Thursday, 24 June 2010


“Brains are an asset, if you hide them.” - Mae West

A historic day for Australia today as Julia Gillard has become our first female Prime Minister, and our 27th overall. The leadership tussle which began extremely acutely yesterday was all but over this morning as there were scrimmages for votes in the caucus, with Gillard reputedly managing to obtain about 70 of the total 115 votes. Kevin Rudd became aware of this overwhelming support for Julia Gillard and to avoid a humiliating defeat in a vote, stood down and let Gillard assume the leadership of the Labour Party. Rudd has been prime minister for just two years and suffered the indignity of not being allowed to the chance to seek re-election. It is only the third time in 40 years of Australian politics that a sitting prime minister has been removed without election.

As far as our immediate neighbourhood is concerned, New Zealand was more progressive and had voted in a female prime minister 11 years ago. Other countries in the world were ahead of both Australia and New Zealand, also. So it is no surprise that Australia was bound to have its first female prime minister sooner rather than later. I doubt that Gillard will push a feminist agenda, but I think there will some sensitivity to women’s issues, such as equal pay for equal work, equity in political and social positions as well as more support for women who wish to pursue careers. The country's first female Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, performed the swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Canberra this afternoon.

Julia Eileen Gillard was born on the 29th September 1961 in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales in 1961 where her father was a coal miner. She has a sister, Alison, who is three years older. After Gillard suffered from bronchopneumonia as a child, her parents were advised it would aid her recovery to live in a warmer climate. The family chose to migrate to Australia in 1966, settling in Adelaide. She attended school and then graduated from Adelaide University. She led the Australian Union of Students and then joined the Labour Party, and entered State politics in Victoria, becoming chief of staff to the then leader of the State Opposition, John Brumby. After success in that role she moved to Federal politics and became Shadow Minister for Population and Immigration between 2001–03 and Shadow Minister for Health between 2003–06. She then assumed the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition (2006) and Deputy Prime Minister between 2007-10. In this last role she was also Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

A new era of political leadership in Australia has begun especially given Ms Gillard’s personal circumstances, which are quite exceptional in terms of other politicians who project a family-oriented image. Gillard is not married but has a partner, Tim Mathieson, a hairdresser. She does not have any children. Gillard said through a spokeswoman that she was a “non-practising Baptist” and “not religious”. The Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott, a Catholic and conservative, a typical politician, quite clean-cut family man, will no doubt use this difference on the campaign trail.

Gillard was promoted to the position of Shadow Health Minister in July 2003 and after this the government moved the then Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, into the health portfolio. The rivalry between Abbott and Gillard often attracted attention from the media. Gillard is a highly regarded debater and her performances during parliamentary question time have had her dubbed the best parliamentary performer on the Labour side. We shall see some wonderful pyrotechnics in parliament between Gillard and Abbott, without any doubt!


  1. I am delighted a woman is prime minister. We have been a nation for over 100 years and it took a very long time to get there! With the exception of Thatcher, women prime ministers have been fantastic.

    But the gang rape of Kevin Rudd by the right wing of the Liberal Party, the newspapers, mining companies and even the ABC leaves me speechless.

    In the last two months, I don't think I heard/read one news item from the government. Regardless of the issue, the news people always went to the Opposition Party first. Even this morning, a fabulous day for Julia Gillard, the ABC lead its 9AM news broadcast with a vicious attack by Abbott.

  2. Well, that is very progressive! Here in America we'll have to wait for several decades more, I think, before we even think about the possibility of having a female president!
    I'll be interested to see how Ms Gillard does at the top job.

  3. re Hels comment above : 'a vicious attack by Abbott' - he sure is a Johnny One-Note. and an idiot to state publicly that his party have a smear file on Gillard that they would immediately start disseminating.
    'we do not hear his mournful sound, for joy reigns everywhere around ...'