Gillard Under Pressure: Unfairly So?
Julia Gillard was born in Barry, South Wales in 1961 but renounced her UK citizenship on entering the Australian parliament in 1988. Her family had moved to Australia when Julia was five years old. She was the first PM since Billy Hughes to have been born overseas, the first never to have married and the first woman to be deputy PM, leader of the country and head of the Australian Labour Party. Perhaps unsurprisingly, her political hero is the Welsh Labour politician Aneurin Bevan.
As chief-of-staff to John Bundy, Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Gillard had the responsibility for drafting affirmative action rules with the target of pre-selecting women to contest 35 per cent of Labour’s winnable seats. She also played a role in founding ‘Emily’s List’ a pro-choice fundraising and support network for women.
Gillard has been the subject of quite vicious sexist taunts and misogynistic attacks during her parliamentary career. When Peter Slipper, former speaker of the Australian parliament was accused of sexual harassment and attacked by her opposition opposite number Tony Abbott, Gillard sensed some hypocrisy in the air and memorably turned on Abbott in parliament to remind him of her sufferings. Her speech last year was applauded by, among others, the political leaders of the United States, France and Denmark.