the moment. Kev won the election, and is still as popular as Makybe Diva on Cup Day; but there would not be many lefties around who don't think Julia is the real deal, and that Kev was just the means to Government. (Not to downplay that feat, and to be honest I think he's doing pretty well. And if all he ever did was beat Howard, he would still earn a rightful place in the ALP pantheon).

Most people from the left like Julia because her history is old school left-wing, but the entire ALP loves her for her parliamentary performance. I wrote a while back that she looked like she had been waiting her whole life for the opportunity to answer questions in Question Time. She obviously loves it; and best of all, is that she is good at it.

On Thursday she stood in for Kevin Rudd, who all week had been targeted by Turnbull over the leaked phone call with George Bush. Turnbull (as ever) went way over the top suggesting Rudd had insulted the entire USA. Rudd had battled on in QT, not giving anything away, but not really scoring any runs on the issue. He brought up John Howard's comments about Obama that were made last year, but they didn't cut through.

And so on Thursday Turnbull got up and asked Julia about the issue. She didn't say a heck of a lot different to Rudd, but she gave it a few twists, and in doing so slaughtered Turnbull on the field. He may be a hot shot legal mind, but give me Julia arguing my case anyday, especially if it is being heard in the court of public opinion.

Let us read the Hansard of the encounter:

Mr TURNBULL (2.00 pm)—My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the statement of the member for Dawson this morning when he said ‘There is no question that Kevin Rudd was indiscreet’ when false and damaging details of a private and confidential conversation with the United States President were leaked to the media. I ask the Acting Prime Minister: if the Prime Minister has not already apologised for this appalling indiscretion, will he apologise to the US President during his G20 visit to Washington and will he give a commitment to this parliament that he will not be so derelict in his future dealings with President-elect Obama and other world leaders?

Ms GILLARD—I do sincerely thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. On the question of things that the member for Dawson may have said, I will check. I will not take the word of the Leader of the Opposition on that.
[Deftly she deals with the curly part of the question - no worries about her bagging a member of the Government or seeming to criticise Rudd herself]

On the substance of the Leader of the Opposition’s question, it strikes me as remarkable that the Leader of the Liberal Party would be calling on someone to apologise to President-elect Obama other than the former Prime Minister of this nation, John Howard. That is who should be apologising to President-elect Obama.
[So far just like Rudd - better delivery, but still the words are the same...]

Let us just imagine a parallel universe where in 2007 John Howard had won the last election. Let us imagine a parallel universe where John Howard is in the prime ministership—the member for Higgins has been reassured by him that he will hand it over when he is 94, so the member for Higgins is patiently waiting—and the presidential election is over; we know that President-elect Obama has won. Let us just imagine how that phone call would have gone between Prime Minister Howard and President-elect Obama. I do not think it would have escaped President-elect Obama’s notice that Prime Minister Howard said about him:

I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and
destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and
hope for (an) Obama victory.
These are the words of former Prime Minister Howard:

If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and
pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also
for the Democrats.

Just imagine how that telephone conversation would have gone. Just imagine it.

[Wow. Brilliant. She tells a story - a story that never happened, but by now the Liberals are dying. She has not just repeated Howard's words, she has got everyone to think how close Australia was to a real diplomatic crisis. And for good measure she stabs Peter Costello through the heart with the line about Howard holding on till he's 94. Perfect. No surprises what came next.]

Dr Southcott—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under the standing orders, questions cannot contain hypothetical material. Surely, the same standing orders apply to answers as well.
The SPEAKER—At risk of getting myself into trouble, I would make the observation: if only the
member’s point of order were right. It is not, and I refer him to page 553 of the Practice.

Ms GILLARD—I was asked about the question of apologies to President-elect Obama and I am just asking the House to imagine the first telephone call, had it ever occurred, if we were in that parallel universe between Prime Minister John Howard and the man he had called—
[Perfect, she points out she is relevant and then keeps going, she knows she's got them]

Mr Turnbull—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Acting Prime Minister said she was asked about apologies to President-elect Obama. Without wanting to declare a war on irrelevance, she was actually asked about an apology to President Bush and she should return to it.
The SPEAKER—The Acting Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD—The question actually did refer to President-elect Obama, but putting that to one side, of course what should be happening here is that we should be noting not what the Leader of the Opposition says but what he does. When the greatest offence was paid to President-elect Obama by the then Prime Minister of this country, when the then Prime Minister of this country described the man who is now going to be President of the United States as a terrorist, did we see the member for Wentworth go out and condemn it publicly? Did we see him disassociate himself from it? No, we did not.
[She's on fire - not only does she continue to treat Turnbull's original question with contempt, she even slaps away his point of order. Hmmm if only the Liberals had a big angry man who loves calling points of order...]

Mr Hockey—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order to do with relevance. I ask the Acting Prime
Minister to come back to the question that was asked.
[Sigh, poor Joe. How galling to know that your lot in life is to rise on points of order when all else have given up]
The SPEAKER—The Acting Prime Minister will respond to the question and bring her answer to a conclusion.

Ms GILLARD—I am very happy to. The opposition day after day has raised this issue when it has been fully dealt with by the Prime Minister. What I am asking for is an explanation of their hypocrisy, given the actions of former Prime Minister Howard.

[And that my friends, should you ever rise to be a Minister in the Australian Government, is how you deal with Question Time].

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