Gillard's sexism speech sparks division

2012-10-10 12:04

Sydney - A blistering attack by Prime Minister Julia Gillard labelling Australia's opposition leader a misogynist has gained global attention but sparked a divisive reaction about her judgement and the role of sexism in politics.

Gillard, the nation's first woman leader, lashed out on Tuesday at Tony Abbott after he called for the removal of parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper over lurid text messages, which referenced female genitalia.

Slipper, who stood aside in April amid claims of gay sex harassment, survived an opposition motion to dump him with the support of Gillard and her ruling Labour party, but later resigned.

During the debate, a fired-up Gillard accused Abbott of hypocrisy, saying she had been offended by many of his remarks over the years and she would not be "lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man".

Her tough comments went viral and won international praise.

But her decision to defend Slipper, who she was instrumental in appointing to bolster Labour's voting numbers, while at the same time criticising Abbott, was slammed in Australia.

Gender card

Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop accused Gillard of using sexism as a weapon against criticism and said women deserved better.

"The prime minister is setting back the cause of women decades by using sexism as a shield against criticisms of her performance," she said.

"Instead of being remembered as Australia's first female prime minister, she'll be remembered as the prime minister who let down the women of Australia when she was put to the test."

Abbott also weighed in, saying it was time "everyone in this parliament moved on from the gender card which so many members of the government have been playing".

The media was also critical, with The Sydney Morning Herald saying Gillard faced the stark choice of defending her parliamentary numbers, or defending the principle of respect for women.

"She chose to defend her numbers," said the newspaper's political editor Peter Hartcher.

In Gillard's defence

"She chose power over principles. It was the wrong choice. The prime minister gained nothing and lost a great deal."

Elsewhere, her scathing words were praised, with US feminist blog Jezebel calling her "badass".

Another American media outlet The Daily Beast said "Margaret Thatcher must be smiling," referring to the former British leader, known as the Iron Lady, while the New Yorker said Barack Obama could learn debating tips from Gillard.

Gillard's colleagues also defended her reaction to Abbott's "outrageous personal abuse".

"He calls her names across the table, repeatedly," Families Minister Jenny Macklin said, while Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said there was a key difference between Abbott and Slipper.


"The difference between Peter Slipper and Tony Abbott is Peter Slipper takes responsibility, he puts his hand up, he apologises, he acknowledges it's wrong, and he resigns," she said.

Slipper's demise was a blow to Gillard, who last year engineered his promotion to speaker after he defected from Abbott's Liberal Party.

That move lost the opposition one vote and shored up Labour's wafer-thin hold on power.

Following his departure and the promotion of Anna Burke to speaker, Labour now has 70 MPs on the floor to the coalition's 72. There are seven crossbenchers, with Labour needing the support of five to win any votes.

  • boltonbarry - 2012-10-10 12:43

    Why do politicians become dumb when they take office

      ngobel.sinxama - 2012-10-10 13:02

      The DA is doing a great job of protecting white privilege in the Western Cape. But then again, so to is the ANC in other provinces.

      bob.mcmillen.564 - 2012-10-10 13:39

      As the great comedian Billy Connolly quoted: "the mere fact someone want's to become a politician means they should be banned from ever achieving their ambition", many a true word spoke in jest.

      hester.ferrezuelo - 2012-10-10 13:58

      at ngobel. Please explain why must everything be about race?? This article has absolutely nothing to do with white or black. Grow up please!!

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-10 14:15

      ngobel.sinxama - your are the most profound racist. Your are an empty vessel with nothing but a chip on your shoulder. Grow up, get an education, open your eyes and you will see that the biggest recist is the one shouting racism at every turn i.e YOU!

      andrez.kolesky - 2012-10-10 15:32

      @ ngobel, not you again, yesterday one of my posts were deleted because of you, but lets try again: you copy and paste very well; this drivel of yours comes from: PLEASE get with the program and TRY doing something constructive. It's people like you that keeps fanning the racism in this country, while many of my black friends are doing the opposite. PLEASE GET WITH THE PROGRAM .....

  • DSBennie - 2012-10-10 12:44

    The left are a bunch of idiots best thing the Aussies can do is get rid of this women

      DSBennie - 2012-10-10 12:48

      These comments come from a women that says that a doctor should not end a suffering terminally ill patients life but that women can murder an unborn child if they feel they dont want the child

  • johan.jacobs.33821 - 2012-10-10 12:51

    She calls a spade a spade,I like the Lady.

      bob.mcmillen.564 - 2012-10-10 13:43

      I'd certainly swop her for the excuse of a president we have to suffer, at least she doesn't steal and lie like our rubbish.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-10 14:29

      she is racist - oh wait this is not SA politics (tongue firmly in cheek)

  • johan.harlaar.9 - 2012-10-10 13:00

    Viva Gillard, say it as it is and cut the crap. Our ANC could learn something from this.

  • leon.vanderlinde.14 - 2012-10-10 13:13

    I love her. Shes got b***s. Give her a case of Bells.

  • freddie.jones.58367 - 2012-10-10 13:21

    We are witnessing demise of the 'Welsh Witch'.

  • DSBennie - 2012-10-10 16:50

    BTW he did not call her a "Bitch" because she is a women, he called her that cause she was acting like a "Bitch"

      charlie.elford.5 - 2012-10-17 10:13

      She's a HOT bitch!

  • timjohnlee - 2012-10-11 15:58

    complete with sing-a-long video: ;)

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