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Comparing one government to another. How do they measure up? Gillard versus the rest.

A comment on one of my recent posts; The Morrison government has no sense of urgency on our future … or perhaps the marketing plan isn’t finished suggested that I write a post on the effectiveness or otherwise of the Gillard Government.

There are many ways to measure a government. Polling at the moment has the Coalition 53/47 in front of Labor, but they don’t give us any idea of effectiveness.

You can take an interest in the economy, the ballot box or even the health of the nation but even then you don’t get a clear picture.

Most people use their gut feeling that is probably infected, to a degree, by media propaganda.

Fear and apprehension during a crisis usually sees voters sticking to whoever is in power. The Prime Minister’s popularity is sky high but as the recession hits where it hurts over a long period of time the polls will shift.

Back to the subject …

During my research I came across a novel way of measuring a government’s effectiveness that eliminates the emotion. It has an important flaw that I will address later.

This method, which incidentally doesn’t have a name, but measures a government’s ability to pass legislation. (The Guardian’s Nick Efershed devised it.) The article was written in 2013 and updated in 2018. Passing legislation is a government’s most important function and is a measure of its ability to get things done.

Evershed explains his methodology this way and also its pitfalls:

“One way might be to look at the ability of a government to pass legislation. Admittedly this is a quantity over quality approach, but it does offer us a quantitative measure of a government, political party or prime minister. Someone that gets a lot of legislation passed might be considered to be good at getting things done.”

The results based on a government’s ability to get things done are as follows:

“Julia Gillard had the highest rate of passing legislation with a rate of 0.495, followed by Bob Hawke at 0.491.

Click here for the interactive graph on mobile.

Malcolm Fraser was the highest-ranked liberal party prime minister on the list, at 0.481.

The parliament with the highest rate was the 36th parliament, with Bob Hawke as Prime Minister. You can see the rate of legislation has increased over time as well, with recent governments passing far more acts than in the early days of the commonwealth.

Click here for the interactive graph on mobile.

The Coalition came out on top as the overall party, with a rate of acts per day of 0.365 to the Labor’s 0.360.”

Here you will find an updated list of Prime Ministers with their legislation lists from Gillard to George Reid. A thought-provoking aside to the graph is just how much legislation gets past nowadays.

As interesting as all this is it doesn’t explain the full story. For the past decade Australian politics has been characterised by hung parliaments, revolving door leadership and the destruction of our democracy.

A government cannot be judged just on its ability to get things done. The quality of its legislation must be taken into account.

How does it improves the standard of living of the population? Is it fairly balanced? Does it contain equality of opportunity (particularly in education)? We must also take into account the ever-increasing complexity of society.

Within their ideology conservatives have a reluctance for change and when it is necessary it is in incremental doses.

Now before we move onto Prime Minister Gillard let’s take a look at each party’s achievements the Liberal Party’s has listed on their web site – and other than the GST – it is a rather bland list that has nothing that speaks of a daring progress for the collective but more for individual pursuit.

You will see how much better off the nation is when we work as a collective rather than individual units.

This is The LNP list and this is Whitlam’s list (at bottom of article).

Now back to the crux of the matter. Julia Gillard, given that those before and after her were handicapped with severe character defects, might it be considered premature to judge pass judgement on her prime ministership.

There are, however, some things we can say about her with a degree of confidence.

Ms Gillard in her post leadership period has been moderate, dignified and measured. She hasn’t been tempted, thus far, into voicing sarcasm towards others even though she might be justified in doling so.

She has buried herself in the things she is most passionate about; in education, women’s rights and mental health.

“She has,” wrote Nicholas Reece in The Sydney Moring Herald, “judiciously weighed in on select issues, but not become the story like other attention-seeking former PMs. Indeed, she has grown in stature and dignity.”

When she attended the national apology to victims of institutional child sex abuse the victims wanting to thank her mobbed her.

When she announced the Royal Commission in 2012, Paul Kelly, writing for The Australian described it as “the dismal, populist and doomed quality of Australian governance.”

Being the first female Prime Minister of Australia gave carte blanche to those, mainly men, in the media, lacking any form of social acumen, to attack her relentlessly using misogyny and malevolence.

