Friday, December 17, 2010

Speak Now Backtrack Later

In her short time as PM, Julia Gillard has already forged a reputation for rash, poorly thought through pronouncements.

For example, in the time period immediately after she displaced Kevin Rudd in the top job, she moved to neutralise some of The Ruddbot's unpopular policy legacies; winding back the mining tax, postponing the carbon trading scheme and appeasing Nationalist bogans in Sydney's Western suburbs by getting tough (er) on asylum seekers. It was in relation to this last issue that she announced, in July of this year, that Australia would build a 'Regional Processing Centre' for asylum seekers in East Timor... and then almost immediately announced that we wouldn't be doing that after all, as no one from her Government had consulted East Timor about this plan in advance, and they weren't particularly keen on the idea.

Similarly, once the election campaign started and Labor almost immediately drove their campaign van through the railings, down the slope and into the ditch at the bottom, Gillard decided to take charge of things by throwing off the shackles and announcing that from now on she would be campaigning as 'The Real Julia'... which lasted about 14 tenths of one second, or until she had fielded so many questions about who she'd been pretending to be prior to this moment that this was adbandoned too.

There are other examples.

And this month it has been Julian Assange and WikiLeaks' turn to be on the end of the PM's patented 'Speak Now, Backtrack Later' technique.

On December 2, shortly after WikiLeaks released a mass of confidential diplomatic cables from around the world that made most leading Government figures look like temperamental children, an angry Gillard declared that this action was 'a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do.'

Most observers felt this assessment from the PM was rash and just plain wrong. It's obvious to anyone with even the most passing interest in the law that WikiLeaks has not done anything illegal. The people who have passed information onto WikiLeaks may have broken the law, and you could have a debate about the rightness or wrongness of them releasing the information that they have, but the organisation itself is no more guilty of a crime than any daily newspaper that uses confidential sources for it's articles.

This was confirmed this week, when the Australia Federal Police announced that Mr Assange was not guilty of having broken any Australian laws.

If you listened very carefully, you could probably hear members of the PM's media office groaning and contemplating a change of career (or stepping in front of a train). After all, they would be lumbered with having the PM, their boss, take to the airwaves to claim that she hadn't actually said the quote listed above at all. Or, more accurately, that she'd been quoted out of context, had her words twisted, been the victim of a right wing media plot, been brainwashed by aliens, been hypnotised by her dog and had, in fact, been talking about something else entirely anyway.

Anything but admit that she'd shot her mouth off and spoken without thinking... again.

Anyway, for those with strong stomachs and hard heads, here is the PM at her press conference yesterday, trying to qualify and qualify and qualify her quote from December 2:

'The release of all this documentation has been grossly irresponsible,' she said. 'And done without regard to the national interest. The foundation stone here is an illegal act that breached the laws of the United States of America. A person who is employed and has access to confidential material and then takes that material has obviously been involved in an illegal act. Let's be absolutely clear, that reference to a foundation stone is not a reference to a journalist.'

Riiiiiigggghhhht... Now I geddit!

I mean, it almost makes you feel nostalgic for the Rudd era, with it's focus on crytsal clear Prime Ministerial communications.

Later, the PM's media office would release a slightly more comprehensible statement, which read that 'the Prime Minister regarded publishing on the site (WikiLeaks) as irresponsible but not illegal.'

The person that wrote this communique then vowed never top touch a keyboard again, before setting off for to start anew life, making shoes in the forest.

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