12 August 2011
As has been the pattern of her Prime Ministership, Julia Gillard fluffed the delivery last week when she argued her government can "walk gum and chew at the same time".
She was trying to say Labor is getting on with the business of governing, despite the heated carbon tax debate, the struggle to solve the asylum seeker dilemma and the appalling polls.
And she's right.
Over the last two weeks we've seen the Prime Minister:
- Land a workable health agreement with the states which will improve hospital services.
- Commit to a national disability insurance scheme which will transform the quality of life for almost half a million disabled Australians.
- Begin a process of reforming aged care to cope with the enormous pressure looming as the population ages.
-And even open a conversation on high speed rail.
Admittedly none of these reforms will happen overnight. They will all take time. A long time in the case of a disability insurance scheme and even longer in the case of high speed rail.
That's as it should be.
Kevin Rudd's preference to rush reform (think health, CPRS, NBN, mining tax) showed the merits of less haste.
But despite the sensible policy progress of the past fortnight, Julia Gillard just can't catch a break.
Her efforts to move on from the carbon tax debate and flesh out the story of what this government stands for, have been completely overshadowed by the panic on share markets and the mobs of angry kids in hoodies on the streets of London.
The tumbling markets and debt crises have done little to restore any consumer or business confidence, no matter how many times Wayne Swan tells us the fundamentals here are strong.
Households aren't spending, workers are watching their superannuation slide and still cost of living pressures continue to grow.
Returning the budget to surplus next financial year is now apparently something the government is "working towards" rather than a firm promise.
Is this the right time to introduce a carbon tax? It's a reasonable question many are asking.
It seems there's nothing the government can do to escape the carbon tax.
Or asylum seekers for that matter.
Just when it scored a breakthrough with the Malaysian people swap agreement, along came the High Court to put the whole thing on ice.
Once again, border protection seems to be beyond the government's control.
So what should have been a positive fortnight for Julia Gillard has been another battle.
Oh, and Tony Abbott's back from holidays.
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