I’m not the first person to criticise the ALP’s clunky, tone deaf campaigning style. They are terrible at it, and we can all talk for hours about the reasons why. They’re so bad at it, that whenever they try, the conversation always turns into a meta-analysis of how badly they did it.
So I’m not going to disagree entirely with those who have criticised the way that Gillard introduced the abortion issue into the election debate. It was clunky and a really obvious attempt to take advantage of one of Abbott’s weaknesses.
But hello? Abortion is one of Abbott’s weaknesses. The only thing stopping him from banning abortions both here and internationally is the need to appeal to voters. He hasn’t changed his mind, he’s compromising his values in the pursuit of power. I’m not sure why it’s unwise to make that point. Yes, the Labor party has its own anti-choicers. It has long since decided to leave that as a conscience vote to prevent tearing the party apart. And yes, the Gillard government has been far from perfect on many of the same issues. But…
I object to the idea that abortion is too controversial to be raised in a decent campaign. Workchoices was controversial and the ALP won the 2007 election on the issue. Abortion is far less controversial than that – poll after poll after poll shows that the majority support it being available. Does Labor really think that raising the issue will lose us a single vote we haven’t lost already? Is it really so unwise to campaign on an issue where you’re on the right side of public opinion?
It’s not just about abortion. A person’s stance on abortion is almost always a good indicator of how they will approach many issues. Birth control, the rights of women in the workplace, the rights of all of us to make decisions concerning our own health and freedom. Gillard may have, as usual, introduced it in a clunky way, but let’s not allow that to distract us from the issue itself. Abbott’s view on abortion is symbolic of many of the attitudes he will bring to the job of prime minister.
Abortion continues to be a taboo subject. A dirty, shameful secret that women can’t talk openly about. So when the first female prime minister of the country makes it an explicit topic for debate, surely we can take a moment to acknowledge what a big deal that is.