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June 14th 2013 print

Philippa Martyr

Girls and women, heed the Gillard example

She owes her place to quotas and those union boys who opened the door to the Lodge and have not yet decided to evict her. There's a lesson there, but not one our gender-persecuted PM is ever likely to preach


Julia Gillard is concerned that young girls will be put off entering public life by the way in which she has been treated by – well – everyone.

Coming in the same week that her most recent pay rise was announced (she’s now earning over half a million dollars a year), Gillard’s latest gripe was, once again, far from original.


What Gillard did was – disturbingly – simply echo comments already made by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Broderick is the one calling ‘Order!’ on this, not Gillard. Broderick is the one who flagged the issue as holding back young women, not Gillard.

When you read the transcript of the interview, it’s clear that Gillard dealt with Howard Sattler’s question very well. She defused it, answered it, and moved on. That actually shows competence, not offence.

But that wasn’t good enough for Elizabeth Broderick – who is, by the way, an unelected official and public servant.

Ms Broderick told The Australian she fears it had now got to a stage that women might feel discouraged from entering public life. 

When I saw the interview I felt truly angry, angry that our Prime Minister should have to answer invasive questions and innuendo about her personal life,’ Ms Broderick said.

‘It is as if all women in Australia are fair game from the PM down.’

It was Elizabeth Broderick who took offence. It is Elizabeth Broderick who is currently pulling the gender war strings for the Prime Minister:

‘I am concerned about that too’, Ms Gillard said in Adelaide. ‘I want you girls and women to be able to feel like they can be included in public life and not have to face questioning like the questioning I faced yesterday.’

Several things:

1)  At the beginning of Gillard’s term as PM, no one would have dared ask her these questions. These questions are only coming now because the mainstream media smell blood in the massive shift in public opinion. They are appealing to their readers/listeners because they know that they can now get away with it.

2)  Julia Gillard and her cheer squad have shown how easy it is to offend them. This is simply throwing fuel on the fire. Gillard’s response to Sattler was spot-on, but her barrackers have once again badly let her down by blowing things out of proportion.

3) Throughout her political career, Julia Gillard has endeavoured to market herself as a hard-as-nails union, legal and political toe-cutter. She has also made no secret of a sexual life unfettered by the tedium of marriage and children, and her serial relationships with married men. I would suggest it is a little late now to be having the vapours over someone making tit-and-bum jokes about you.

4) Julia Gillard has let women in politics down. She probably has put young women off entering public life (pace Peter Smith). She has done this by showing that the easiest and quickest way for a woman can become Prime Minister in this country is to be given lots of cushy inside running by quotas, and be a tool of the male-dominated unions and the faction-fighters. It’s hard to be the first feminist PM in Australia when everyone knows that you’re only keeping the job because Bill Shorten hasn’t pulled the plug on you yet.

5)  At the same time, I tend to see her as a victim as well as a willing participant in this mess. I believe she has been used by men in the union movement, and has been for most of her working and professional life. She is also currently being manipulated by an unscrupulous male media officer who is clutching at straws to try to save his own job, while canvassing job prospects elsewhere.

But on half a million bucks a year and the prospect of a feather-bedded retirement, it’s still awfully hard to feel sorry for her.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City. She does not hate Julia Gillard, but just wishes this was all over.