The future belongs to Gillard, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, Bill Shorten, Greg Combet, Mark Dreyfus and others with talent and forward vision. It also belongs to politicians who care about more than themselves and their careers, who care about climate change and the environment, as Combet does, who care about disability insurance, as Shorten does, who care about the state of our hospitals, as Plibersek does, and who care passionately about access to education as our Prime Minister does…
When some people speak of Prime Minister Gillard they do so with the particular contempt and dislike they usually reserve for women. People often spoke about Margaret Thatcher in the same way. When they call Gillard’s judgment into question – one of the most common charges levelled against her – they draw on centuries-old prejudices that hold that women can’t be trusted. They couldn’t be trusted with money, so for years banks held out against appointing them as tellers; they couldn’t be trusted with their children, so had to fight for decades for the right to custody; they couldn’t be trusted to sit in judgment on their fellow citizens, so the right to sit on juries was one of the last civil rights to be extended to women in Australia. Not until the 1980s did all states agree to admit women to jury service. Now it seems women can’t be trusted to govern.
As the Prime Minister displays extraordinary grace under pressure, as she continues to govern the nation in the face of incessant attacks, as she shows admirable commitment and clear-sightedness, male commentators now move to deplore her toughness – an admirable quality in a man – suggesting surely that it is unbecoming in a woman. But Gillard doesn’t only have strength, she has compassion and good humour. And she knows that most women and fair-minded men support her in her program of change and her vision of a fairer society.
She (Julia Gillard) has been subject to sexist attacks and unwittingly called up the misogyny that lies deep in Australian culture.