However, If you were to strip away the character assassination by the Murdoch media, the potty mouth of Jones and the daily blatant lying of Tony Abbott then you find a government led by Rudd then Gillard (over 6 years) who successfully passed over 500 pieces of legislation.

Less-informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware. Therefore, conservatives feed them all the bullshit they need. And the menu generally contains a fair portion of untruths.

So despite the pubic perception being painted by these megalomaniacs the legislative and policy record of the Labor governments is in fact impressive.

They dismantled Work Choices and replaced it with Fair Work Australia. They instigated Paid Parental Leave, NDIS and reformed secondary education while expanding tertiary education, improved the pay of low paid workers and removed over 80 forms of discrimination against same-sex couples, the apology to the Stolen Generations, instituted a carbon price, establishing the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, reformed Murray River water management, transforming federal-state hospital funding arrangements and improved relations with China and India.

It must be said that both had difficulties (if only perceived) in managing a capitalist economy just as Ben Chifley did against the power of the banks and Gough Whitlam against the power of the multinationals. Rudd and Gillard came up against the power of big business in implementing a tax on carbon.

And then Gillard came up against the power of the Murdoch machine whose purpose – it seemed – was to destroy her. In some ways being the first female Prime Minister worked against her. The country wasn’t ready for her, especially as she was seen to have knifed her predecessor. Ladies don’t do those sorts of things. She was never able to balance her toughness with her compassion for people.

She made a mistake in appointing Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House of Representatives. And a mistake too in promising specific timelines for returning the budget to surplus and she should not have conceded that a period of fixed carbon price leading to an emissions trading scheme was effectively a tax after she said she wouldn’t introduce one.

So how does one judge the Gillard government? It has to be remembered that they were never beaten on the floor of the House.

In a time of enormous economic challenges they did attempt to address the problems of the 21st century by incorporating growth with fairness.

During her tenure as Prime Minister history will kindly record that her speech denouncing Tony Abbott’s misogyny did more to embolden women to speak up against those who would harm and belittle them than any speech before her, and probably after.

Here it is as a reminder. Enjoy!

My thought for the day

At some time in the human narrative, in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you.

PS: Comparing one parliament to another is rather futile as circumstances differ with the times. However I have read that historians regard the first Hawke ministry as being the best ever.

As to the current tenure of the LNP, well, you be the judge.

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  1. Florence

    If one judges a government on getting things done, Whitlam much be near top of list. He changed all aspects of society for the better. Women were his boiggest winners. We no longer hear of children born out of wedlock being labelled bastards.

  2. wam

    A great giggle today, lord, warmed me up quickly.
    The power of gillard was the success in convincing two conservatives of her ability and then passing such a plethora of legislation without a majority in either house.
    You have hit the ‘juliar’ on the head with:
    ‘should not have conceded that a period of fixed carbon price leading to an emissions trading scheme was effectively a tax after she said she wouldn’t introduce one.’
    At one stage she had the ABC and the auto cuists saying carbon price but ‘tax’ is so much easier she couldn’t maintain her own recalcitrants much less the simple sams and karl babies who were daily allowing the rabbott to earbash them with his bullshit..
    There is a point you are hiding in the reason for introducing the legislation for a carbon price but you have always avoided the member for melbourne slick ‘et tu brute’ tactics.

    ‘She made a mistake in appointing Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House of Representatives.’
    Ms Gillard said she appointed Mr Slipper as Speaker based on the fact that he had done a good job as deputy.
    She said during his time as Speaker he had been acknowledged as having performed well, especially in his management of Question Time.
    But she said Mr Slipper had no choice but to resign after text messages between himself and former adviser James Ashby were made public.
    “I view the text messages that Mr Slipper had sent as grossly sexist and vile,” Ms Gillard told the ABC.
    “That sort of conduct cannot be excused and will not be excused,” she said.
    “Of course I was not aware of that when Mr Slipper became Speaker at the end of last year.”
    Again numbers in the house were boosted by having an independent speaker(he was as successful as his predecessor, holder, a 100 years before?)
    In my book, she, under such handicaps, was the best prime minister in my life and the most impressive political speaker, I have ever heard.
    She slunk to her profession but once when she created a quango to avoid the trauma of voting for payrises by taking such tawdry business out of the house and out of the public eye.
    The current politicians have been sneakingly taking automatic payrises whilst everyone, except frankers, else is????

