Tag Archives: Prime minister

A Letter to the former Prime Minister

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Louise hails from Queensland and Studies at the University of Queensland. She is the NUS Queensland State Environment Officer. She is a collector of tee-shirts and missing memories. However she is yet to learn how to vacate a shopping trolley without falling over. 

Dear Julia

Thank you.

I’m sorry that your prime ministership coincided with the worst of the national discourse. I’m sorry that as you paved the way, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, and Howard Sattler tried to block the path for women. Even Germaine Greer was part of the blockade. I’m sorry that so many people gave credence to these people. It’s not much, but some of us cried and screamed and ranted. I’m sorry that we couldn’t destroy the joint. I’m sorry that our fight wasn’t limited to arguing with internet trolls. I’m sorry that we had to refute views published in the mainstream media just as often as we had to campaign to have a page removed from Facebook.

The depth of my sadness on Wednesday night was surprising to me. Honestly, I wasn’t your biggest fan in a policy sense. But, I wanted the opportunity to judge you on your policies – an opportunity which was consistently denied to me, and every other Australian. We wasted so much time talking about your shoes. As my housemates will contend, I spend enough time talking about my own. After we’d finished discussing your hair, your glasses, your clothes and your body, there were no column inches left to analyse your legacy. I wanted the Australian public to discuss why your government was wrong to process asylum seekers offshore. I wanted a national celebration when you introduced the legislation for the NDIS. Instead, we got endless speculation about whether or not your tears were authentic.  

Once some blokes decided that you were ‘illegitimate’ as a prime minister, the rest of the bullshit flowed faster than twitter on a Q&A night. We know that 17 of Australia’s prime ministers first ascended to the top job after a party room spill or a vote of no confidence. Though your company in this respect includes Menzies, Curtin and Keating, you were the first to be labelled illegitimate. Menzies and Curtin, the most celebrated prime ministers from either side of politics, led minority governments for a time. Yet, we remember them as Australian icons, free from the indignity of being called illegitimate. Maybe 1940s Australia had a better comprehension of the Westminster system, or maybe 2010 Australia simply couldn’t resist the pervasive lure of misogyny to accept you as PM.

I will never accept the idea that Australia is not ready for a female PM. It gives us an out. It implies that only an advanced society could countenance the idea of a woman in charge. Those who peddle this line use some of my favourite things about Australia, to prosecute an argument which crumbles under the most superficial of scrutiny. We’re larrikins and bogans, blokes and sheilas. We abhor pretention and snobbery. We’d prefer to watch the big men fly at the G than spend the evening at the opera. But accepting a woman in the top job is not a matter of altering our national character. We don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not. We can, simultaneously, embrace female leadership and our own brand of national kulcha. Let us never say “a place like ‘Straya is incapable of keeping our misogyny in check. Sorry ladies.” That’s absolute crap.

It’s important for us to acknowledge the shit you put up with. Equally, though, it is imperative that we recall the progress you made. Thank you for calling out sexism and misogyny in our national parliament. We still refer to it as ‘that speech’. Some of my friends claimed to have given up on politics. They saw that video and changed their minds. Finally, we had a prime minister who told the nation that she wasn’t going to put up with it anymore, and we didn’t have to cop it either. You inspired us to deliver our own version of that speech. We have had far too many opportunities to follow your example, and call out sexism in our own lives  – whether we’re naming and shaming sexist cowards at NUS National Conference, or dancing at a nightclub where we’re forced to assert that no means no.

Now, I recommend that you grab a beer. Avoid reading the Australian and watching Bulldogs games (except on August 30 – they’re playing Melbourne). You’ve earned a bit of break. The rest of us can hold the fort for a while. As you said, it will be easier for the next woman and the one after that. Thanks for being the first.
Love, Louise

 

Louise Scarce

NUS Queensland Environment Officer 

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Media for Men?

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Hannah Smith is the Women’s Officer at the University of Sydney and the NSW Women’s Officer for NUS.
She studies Government and IR and Gender Studies and as a result is known to use too much Foucault and Connell in everyday conversations.She likes to claim that her lack of cooking skills is in fact a result of her commitment to the feminist cause… but it’s really not.
On May 11th, Julia Gillard spoke about the threat of an Abbott Government for Australian Women at the “Women for Gillard” launch at Trades Hall in Sussex Street, Sydney. What transpired in the media in the days to follow was the most tremendous farce of partiality and journalistic integrity I have seen in my life thus far.Among the articles written about the event, many critcised Julia for playing the “gender card” or the “abortion card”, others criticised her joke about men in blue ties, one telegraph article was outraged that many of the women involved in the event were already labor party members. One of Bolt’s readers accused Gillard of “gender apartheid” and “reverse sexism”. Sunrise- hard-hitting as always- ran a panel segment on the event, featuring David “breastfeeding is gross” Koch and Alan “died of shame” Jones.

First things first, what the hell is a ‘gender card’? Do people really believe Julia Gillard mentioned the threats to abortion rights under an Abbott government to rouse up sympathy from voters? Abortion has never been a vote winner and there is a possibility that Gillard mentioned abortion because it is an important womens issue, and she was at a women’s event. maybe. And can someone please tell me how a complex and vast spectrum of movements, issues, groups and individuals like the women’s movement could be contracted and defined merely as a ‘card’ to be played to win votes?

But really though, Gender Apartheid? A women’s event is Gender apartheid? That these sorts of comments go by unnoticed is a testament to the undeniable right-wing bias of Australian media outlets. Even Fairfax, who are supposed to be at least somewhat more balanced and fair, called the event an ‘act of a desperate prime minister’.

In a case of bittersweet irony, the very next day, a menu from a liberal party fundraiser was released that poked fun at the Prime Minister’s body type. What more justifcation did we need for a ‘women for gillard’ campaign? a lot apparently. Still today, media outlets bemoan the politically motivated and desperate attempts of the “Women for Gillard” campaign.

I am proud of our Prime Minister. I believe she has worked for Australia consistently and competently, despite the disgusting misogyny levelled against her. I don’t believe that the “Women for Gillard” campaign is a desperate political act- I believe it is a natural next step from a woman and her government who have delivered many historical reforms for the women of Australia. I remember seeing Gillard speak at the UN Women International Women’s Day breakfast earlier this year, where she declared that “If the women’s movement has changed only one life- it’s worth it”.

Australia’s media should be ashamed of their central role in unfairly besmirching the work of a Prime Minister and I hope that all those women out there who are for Gillard stand up and make their voices heard before September 14.

Hannah Smith
University of Sydney Women’s Officer