Friday, July 18, 2008

Dorothy Gillard?

As parliament gets closer to returning I’ll do a bit of a form guide for the second half of the year (my intention is to do nightly reviews of the day’s Question Time action), but I want to make a quick comment on Julia Gillard.

Now Julia (excuse the first name use, but some people just seem more suited to being referred to by their first name and Julia is one of them) has been, according to pretty much everyone, far and away the stand out parliamentary performer for the Government. She burst out in the first week like she had been waiting her whole life for the opportunity to stand at the dispatch box and taunt the Liberals – which is not surprising as I’m sure she has been waiting her whole life to do so.

The first question she received from the opposition came from Julie Bishop; it was a particularly poor delivery and Julia skipped down the pitch and put it over the fence for six:

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2.21 p.m.)—My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the minister guarantee that her preferred workplace agreement—union negotiated collective agreements—do not take away award conditions such as penalty rates and leave loading?

Ms GILLARD—I was waiting for page 2, but page 2 did not come. For a former minister of the Howard government who claimed to care so much about literacy, it would be really useful if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition read Labor’s policy. If she is in any doubt about how to find it, it is on the internet. We campaigned on it for all of 2007. I will send it to her.

I happened to have been in the public gallery for this QT, and Julia was actually laughing before she stood up to answer. Bishop was not impressed:

Ms Julie Bishop—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was simple: will she guarantee—

Mr Debus—On what grounds?

Ms Julie Bishop—Relevance!

The way she snapped “relevance” revealed to everyone that she was woman not used to being laughed at, and she was not coping well with the change to opposition (or the fact that she was being so easily beaten).

To her credit Julie B tried a few more questions the following week – one an absolute long hop about hairdressers, which given that Julia's partner is himself a hairdresser, allowed Julia to make a wonderful crack:

As I joked with the Leader of the Opposition before question time started, I have certainly valued the services of people who give manicures. And, as a matter of public record, I am very fond of hairdressers—one in particular!

Bishop was beaten, and since then, in her role as the shadow Minister for Employment, Business and Workplace Relations she has asked her opposite number only two questions. In that time she has asked Lindsay Tanner 1, Wayne Swan 4, and Kevin Rudd 24 (of which at least 9 were in the area of work place relations and could justifiably have been asked of Gillard).

So much for the battle of the top women in Australian politics. An absolute TKO to Julia.

Since then Julia has for the most part not had to worry too much about the opposition, but one could argue she has never really had to worry too much.

So far this year she has answered 49 questions, of which only 12 were from the opposition – thus around 75% of the time she is dealing with Dorothy Dixers.

Since the hairdresser day, she has only twice had to answer more than one opposition question in a day. The main occasion was 3 June, when Tony Abbott tried to trap her on increases in child care costs. It was the only day she had any stumble (as Annabel Crabbe noted) due to her desire not to utter the phrase “watching”. But my verdict is that even on this bad day, she still put Abbott away with her last answer:

Ms GILLARD—Obviously the question of childcare fees is one that impinges on working families who need to pay for child care. Maybe my memory fails me, but if there was some amazingly effective Howard government initiative to deal with childcare fee increases then I do not seem to recall it.

Opposition members interjecting—
The SPEAKER—Order! The question has been asked.

Ms GILLARD—I do not recall it. So for 12 years—the member for Warringah being in the cabinet for most of that period—nothing effective was done on childcare fee increases. In contrast, what is this government delivering?

Mr Tuckey—Mr Speaker, on a point of order: on the question of relevance, this is a question asked on behalf of the people, not the opposition. Young parents are entitled—

The SPEAKER—Order! The member for O’Connor will resume his seat.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

Ms GILLARD—The Leader of the House reminds me that I have been asked the question by Mr ‘People Skills’, but I did not think we had promoted him to being the single voice of the people!

So while she has had benefit from a lot of deliveries bowled by her own teammates, her reputation as the ALP’s best performer is well deserved.

My reckoning is only 1 out of 12 deliveries from the opposition have beaten the bat; most of the others have scored boundaries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the QT form guide. L.V.D.H