Not a crumb from the PM's table for locals
The Daily Telegraph
March 06, 2013 12:00AM
THE insider-outsider divide in politics is rarely so starkly defined as it has been by Prime Minister Julia Gillard moving her campaign roadshow, if not her government, to Rooty Hill RSL.
It's a mere 47-minute drive from Kirribilli House, but so far removed from the sensibility of the political class that, when Gillard's luggage was delivered to the Novotel for the five-night stay, it bore the tag: "Prime Minister's overseas visit."
Bemused locals have watched as satellite dishes fill the car park, radio stations broadcast from the Fred Chubb lounge - yet sightings of the prime minister have been as rare as Elvis.On Monday night, Sky presenter Paul Murray captured a fleeting 23 seconds of footage on his mobile phone of Gillard and her entourage speed-walking through the RSL's Zest Wok n' Grill and disappearing into a private dining room.
Murray pointed out the prime minister had bypassed the opportunity to mingle with a couple of dozen locals dining in the bistro.
Instead she chose a closed-door private dining room with a group of women he said looked just like her and were wearing the same glasses.
He wasn't far wrong. The five women handpicked by Gillard to feast on "vegetable tarte tatin" and Alaskan king crab were "mummy bloggers" who had previously dined with the PM at Kirribilli house in December, and none of whom appears to live anywhere near
One guest was "Mrs Woog" of the Woogsworld blog. A former publishing executive who lives on Sydney's lower north shore, her motto is "Making the most out of the mundane". She posted a review of the dinner on her blog with photos of the PM's roasted chicken
supreme, potato gratin and sun-dried tomato jus main course.
"We've met her a few times before," blogger Eden Riley, a dead ringer for the PM with her red bob and glasses, said after the dinner.
"But I had my glasses before her."
They all had a lovely time, sequestered away from the great unwashed of Rooty Hill who were sitting a few metres away in the bistro or next door watching Murray's live show.
So far, so farcical. The PM's Rooty Hill sleepover is showing how out of touch and on the nose her government is with the people who were once Labor's core constituency.
Polls point to the unthinkable prospect that Labor could lose four safe seats in western Sydney, leading Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to claim this week that Sydney's west has become "Liberal heartland".
That sounds unwisely hubristic but when I spoke at random to about 30 people within a 5km radius of Rooty Hill RSL last week, not one had a good word to say about Gillard or her government.
They nominated three main complaints: jobs, the carbon tax and "boats". They see the government lacking integrity because of the broken promise on carbon tax and because of the way Gillard came to power after ousting Kevin Rudd.
They see unfairness in soaring electricity prices and job losses, and incompetence in billions squandered as a result of failed border protection.
I heard more clear-eyed political wisdom in Rooty Hill than you hear in a month of insider commentary on the ABC, which all week has been in a lather over the opposition's supposed "dog whistle" to racist western Sydney voters.
Here we go again. Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is under fire for making the obvious point that the government has lost control of Australia's borders to such an extent that there is no room left in detention centres, and so it has been forced to release asylum seekers prematurely into the community before their bona fides are established, and with negligible oversight or support.The Immigration Department didn't even know that Sri Lankan men were being housed in student accommodation at Macquarie University next door to female students.
This chaotic circumstance is a recipe for disaster, and sure enough, what emerged was an allegation that a 21-year-old Sri Lankan man had sexually molested a young female student as she was sleeping.
The case is before the courts, but it is extraordinary how the ordeal of the alleged victim has been played down by the compassionistas. It took 2GB's Ray Hadley to uncover the squalid living conditions of asylum seekers in a disused office in Parramatta, with 20 men sharing one bathroom.
Yet he was slammed as a racist, inciting hatred, by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. She just doesn't seem to want to face the inconvenient truth that the chaos created jointly by Labor and the Greens has resulted in more suffering, not less, for everyone involved.
No amount of mock moral outrage hides the fact that when the Howard government left office there were just four people in detention centres who had arrived by boat. Since then, thousands of asylum seekers have drowned en route to Australia. Those who have made it to shore have found themselves sweltering indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres, or left to fend for themselves in slumlord conditions in the community, forbidden to work or find any meaning or purpose to their lives.
In western Sydney, many people are first- and second- generation migrants. They are not racists and are not without compassion.
But they see the consequences of the government's bungled policies up close and personal, and they tune out insider justifications.
No wonder the prime minister prefers the company of mummy bloggers.