Give PM Julia Gillard credit where credit is due

JG

By Mary Crooks
Executive director Victorian Women’s Trust
5 July, 2013

Full and half page advertisements were taken out today in mainstream print media publications (The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, 1/2 page in The Australian) by the Victorian Women’s Trust to put on record the achievements of the Gillard Government in the face of unprecedented opposition.

The VWT, a Melbourne-based 28 year-old philanthropic feminist organisation, has taken this significant step to put on the record what many women and men have witnessed over the last few years – watching in horror how the minority government’s achievements were delegitimised while Australia’s first female Prime Minister – who was governing successfully – was ‘torn down’ by various forces, including:

(i) an overly hostile Opposition,
(ii) destabilising and treacherous camps within the ALP prepared to bring down their own government,
(iii) a sustained, antagonistic mainstream media, and
(iv) a campaign of sexist abuse across social media and public forums.

The advertisement follows the work of the VWT in publishing ‘A Switch in Time’ in September 2012 – which documented the overwhelming sexist vitriol launched at the PM and the total lack of respect shown towards democratic principles and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Through feedback from this distribution of 13,000 copies nationally and more than 20,000 downloads via the internet we know that many women and men across Australia share our concerns.

Already, in the week since last Wednesday’s challenge, we continue to witness a ‘talking down’ of Julia Gillard and her minority government’s record of achievements.

With this in mind, we sought the financial help of a handful of women donors who shared our concerns and generously provided the necessary funds – around $100,000 in total for the four publications, without the privilege of tax-deductibility.

This advertisement was written by me on behalf of the Board and the staff of the Victorian Women’s Trust, and I have given No Fibs permission to republish.


We have all witnessed something extraordinary in Australian politics over the past three years.

The 43rd parliament came to a close with the removal of Julia Gillard as the nation’s first female Prime Minister: the first woman ever to hold the position after one hundred and ten years of federal political leadership that saw 26 male Prime Ministers elevated to the highest office.

The frenzy of the forthcoming federal election campaign will change the nation’s focus. Before it’s too late, we want to pay public tribute to those who made this period of democratic minority government a successful one – against the odds.

The federal election of 2010 delivered a hung parliament. Prime Minister Gillard successfully negotiated and formed a minority government, the fourteenth in our history. This coalition of the ALP, Independents and the Greens, opted to provide careful, thoughtful, stable government for a full term, so that our national government could get on with the business of governing in the national interest. And it did just that.

However, from the outset, and despite its democratic legitimacy, the Gillard-led minority government sparked an unheralded series of hostile reactions from different quarters across the country.

An Opposition Leader, stung by being denied what he saw as his due, proceeded to launch a ‘seek and destroy’ mission centred on opportunistic appeals to people’s prejudices and fears. A deposed Prime Minister, stung from being removed so decisively by a Caucus that had lost faith in his capacity, spent the next three years currying allies on a parallel  treacherous ‘seek and destroy’ mission – with Prime Minister Gillard squarely in his sights.

By and large, the mainstream media fuelled these separate but powerful agendas by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the minority government with Julia Gillard at the helm. Her many achievements went largely unproclaimed while her mistakes were amplified – and continually referenced. Instead of delivering dispassionate reporting, seasoned journalists and broadcasters became players in the game.

Low showing in opinion polls was attributed to her poor communication and her government’s performance, without factoring in the damaging impact of the on-going duplicity within her own party. The very day in March this year that Prime Minister Gillard delivered a majestic Sorry speech on forced adoptions, a speech that belongs to the store of great national oratory, she had to contend with yet another destabilising leadership meeting at which her opponent failed to declare himself.

The ensuing toxic political discourse surrounding the Prime Minister and the minority government gave public licence across the community, online and elsewhere, for an unprecedented campaign of sexist and chauvinist abuse, denigration, double standards, gross disrespect for the office of Prime Minister and gross disrespect for her as a person.

It has been a fraught political environment and we remain baffled by several of the Gillard government’s policies – on immigration and asylum seekers, reducing economic support for single parents and the Prime Minister’s position on same–sex marriage. By and large, however, she has displayed an enormous capacity and style of effective leadership rarely seen in parliamentary leaders across the political spectrum. She oversaw the introduction of a raft of impressive and far-reaching legislation, showing high-order negotiation skill, sharp intelligence and a great ability to command strategy and detail across complex issues.

