Friday, 28 June 2013

The fall of Julia Gillard: sexism, pure and simple

The political destruction of Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was breathtakingly swift, terrifyingly brutal - and partly caused by her gender.

As she herself said in an impressively pull-yourself-together resignation speech, not all the opposition to her was down to the fact that she was a woman. But some of it was - which is a crying shame, because her government had some real achievements behind it. Put aside Australia's continued and remarkable economic growth, which does sometimes create as many losers as winners as property prices and the cost of living spiral out of control. Most of that would have happened anyway - or at least as long as China wants Australia's precious and not-so-precious metals. There was a mining tax, which helped to recoup some of the mining companies' windfall gains for the taxpayers. A national disability insurance scheme. Plain packaging for cigarettes - something the UK government recently shied away from. Paid parental leave - for both parents. Record numbers of graduates. Those gains alone should have gained Ms Gillard more of a hearing that she ever got.

Part of the reason she was never given what Australians would call a 'fair go' was because she is a woman.

Why else would a (spectacularly ill-judged, I grant you) photograph of a knitting Prime Minister with a little dog mean anything at all (above)? I replicate the image because Gillard's enemies made great play of the photo, and it undoubtedly helped to bring about the downfall of a Prime Minister whose credibility had already been shot to pieces by year after year after year of sexist 'banter' and 'observations' about the Prime Minister's personal life, her lack of children, her appearance, and much, much more. She reacted with decency when a radio DJ asked her whether her hairdresser partner was a homosexual - just because he cut people's hair for a living. She reacted with fury when the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, questioned her over sexism and dishonesty - a couple of charges marked out only by their fantastical mendacity and hypocrisy. She won herself a global following by so doing.

Now she's gone.

But the Great Southern Land could really do so, so much better than the tanned, muscled, swimming-and-surfing future represented by Mr Abbott - a 'future' that is really a 'past'. One that many Aussies thought they'd left behind long ago - where big old tough guys slug it out in order to be able to tell everyone else what to do.

Australia deserves better. Doesn't it?

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