Last charge for Gillard’s light brigade

If Labor has a ground-zero from which to rebuild its fortunes for the 2013 election, surely it's today.

The latest Newspoll shows its primary support still held down at 30 per cent – its low point was 26 per cent in September 2011 – and with the Greens vote stuck at 10 per cent, it's facing a nation-changing electoral wipeout, with the two-party-preferred vote widening to 58 per cent to 42 to per cent in favour of the Coalition.

Abandon hope all ye cabinet ministers who enter here.

They won't, of course. George Megalogenis, probably Australia's most sober and data-driven commentator, observed last night on the ABC's Q&A that a major difference between politics and sport is that nobody talks about sporting contests in terms of the likely final score.

But following Labor's 'Ruddless coup', and the rather mis-shapen cabinet that emerged from yesterday's reshuffle, the likely final score will get plenty of attention.

There's something alarmingly lopsided about the new cabinet roles. Prime Minister Gillard has been forced to load up a few safe hands with key portfolios rather than risk giving them to newer faces.

Former Woodside executive Gary Gray can be relied on not to say the wrong thing in the resources portfolio, and while he's got a lot to learn in the small business portfolio, he'll likely keep his lips sealed until he does. And he'd better not drop any clangers – the electorally important SME community is no doubt feeling extremely bruised after being handballed in quick succession from Brendan O'Connor, to Chris Bowen, and on to Gray.

Other safe hands include rehabilitated coup participant Anthony Albanese, who is unlikely to drop the ball in Regional Development and Local Government; and the overburdened Craig Emerson who should avoid any faux pas in Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research.

A small mercy of the reshuffle is that with Emerson juggling the roles as Minister for Trade and Competiveness, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy, and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, he's unlikely to get a chance to sing again before the next election.

To the political classes, this reshuffle, particularly Emerson's unwieldy job title, will look absurd. However, it will be ignored by voters more generally.

There are some pluses – Gillard has increased female representation in the ministry, giving Jan McLucas human services, Catherine King regional affairs and Sharon Bird higher education and skills. The number of women in the inner and outer ministry is now 13, compared with nine in the shadow ministry.

Is that important? Well yes, but as University of Melbourne historian Marilyn Lake writes in the Fairfax papers today, you wouldn't read much about it: "20 men of different parties ... have served as Australian prime minister. Then Gillard dared to follow in their footsteps. Many fellow politicians and public commentators never forgave her audacity.

"Historians of the future will see more clearly perhaps than we can the pattern of relentless attacks on her that followed, both inside and outside parliament, including the astonishing press campaigns by male journalists calling on her to resign, male cartoonists vilifying her, and some male colleagues – yesterday's men – continually plotting to unseat her."

Lake knows a good deal more about that than your male correspondent. During the 'misogyny' debate last winter, female colleagues told me a number of times that male columnists had got the story quite wrong – that Gillard's attack on Tony Abbott, whatever one thinks of its 'fairness' or how justified it was in Abbott's own case, gave voice to a large number of women who had never seen that message as forcefully put before. Literally millions of women around the world celebrated Gillard's performance.

Lake is right that the media has been too quick to tell Australia's first female prime minister that she's playing the 'gender card' – that card has been unconsciously played the other way since the dawn of time.

So that's one plus in the new Gillard line-up and arguably, the new male faces refreshing the Old Man Labor brand will be another.

But that's about it. The overwhelming truth of this reshuffle is that it's a last-ditch attempt to salvage something from the three-year wrecking campaign waged by Kevin Rudd. It is most likely too late to undo the historic damage his lurking and challenging did to the party.

The new faces in the ministry will most likely be most useful in rebuilding Labor after the September election. If, that is, they retain their seats.

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Interesting cold analysis, but at the end it comes down to what you said in the conclusion that is, how many labor faces will retain their seats after this last soap opera, some have been looking like prairie dogs looking for a hole, other will become very vocal from now one to distance themselves from perceived unpopular weaknesses in the faulty machine from the voters viewpoint, just to protect their seats which will not help labor, the greens and the independents will be also restless after the warning of the WA election where they were completely wiped out.