Much of this legislation is nation-building, addressing our common future as Australians – the introduction of a carbon price, the roll out of a National Broadband Network, The Murray-Darling Basin Plan, a ground-breaking National Disability Insurance Scheme, a much more equitable model for funding primary and secondary education, a national paid parental leave scheme, and the establishment of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. There were many more reforms. Achievements in foreign policy, including Prime Minister Gillard negotiating the basis for future high level discussions with China, were notable and more far-reaching than those of her recent predecessors.

On her watch as the nation’s Prime Minister, our growing economy has been the envy of the world – low unemployment, low interest rates, low inflation and triple-A credit ratings.

We salute former Prime Minister Julia Gillard for getting on with the business of governing for us, the people; for the skilful negotiation, resolve and the leadership required to maintain the confidence of the Lower House; for steering the government through a full term; for enabling close to 500 pieces of legislation to be passed; for introducing significant and visionary reforms that will deliver great benefit to the Australian people in the time to come; and for remaining strong and poised when everything bar the kitchen sink was thrown at her.

We pay tribute to those male and female colleagues who worked with her on the nation’s behalf, respected her capacity and gave her the loyalty she deserved.

We pay tribute to retiring Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott for their true independence, their courage and hard work in upholding democratic values; and for enduring with dignity, the threatening abuse aimed at them, their partners and staff.

The success of this minority government has come at a significant cost.

The past three years have led to a great loss of civility and common decency, a poisonous political discourse and a downturn in respect for our leaders. We now have a climate in which people willingly and disrespectfully attack one another in anonymous and often vitriolic commentary that is no substitute for mature democratic debate. There is a jaded cynicism and a sense of deep despair and powerlessness across much of the community.

With men now back in their perceived ‘rightful place’ as political leaders of both the government and Opposition there will be little gendered attack in political circles. But the seams of aggressive contempt and sexist abuse that lay beneath everyday life and which surfaced with Julia Gillard’s elevation as Prime Minister, have not gone away.

We have just lost our very first woman Prime Minister – a woman with a great sense of purpose and skill, a true reformer. Julia Gillard’s final observation, in a speech of supreme grace, was that her experience as the country’s first female Prime Minister will make it easier for the next woman, and the next and the next. If this proves to be the case, she will deserve further recognition and gratitude.

Smoother passage for the generations of younger women coming through the ranks will only come about with more commitment – changes within political parties themselves, a greater focus on the benefits to be gained from gender equality, cultural change that reduces violent abuse and sexism and social action at many levels of our society.

The truly ugly aspect of our national life revealed by the past three years should give cause for us all to reflect on what else is required to restore and maintain respect, civility, common decency and a fair go for women – in our society and in our democratic politics.

Mary Crooks AO & Diana Batzias
Executive Director & Convenor
on behalf of the Board and Staff of Victorian Women’s Trust

www.vwt.org.au

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The Board and staff of the Victorian Women’s Trust wish to thank the generous and thoughtful women who provided us with the funds to place this statement on the public record – without the privilege of tax deductibility.

Email contact sarah@vwt.org.au

 

Read More:

A NoFibs tribute to our shy first female PM led by Nancy Cato

Sexism: I’ve had a gutful

Margo’s in-the-moment Twitter comment on losing PM JG

 

Comments

  1. Marilyn says:

    When some people are being tortured though there is no point in the by and large argument.

    Let’s get some things clear though. The Indies and Greens had a set agenda of NBN, carbon tax or trading, computers in schools and the rest was icing.

    As with every parliament 90% of bills are actually budget supply and not resisted so why there is this claim she made great reforms beats me.

    As for the sexism thing – it is sexist to claim that all men in blue ties are going to ravage our reproductive rights and silence our voices.

    And when Gillard has been at the centre of deposing 4 male leaders in 9 years she doesn’t get to play poor widdle woman.


  2. Oh Marilyn just f**k off, I don’t comment often, but read a lot, your vile and vitriol is just astounding, you do your cause no good, you just put people off anything you may have to say and listen too. This site is for reason and logic, not bitter old women.


