Julia Gillard

On the Stalking of Julia Gillard

"How did we ever let her go?"

Those were my first thoughts.

The Julia Gillard who graced the stage with Anne Summers in conversation a few months ago now was charismatic, charming, engaging, articulate, wise (I could go on!) and pretty well looked like someone who would be a fantastic leader for our country.

The woman on stage in the Sydney Opera House for the hour and a half special seemed miles away from the Julia Gillard that the Australian people had become accustomed to.  Was this really the same women that the country so desperately hated while she ran the Government for just over three years? Was this the same Julia Gillard that graced our television screens for such a brief period of time?

So what happened? Where did this lady go in all the hullabaloo... and how or why did it all go so wrong?



The Book

I recently finished an interesting book by Kerry-Anne Walsh, 'The Stalking of Julia Gillard'.

The Allen and Unwin published piece is an interesting blow-by-blow account of the years of Julia Gillard's reign.  It illustrates how relentless white-anting from within her own party coupled with the obvious campaign against her in the predominantly Murdoch-owned media led to the misrepresentation of our first female leader and her eventual downfall - and for what?  It was an interesting read, and brought up feelings quite similar to guilt.

How did we not see the good work that she was doing, the book asks.

We, the Australian public, were not allowed to, Walsh replies.

It is an angry read in parts; angry for the treatment of our first female Prime Minister, angry for Julia as a fellow human being, angry at the press gallery for failing in their role as the fourth estate. I felt like I was having a heated conversation with someone who really cared about Gillard, and someone who in hindsight, wished more were done. What could have been done by us isn't really explained, but as they say, admitting there is a problem is half the battle.

Naturally, Gillard is not blameless. Many Australians still hold deep resentment that she arrived on the scene in the way she did, through what was seen as the 'knifing' of a colleague.  Whether that is an accurate representation of the events we may never truly know, but that is how the picture was painted for the public.  Unfortunately, perceptions like that tend to stick around.

Walshes writing had an obvious bias, but in the wake of the conversation with Anne Summers, I began to wonder - how will history remember Gillard, and what lessons do we as a community take from the last three years?

That question: gender? 

As Julia herself admitted, the fact that she was a female in her role doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't explain nothing either.

My hope is that there is more 'nothing' than 'everything', and that the way that Julia was treated - not only by the media and colleagues but by the public in general - does not deter other young women from aspiring to a similar role.

There is evidence to suggest some women who strive for such leadership positions do not even consider their gender as an impediment or a factor until they get there and realise that it somehow plays a part. The 'ugly, violent sexism' that Gillard and her image were subjected to during her term however, were shocking for many - not least of all Gillard herself, as she fit nicely into the aforementioned category.

The public discourse has been drenched in questions around the role gender played in Gillard's treatment.  Prominent feminists such as Anne Summers herself have admitted to being truly shocked at the capacity of our progressive society to produce such callous content.

However all is not lost, and sometimes success is the best form of response.  Rather than focusing what hateful individuals propagate, or dwell on the fact that a TV show was made about a sitting PM, let us focus on the fact that we had a female PM who had a relatively successful parliament.  Let us use her example as incentive for other young women as proof that you can make it.

Yes, it might be a rose tinted view accented by the optimism of youth but surely it is the way to go.

If people have a problem, they will find any flaw or weakness they can to exploit.  The fact that the female gender is seen as an exploitable weakness is unfortunate, but if someone's gender is the best insult thrown at them, well it isn't much of an insult at all!

This is not to say that we should brush issues under the rug, or investigate why there remains a strong undercurrent of misogyny in our society.  By giving the detractors so much attention in the public discourse though, we are legitimising their actions and beliefs in a way that they don't deserve.

My father always repeated a common Arab saying to me while we were growing up:

The camel walks while the dogs keep barking...

There will always be those who are vocal, violent and sexist.  The fact that we now have a history of females in the highest offices in the land though, is an indicator that gender is not an insurmountable obstacle.  It might not be easy, but hey - societal change never is.

Let's just keep walking - after all, no self-respecting camel deigns to even acknowledge the barking dogs...

Morning Breakfast: Intellectual Buffet!

Good morning all! Things are a little bit quiet on my front today so I thought I would share some of the interesting bits of news / things on the internet this morning.

The first: An Explainer of the US Debt Ceiling in Comic Form



Secondly, an interesting piece on The Conversation on the fact that Peter Voser (outgoing Chair of Shell) says getting into shale gas in the US is his biggest regret. Say what?!

There is no doubt gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal in all sorts of ways, and a preferable one if it can be delivered to market at scale in a cost effective way. It could conceivably help attain climate objectives if used as a bridging fuel, providing fugitive emissions are held in check. But to do so, requires a sustained coal-to-gas replacement path in the short-medium term.

With the latest reports out of EIA, and Voser’s mea culpa, unconventional gas is not looking quite the sure bridge it was just a few months ago.

For the outgoing Chair of Shell to say that the shale gas revolution in the States isn't necessarily the revolution we were expecting, one has to wonder...


What we would have LIKED to achieve through the design council in terms of resilient development after a disaster is happening in the US...


Was part of Gillard's failure not her ability, but inexperience? An interesting question...


A bunch of really good tips on public speaking! ABS >> Always be storytelling...


What have you read this morning that has caught your eye??



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…