The Making of Julia Gillard
Viking, $32.95 pb, 325 pp
Could it be that there is less to Julia Gillard than meets the eye? She is a woman of fierce intelligence, Australia’s best parliamentary performer, and one of the sharpest wits in Canberra. I met Gillard a couple of times early in her political career, when she was shadow minister for immigration, and engaged her in a lengthy discussion about refugee policy. This was not long after the Tampa affair, when Labor was searching for a way back from the wilderness of electoral defeat and the party was bleeding internally from wounds caused by rank-and-file anger at its response to John Howard’s handling of the asylum seekers issue. I found Gillard to be charming, engaging and funny. She was well briefed, open to argument and ideas, but questioning and critical. I had the sense even then that her feet were firmly grounded in the reality of electoral politics: that no policy proposal would pass muster if it might constitute a serious obstacle on the path back to power in Canberra.
Like many Australians, I have followed Gillard’s rise through Labor’s ranks keenly since then, if only because she has added colour and vibrancy to federal politics (I’m not talking about her hair). So I was eager to read Jacqueline Kent’s biography. Sadly, having done so, I find the deputy prime minister rather less interesting than I did before I started.