The view from Billinudgel

The queen must be sacrificed

To save the game, the queen had to be sacrificed – well, not so much sacrificed as replaced by the previously sidelined king.

And of course there will be consequences, and not all of them will be pleasant – the removal of a monarch can never be a painless process. Hence Kevin Rudd is already trying to pre-empt the worst of them, and in particular an expected back-lash from women.

Recent polling has shown that Gillard’s big lead among women was starting to drift away; her speech last month to a group of Labor women, in which she predicted that an coalition victory would see women bundled out of politics and abortion once again become the play thing of men was seen even by some prominent feminists as over the top. But for others, her subsequent sacking proved that everything she had said about the inbuilt misogyny of Australian politics was right on the money.

Anne Summers, a widely respected leader of the second wave of feminism, insisted that Gillard had been treated brutally and unfairly because of her gender, and lamented the fact that while six of her male ministers resigned along with her, none of their female colleagues did the same. Her displeasure found some support in the electorate; snap polls showed that while men were moving back to Labor in significant numbers, women were more reluctant.

Rudd immediately announced the promotion of three more women to his cabinet bringing the number to eleven, a clear record and approaching the 50 percent the Women’s Electoral Lobby has demanded. But he insisted that their appointment was based purely on merit – gender had nothing to do with it. While advocating a kinder, gentler, brand of politics, Rudd is not about to turn his government into some kind of women’s refuge, any more than Gillard did.

And there is a strong belief in the ALP that appeasement will not be necessary, because in the end women will have to choose: Rudd or Abbott. They can certainly protest by giving their first preference to the Greens or an Independent, but if their vote is to count, they will have to indicate further preferences, which in almost every case will flow through to one of the major parties.

They can, of course, vote informal or even abstain, but this would have the effect of denying Labor a vote and moving Abbott closer to the Lodge. Rudd will rely on the fact that no rational woman will consider that a good thing and he is certain that Dr Summers and like minded feminists, however much they might resent his usurpation, will dismiss it as an unacceptable outcome.

Kruddy Ruddy might not be their ideal, but if the alternative is Captain Catholic, the Mad Monk ... well, the record speaks for itself. Disgruntled women may have to close their eyes and hold their noses, but in the end they will take the medicine.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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