If there is anything that can divide a conversation between love and hate it has to be politics. Or in this case politicians. For Christmas I was given journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book The Stalking of Julia Gillard; How the media and Team Rudd brought down the Prime Minister.
Known as KA, the author has worked in politics and reported it since 1978. Her book is a blow-by-blow account of how Team Rudd manipulated the media to work against the Prime Minister to forward the reinstating of ‘One K.Rudd’.
As history has shown, from 2010 to 2013 we saw some of the most woeful periods of political reporting. Without substance or qualification the Canberra press gallery fed off the internal narcissism of Team Rudd on a daily basis until finally they won.
Honestly as a reader and journalist I found this a sad time and found the book a comprehensive read about the complacency of our press gallery. It wrote in black and white the lies and manipulation of disgruntled Labor MPs led by the most aggrieved, Kevin Rudd.
Admittedly the continuous manipulation of the media by Team Rudd did begin to feel like Groundhog Day and I found myself half way through the book struggling to get through. But I was glad I did, there were moments I went ‘a-ha so that’s what really happened’ and appreciated the work that went in to connecting the dots for me.
However for me what was missing was more detail on how the Opposition Liberal National Party contributed to events. Their own manipulation of the media to cruise through this period un-scrutinised was only really mentioned in the Epilogue. Not a fan of Team Rudd I could have done with more of that throughout the book to keep me engaged.
In fact some of the real gems of criticism were found in the Epilogue. Like this observation; “The press gallery can be a beast that feeds on itself. Apart from attending the occasional press conference, Question Time or ministerial interview, gallery journalists are shackled to their desks. Their company is each other; their sounding boards are each other; their judgements about the political angle for the day are formed out of exchanges with each other.”
I have witnessed this pack mentality first hand with court reporting. It is dangerous and disingenuous. It deprives the public of diverse views and more so facts that are triple checked and sound.
Towards the end of my reading this book the YWCA in Adelaide released a report by the University of Adelaide. It that showed young women were less likely to enter politics on the basis of the media’s treatment of Julia Gillard. While this may be the case it was the comments section accompanying the online articles about this that brought out the haters. Instead of acknowledging this may be true it instead fueled people’s loathsome opinions of Gillard. Hijacking this very valid research lies at the heart of why women in politics will continue to suffer for many years to come.
So I will leave the last (long) word to the YWCA Adelaide who wrote this on Facebook.
“We always welcome a range of opinions. Stimulating debate is how the world changes. We are all for that. It does appear though there is also confusion about the purpose and topic of the survey. It is not about whether Julia Gillard was a good politician or not. It is about whether the way she was treated by the media has impacted on the political and other leadership aspirations of women. This survey finds that it has. The YWCA runs an annual survey called SHE Speaks and for two years running (which involved thousands of girls and young women) Julia Gillard was nominated as the woman most admired for her achievement of becoming the first female PM in Australia. So we have that data which does show she was respected and admired by many and did act as a role model. There is ample evidence which shows females and males in leadership are treated differently – by the media, by potential employers, by employees, by the general community etc. There is also ample evidence which shows the social and economic benefits of women in leadership: in politics, business, community etc. Our job is to support women in to leadership so we are deeply interested in the barriers they face, how to overcome those barriers, and how to challenge and change structures to support women’s leadership. It is simply false to say that female and male PM’s in Australia are treated the same. When you can provide the evidence that any media commentator anywhere in this country has called for the death of a male PM (see chaff bag), your argument will hold up.”