27 June 2013

Australia's first female, and very fine Prime Minister - Julia Gillard

Since Australia federated and became a sovereign nation on the 1st January 1901, prime ministers have come and gone. Some were intelligent, some were learned, some were ideologically principled and some were heroic during tough times facing the nation. But until 2010, they were all male. This was a tragedy for the 51% of the population who were not male.

Julia Gillard (born 1961) was the first woman to become leader of the Labour Party and as that party was in power, the first woman to become Prime Minister of this great nation. From 24th June 2010 to 27th June 2013 she was a prime minister with vision, particularly in the areas beloved by ordinary families - education, universal health care, disabilities, the environment and climate change. I did not like the Labour Party's policies on asylum seekers, but no party can be perfect.

Yesterday she was shafted by males who could not tolerate being led by a woman. 

Julia Gillard, prime minister

How do we know that the three years of her prime ministership, when the world was turned upside down by staggering unemployment, a falling USA dollar and rapidly shrinking markets, were hugely successful? Examine the credit ratings by the three international ratings companies: Standard and Poor's, Fitch and Moody's. Of the 193 nations on earth, very very few nations sustained a Triple A rating from all three ratings companies:

Australia
Canada
Denmark
Finland
Germany
Luxembourg
Netherlands
Norway
Singapore
Switzerland
Sweden 

Australia is one of the few.

The Sydney Morning Herald got it right. The hypocrisy in this nation is breathtaking as well as shameful. We treated our first female prime minister disgracefully while she was in office, and now that she has been driven out, it seems she is going to be denied even the solace of having her extraordinary raft of achievements recognised. The prime minister's amazing three years have been thoroughly trashed – by the opposition, by the media and now by the Labour Party caucus. Not even the nine women ministers on Parliament's front bench showed any sisterly solidarity.

Shame, Australia, shame.

**

My nephew, not an insensitive young man at all, said women should just get over the Labour leadership vote. There was no gender issue; just a party trying to win the next election. I shall send him a copy of Nikki Gemmell’s column in the Weekend Australian Magazine (29/6/13). Nikki’s key issue was as follows.

Becoming prime minister, aiming for it, was the holy grail for my generation of women, the daughters of the tide of feminist euphoria that swept the western world 40 years ago. (Me too, Nikki. My crit­ical years as a feminist were 1963-1972). You can be anything, we were repeatedly told – political leader, soldier, captain of ind­ustry, crusader, whatever you want. Blaze the trail.

But now with the insidious destruction of Julia Gillard’s prime min­istership, do we want our shining girls to be harangued, ridiculed, mocked in sustained verbal stoning; reduced to nothing but their body parts, their genitalia openly discussed in public; to be treated so shockingly differently?


A lot of women felt grubbied after that ignominious week.

People might like to read the book The Stalking of Julia Gillard: how the media and Team Rudd brought down the prime minister by Kerry-Anne Walsh. Published by Allen & Unwin just now (July 2013), focuses the right wing, anti-woman media's treatment of on Team Rudd and the slow-death campaign of destabilisation, with its disastrous effect on Gillard and the government's functioning. It is about a politician who was never given a fair go; not in the media, not by Rudd, not by some in caucus.














18 comments:

Andrew said...

The best that can be said about her shameful treatment, is that history will treat her very kindly. One thing and only one thing that she did that really upset me was putting single parents with young children onto Newstart from whatever the unmarried mothers' pension is called.

Hels said...

Andrew

There is always some issue close to our hearts where the party of our choice disappoints us. For you it might be Newstart, for me it is asylum seekers, for the environment people it might be the mining tax. But overall I think you are right - the hypocrisy of the treatment will be exposed.

Merisi said...

Such sad news!

jeronimus said...

