Was it the “real Julia” on display or was it a politician desperately trying to cover up an inglorious political history and her own hypocrisy? But, then, that is the real Julia.
Of course, it was great to see Gillard tell some home truths about Abbott. For 15 minutes Gillard even seemed to have some conviction. Of course Abbott is a hypocrite. His mock outrage at Peter Slipper’s disgusting text messages was sickening. The Liberals only turned on Slipper when he defected to become Speaker.
But for all that, Gillard was making a speech in a desperate attempt to turn attention away from her government’s support for Slipper. His lurid messages had been public knowledge for days before Gillard was willing to say anything about them. So, she stood condemning Abbott while defending Slipper from a parliamentary motion for him to resign.
It would have been more believable if Gillard’s hypocrisy was not so obvious. On the same day she was lambasting Abbott for sexism, the government (with Abbott’s support!) was enacting legislation to cut single parents’ payments (who are mostly women) by between $40 and $156 a week!
Gillard’s speech is actually symptomatic of Labor’s rule—there is a huge gap between rhetoric and reality. Climate change was the moral challenge of a generation—but became the ineffectual carbon tax and compensation for the big polluters.
Labor government policies have actually institutionalised the oppression of women. Labor did nothing to stop the closure of ABC childcare centres in 2008. Now 70,000 women are kept at home because of the lack of affordable child care.
The bans on pornography and the Basics Card imposed through the Northern Territory Intervention have humiliated Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal women in particular.
Gillard’s attitude to same-sex marriage (she allowed a conscience vote for Labor MPs rather than requiring Labor MPs to vote for Labor policy) entrenches the traditional views of marriage and the family—views that maintain the system’s ideological shackles on women.
On Tuesday, Gillard made her speech labelling Abbott a “misogynist”. By Thursday she was refusing to answer reporters’ question about whether Tony Abbott hated women.
The parliamentary spectacle revealed hypocrites on both sides. When it comes to fighting against sexism and for women’s rights, Gillard remains part of the problem not the solution.