Leading article Australia

Misogynist Australia?

10 November 2012

It’s one thing for Julia Gillard to use parliamentary privilege to defame her political opponent. Tony Abbott is man enough, as it were, to cope with strong language. He can dish it out, and he can take it. But the Prime Minister’s ‘misogyny’ speech has damaged far more than just Mr Abbott’s pride. Now, she is trashing the international standing of Australia.

‘The president of France congratulated me on the speech, as did the prime minister of Denmark, and some other leaders, just casually as I’ve moved around, have also mentioned it to me,’ Ms Gillard told rapt ABC radio listeners this week, speaking after attending the Asia Europe summit in Laos.

Leaving aside the amusing irony of a French politician commenting on matters of sexist behaviour, what Ms Gillard has done is unprecedented in Australian politics: she has defined herself, and by extension our country, by demonising the democratically elected Leader of the Opposition. How are these leaders expected to treat Mr Abbott — still the likely next Prime Minister, according to opinion polls — believing he was elected despite being known to hate women?

Given the global popularity of the Prime Minister’s speech, and the widespread and uncritical publicity it received, surely all Australian males, CEOs and business leaders now risk being tainted by association with the impossible-to-disprove ‘misogynist’ tag.

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‘I’m taking it all with a bit of a wry smile,’ Ms Gillard said, flaunting her new-found ‘feminist’ fame in the current issue of Marie Claire, in which she disingenuously attempts to portray the speech as off-the-cuff and unplanned. ‘I had no notice I was going to give it. I scribbled out some handwritten notes as [Abbott] was speaking,’ she maintains, before admitting: ‘I did have access to quotes and various things that Tony Abbott has said, which I used.’ Clearly, her ‘unscripted’ speech had the sweaty fingerprints of John McTernan all over it. Not quite so spontaneous after all, then.

Ms Gillard may find it all wryly amusing. But it isn’t a joke. Not only are the charges of misogyny slanderous and unsubstantiated. More importantly, the context of the speech is meaningless to overseas audiences, who have no knowledge of the entire grubby Slipper affair. Would the French president and Danish prime minister be equally sanguine about Ms Gillard’s reluctance to condemn Mr Slipper’s ‘shell-less mussels’ and ‘salty c—ts in brine’?

In retrospect, the mistake Tony Abbott made was not to instantly reply to the disgusting slur upon him — as bad as calling him a racist — and angrily demand an apology for himself, his family and those Australians who support him. But then again, he’s probably too much of a gentleman to do that.

It’s not the economy, stupid

With Barack Obama returned to the Oval Office for another four years of spiralling debt and what amounts to nothing more than printing money in the world’s most important economy, what are the lessons for our own spendthrift government?

Bruce Springsteen springs to mind. Wayne Swan’s inspirational mentor was the final superstar to perform on the eve of the election, giving Mr Obama his full-throated support, despite the fact that the Boss’s beloved blue-collar workers have struggled over the past four years, with 23 million people unemployed and nearly 47 million on food stamps under Obama. In his Wisconsin rally, Springsteen spoke passionately in support of hope, of financial regulation, of subsidies for the automobile industry, of Civil Rights, the Peace Movement, the Woman’s Movement, the end of apartheid, the winds of change, healthcare, wars, the disparity of wealth (a subject he is particularly familiar with), and those who are rich, poor, black, brown, white, gay and straight.

The economy never rated a mention. Nor did the deficit. Nor did unemployment. In the 2012 election, it is clear America opted for the spin of wishful thinking and the audacity of denial rather than face up to economic realities. But the excitement and euphoria surrounding the President’s win are unlikely to last much longer than the streamers and confetti.

Over three gruelling debates and many months of campaigning, Obama never really offered up a convincing solution to America’s precarious fiscal position. As we now head into our own election year, with a rapidly disappearing surplus, $143 billion of net government debt and unemployment on the rise, Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard will heave a deep sigh of relief that it isn’t always the economy, after all, that concentrates the minds of the electorate.

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Show comments
  • ANN

    I do not recall one Prime Minister in my life-time, who went overseas, boasting and gloating about such a vicious and deplorable attack, carried out on a Leader of the Opposition, and fellow Australian, as did Julia Gillard last week.

    She should feel ashamed of herself. Though I doubt that she will, as her lust for power knows no bounds.

    I bet she didn’t speak about the Peter Slipper saga, and the deplorable things he said about women. and that she didn’t call him a misogynist, and voted to keep him in parliament.

    I have just finished reading Maxine McKew’s book and her comments about Julia Gillard’s behaviour (and others) in 2010 towards Kevin Rudd, I find believable.

    To use Gough Whitlam’s phrase, I say to many young Australian women “IT’S TIME” that you started to query as to whether you support Julia Gillard because she is a woman or, you support her because she is a good leader.

    I do not think she is a good leader.

    Also remember, respect is something we have to earn, and Julia Gillard has NOT earned my respect.

  • Colin

    The video that should have went viral is this one – Julia’s masterclass in not answering the question:


  • Rebel

    Are these foreign dignitaries really congratulating her or just making it known they have noted her statements?. In other words, being really diplomatic and saying “think again Gillard”
    Gillard is an absolute disgrace and her public speeches cannot in any way be representative of the Australian mind set.

  • Nonna2

    I am truly embarrassed of our Prime Minister. She lashes out at the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott and calls him a woman hater and spouts that she is talking on behalf of all women. You do not talk for me PM. And what is going on with the PM’s involvement as a lawyer in the Union AWU scandal? Why won’t she answer any questions any questions regarding this. I am glad she is not my daughter or sister – what an embarrassment. I will never vote Labor again while this spectacle of womanhood is the leader (or even a member of the Party). You Madam PM and your Labor Party stand for nothing but deceit. Your demise cannot come soon enough for the salvation of the Australian people.

  • Susie

    Interesting how in the PM’s speech, she said the following: “On the conduct of Mr Slipper, and on the text messages that are in the public domain, I have seen the press reports of those text messages.” As is now known the government knew about the content of the text messages in May so why was Ms Gillard being deliberately misleading and implying she had only just become away of them. Has anything honest ever come out of her mouth?

  • If the cap fits, wear it.

    Tony Abbott, with an undeniably appalling track record of attitudes towards women, pointed the finger at Slipper and labelled him a misogynist, Abbott deserved to have the tables turned on him and men who seek to defend him do so because they have the same attitudes towards women.

  • Jimh

    Even op-ed should have some reasoned and/or factual backing for the propositions made. This is simply bloviation, and pouring bile on publics that (IMHO) have a better and more nuanced read of situation than the writer. It’s still the economy and jobs at the front of people’s minds, it’s just that some want more than offshoring, minimum wage and billionaires in limos.

    And if you can’t convince the people, don’t blame them – work out why the candidates and their policies are unappealing. This is the only world, it is what it is, and everyone has to work with it. It’s as rational to blame the electorate for an election outcome as it is to blame the weather…um, oh, they tried that as well, didn’t they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricia.deheer.14 Patricia de Heer

    too much of a gentlman he he he he ha hahhahahh, roflol hehehehhh

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