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Monday, 26 July 2010

Interesting how the National Press Club's debate of last night between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott has played out in the media, who seem addicted to the kind of conflict that the new PM seems determined to subdue. Gillard is colourless and boring. Abbott is dull and unconvincing. But I think there's something else at play here that hasn't been acknowledged.

Gillard has shown from her first press conference that she likes a measure of decorum in events she plays a part in. Her handling of the press gallery is masterful. She seems to abhor the usual high-octane barking of questions as journos would try to outdo each other in volume and persistence while putting their questions to the floor. Gillard does something to prevent this. She doles out the floor in a controlled manner. Sometimes she even knows the names of the journalists she points to. But she always makes sure they each get their turn.

This kind of civil tone is unusual and it is emerging also in the way Gillard answers questions. There's often a smile. There's a lack of temper. And there's a measured, calm demeanour that overrides any bid for apparently interesting content launched in response to loaded questions.

Abbott changed the game when he became leader of the Opposition. Gillard has shown that she is able to change the game too. Look forward to more civility and a focus on content rather than soundbites. Polling shows that female voters are listening to this new tone of voice with more interest than they did to the testosterone-driven harangues of male PMs past.

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