News That’s Fit To Punt – 23/Aug/2012

Seventeen Years Ago?
This week they’re banging on about things that happened relating to PM Julia Gillard 17 years ago.

It is a lurid tale involving an old political cartoonist, a retired lawyer, the Prime Minister and her former boyfriend, an alleged fraudster.

If you believe the cartoonist, Larry Pickering, whose dislike for Julia Gillard is palpable in his sometimes obscene cartoons, the scandalous details could finally bring down the Prime Minister.

It’s pretty eye-catching and you think to yourself what the hell is going? Well, what’s  going on seems to be a massive character smear. Julia Gillard finally stood her ground today.

Ms Gillard told reporters: ‘‘For many months now I have been the subject of a very sexist smear campaign.’’

Asked why she had not opened an official file on the association – in accordance with practice – Ms Gillard stressed her involvement was to ‘‘provide advice’’, but she conceded that with hindsight she perhaps would have logged the action.

She said: ‘‘There would be a number of things I would do differently. Life doesn’t always afford you that opportunity.’’

Speaking in depth for the first time on the issue, Ms Gillard – who was an industrial lawyer at the time of the contentious events – said she understood that she was helping to set up an association that could engage in fund-raising.

Ms Gillard said: ‘‘I had taken the view over the past few days that given no new assertions of any worth have been made that I should not dignify this campaign with a response either. However, this morning something changed on that.

‘‘The Australian newspaper republished a false and highly defamatory claim about my conduct in relation to these matters 17 years ago.’’

The reporting on this grubby character assassination has been going on for the better part of the week. Law firm Slater & Gordon denied all of it – whatever it was, they were denying it.

SLATER & Gordon, the law firm for which Julia Gillard worked in the 1990s, yesterday revealed that an internal inquiry had found nothing against her over a scandal involving her former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson.

Slater & Gordon issued the statement after Ms Gillard refused to say whether she had had to resign over the matter.

Which, I dunno, may or may not be true or important or relevant to Australia today. I’m really struggling to see anything in this stuff.

The most interesting entry in the circus-like atmosphere where media elephants trampled on Julia Gillard’s reputation, was Michael Pascoe’s entry here about Larry Pickering who is spreading the grubbiest of the allegations. It’s long and interesting and hard to quote any one particular bit. I recommend you go have a read. It’s a case of Pickering hardly having the sort of character himself that he should be casting stones from his glass hovel.

The upshot of all this is that you have a Prime Minister defending what she didn’t do in a previous life as a lawyer. I’m actually a little stunned by all this stuff this week because I can’t for the life of me imagine this sort of thing happening to Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke or even and especially Malcolm Fraser. And really, the only discernible reason it is happening to her is because she’s a woman and there are “misogynist nutjobs” out there trying to score points – and it’s deeply pathetic that she has to “go on the front foot” and address the press about all this crap, this useless, stinking, dredged mud.

The more I cast my mind to it, the more I think that this is a desperate attempt to dredge something and all they’ve come up with is nondescript mud, so they’re flinging it far and wide with the abjectly misguided hope that there’s something in the mud that could stick.

Now, with the caveat that I’m still not going to vote for the ALP as avowed, I have to say I find all this mud dredging-and-slinging a little sickening. All these characters in her life in 1995 sound like terrible assholes. This Bruce Wilson sounds like he was a lying muthafucker. Ralph Blewitt sounds like a bastard and a half. Who wants these figures dragged up from your past?

The most depressing line from Julia Gillard might have been this line: “I am standing in front of  you now as a fifty year old woman. Have I learnt a few things across my lifetime? Yes, I have. If you got to re-live your life again there would be a number of things I would do differently. Life doesn’t afford you that opportunity.”

I say depressing, not because she should be better, or that she should have done better or known better, but because it is true. It’s the most nakedly human thing she’s said in her public life, and for the life of me, I can’t bring myself to judge her negatively for that blunt frankness. It’s the moment we’ve all been asked to peer into her life and I’m not sure that glimpse is all that uplifting. I don’t know how happy she is as a human being. Satisfied? Yes. Fulfilled? Who knows? Happy? Err, no. Happy people don’t say things like that.

I’ve never pondered the happiness of a Prime Minister until today. Was Rudd ever happy? (he was until they dumped him) Was Howard ever happy? (Yes, and I resent his smugness) Was Keating? (I doubt it), Was Hawke?  (He looked it but who knows? I doubt he does). However with Julia Gillard, I’ve learnt she’s profoundly sad.  And for once I just can’t take it. It’s too much to know about the Prime Minster of your own country.

To quote the title of Stefan Zweig’s great book, ‘Beware of Pity‘. I’m still donkey voting at the next Federal election!

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