All that hysteria and vitriol, whipped up by shock jocks, over her introduction of the carbon tax -
the "witch" and "ju-liar" tags etc - seems to have died down, as people have realised the country has not gone into the predicted economic free fall.
Whether or not one liked her policies, the way she was treated by the media especially, showed great disrespect for her position. I was really disgusted by the way she was interrogated about her partner's sexuality. I don't think a male would ever be subjected to that level of slime.
Yes Australia has a long way to go in some departments.

Hels said...

Merisi

From 1960 on, we watched with great excitement as Israel, India, Ceylon, Sri Lanka, Norway etc had women as prime ministers. And dreamed that Australia would also be politically mature enough and democratic enough to have a woman. One day!

And now the dream has crashed :(

the foto fanatic said...

Political life is tough. The personal cost is high and the rewards are miniscule by comparison.

Julia Gillard's time at the top was both wonderful and dreadful. The way she was able to massage a minority government to achieve notable reform in some areas was outstanding, yet there were areas of complete political naivete.

There certainly was abhorrent treatment of her because of her gender, and the way the press savaged her in her last days as leader reflects poorly on all of us.

I was sorry to see her toppled by such a megalomaniac, but if you live by the sword you die by the sword.

Hels said...

jeronimus

I remember when Sir Douglas Nicholls became the first aboriginal state Governor back in the mid 1970s. Right wing commentators were afraid he wouldn't know how to speak like an educated white person or his wife wouldn't know which cutlery to use in public functions. The governor was not a politician of course, but they still hounded him out of office.

Have we improved?

Hels said...

Foto fanatic

I would be upset at how the prime minister was treated, even if I was a conservative voter.

Do prime ministers make real mistakes? Of course they do! Do they sometimes show political naivete? Yes sir. Did some of the leading male politicians in the world drink alcohol to excess or sleep with women not their wives? Too right! But I wouldn't use language spat on Ms Gillard... on a dog.

the foto fanatic said...

And I hope those who traded loyalty for ministerial leather (not all males) - Shorten, Albanese, Wong etc - get it in the neck at some stage themselves.

Hels said...

Foto fanatic

Clearly not all males *nod*. As far as I can tell, every female minister on the front bench wilted under the attacks on the prime minister and slithered over to the other side.

Don001 said...

I can't pretend to know all the ins and outs of Australian Federal politics but Julia Gillard became an extremely close friend of New Zealand including our centre-right Prime Minister and Government. Not everyone could transcend political divides. She worked hard on the trans-Tasman relationship, even ably managing to weather the flak from Kiwis working permanently in Australia being denied full citizenship rights and privileges. I call that Statesmanship. Kia Kaha Julia.

Deb said...

My parents always talked about John Curtin 1941-1945 and Ben Chifley 1945-1949 as the great prime ministers.

Hels said...

Don

Correct.. lots of senior politicians cannot transcend political divides. I am impressed with Julia Gillard's relationships with New Zealand and, perhaps more unusually, with China.

Hels said...

Deb

every generation has its heroes *nod*.. if they are lucky. In my generation, it was definitely Gough Whitlam. I remember how sick we were when the entire democratically elected government was sacked back in 1975.

Hels said...

As soon as the book is in the shops, you might like to read The Stalking of Julia Gillard, by Kerry Anne Walsh.

Hels said...

The Age (14/7/2013) wrote
"women have been largely shut out of Federal Parliament's safest seats, with the Coalition and Labor choosing an overwhelming number of men to fill vacancies in plum electorates."

The anti-woman fervour continues :(


Mandy Southgate said...

I agree, I thought her treatment was shameful. You're right about history though. The only reason I know so much about her is that time and again her speeches and articles about her were shared on social media. Her party may not have supported her but she was celebrated the world over.

Hels said...

Mandy

Australia had a bloodless coup in 1975 when the Governor General sacked the prime minister, closed Parliament and called new elections. Without even bothering to ring the Queen :( Along with most people I know, I was sick as a dog for months.

The 2013 event was not a coup of course since parties can select or unselect their leader as they choose. But I still felt sick, just as we all did back in 1975.