Juia Gillard may be good at gender politics,good at class warfare,good at vilifying 457 visa workers and good at destroying Kevin Rudd.But there is scant evidence that she is good at unifying the Labor Party or is capable of putting the common good above looking after her backers in the Trade Union Movement who only represent a small segment of the workforce and even part of that by coercian.On the evdence to date she will rank among Australia's worst prime ministers.

You make no mention of senator Conroy, who should have been dismissed as a Minister after his abysmal handling of the NBN, internet filters, and medial reforms. The fact that he has kept his job just goes to the heart of the problem that Gillard has created.

As recounted by Rob, Academic Marilyn Lakes's astonishing descent from objective assesssmnt to evidenceless political advocay is as good a metaphor as you'll get for the woeful output apparently now applauded wthin Australian university humanities departments. And reported in the "Fairfax Press", what a surprise. Her emotive assertion that Gillard has been the victim of a gender war by male commentators can be neither proved nor disproved rendering it as valid a viewpoint as a belief that god made the world in 6 days. If some private university wants to fund Ms Lake trotting out faith based pleas like this and then have the audacity to put them up as anything even appraching scholalry opinon then let them pay their money to her but not mine as a taxpayer for a publicily funded university.

Julia Gellard has proven during the last couple of years that she is not a true leader. She hasn't been able to control her own party. Yet she is asking to lead the nation. However her biggest fault is that she hasn't prepared the economy to the after resource boom period. Even worse, her policies consequence is that we will start this period with increasing budget deficit. Her policies are about pouring more money into the government's system and nothing about improving efficiency. The best example is the education system, where much more money has already poured without improvement. More money instead improving the education methodologies. That is despite the fact that our teachers' salary is among the highest in the world.

IMO, Labors standing in the polls will only get worse as the election draws closer. The simple fact is that Ms Gillard lost the trust of the voters after the last election and nothing she does will ever change that fact. Her biggest failing is she just can't admit when she is wrong and in doing so will inevitably bring the party to it's knees. The base ball bats will be out, make no mistake and they wont miss next time around.

Every media report, every day, reports its a landslide to the Liberals,then why such little scrutiny of Abbott and his team? after all these are the people running the country in 6 months yet Abbott and company seem to be under little pressure from the press.Not that i am suggesting media bias,just want to see more about our future prime minister and what we can expect under a Liberal government.Mind you if Queensland is anything to go by it doesn't matter what the Liberals say before an election ,after the election you commission an audit from a fellow Liberal,tell the public how bad things are according to that audit,and unfortunately you have to break your promises and do things you never told the electorate about before the election in order to 'save' the economy,pretty neat huh?

Jacqui, if Labor governments didn't blow money recklessly on silly schemes and inefficiencies, Liberal governments wouldn't have to make cuts to balance the budget. As for scrutiny of Mr Abbott's policies, do I need to mention Krudd in 2007. Costings released at 10.00pm on election eve. I've always wondered where the demands for scrutiny were then as Labor was given a free ride by the press all the way into government.

Being a competent Prime Minister relies on a number of attributes. Trust and telling the truth are two very important qualities. Julia fails both of those.

I am a bit perplexed at the fact that Craig Emerson who is Minister for, amongst other things, Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research yet Sharon Bird has responsibility for higher education and skills. Does this mean Sharon Bird reports to Craig Emerson, or does it mean we will have two people (and two Departments) covering the same issues? Apart from the bureaucratic duplication, it is ridiculous to have two people with the responsibility for developing policy in the same area. It looks like institutionalised conflict.

@Mike Poidevin: "Being a competent Prime Minister relies on a number of attributes. Trust and telling the truth are two very important qualities." - really? Howard had very little of either in his time...

Stephen I agree with you about Rudd in 2007 and the lack of scrutiny, I do not want to see that again,do you? Neither side of politics have a monopoly on spending money wisely when in power,the IMF contend that Australia's most wasteful spending in the past 50 years took place under Howard's government,you may disagree with their assessment but it is certainly open for debate.I believe in Churchill's comment 'There is no such thing as public opinion, only published opinion' The Federal Liberal party need to be put under the microscope by the press and so far that has not occurred,no free press rides for either party,otherwise the media barons have undue influence about who will be the next government,surprise,surprise.