Abbott left little wriggle room on promises

‘Tony Abbott is a pathological liar who has lost the respect of the Australian people. He leads a beleaguered government, held ransom by extremists in the Senate. His government is illegitimate. He must resign and end our collective misery!’

Of course, no one is calling for the head of our PM just yet but this is precisely the kind of hyperbole Abbott used to demolish Julia Gillard’s prime ministership when she confronted similar political circumstances just three years ago.

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Playing The Man?

Julia Gillard came under fire for playing the so called ‘gender card’, but a closer examination of the Rudd v Abbott contest reveals that it is her male adversaries who have been using gender as a political weapon.

The relationship between masculinity and ‘strong leadership’ is a persistent theme in Australian politics. Hawke positioned himself as an Aussie larrikin, while Keating used his aggressive style to establish his authority. Howard channelled masculine concepts of power when the War on Terror saw him emerge as a ‘Man of Steel.’ Both Rudd and Abbott have sought to draw on these themes, projecting their own versions of masculinity and using this to define their opponents.

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Rudd’s Greatest Moral Challenge

Kevin Rudd has begun his second term as Prime Minister in much the same way as he ended his first, with back-flips and dog-whistles on immigration. Through his latest capitulation to Tony Abbott, Rudd 2.0 is providing more than just neat symmetry. He has left no doubt that win or lose this election, the conservative side of politics will continue to shape Australia’s asylum seeker policy. It’s an error that will have serious consequences for his party and our nation.

While it’s been in office for almost 6 years, many Australians are still unsure about what their Labor Government stands for.  Part of this stems from Labor’s inability to use the authority of incumbency to set the political agenda.

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Stand for Something or Fall for Anything

March 2013 will long be remembered by political tragics as a month of brutality that would surely have made Brutus himself wince.

Labor’s botched leadership coup may have been Rudd-less but it certainly wasn’t bloodless, with a series of ministers caught in the crossfire. Meanwhile, on the conservative side of politics, a premier and a chief minister were knifed after a string of unfavourable opinion polls.

Leadership change and renewal are inevitable in any democracy. Ultimately, even the most successful leaders must eventually step aside or face their makers, be they in the parliament or the electorate. However, the frequency of the leadership changes of recent years suggests a disturbing trend in our politics.

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Leadership and the Power of Persuasion

Julia Gillard’s speech on sexism not only made headlines for its explosive content, its electrifying delivery was certainly uncharacteristic of a Prime Minister often accused of being ‘wooden’ and ‘contrived’.

Gillard’s difficulties with political communication are not unique and many other leaders have struggled to strike the right chord in their conversations with the electorate. In fact, in modern politics, the way the message is conveyed can prove just as influential as the message itself, in terms of shaping impressions of a leader and constructing their political persona.

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