The Gillard Show
Coming on top of an increase in support measured by two polls, the Federal Cabinet will be quietly thrilled by the performance of the Prime Minister during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. First, she showed a comfort with the foreign policy role that goes with being PM. Her regrettable statement on her first European trip that she was more comfortable with being in a classroom than dealing with foreign affairs is now a million years away. Like John Howard, who initially faltered at foreign affairs, she will discover a relish for the role as her friendships and familiarity with foreign leaders develops.
This maturation was apparent to the nation as they watched her joint press conference and her speech.
Second, the happy graphics of the visit break the cycle of bad news and bad luck that has plagued the government.
At the end of next month, the Prime Minister can confirm her leadership credentials by winning a debate on uranium sales to India at the National ALP Conference. This is one of the modes of Federal ALP leadership, from the times of John Curtin through to Whitlam, Hawke and Keating: the leader prevailing in debate with his own party.
If Julia Gillard keeps showing a relaxed confidence, a political revival is possible. A short time ago, it was not.
With the carbon tax bedded, the government must squeeze out a compromise on poker machine reform that recognises Wilkie’s valid concerns but takes the pressure off the other Independents and New South Wales Labor MPs. After all, unless Wilkie compromises nothing will get through the parliament.
Bit by bit, the government will find the media drawn to the Opposition’s incoherent policies and gaping fiscal black holes. Tony Abbott did not maximise the advantage offered him by a speech of welcome to the president. The repeated incantations of “Sir…sir…sir” instead of “Mr President” suggested serious under-preparation. And you never make partisan points in such a setting.
Newspoll is in the field. If Gillard and the ALP continue to firm, there is one issue: a not particularly popular Federal Opposition leader.