ANY CREDIBILITY Julia Gillard may have retained for her cynical “stand” against misogyny evaporated yesterday; not only did she return, gushing, to Kyle Sandilands and his millions of listeners on 2DayFM, but her spin doctor-in-chief intervened in a bizarre defence of the Sydney shock jock.
We looked at this two months ago, when Gillard first ventured onto Sandilands’ show; at the time I said it was obvious where Gillard is concerned that principles disappear when several million listeners are on offer, even when a misogynistic pig is in charge of the show.
At least then she had a pretext of sorts: she and Sandilands were to support a children’s Easter charity together — even if it was, rather conveniently, in the immediate aftermath of the March Labor leadership non-coup which nonetheless plunged the ALP into turmoil.
This time, her attendance can only be interpreted as an attempt to milk the considerable, youth-skewed 2DayFM audience for votes.
For a leader with such a colossal credibility problem with the electorate, my first thought was to wonder what the hell her advisers were telling Gillard.
After all, the case her “misogyny” rant was built on was flimsy, fooling only the gullible to begin with and next to nobody as even they thought it through; making a beeline for studios presided over by Kyle Sandilands kicks the crutches out from beneath any concept of a crusade against sexism and misogyny with Gillard’s name attached to it at all.
Readers will know all about Sandilands, and for the few who don’t, this will bring you up to speed fairly quickly.
Yet in a bizarre twist — reminiscent of the stereotypical friend trying to help, who makes things worse in so doing — Gillard’s Scottish PR maestro John McTernan intervened this morning, issuing a statement that stoutly defended Sandilands’ character, and berating News Ltd outlets for “a vendetta against Kyle.”
Sandilands, McTernan claimed, “touches the hearts of millions of people.”
Taking aim at a report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, McTernan said it fell to him to point out some basic rules “of comms” to its publishers.
He went on to defend Sandilands in terms of “well-known work with charity” undertaken by the shock jock, suggesting the Tele “will reflect on the darts of the pygmies who sneer at success.”
McTernan — a media adviser to the previous Labour government in the UK prior to his secondment to the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra — really should have known better, his talk of basic rules “of comms” notwithstanding.
It goes without saying that what he has done represents a direct intervention — even interference — in political and media issues that would seem well beyond the remit of a media lackey in a political office.
McTernan, of all people, should have known his action would become public.
And he should have known because Gillard is on shaky enough ground as it is with all this “misogyny” rhetoric, by trying to bandy it around subsequent to her speech under privilege, and by appearing on Sandilands’ show in the first place.
This isn’t a case of the rules “of comms,” to use McTernan’s insiderish jargon; it’s a case of principles — or, rather, the complete abrogation of them Gillard seems determined to commit, having made a stand on them based on the flimsiest of pretexts in the first place.
It’s not a case of a vendetta against Sandilands (although this column has called for him to be booted off air in the past, and stands by that call); it’s a case of a misogynistic pig with a huge audience of voters hosting a Prime Minister supposedly committed to stamping out misogyny, yet fawning all over Sandilands to gain the benefit of access to his listeners.
And there is no question of the validity of the charity work Sandilands does; even a pig can render some useful service if he sees fit to do so.
No, this issue reflects, once again, squarely on Gillard.
Voters with any sympathy at all for Gillard’s moral crusading against sexism and misogyny should simply shake their heads, and accept they’ve been swindled; Gillard has no credibility on such issues, and is simply a hypocrite.
And as much as McTernan might be the adviser driving much of what Gillard says or does, the responsibility stops with Gillard; ultimately it is she who is accountable to the Australian public — not McTernan.
Of McTernan, I would simply note that not only was Labour thrown from office in 2010, it suffered its worst defeat in 30 years; and as much as he might plead that he left Number 10 well before that election, the sins of a beaten government lie in its history, and he had the ear of Tony Blair for many, many years at the top levels of British governance.
McTernan should pull his head in, and concentrate on arranging his airfare back to the UK; if he books to fly out on 15 September he is unlikely to be slugged for a change of dates.
In the end, however, this latest episode explodes once and for all the myth of Julia Gillard and her hatred of misogyny; the days’ events show rather that she is driven by expediency and self-interest — and when it comes to self-interest, she certainly stands for that…