Anne Summers with former PM Julia Gillard before the event at Sydney’s Opera House. Photo: Ben Rushton julia-gillard
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Julia Gillard has thrown a thinly veiled barb at Kevin Rudd for disloyalty and for destabilising her prime ministership, declaring the difference between her behaviour and his was that she always worked for the re-election of the Labor government.
She said while it was difficult to accept the outcome of the ballot which returned Mr Rudd to the prime ministership, she had quickly concluded the best course was to give her party “the gift of silence” deciding not to make any public comments before the election.
In the only public comments she has made on the explosive events of June and Mr Rudd’s role in eventually replacing her, she justified her original move on Mr Rudd in June 2010 as “legitimate”.
“To ask your leader to have a leadership ballot, that’s legitimate, to do things continuously that undermine the Labor Party and the Labor government, then of course that shouldn’t be done by anyone,” she said.
“The key difference is every day I was deputy prime minister, I spent all of my time doing everything I could to have the Labor government prosper.”
She also used the opportunity to hit out at media reports that she had split with her long-time partner Tim Mathieson, declaring the rumours completely untrue and claiming the original report in the Woman’s Day magazine had been written without contacting her.
In her first serious interview since her removal from office on June 26, Ms Gillard told a sell-out audience at the Sydney Opera House that she was all too aware of the sexist treatment of her on the internet and elsewhere but chose not to engage despite a feeling of “murderous rage”.
However, she expressed the view that it would hopefully be easier for a woman to follow in the future, all but endorsing Tanya Plibersek as a future female prime minister describing her one of the nation’s most gifted communicators.
She said there was “an underside of sexism, really ugly, violent sexism” in Australia but it was not clear that it was merely a function of the new media age.
“I would have thought we were beyond that and it’s kind of depressing that it’s not,” she said.
Ms Gillard also spoke of the difficulties of managing the minority parliament revealing she had needed to have the Prime Minister’s office rewired to have the division bells ring when a vote was on in the House of Representatives because the numbers were so finely balanced the government could have been defeated at any time.
Ms Gillard said she regarded her April trip to China culminating in a new special relationship between Beijing and Canberra to establish annual meetings at prime minister level as her biggest foreign policy achievement.
The good natured exchange also brought out an admission that her first meeting with US President Barack Obama almost went awry when she asked him if he was “mad” for expressing jealousy about the parliamentary tradition of Question Time.
While the questions were almost universally friendly, it was a question from a boy not even tall enough to reach the microphone, that stumped her.
Why, he asked, did she oppose gay marriage?
As she had done during her prime ministership, Ms Gillard fumbled her way through an answer that ultimately went nowhere, and singled itself out as the only question for the night that received a qualified applause.
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