Monday, November 1, 2010
Time to give "gravitas" a hand movement
And if we had to give a name to this pre-silly-season silly season, it would have to be the "Gravitas Season".
Suddenly gravitas is what is needed, gravitas is what makes a country strong - it defeats mean bank CEO's, quells disruptive audiences and brings stability to a nation. Oh if only we could bottle it, think of the killing we could make!
Firstly we had Joe Hockey telling us that the banks were ignoring Wayne Swan's 31 warnings because he lacks gravitas - you know the stuff apparently Peter Costello had in abundance besides jelly knees whenever John Howard stared him down. (And yes these banks have ignored Swan 31 times by not putting up their interest rates - what cunning buggers they be, I can't wait till they start listening to him) .
Today we had Errol Simper over at The Oz saying, apparently without sarcasm, that QANDA host Tony Jones had the right amount of "gravitas, humour and authority". Gravitas. Really?
Also in The Oz today we had Peter Brent telling us that:
Several observers have commented that after four months Julia Gillard is not yet looking prime ministerial. She lacks that hard-to-define ‘something’: gravitas; authority. This might account for the absence of a post-election opinion poll bounce.
These observers may have a point.
Ah those "several observers", gotta love 'em. They're always so good. Yep, they may have a point. They also might be just talking out of their backsides but who can say? I might have to find some more observers to tell me.
Brent, who had been floating this thought bubble on Twitter yesterday, reveals to us what is one of the likely reasons for this mystifying lack of gravitas on the part of our Prime Minister:
Are Gillard’s hand movements contributing? She insists on inserting the things into every head and shoulder shot and waving them around. It was learnt in politician school - something about trust and open palms, nothing up sleeves. But her words, however convincing, are negated by those flapping hands. She seems defensive and rehearsed. Like a job interview.
Yep, hand movements. Silly me here I thought the reason Gillard lacked gravitas was her hair style, her earlobes or her lack of a handbag.
To Brent's credit he suggests her lack of gravitas could also be due to her needing to get comfortable with the whole role of being PM, and he may have a point - she has only had the job for 4 months, but he ends with a nice:
She could start by moderating the hand show.
Yeah, that'll do it, because then we wouldn't be reading stories about how Julia was moderating her way of speaking because she was worried people didn't think she was PM enough...
Here's the thing, I never once thought John Howard displayed any gravitas in his 11 years as leader. Dignity? Quality of substance? Depth of personality? Nope sorry, never detected any of that. I just saw a guy who was determined to be PM for as long as he possibly could and who would do whatever it bloody well took to ensure that would happen.
Ah Bob Hawke, there's a leader with gravitas - he knew how to be PM. Guess what, plenty of people thought him a disgrace, a joke. What the hell was he wearing when Australia II won the America's Cup? What's all this talk of "silly old buggers", and for the love of God could he stop pulling his bloody earlobe? Bob Hawke had such gravitas that it seems amazing that Max Gilles made a career out of taking the absolute piss out him...
Ah Keating - now he had gravitas in spades. Even "several observers" would agree with that. And the electorate kicked him right in the gravitas in 1996, in favour of a bloke who at the time adopted a target so small you wouldn't have been able to find any gravitas with a microscope and a pair of tweezers.
Oh but yes he grew into the role - Howard gained gravitas? Really? Says you. For me he remained a politician. He still is - for all the calm and grace he had last week on QANDA did he ever answer a bloody question?
What about Rudd? Well in February 2008 when he gave his sorry speech, I'd have said he had gravitas pouring out of every orifice. Great good that did him.
Now look, I don't think Gillard is quite PM yet either, but she is showing good signs.
Several observers (like me for one) want some reform. Well I don't know about you but putting a price on carbon would be a bloody big reform - and a hell of a lot more important than a flat tax scale.
Here she was last week in parliament on the issue:
Ms GILLARD—Of course, what the Leader of the Opposition is seeking to distort is the nature of this debate. The reason that you put a price on carbon is to create incentives to engage in economic activity and, when engaging in that economic activity, to not produce the same level of carbon emissions—that is, you want to create an incentive structure so that people reduce emissions. Let me adopt the words of Marius Kloppers to explain this to the Leader of the Opposition, because I think he put it elegantly:
… carbon emissions need to have a cost impact in order to cause the consumer to change behaviour and favour lowcarbon alternatives.
If the Leader of the Opposition has not found that persuasive then I would refer him to the editorial of the Australian Financial Review where it says:
If the Coalition wants to play in this game, it will have to abandon its opposition to “a great big new tax”, acknowledge that a carbon price is inevitable and desirable, and lend its weight to the effort to find the best formula. There is opposition and there is opposition for opposition’s sake, but this is a necessary reform that the Coalition should support.
Across this week the debate in this parliament has been focused on those who support economic reform and strengthening our nation for the future. To those that believe in opposition for opposition’s sake and simply wrecking reform, and clearly the Leader of the Opposition does, I would say it comes at the ultimate cost of the strength of this nation and the future of Australian
Here is a Prime Minister acknowledging that a price on carbon will (brace yourselves) raise the price of things.
It may sound like a small thing to those of us who have been advocating a price on carbon for a while, but for a politician - the Prime Minister no less - to admit it is a big step. I don't recall Kevin Rudd ever going that far - for him it was always talk of offsets and pensioners and working families not being worse off etc etc. But here is Gillard laying it all out - you put a price on carbon to change behaviour because costs go up (good old supply and demand).
Now yes we are a long way off getting there - and the final legislation may be weak (though less likely given the make up of this parliament) - but if you want to end up with this huge reform you need to start with the right attitude, and here she has it.
Gravitas? Who knows - or cares. Some people (including several observers) will never think she has gravitas (just as I never did of Howard). So let's drop the dumb term and any focus on superficial things she may have to do to please those who will most likely never be pleased by anything she does.
Focus on results - and also let's realise we're four months in, and I seriously doubt anyone would think to judge Hawke's or Keating's or Howard's or Rudd's Prime Ministership after what they had done after that length of time.