Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

Labor, heal your hate

A Writer’s appeal to progressives.

I WAS reminded recently about the depth of hatred that courses through the Australian Labor Party, by a friend who admitted she is a ‘hater’ in the Paul Keating tradition. Her special kind of venom is reserved for Kevin Rudd.

She’s not a lonely hater, far from it. Plenty of others rail on Facebook about Bill Shorten’s shortcomings as an opposition leader, with a vitriol bordering on hatred.

Still another camp exists – the Julia Gillard haters – especially those in the Deep North who won’t ever forget what she did to their Kevin.

“Imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet.”

In an arc from Whitlam’s sacking, to Keating’s toppling of Hawke and Gillard’s of Rudd, a ripple of Labor-red retribution runs through the left-leaning party and its followers so pervasively I wonder why anyone ever agrees to lead the rabble.

Whenever a Rudd or Gillard hater comes out of the woodwork, a rarely expressed question forms for me: If you hated (insert whichever Labor leader you like) so much, why did you vote for them?

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? Did all the Rudd haters vote for John Howard in 2007? Did all the Gillard haters vote for Tony Abbott in 2010? Does the hate exist before these people lead the country, or does it develop later?

Maybe with all my questions I’m missing the hate’s purpose. Is Labor’s pulsating hating principle some kind of energy source to help progressives ‘take it up’ to conservatives?

LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).
LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).

If so, it’s not working. Since Paul Keating was popularly elected in his own right, all hate seems to have done for the party is truncate ALP leadership regimes. After acrimony borne of fundamental internal divisions, they collapse after about three years in power.

At its best, Labor’s ability to hate moves mountains. It toppled Work Choices, John Howard’s attempt to obliterate the workplace standards delivered to this country by the Trade Union movement.

Labor’s hatred of Malcolm Fraser’s meddling in Medibank ushered-in Medicare, one of the defining ALP social reforms.

And then there is just about everything Gough Whitlam did with his single-handed hatred of conservatism, from fault-free divorce to laws allowing home brewing.

All these were fine, upstanding examples of collective hatred directed at Labor’s common enemies.

Thanks to many in the Australian media we get regular encouragement for our Labor hate. For every David Marr and his revelations about ‘Rudd rage’ there is a Michelle Grattan calling for Julia Gillard to quit.

Some make no secret of their contempt. Chris Uhlmann springs to mind, whose Rudd hatred became patently obvious at the press conference the day KRudd became Prime Minister for the second time.

Someone – perhaps Kevin – had asked the ABC to televise each journalist as they asked their questions, an interesting angle which seemed to keep the media nice.

“Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?”

When it came to Uhlmann, he turned Rudd’s embryonic policy on asylum seekers into war with Indonesia in a heartbeat, long before the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders ever hit the airwaves.

An attempt to shape the news, make the news, or just throw Rudd off? Whatever it was, the Rudd haters must have loved it, but it took a non-hater to see it.

I’ve had my own hate happening, I admit. The night of the 2007 election my husband and I watched the ABC, and once it became clear Howard was out, I said to Richard: “Why can’t we have her as Prime Minister?”

“Who, Julia Gillard?” he said.

“She’s very well spoken, she’s well turned-out and I like what she says; and she’s not religious.”

We shrugged and went to bed, happy the conservatives were defeated.

Apologies to the Stolen Generations, the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and an approaching price on carbon necessarily preceded the wave of legislative changes that impacted very positively on our household, when Kevin Rudd kept his election promise and changed over 100 laws that discriminated against same-sex-attracted de-facto couples in Australia.

Nevertheless, I celebrated on the day Gillard became Prime Minister, not because I hated Rudd, but because I felt Australia had grown up a little. Naively I thought others would see things the same way, but when I saw people upset at the news, genuinely confused and angry, I thought shit, this isn’t good.

So I turned my thoughts to the possibility this new atheist leader in a de-facto relationship would usher in marriage equality, since she seemed to understand the need for choice when it came to relationships, right?

Wrong.

Because she never explained her anti-marriage stance on an issue of equality, I hated Julia Gillard, for a while.

But I still voted for her. I would have voted for her again in 2013. Instead I voted for Rudd, even though it was boring as heck that he got back in, and it did no-one any good, but I wasn’t ever going to vote for the alternative.

Which makes me wonder: Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?

To keep your ideology away from power to spite them … now that is hatred.

IT'S TIME to busy the hatchet, but not in one another's back ...
IT’S TIME to bury the hatchet, but not in one another’s back.

I say it’s time to heal your hate, Labor supporters. That means marrying Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard into one awkward, stumbling, problematic but progressive six-year relationship which saw great social advancements – from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to record numbers of women in cabinet – all of which is being swiftly undone while we keep hating one or the other of the leaders who brought it all into being.

To encourage you in your hate healing, imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet. If Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser could find common ground after all that went down between them, it’s entirely possible for Gillard and Rudd to come to terms with the position each put the other in.

And remember, both of them gave you something, and that is not reason to hate, it’s great cause for hope.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

This article appears in Michael’s eBook Creating Waves: Critical takes on culture and politics.