    • @Boxlid Hear hear

    • NatalieW says:

      Totally agree Boxlid. My only refuge from MSM crap is the alternative Fifth Estate and now I find it filled with Marilyn Shepherd’s hatred for all things Gillard… I have nowhere else to turn.

  3. joy cooper says:

    Here, here, Boxlid. The maniacal obsession Marilyn has with Julia Gillard verges on stalking. She keeps on saying that JG was at the centre of “bringing” down 4 male leaders (ALP I presume), which is rubbish, as we, who tend to think clearly, are fully aware of. What about the rest of the caucus? Marilyn goes on & on with her denigration of Julia with no seeming rationality at all.

    Don’t think she has ever forgiven Julia Gillard for being to unable to assist her with one of her then causes, when JG was shadow Minister for Immigration or something. She doesn’t castigate the then Coalition’s Government Minister for Immigration in the same way when it was he who had the total responsibility for whatever Marilyn was complaining about at the time. So Marilyn, take your completely irrational poison & go soak in it. We are sick of reading your bilious rubbish.

    Thank you to the Victoria Women’s Trust for taking out these wonderful advertisements & trying to correct some of the outrageous damage the MSM & the Coalition has done to Julia Gillard.

  4. sulphurcrested says:

    I was so pleased to see this tribute to Julia Gillard and recognition of her achievements, the naming of the sexism, vitriol and undermining and from where it came, placed in major newspapers.

    Thank you Mary Crooks, Diana Batzias and the board and staff of The Victorian Women’s Trust. Thank you to the selfless donors who generously paid for this important, timely notice. And thank you, Julia Gillard, you were, and are, magnificent.


  5. Thank you so much everyone at the Victorian Women’s Trust. Wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman who achieved so much and was treated so shamefully. I have tears in my eyes!


  6. Agree with everything said here with exception of Marylin S. M.S. I am so sick of reading your rubbish on every site I turn to – go get a life, you are in dire need of one.


  7. Although I am a die hard greens supporter, I agree with the accolades for Julia gillard. I was appalled at the sexist abuse that she copped from particular media sources. I advised my daughters to expect verbal abuse if they ever entered politics, which if encountered on the streets may involve criminal charges or in the workplace, as harassment and discri!mination. Australian politics and media hasn’t evolved enough to cope with a female prime minister:-) how would they ever cope with an indigenous or ethnic PM ? Our nation has yet to mature into a true democracy – how sad.


  8. Thank you VWT. Many of us feel and believe what you have been committed enough to put into public print


  9. I don’t think you people grasp the fact that it mattered not whether she was female, male or even intersexed – she was the first Prime Minister to go to election with a clearly stated policy platform and blatantly reverse position when she had what she wanted. She lied to get elected and now she has set a precedent that we surely did not need.

    • Joy Cooper says:

      Oh no she didn’t Tony. What Julia Gillard said was that there would not be a carbon tax under a government she led, that she would make sure Australia would head along the path of cleaner, greener energy sources & there would be a carbon capping price, etc. The second part has been conveniently excised from MSM quotes & articles. Even apparently, the Ch 7 video of her saying that there would be a carbon price has been deleted.

      Are you sure you aren’t Tony Abbott? Now There’s an admitted liar for you.


      • It *is* a tax, Gillard admitted it even (http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/archive/national-old/julia-gillard-finally-admits-its-a-tax/story-e6freuzr-1226085918836). She may have preferred a carbon price (or so she said) but what she gave us was a tax. Just plug “Gillard admits it is a tax” into your favourite search engine and you’ll find all the information required. Yes, most of it is from News Corp and Fairfax, but there are enough direct quotes from Gillard to make my point.

        Also ….

        tax (noun) – a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions

        Seems to fit the bill.

    • Matthew Dawson says:

      Tony,

      You are perpetuating a falsehood there … and falling into the trap that the mainstream media has also fallen into.

      “She was the first Prime Minister to go to election with a clearly stated policy platform and blatantly reverse position when she had what she wanted” is such an uninformed, untrue statement it beggars belief. Let’s just repeat that so it sinks in – *your statement is untrue*.

