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It's a girl!

Julia, by Chris JohnstonIt's a girl! (cross to three wise men looking bewildered) 

At 9.35 this morning I twinged pre-emptively for Julia Gillard. Being Prime Minister is not so much grasping a poisoned chalice as throwing yourself at Damocles' throne. Rudd was thrust onto rather than fell upon his sword. All political careers end in disgrace — who said that? — which is why a lot of women don't want them (some of us can act disgracefully without a Party).

Gillard's moment was thrust upon her, as was Rudd's decision not to contest. Factional politics, media interest and big advertising provoked exactly the crisis that neither wanted, at least not now.

As a woman, a lawyer, a Victorian, and a feminist, I am delighted to have such a smart, confident, self-assured, genuine woman leading my country. Especially after such a hard struggle within the ALP to make sure women political candidates are treated as serious contenders for winnable seats so that they can demonstrate how good they are, and bring a different and important awareness of community and electorate issues to the table.

The importance of a woman getting the highest political post in the land — remember that our Governor General is a progressive, savvy woman as well — is not so much in its being a 'first', but that the new Prime Minister is her own woman. She has not turned into an 'honorary bloke'. The singular attribute of Julia has been her obvious sincerity and the genuineness of her public conversations. And she can laugh.

Women do have a different experience of the world, not least in our socialisation (playground politics tend to carry on into the grown-up workplace), but also in our opportunities. It takes a particular kind of woman to, so obviously, revel in her role as a minister and deputy PM, and a particularly strong character to have leveraged a grudging respect from her factional foes and overcome the truism that nobody from 'the Left' could ever gain overall ALP support.

Gillard has been a long-standing member of the 'left' in the ALP, and supporter of Emily's List, the NGO committed to mentoring, supporting and providing 'early money' to endorsed ALP women candidates from any faction or none, who support choice, equity, diversity, childcare and equal pay.

In her work in the industrial relations portfolio she has spoken for and delivered on paid parental leave, flexible working conditions, and the eradication of the pernicious and bullying effects of Work Choices, so that women can integrate their working and personal lives and responsibilities.

In Australia, becoming Prime Minister means losing privacy, sleep andpersonal liberty commensurate with media exposure. The turning of the media pack on 'lovable Rudd' — our golden lad, our TinTin — was dramatic, fierce and destructive. I'm not sure it was fullydeserved. Gillard will know the lesson to be learnt. Today's media darling, Gillard, could be tomorrow's dead Jezebel, eaten by dogs.

Iknow Gillard can deal with it, and I want her to keep her sense of proportion, humour and the ridiculous. I would be very sorry if it meantthat Julia will have to be 'careful' from now on: so many pits to stumble at, so much personality to bland.

What I like most about the Gillard we have seen to date is that she has always spoken as a woman, with a good, solid working class accent and in language that anyone can understand. She has been a politician without turning herself into anything much different from the Labor Lawyer she was back in Melbourne: neither a Battleaxe nor a Beehive, but a woman with the common touch. She is still a genuine human being.

She can be serious, yet she laughs like a wharfie. I have thoroughly enjoyed her debates with the hapless Abbott whose patrician, 1950s attitude to women she so easily tickles out of him. I love seeing Abbott feeling uncomfortable instead of making women feel uncomfortable: he hugged me once, on a stage — I was too surprised to use the knee.

I will miss Gillard's jokey little bloke-downs, if she bows (as Rudd did) to political necessity and stops this regular little double-act with the opposition. Her levity may drop under the burdens of office, though I do hope not: there were nights when I turned on Question Time purely to watch her laughing at the expense of the suits on the other side.

Joke on, Julia, and try to keep enjoying the Great Game. Stay who you are so that Australian women feel heard. You stand for the hopes and dreams of women, and as a symbol, that politics can be done differently by women, and better.

More on the leadership takeover:
Gillard's win a loss for feminists
Goodbye Kevin, hello Julia
Moving forward with Gillard
Remembering Rudd

Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer. She is a former Equal Opportunity and HREOC Commissioner. She is principal of Moira Rayner and Associates.

Topic tags: Moira Rayner, Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, kevin rudd, labor, factions



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Existing comments

Gillard is the one driving the disgusting refugee policy and will 'protect' our borders in a heart beat by turning away "illegals".

The first thing in parliament this morning was an appropriation to revamp more concentration camps.

Marilyn Shepherd | 24 June 2010  

Ms Rayner's divinisation of Ms Gillard is unconvincing.

Gillard's complicity in the political ambush and assassination of Rudd shows that she is just as "blokey" as any bloke politician, honorary or otherwise. No 'playground politics' there. Et tu, Brute?

Sylvester | 25 June 2010  

I'm worried about Gillard's comments that she understands Australians want strong border protection. I don't! I'm vaguely pleased that Australia has it's first female PM - but Margaret Thatcher was female too! It will be her policies that count, not her gender.

Avril | 25 June 2010  

Thank you Moira for your insightful and enlivened view of an extraordinary event. It is wonderful to hear you speak so clearly about the grace of women in a difficult realm

Bernie Miles | 25 June 2010  

Love your opening sentence

Lets see what happens in the next few weeks

Can she and her team get the community to understand the policies?

Can she negotiate her way through the mining tax?

Can she keep a compassionate policy on refugees?

