Labor women’s group EMILY’s List will double down in its bid to hold on to the female vote after the dumping of Julia Gillard, as Labor strategists look to cover all bases to steal victory from under Tony Abbott’s nose on election day.
Over her three years in office, Australia’s first female prime minister consistently achieved a higher ‘better PM’ rating among women than the opposition leader, whose track record on feminist issues formed a key part of the Gillard communication team’s political thrust. A resurgent Kevin Rudd will be hoping to sandbag that sentiment as the ALP’s national apparatus shifts to a pre-election war footing.
The move comes in the aftermath of the short-lived “Women for Gillard” initiative, launched in the dying days of Gillard’s government but slammed by some internal activists as window dressing compared to the main game of enlivening the party’s deep internal architecture fomented over decades.
EMILY’s List national co-convener Tanja Kovac says her group will soon conduct exclusive polling in marginal seats in the lead-up to election day, “of women, by women, for women — to assess public policy from a women’s perspective, making recommendations to the ALP about how to win the women’s vote”. In previous years the data has proven crucial in gauging which policies are likely to hit home.
Kovac told Women’s Agenda sister publication Crikey that “winning the women’s vote — which is what gender-based campaigning is all about — is an important aspect of any political campaign strategy. It is entirely foolish politics to ignore the policy and campaigning needs of 52% of the population.”
Abbott has consistently polled lower among women than men and Labor believes he remains vulnerable to a renewed assault on his gender credibility. The parliamentary leadership team is looking to install a women in Gillard’s seat of Lalor to counter the raft of men contesting preselection in newly vacated safe Labor seats and help resuscitate state-based affirmative action policies.
“Women for Gillard”, launched just four weeks ago, lampooned “men in blue ties” and re-raised the rolling issue of abortion in Australian life. It was headed by South Australian Labor identity and Canberra staffer Clarabella Burley and chaired by Chloe Bryce, the wife of Bill Shorten and daughter of Governor General Quentin Bryce. Burley’s Twitter account advises she remains a director of Women for Gillard precursor Women for Progress.
Gillard communications director John McTernan, who helped set up the group, penned a swingeing op-ed for the UK Telegraph two days after his boss’ sacking, claiming she was felled by a brutal culture of misogyny.
“When a speech launching a women’s group supporting a female Labor prime minister is rejected by EMILY’s List, it’s pretty obvious somebody screwed up terribly.”