A description of former Australian PM Julia Gillard’s parliamentary and office management style, by former staffer Nicholas Reece:
Gillard is one of the best close-quarters politicians the Federal Parliament has ever seen.
As prime minister, she ran a disciplined, professional office that operated in much the same way as a well-run law firm – a product of her early career at Slater & Gordon.
Cabinet process was strictly upheld and the massive flow of administrative and policy paperwork that moves between government departments, the prime minister’s office and the prime minister’s desk was dealt with efficiently.
There was courtesy shown to staff, MPs, public servants and stakeholders – every person entitled to a view was given a chance to express it before a decision was made.
Gillard would diligently work her way through the detail of an issue and then patiently execute an agreed plan to tackle it.
She was generous with her time and did not rush people in the way busy leaders often do. She was never rude and never raised her voice, unless for humorous purposes.
She had a quick mind and could master a brief at lightning speed. She was a masterful parliamentary tactician and a brilliant analyst of the day’s events and the politics of the Labor caucus. She was a genuinely affectionate person and had a quick wit that could be deployed to lift the spirits of those around her.
At her instigation, birthdays were the subject of office celebration. This would involve Gillard turning up for cake and delivering a very personal speech to even the most junior staff.
Significantly for a national leader, Gillard had no major personality defects. She is probably the most normal, down-to-earth person to have served as prime minister of Australia in the modern era.
In a crisis, she was supremely calm. While others wilted, Gillard had a resilience that allowed her to keep stepping up to the plate.
She was good at remembering people’s names, knowing their story, understanding their motivations and being able to see a situation from another’s perspective.
These were attributes that were very well suited to the fraught circumstances of the 43rd Parliament.
In the negotiations with the crossbench MPs to form government, Gillard easily outmanoeuvred Tony Abbott. She better understood the independents’ motivations – she focused on the detail of how the relationship between government and the crossbenches would work and committed to serving the full term.
The achievements include: the national broadband network, putting a price on carbon, education reform, children’s dental care and the national disability insurance scheme.
In federal-state relations, there was the negotiation of health reform with the conservative premiers and in foreign affairs there was a strengthening of relations with our major partners, particularly China and the US.
Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that Gillard was well-liked, even loved, among her staff, the public service and most of her caucus.”