Julia Gillard impersonates Captain Queeg

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has never won the hearts and minds of the nation. Yes, she scrambled enough votes to get the top job but it was not because people liked her.

It is a reasonable assumption that a good many voters cast their ballots to achieve the radical change of electing our first-ever female PM. But that passion faded as quickly as the horror of finding a near-stranger in your bed the morning after a big night before. The reality is that the more we have got to know Gillard, the less we have liked her.

In the period after the election when she broke rolled-gold promises such as “there will be no carbon tax”, voters burned with animosity. Their dislike was palpable and led Gillard to utter her now infamous promise to be “the real Julia” not the person we had assumed she was.

Regrettably for Julia, we couldn’t tell the difference. The dislike rose another notch. And it has been on a slow downward slide ever since. Until she came out swinging and lashed her rival for national leadership, Tony Abbott, as a woman-hating prick. No she did not use those exact words but her venomous disdain conveyed her utter antipathy for the man most likely to take her job.

Her denunciation was not a pretty sight: most filletings of live creatures do tend to churn the tummy somewhat. But it drove her popularity upwards, if only marginally. But therein lay a transformation. Gillard swapped persona yet again. This time she has emerged as a pseudo Genghis Khan determined to do it her way and go down swinging regardless of potential adverse consequences.

The nation has watched agog while her team has recoiled aghast. The most extraordinary manifestation of this new Boadicea was her announcement of the longest election campaign in national history: roughly eight months or 225 days with voting to be held on September 14.

What has stunned observers on all sides is that the selection of polling day is regarded as one of the best strategic and tactical weapons available to the incumbent leader. Playing a guessing game with all and sundry enables the PM to often catch the Opposition flat-footed.

But Gillard has surrendered that advantage. Now, the Opposition can book television advertising slots and prepare printing and other campaign materials with months to spare. They simply cannot believe their luck. Labor, however, cannot believe its misfortune.

Seasoned party tacticians are shell-shocked and profess they are entirely unable to understand the PM’s reasoning. Already expecting a likely electoral rout they now fear things could go even worse.

Their concerns appear well-founded. Lawyers have just pointed-out that electoral laws mean that all media outlets must immediately give the Opposition equal time and impartiality – because the law says the campaign period has officially commenced. This is despite Gillard saying she announced her decision so early in order to avoid exactly that trap.

The fact that Gillard chose her course with almost no consultation has alienated even more key players in her own side. Now that it has turned sour, will anyone leap to her defence? Not likely. The silence so far has been deafening.

The voting public are largely bemused by all this because they mostly don’t give a damn about political subtleties and nuances. But you can bet they are wondering what the hell the PM thought she was playing at. And they were already peeved at the prospect of having 225 days of campaigning politicians in their faces at every opportunity. Not something we Aussies really like!

The whole saga of Gillard’s term of office is like a Greek tragedy. As the main character becomes more and more isolated, she retreats into an arrogant paranoia in which everyone else is wrong and only she can discern the true reality. It’s not a comforting thought and we have another eight months of this to go.

The best hope the government had was Australians’ general dislike of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. But when Gillard continues to punch herself in the nose with increasing frequency and vigour we watch with a sad fascination but a mounting determination to save us all from the unedifying spectacle by removing her from the political stage once and for all. Frankly, the curtain can’t come down quick enough.