Two of the most notable things about Julia Gillard were her inability to judge the public mood, and her utter lack of common sense. While she was brilliant at acquiring and maintaining power at all costs within the Labor Party itself, she hadn't the slightest clue how to sensibly relate to, communicate with and build the enduring trust of the Australian population at large. This "tin ear" is a common affliction in Labor. And the party's West Australian leader Mark McGowan suffers it as well. 

Take his tactics in regard to the shark wars that have been raging in this state over the last year or two. Desperate to set himself apart from "Emperor" Colin Barnett he's sided with crazed shark-hugging greenies. He even spoke at one or more of their deranged demos on Cottesloe Beach. (His Wikipedia entry features a photo of him doing this. You can actually see an idiot in the background sporting a blow-up shark doll! Hilarious!) 

I think he's trying to stay in the good books with these child-brained Gaia-worshippers because he thinks they might be able to deliver him power in the future. Or maybe he's trying to reclaim some voters who deserted his party 'cause they thought it wasn't green enough? Perhaps both? Whatever his motivation, it's a bad tactic. It can only end in tears for him. He may think that he's using the Greens, but they'll be using him to a much greater degree.

Then there's the possibility that he genuinely believes Barnett's more traditional fish killing approach is inhumane and he's repulsed by it. But I doubt this scenario. Unlike their predecessors, today's Labor pollies are almost never motivated by genuine beliefs. They don't have any. It's all politics, no principle with them. They'll only ever go where the polls tell them to go.

Speaking of which: I think these comprise the main reason for McGowan's pro-shark stance. There have been a couple of studies showing that most West Aussies are against the "shark cull". So he thinks he's with the majority here. Hence his steadfast refusal to enforce the killing of sharks, even after they've bitten some poor bastard's arms off like they did down at Esperance recently.

But by condemning the rational response of killing sharks that were in the area after an attack, McGowan has shown how he may well react if he actually becomes the state's Premier. People will certainly remember this.

Polls change, remember. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if there are more fatal attacks -- particularly off Perth beaches -- the public mood could easily swing back in favour of Barnett's less, er, compassionate methods.

So if he wants to be on the side of the majority he will have to completely disavow his current pro-green stance. This will make him look like an unprincipled jellyback (which of course he is). This will reflect poorly on him if he is Premier and could damage his chances if it occurs before the next election.

He really should have thought this through. This shark hugging insanity is just a fad. It won't last. He should have stopped trying to be clever and tactical with this issue and instead taken the only sensible position: protect his fellow humans rather than cuddle up to prehistoric carnivorous fish!