      As ‘A Switch In Time’ points out so clearly, Gillard was not the first to break a promise. Hawke did it, Keating did it, Howard did it and as sure as night follows day Abott will too if he gets the job.

      Why do you perpetuate this myth that Gillard is the only ‘liar’ in politics?

      Thanks to the Victorian Women’s Trust for providing some much needed reasoned argument – I don’t know why there is so little of it around. These are sad times indeed.

      Matthew

      • Tony of Poorakistan says:

        *sigh* I don’t recall saying she was the only liar in politics, kindly do not put words in my mouth.

        I do not recall any other Prime Minister having enunciated a policy, making it an election platform, giving the voters a clear issue on which to base their choice for the next three years …. reversing their position mere days after being elected. Better?

        • Matthew Dawson says:

          OK, fair enough Tony – I see where you are coming from. I guess I am not making a distinction between “having enunciated a policy …” and just plain old dishonesty generally. I agree with Mary Crooks when she points out the double-standard. I think we vote for parties and leaders based on what they say over a long period of time – not just during election campaigns. I actually put more weight on what happens before the campaign.

          My point is that politicians are often loose with the truth. I understand why you say Gillard deserves the criticism due to the “precedent” you say she has set. I just don’t see Gillard’s mistake/dishonesty as worse than many others and yet she was subject to more viscious criticism than others. I put more emphasis on a broader authenticity … and on that score I think Julia wins over some others, including Abbott.

          • aniko papp says:

            John Howard stated: ‘A GST or anything resembling it is no longer Coalition policy. Nor will it be policy at any time in the future. It is completely off the political agenda in Australia’. (Press release, May 2,1995)
            In May 1995, 8 months before the March 1996 election that made him prime minister, at a Sydney bankers’ lunch, Howard referred to John Hewson’s losing GST policy in the 1993 election and how “nothing remotely resembling it” would be Coalition policy in the 1996 campaign- asked why not have a GST, he said in part: “We would occasionally like to win, you know. The fact is the last election was a referendum on the GST. There is no way we can have it as part of our policy for the next election. As to what happens some years in the future, I don’t know. But the GST cause was lost in the last election …”
            A few days later, a news story stated Howard had “left open the possibility of the Coalition reconsidering a GST some years in the future”, prompting this four-sentence statement saying, “Suggestions I have left open the possibility of a GST are completely wrong. A GST or anything resembling it is no longer Coalition policy. Nor will it be policy at any time in the future. It is completely off the political agenda in Australia.” Later that day, asked if he’d “left the door open for a GST”, Howard said: “No. There’s no way a GST will ever be part of our policy.”
            Q: “Never ever?” Howard: “Never ever. It’s dead. It was killed by voters at the last election.”
            In August 1997, less than 18 months after becoming Prime Minister, Howard spoke about tax reform, which became the GST. On Alan Jones’ talk back radio program, Howard promoted personal income tax cuts as part of the Coalition’s tax reform package, saying: ‘I wouldn’t call this a GST policy. I would call it an LTP – a lower tax policy’. (Radio 2UE, August 14,1997. By December 1998, Peter Costello proposed the a New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Bill),


  10. Exactly Joy. If she had won majority government, and she didn’t because the electorate didn’t give it to her, remember we dealt her the cards, then the promise would have stood. She had to negotiate a minority government.

    And by the way Tony, your Pope has a few things to say about turning boats back, and other matters inhumane here.


  11. I’ve come to this article late whilst researching another topic. Being a male I will confess limited experience with sexism (not none, mind you but limited) and that has left me in an awkward position.

    I didn’t like Julia Gillard as PM or as a person. I found her carbon tax backflip unforgivable and whiny voice grating. I did like her for being an atheist and having the balls to say so. I don’t care that she’s not married and not having children is irrelevant.

    My problem came with expressing my dislike for her policies. Every single time I mentioned the carbon tax I was automatically labelled “sexist”. Try as I might, I could never convince the (usually female) Gillard supporters that I was criticising her policies and not her personally. Same went for NBN, Gonski etc.

    How does a man criticise a woman without drawing the chauvinist tag? Or was this just a way of Gillard supporters to distract the conversation from the issue?

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