Saturday, October 13, 2012

Anne Summers : Gillard speech

Julia Gillard's extraordinary speech on misogyny saw her return to her former debating finesse, writes Anne Summers. Only in Canberra, it seems, did her words fall on tone-deaf ears.

"After his performance last week, supporters of President Obama, watching Gillard cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent to call him out for his own personal prejudice, hypocrisy, and aversion to facts, might be wishing their man would take a lesson from Australia."

This was the judgement of The New Yorker magazine overnight in a blog post written by its managing editor, the Australian-born Amelia Lester.

Her summation, and the opinions which informed it, were in stark contrast to the consensus of most Canberra journalists, who stood virtually shoulder to shoulder in this morning's newspapers to condemn the Prime Minister for the same speech.

Gillard's words were condemned as  "desperate" (Michelle Grattan), "completely over the top" (Jennifer Hewett), "flawed" (Peter Hartcher), and "defending the indefensible" (Dennis Shanahan). You can see other, but essentially similar views, reported here.

If you checked into social media yesterday while the Prime Minister was delivering her speech, you might have noted Mia Freedman tweeting that her entire office of young women were clustered around the television watching with enthusiasm:

The whole Mamamia office is gathered around the TV watching @JuliaGillard in full flight during #QT. Extraordinary performance.

There were many, many other expressions of delight at Gillard's words on Facebook and Twitter while she spoke and as the day progressed.

In the 24 hours since the speech was delivered, a clear polarisation has emerged between the mainstream media, particularly print, and a very large body of online opinion that has applauded the anti-misogyny contents of the speech and welcomed Gillard's return to her former debating finesse.

What we saw in that speech was an angry and offended Gillard finally unleashed. Gone was the forbearance, and the turned cheek. Finally she was telling us how upset she was at being called "a witch" and "a bitch".

She was seething as she told the House of Representatives, "I was very personally offended when the Leader of the Opposition, as minister for health, said, and I quote, 'Abortion is the easy way out'." And she was practically in orbit when she responded to Mr Abbott's taunt that she led "a government which should already have died of shame".

Watching her, you saw her eyes narrow and her shoulders almost shiver. It seemed, to someone watching on television as I was, that she was almost convulsing as she alternated between rage and disbelief. Here was the Leader of her Majesty's Opposition using the very same words that a shock jock had just a week earlier used against her father, who had died exactly a month earlier.


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