Great Speeches…but then what?

Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to Australian politics for the last day or so would know about Julia Gillard’s impassioned performance in parliament yesterday, labelling the opposition leader Tony Abbott as sexist and misogynist.

The reaction in the media and social spheres have been interesting indeed, and worth analysing to determine underlying agendas.  The speech has gotten international acclaim and praise from around the Western world.

Firstly, let it be said that there is no doubt that is was a fantastic and riveting monologue.  I love a well delivered speech, and the great leaders of in the past have often been lauded for their ability to rouse audiences and crowds into frenzies with addresses that stir the soul.  This was definitely one such example for Australia – especially given the performance of our parliament generally over the couple of years.

Another part of the reason that the speech was so well received was that the Prime Minister finally spoke about the issue of sexism when she hadn’t really (to my knowledge) publically broached it before, and seemed genuine in doing so. She cuttingly pointed out a number of instances where Tony Abbott made statements that were clearly sexist, highlighting  the entrenched (and quite possibly subconscious) culture of sexism that exists in the highest levels of government.  I believe we live in a relatively patriarchal society and though that is changing, sexism will continue to exist in implicit and explicit forms.  For this to truly shift, the culture must be acknowledged and brought to account; this is what the Prime Minister was doing, and this is to be applauded.

Mama Mia rightfully said:

It was an erudite, honest speech on the sexism that has repeatedly been levelled against her by her opponents, led by Tony Abbott, with language including “ditch the bitch” and “make an honest woman of her”. To miss that is to completely miss the point.

The Prime Minister’s speech had about as much to do with Peter Slipper as a superb double-twist-summersault dive does a diving board. The Slipper case was nothing but a catalyst for a more important debate. It was, frankly, long overdue.


I believe the timing of the speech, the way in which the Prime Minister has conducted herself since the Question Time session and the overt way in which she framed the debate was a cunning political move indeed.

Why? Well who, in all the hullabaloo, is paying attention to the now resigned Peter Slipper? Where did that conversation go?  I don’t necessarily think it was fair of most of the mainstream media to blast the PM as they did, however I do think they were right in pointing out that this was a brilliant political pivot on behalf of the PM and Labour.

As with all things in politics, perhaps it is best to look at the facts.

Yes, a brilliant and inspiring speech was made.  This has been done often in history, often to very powerful results.

The difference in history however, is such speeches are often followed up by some form of action, or a call for action.  Without action or follow up, great speeches turn into riveting…rhetoric.

I am yet to see any “calls for action”. Perhaps I missed the memo.

“Well done” is always better than “Well said”.


Sidenote: Call me cynical, but I continue to be frustrated by the reactionary nature of our government.  They say bad times breed good policy…but I don’t know if we are there yet.  Interestingly enough, did you know that Indonesians (by and large) tend to think of our politics as unstable? Weird right…

…but then I guess with “banning live exports after a TV show” and “putting in a rotational US base at Darwin without consultation”…all happening within a few months of each other, one begins to understand why…


Sidenote 2: Does the nature of the response to her speech (“a ferocious personal attack”, “aggressive”) suggest that even the response to an impassioned speech is sexist?  If it were a man talking in a similar fashion, would those views still be held so negatively? Hmm…