Gillard's Salvo On Abortion And 'Men In Blue Ties' Is No Misogyny Speech Mark II

Getty / Ian Hitchcock (File)

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard sought to draw a key battle line for the forthcoming election in a speech yesterday, by painting it as a choice between the Labor party and an opposition that would “banish” women’s voices from politics, with every key decision instead being made by a “man in a blue tie”.

At the “Women for Gillard” event in Sydney the PM also said that under a Coalition government abortion could become the “political plaything of men”.

But in contrast to her speech in parliament in November last in which she accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of being a misogynist – which was hugely well received and has been viewed on YouTube well over 2.3 million times – many prominent women have questioned the wisdom of her strident insistence that the election will be fought between those who believe in gender equality and those who don’t.

And worryingly for her at a time when her leadership is again subject of intense speculation, some of her own MPs immediately started grumbling about it.

It’s possible that she was trying to rekindle the passions ignited by her 2012 speech. If that was the intent, it doesn’t appear to have worked.

There’s an extended excerpt of the speech below, but here are what some prominent women had to say about Gillard’s speech yesterday.

Author and social commentator Jane Caro, who lauded Gillard’s 2012 speech, said the PM’s comments “smack of desperation, like it’s her last card”. She’s quoted in the Fin as saying:

“I’m more prepared to believe her on education and Gonski than I am on this. And I’m worried it will create this very idea that we don’t want, which is that women in politics only represent women. We want women in politics because we want the brightest and the best of all available people.”

Women’s Electoral Lobby veteran Eva Cox was uninspired, too. “I think it’s a fairly shallow attempt,” she told The Australian. “I am much more interested in the policies she’s putting out there, not the rhetoric and there’s nothing new or exciting here for women.”

And there’s Wendy Harmer, co-founder of The Hoopla, who says her readers haven’t been impressed. She told the ABC: “I’ve been getting emails all day saying ‘Did she really say that’?”

[UPDATE 8.43am: The Hoopla has a post by Gabrielle Chan this morning, calling the speech “combination of great resilience and absolute over-reach”. More here.]

A passionate speech that encapsulates an anger many people have felt on an issue is quite different to fighting an entire election around it. Similarly, a topic travelling well on social media doesn’t necessarily equate to a winning political campaign theme.

Here’s an extended transcript of the speech – it’s pretty blunt stuff – via australianpolitics:

Ben Chifley famously spoke of the things worth fighting for. I’m here today to tell you about the women worth fighting for.

Australian women, who benefit from Labor’s purpose, from Labor’s passion; I’m here to tell you today, to urge you, to get out and fight. We’ve got a hard fight ahead but it’s a hard fight to wage and we must win on 14 September.

On that day, 14 September, we are going to make a big decision as a nation. It’s a decision about whether, once again, we will banish women’s voices from our political life.

I invite you to imagine it. A prime minister – a man in a blue tie – who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie.

A treasurer, who delivers a budget wearing a blue tie, to be supported by a finance minister – another man in a blue tie. Women once again banished from the centre of Australia’s political life.

We don’t want to see an Australia where a paid parental leave scheme divides women, that divides upper-income women from lower-income women; that divides upper-income women from their sisters who earn less but pay through potentially loss of jobs and certainly increased prices for a paid parental leave scheme that gives those that earn the most the most benefits.

We don’t want to see childcare slashed; we don’t want to see healthcare slashed; look at what has happened in Queensland: cuts to healthcare, cuts to Breast Screen. We don’t want that to be our future in Australia.

We don’t want to see superannuation slashed, particularly for working women. We don’t to see women lose rights at work, because when fairness and dignity at work goes it’s women who bear the brunt. We know that, we’ve seen it before.

We don’t want to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme put in the custody of a political party that didn’t create it, didn’t believe in it with the power that we did and simply said ‘me too’.

We don’t want to stand in front of school gates knowing that the children in that school, including the girls in that school, are getting less of an education than they should because our nation hasn’t seen fit to invest in their future.

Finally but very importantly, we don’t want to live in an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better.

That’s not the future we should choose for our nation, it’s not the future that I want to see for Australian women, it’s not the future I want to see for Australia’s girls.

What do you think? Is this an issue Gillard can get voters to rally around?

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