Amanda Bishop – the UnReal Julia Gillard

REAL JULIA? Amanda Bishop performs The Habanera, as Australia's first female prime minister.
REAL JULIA? Amanda Bishop performs The Habanera, as Australia’s first female prime minister.

A Writer’s encounter with a political impersonator.

AS Julia Gillard made her way through parliamentary ranks before, during and after Kevin07, the political satirists of Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue recognised they’d need to find an actress to portray the woman who would become Australia’s first female prime minister.

From her knockout live performances, to her starring and co-writing roles in the controversial At Home With Julia on the ABC, actress Amanda Bishop has become synonymous with the role of Julia Gillard.

Bishop spoke with No Fibs this week about what it takes to succeed in satire, and the consequences of your subject being a politician, prone to the whims of voters and internal party tactics.

“Audiences would cheer at the first two spoken words!” Bishop said of her early stints as Julia Gillard for the 2008 Wharf Revue. “They seemed to both delight and cringe at the sound, and we knew we were onto something. They enjoyed her humour”.

“When I auditioned for the revue, Julia was the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and Kevin Rudd had just won the election for Labor. The female in the revue plays many roles and the writer/directors (Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott) had their eyes on the lady with the interesting voice, coming up through the ranks of the ALP.

“The Revue that year was called Waiting For Garnaut and Julia appeared as ‘Sister Gillard’ a novice of the abbey, in a musical scene called ‘The Sound Of Rudd’. She sang her version of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’, all on one note.”

Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard.
Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard.

So what was it like to impersonate a politician who’s in power?

“I love this question because it has never happened for a female in the European history of Australia,” Bishop says. “It was exhilarating to play a female who had to be listened to by, well, by the country, for three years, and her male colleagues. It was genuinely interesting because the real Julia endured so much criticism with grace”.

“In the Wharf Revue, both sides of politics are covered, so I still play her now, I’m lucky. It’s only when that ‘character’ leaves politics altogether that an actor needs to let go!”

What kind of loyalty does Bishop feel towards Julia Gillard when portraying her?

“I have great respect for her, and I probably feel warmer about her than if I hadn’t played her, but not because of what she did. Rather, I think I got to see just how thick-skinned she was to have continued serving while dealing with undesirable media attention, public criticism and being the first female in the position.

“Naturally, she confronted many sensibilities, whether we wish to admit it or not.

“Every time something happened that was all over the media, we’d put it in the show, such as the shoe coming off outside the Parliament House café when she was whisked away by the security guards. Such a small thing, publicised ridiculously.

“That was a gift in the end, we often highlighted the triviality that characterised her treatment and juxtaposed it with her seriously heavy hitting political mind and activities, and her sense of calm.

Has Bishop ever met her subject?

“Many journalists attempted to organise it, but apparently she was busy running the country or something. I certainly don’t demand attention on that front, and I’d love to meet her if the opportunity arose. In a strange way it feels like we’ve already met.”

Over its ten years, The Wharf Revue at the Sydney Theatre company has become a theatrical institution which has satirised four Prime Ministers and five cabinets (when we count KRudd twice). Amanda Bishop has been an integral part of that team for six years.

“I enjoy working with the Revue creators. I learn enormous amounts from them, as they’ve been doing it for longer than me. They are hilarious to work with too, a mix of the cerebral and the silly,” she says. “When I first get their scripts, I’m googling madly in my lunch breaks to understand the many, many, well-informed historical and current references, be they political, cultural or just downright funny.”

What preparation did Bishop undertake to nail such a pivotal role in her career?

“Lots of watching her in question time, I find it’s where we see our politicians at their most theatrical. I drew her, I also listened to her a great deal.

JULIA
Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard.

“We can do an exact replica, or we can take elements of ‘impersonation’ and then build a character from there,” Bishop says, explaining the basic challenge of satire.

“The reason we build a character is because often we actors play a real person in situations they may not normally be in.

“For example, Julia sings Carmen’s ‘Habanera’ in this year’s revue, so we have to transition from a typical press conference situation, and, using the elements that are most strongly recognised (voice, hand gestures, stance, costume) take them into the world of make believe.”

Bishop’s work as Julia Gillard has also translated to the small screen in a number of incarnations.

“In television, I learnt a great deal from Paul McCarthy, who played Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull in the series we did called Wednesday Night Fever recently on the ABC. He is an incredibly generous peer and his transformations are exquisite.”

Now that Julia Gillard has moved on from politics, what does Bishop think is in store for satirists?

“I actually think it’s another interesting time. We have Tony Abbott, who’s been in the public eye for some time now, but with him on his front bench, there’s much newer blood: Joe Hockey and Christopher Pyne, and in Labor, well, there’s been so many changes, they’re all new. There’s so much fun to be had, discovering the politicians through art as much as we discover them through their own work.

And what’s next for Amanda?

“I’m still performing Julia until Christmas. Then I’m going to New York to work, and so is Julia, apparently. Poor thing, I hope I don’t bump into her in a bad mood! I hope I get to thank her for the education she gave us.”

Thanks to Lisa Mann Creative Management and Sydney Theatre Company for their assistance in facilitating this interview and images.

This article appears in Michael’s eBook Creating Waves: Critical takes on culture and politics.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.