That she is female seems irrelevant (exciting yes) but its what she does to restore our faith in a more compassionate, safer and fairer community that I, for one, want.

GAJ | 25 June 2010  

Gillard is the one who as minister for education has continued to lavish money on private schools at the expense of government schools, entrenching privilege.

Carol Quinn | 25 June 2010  

Not long ago on another subject Sylvester and I disagreed.
May I agree with him in his comment on Julia Gillard who seems to me more likely to be a political animal than even Kevin. Kevin indeed disappointed in failing to encompass in his actions his visions, particularly as expressed in the Bonhoefer article. But it reminds us of our humanity in failure.

I fail to see that Julia Gillard relies on being a good "bloke" and not on any vision. Her approach to refugees for example is far from acceptable, let alone admirable.

brian Poidevin | 25 June 2010  

The Rats in the ranks have changed from a RATUS RATUS to a RATA RATA. She's now got the poison chalice and good luck to her. She would be the best polly the miners could buy. Mitch the Miner will receove a huge bonus for buying the country so cheaply and taking it over.

Peter David Harrigan | 25 June 2010  

With all the weak men,inevitable the rise of a strong woman.
Whatever happened to the bronzed ANZAC - too busy at the manicurist?

Leander Gonzaga | 25 June 2010  

Seeing the GG and the PM together made the years of feminism feel worhtwhile. That's the National life fixed - now for the Church??

Pauline Small | 25 June 2010  

"Out, damn spot". I'm all for a female PM, but not this one and not this way. Villainy! Treachery!

DJB | 25 June 2010  

I just hope she can deliver stronger border protection as promised. If she fails to do so, the trade in human cargo would continue like it did during the dark Rudd days. I wish her all the best to be strong and resolute. I am sure many naïve and even possible well-meaning people will attack her if she succeeds in doing what she is paid for to do, to protect Australia. Julian be tough and be hard!!!

Beat Odermatt | 25 June 2010  

Girl or boy - this should have nothing to do with the running of the nation. Gillard has done an about-face. A week ago, she was never going to challenge Rudd. Will she say it was the heat of the moment that made her change her mind? or was it a calculated scripted decision to take the leadership? She cannot call Tony Abbott "phoney tony" when she herself has gone against her word.

Peter Flood | 25 June 2010  

Thanks Moira! Now here is hoping that Prime Minister Gillard has the strength to bring about that after-profit tax for our mining companies - thus affording government to extend our riches to the many. Anatole France: 'The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the street and to steal bread.'

Joyce Parkes | 25 June 2010  

Whatever historical claim is made it will be forever ruined by the savage manner in which it was done. It was a political assassination, it was unfair to boot Rudd out before he completed his term. RUDD was elected. Not Julia. It is a sad moment for Australia.

Skye | 25 June 2010  

Having grown up in the 50'and 60's, Moira's headline gets my vote as the best headline of the year.

EO | 25 June 2010  

For those inclined to the view 'So what if it's a girl?', project yourself into the future and imagine Moira's article is about a papal election.

EO | 25 June 2010  

Excellent! And thank God that she's not a flag-waving Christian!

Kerry Bergin | 25 June 2010  

This whole business has been a political assassination.

John Tobin. | 25 June 2010  

Not only is she not a flag-waving Christian, her domestic arrangements and support for "gay" so-called marriage reveal her contempt for real marriage. It is hard to imagine this Prime Minister doing what is needed to provide the strengthening of marriage and family life so urgently required in this country. More darkly, her commitment to human rights is equivocal as she does not endorse the right to life of unborn Australians.

Sylvester | 25 June 2010  

Beat there is no human trade, there are simply asylum seekers paying for transport to safety.

Want to stop the hundreds of Afghan kids that are locked up here do you? Send them back to be killed?

Marilyn | 27 June 2010  

Julia, Julia, Julia... reminds me somewhat (ironically) of her namesake: Julius Caesar. But it might be more accurate (at least for the time being) to say:
"I come to bury Kevin, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them, (like saying "programmatic specificity")
The good is oft interred with their bones, (like saying "Sorry")

So let it be with Kevin... The noble Julia
Hath told you Kevin was arrogant: (a politician? arrogant? get outa here!)

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Kevin answered it ...
Here, under leave of Julia and the rest (of Labor's factional "warlords"),
-- For Julia is an honourable man; (pace Moira, an honorary one)

So are they all; all honourable men --
Come I to speak in Kevin's funeral ...
and feminism's saddest hour in Aussie politics: our first female prime misiter should have been elected by us not anointed by the "boys".

Jonah | 27 June 2010  

Nicely written. Only rusted-on opposition supporters could fail to respond with excitement to Julia's elevation. She was drafted to the job - no conniving at all. Kevin, brilliant though his performance was to demolish Howard, did not have the sustained political nous that Julia lives and breathes. Great times are ahead for us all, and much policy moderation.

Mike Foale | 27 June 2010  

She's pro abortion and an atheist.

Kate | 30 June 2010  

One small comment on the otherwise " perfect" Julia. She should try to avoid using the word " obviously " in answering questions when the question is difficult and the answer not obvious. It is almost as annoying as those public figures who preface the answer to a question by saying " well to be perfectly honest..." implying that the person is not always honest.

Brian Hamer | 02 July 2010  

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