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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Emptiness of the Gillard accusations laid bare

Emptiness of the Gillard accusations laid bare

Emptiness of the Gillard accusations laid bare



Updated



As Julia Gillard gave evidence at the
union Royal Commission the emptiness of what had been a bitterly
contested political campaign, and from there an accusatory media culture
war, was laid bare, writes Jonathan Green.
At last, "Juliar" was under oath.

Two journalists, brave peddlers of arcane 20-year-old conspiracy theories, had lost
their jobs in the pursuit. A prime ministership had been stained by the
constant repetition of often denied claims, claims that would now be
tested in the solemnity of a royal commission.


The Gillard AWU affair, a set of smears that the full, costly and coercive powers of the state had now brought to judgement.

It
was a climax of sorts, a holding to account: Julia Gillard took the
stand and, stripped of a politician's defences and sworn to truth, ran
through the entire panoply of conjecture and supposition before the
union Royal Commission.


Andrew Bolt was live blogging.

At The Australian Hedley Thomas had set the scene
before staking out his seat in the commission chamber: "The concerns
... were neither trivial nor the product of the feverish imaginations of
misogynists or nut-jobs on the internet."


At the Daily Telegraph Miranda Devine attempted
to undermine the worth of whatever assurances the former prime minister
might give under oath: "Julia Gillard's appearance at the unions Royal
Commission today is the most anticipated political testimony since Bill
Clinton swore: 'I never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss
Lewinsky'."


Guardian Australia editor Emily Wilson tweeted while
she watched events unfold: "arguably not the MAIN point but i love
gillard's dark shirt white jacket combo."


And as Gillard's
evidence began, questioned in a dogged, almost soporific parsing of the
detail by counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar SC, the emptiness of what
had been a bitterly contested political campaign and from there an
accusatory media culture war, was laid bare.


Would this be the end
of it, the end of an insistent and defamatory mythology that began with
Victorian Kennett government minister Phil Gude making claims under
parliamentary privilege in 1995?


In the stand the former PM was
curt. Spare. Firm. Freed of the need to pander to public perception she
let her lip curl just a little with evident distaste for what, again,
was being put to her, this time with the assumed dignity of a royal
commission.


But then Gillard has spent the past decade making occasional, and sometimes exhaustively detailed, denials of the claims put to her yesterday.

And
there was nothing new to note when she was finally excused at 3.34pm.
No sudden combination of elements that would throw matters in a new
light. None of the missteps that might have come through fabrication,
none of the uncertain hesitation that might hint at a lie.


And no moment of stunning legal craft that might turn the matter against her, no recapitulation of Brady v Duggan, for example.



And there we were.

What was known was
again known. What had been guessed at, hinted at, was again denied. And
presumably left to continue its furtive life as hint, guesswork and
smear.


This business has been emblematic: to some it was the truth
about sex, corruption and lies that the leftist mainstream of the
Australian media chose not to tell. Or lacked the guts to confront.


On
the right it was an article of faith, not so much on the basis of the
evidence but more because of the attractiveness of the prime ministerial
target.


And now, with a change of government, it became the object of something close to score settling.

Two
royal commissions, one for each former prime minister of that detested
period of cocky political turpitude since 2007. But unlike even the pink
batts inquiry that at least confronted tragedy and questioned the role
of systemic failure, the Gillard element of the union Royal Commission
seems to have been based on something less certain. And something
worryingly indicative of the state of modern political and media point
scoring.


The Gillard AWU saga may have begun as a legitimate
question mark over potential fraud and impropriety, but having failed
any test of substantiation, the claims against Gillard became an
elaborate conspiratorial fantasia, articles of ardent faith that might
be filed with allegations of temperature fudging by the Bureau of
Meteorology and the 17-year pause in global warming; and promulgated as
eagerly as fact.


As Gillard put it: "It's just not true, Mr Stoljar. Just not true."

But
presumably the proponents of the myth will be undaunted by that, will
be unconvinced even by sworn testimony, and will clutch their dog-eared
folders of photocopies and fill their blogs regardless.


One Bolt commenter, among many, remained unconvinced late yesterday: "Ancient Mariner:
Too late for that! She has already revealed she is as dodgy as they
come and has missed any chance to clear her name. Her story doesn't
stack up and she has demonstrated incompetence through her admissions
that she didn't check critical elements of the Association. So far there
is one characterisation of her statements - UNBELIEVABLE! Maybe nothing
criminal yet but this is just the introduction. The other witnesses are
lined up in the wings!"


At the last yesterday, in a final
question from Bob Galbally SC, the former prime minister was asked
whether her "association" with former AWU official Bruce Wilson had
"clouded your judgment".


Gillard bristled.

For there it was,
from the mouth of a silk, before the bench of a duly convened judicial
organ of the state, the allegation that had always stood at the core of
this entire farrago, the one thing to which Gillard might plead guilty:
that back in 1992 she had a sexual relationship with a jerk.


That
her reputation as a lawyer, politician and stateswoman might be
undermined by reference to a fatal flaw of ancient sexual misjudgement
says much about the long campaign that has been ranged against her, and
much about the set, and sexist attitudes to a woman in power that were
turned malevolently against her prime ministership.


Bolt concluded his live blog:

"Gillard
is excused from giving more evidence. She has escaped serious damage.
But she has given her account under oath, always a hazard. I doubt
anything serious can be proven against her on the evidence so far. But
the creation of that slush fund looks very sleazy and sloppy."


Or as blogger Greg Jericho asked his audience on Twitter: "Seriously. That was it?"

Jonathan Green hosts Sunday Extra on Radio National and is the former editor of The Drum. View his full profile here.




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