  3. Mikeoz

    Peter Slipper was the best, most even handed speaker I can remember. Forget his insistence on silly trappings!

  4. leefe

    I’m disappointed that almost everyone forgets the second part of that line of Gillard’s about mitigating the effects off our fossil fuel use. What Gillard said was:
    “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead, but let me be clear: I will be putting a price on carbon and I will move to an emissions trading scheme.”

    She did not lie, even by omission.

  5. Jack Cade

    I just watched Gillards misogyny speech. I’d forgotten how positively reptilian Tony Abbott is: he even pokes his tongue out like a lizard.

  6. Kerri

    My favourite part of Gillard’s speech is the moment when the camera turns to Abbott and he has realised that this is going very well for her and he is being exposed in a logical and believable manner for the ugly, little misogynist he is.

  7. whatever

    The Liberal Party don’t really have any legislative ambition other than to repeal and trash most legislation that Labor has authored.
    Apart from that, its mostly a 3-Year term of “I’m the King of the Castle and you’re the dirty rascal” from the Conservitards.

  8. Charles Oliver

    I’m very interested in the ‘ballet box’ – where can I get one?

  9. Roswell

    Thanks for that, Charles. I have corrected the typo. 👍

  10. Keitha Granville

    Julia Gillard will always be one of the most significant PMs I have had. Not because I am a woman, but BECAUSE of all women. Let’s face it, women have achieved some amazing things all over the world because their capacity for compromise is so much greater than men. Any woman in any relationship will bear that out. Sexist maybe, but true.

    Scummo will never be remembered for any great achievement.

  11. DrakeN


    It pays to be reminded that the purpose in creating the Liberal Party was to keep the workers representatives – the Unions – and their representatives – the Labor Party from influencing politics in favour of the hoi polloi.
    “Born to Rule” was, as it remains, their raison d’être.

  12. DrakeN

    Charles Oliver,

    All male ballet dancers wear one 😉

  13. John Lord

    DrakeN it’s rather like a cricket box but offers more exposure.

  14. Jack Cade


    Should have left it alone. I have no doubt that they use a BALLET box in The Nutcracker Suite, for Instance.

  15. Ian Hughes

    Dear Roswell,

    your “typo” reminded me of a moment in my life which happened more than 40 years ago.

    I was a young pup, aged 23, responsible for running the EDP Operations department for an insurance company. EDP (Electronic Data Processing or Electronic Duck Plucking as some wags called it!) was in its infancy and the higher ups knew bugger all about it.

    I had written a report justifying an equipment upgrade and was called to the office of our MD (who was old enough to be my father). In management meetings he used to call me the whippersnapper!

    Peering over his bi-focals he pointed to an item in my report and queried its value.

    I commented “Oh, that’s a typo”.

    I was sternly rebuked when he said “No, Ian, that’s a proof reading error”!

    Lesson learned – and never forgotten. 😃

  16. Roswell

    News flash: it wasn’t my typo. I just corrected it.

  17. Zathras


    Nobody “forgot” the rest of that speech because the media deliberately chose to broadcast only that 3 second grab and were complicit in all the falsehoods perpetuated throughout her term.

    They also never mention her interview published in The Australian the day before the election where she spelled out her policy in more detail but was forever labelled a “liar”.

    Changes from Labor to the Coaltion have always resulted in worse deals for the public.

    Electing Fraser instead of Whitlam resulted in the loss of the chance of us owning all out own natural resources and now all we get is meagre royalties while the real wealth flows into foreign pockets.

    From Keating to Howard gave us a divided society riddled with a handout mentality, the transfer of wealth and public assets to a select few plus structural budgetary problems – as well as an eternal war obligation.

    From Gillard/Rudd to Abbott lost us the chance of having an adequate NBN as well as having a fairer egalitarian society.

    Also, each time the Cancervatives took over our international economic rating has slipped ever lower.

    Now, after decades of myth and distortion the same media somehow has to reframe debt and deficits as somehow being a good thing.

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