It's been a week and a half since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in what was, contrary to much of the hostile commentary and despite the involvement of certain less than savoury characters, an orderly takeover from a PM who couldn't even muster enough numbers to make a show of meeting a challenge, and who was, as all who have read Robert Manne's detailed analysis in the current issue of The Monthly will be aware, in a state of deepening crisis before Gillard's challenge.
All the same, Gillard was accused on many if not all sides of 'stabbing Rudd in the back'.
In that week and a half I've been seeing a great deal of anti-Gillard commentary from people who until two weeks ago were her biggest fans. Obviously they wanted her in charge until she actually took charge, and frankly I think that's a bit suspicious in itself. Now that she has made her position clearer on asylum seekers, and believe me I'm not super thrilled about it either (despite the fact that I think she may actually be doing something else, something we haven't seen from federal politicians before), she's getting some hysterically abusive flak around the traps for what people are calling 'dog-whistling'.
I have my own theories about why some people are so emotional about Gillard and I'm not going to air them here, but as is my wont I'd like to focus on the vocabulary that's being thrown around. First of all, 'backstabbing', which implies sneaky, underhanded deception and creeping up on people who trust you, when they're not looking.
How was it backstabbing? Gillard did not go behind Rudd's back at any point. She has always been his obvious successor. He obviously did not trust her or anyone else; indeed he was so paranoid and untrusting that she had to learn from reading the paper that her (up to that point repeatedly tested and demonstrably iron-clad) loyalty had been questioned and checked up on by Rudd's confidante and golden boy chief of staff Alister Jordan, which hardly suggests that Rudd was 'not looking'. When Bill Shorten, Mark Arbib et al urged her to challenge Rudd for the leadership, she insisted that proper open soundings be taken on the Caucus numbers. She openly challenged Rudd for the leadership, and she won.
So say she stabbed him if you must, but if she stabbed him at all, she stabbed him in the chest. There may have been ruthlessness, but there was no deception.
And as for 'dog-whistle' -- I'm starting to wonder whether city folks actually understand this metaphor. A dog-whistle is a thing that humans beings can't hear, sounding at a frequency that only dogs can hear. It was used during the Howard era to describe coded remarks that looked innocent of sinister meanings but could be picked up by Howard's natural constituency because their ears were attuned to his real meaning and it was what they wanted to hear.
But Gillard is saying exactly what she means. You may not like it. You may be outraged that other citizens of the country who don't agree with you should have their right to free speech affirmed, however unpleasant one may find what they say. And you may, like me, be particularly irritated by Gillard's use of the phrase 'political correctness', which long ago became something that could only ever muddy the waters of meaning. But again, there is no deception. It's not a dog-whistle. It's a whistle.
In which the pond discovers Baxendale is quiet on oppression, and prattling Polonius feels oppressed ... - Others have observed the recent war going down amongst the more vicious and repetitive and simple-minded reptiles, as in Meade *here* ... *...Lisa Oldfie...
39 minutes ago