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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 15:55 | SYDNEY

Julia's pivot?

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COMMENTS

16 November 2011 09:07

Not long after the 2010 election I wrote an article warning that Labor seemed blind to the political risks of pursuing expediency over principle and getting into bed with the Greens. Maybe if Julia Gillard paid more attention to the nether pages of The Spectator Australia she wouldn't have formed her unholy alliance with Bob Brown, we wouldn't be the only country in the world with an expensive carbon tax, and Labor's primary vote would be substantially higher than 30%. Maybe.

Now it seems the PM is belatedly waking up to the danger. Perhaps she has drawn inspiration from her new best friend Barack Obama's much-vaunted American 'pivot' from the Middle East to Asia. We might be seeing the start of Gillard's very own pivot, away from the progressive siren-song of the Greens towards something much more akin to a hard-headed Labor foreign policy in the Hawke tradition.

After all, taking on the Greens is the ALP's only hope of regaining the political centre after Australia's aspirational voters decamped en masse from Labor to Tony Abbott.

A few weeks ago, Gillard directed Australia's diplomats to vote against Palestinian membership of UNESCO, reportedly overriding Kevin Rudd's cynical advice that this might undermine Australia's UN Security Council candidacy. This week we are seeing her stand up to the unions on free trade, pick a fight with the Greens and Labor's left over uranium exports to India, and throw out the carpet to US military forces in northern Australia.

After her predecessor's China policy gyrations, Gillard had earlier reverted successfully to the measured, hard-headed Howard approach. This week we've even heard the PM described as John Howard in a dress!

These episodes may yet prove to be passing cloud-breaks of sense, islands of good policy. But perhaps they will add up to something more. If Gillard is serious about carrying through with her pivot, she will vote against Palestinian statehood should the issue arise in the UN General Assembly. She will quarantine defence spending from any budget cuts and push through the FTA with Japan (which should be easier now Tokyo looks like coming on board the Trans Pacific Partnership).

Above all, for her own credibility and for the sake of Australia's national interest she will make sure her position on uranium prevails at Labor's national conference in December.

Photo by Flickr user Rantz.

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