My Speech: Her Rights at Work. The Political Persecution of Australia's First Female Prime Minister

On Friday 31 August I delivered the 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture at the University of Newcastle. I chose as my topic: Her Rights at Work. The political persecution of Australia’s first female prime minister. Like many other Australians, I have been disturbed by the double standards that are seemingly applied to Julia Gillard by the Opposition, by the media and by many ordinary people.

But in the course of researching this topic I discovered that Gillard is subjected to far worse than mere double-standards. There is an entire industry of vilification, much of it sexually crude, all of it offensive and designed to undermine her authority and thus her legitimacy in the role as Australia’s first female prime minister. I felt that I could not argue this case without displaying at least some of the material that I was referring to. I recognise that it is very confronting and that not everyone will want to look at it.

So I have published TWO VERSIONS of the speech.  The VANILLA version contains some strong language, where I quote what ordinary people are saying about Julia Gillard but does not include the offensive images. The R-RATED VERSION version contains the images. Be prepared to be shocked.  I have also included an APPENDIX which contains even more disgusting material.  Look at this at your own risk.  My purpose in making this material available is not to titillate, nor to reward the perpetrators but to alert decent Australians to what is being said and done to our Prime Minister. It is now up to us to stop this.

I strongly argue that we ordinary citizens, regardless of our political views or affiliations should say this is not acceptable. Let’s all say: It Stops with me.

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  • Anne Lumley

    Thank you Anne. You are also a brave woman of high integrity, just like our Prime Minister! I’m sure you get plenty of hate mail yourself. You have my thoughts and best wishes. Anne

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  • clelia koch

    Very enlightening and powerful speech. The authorative exposition of sexist behaviour shocked me. Since reading it I have suggested to many that this Anne Summers lecture deserves the widest coverage. THANK YOU. Clelia

  • david

    let “it stops with me” become the call of and to human kindness, and may it spread virally

  • Kathy

    Thanks for the work you put into researching this speech. I really did not know how relentless and vile much of the material aimed at Gillard has been. I now feel ill and angry. As a mental health professional, I sometimes see people crushed by verbal abuse and bullying, and I now admire Gillard all the more for even being able to get out of bed in the mornings knowing that this kind of hate speech or images await her. It is of an entirely different order to the “rough and tumble” that is promoted as being a normal part of parliamentary life.

  • Clare

    Brilliant speech. Thank you.

  • Nigel

    To me, there are two issues. Firstly, there is the low regard in which women are held. Guys that I know that have expressed an opinion on the Prime Minister almost always state that they just don’t believe that a woman is up to running anything, let alone the federal government.

    Secondly, there is the general lack of civility. What is happening in parliament is only a reflection of our society as a whole, where respect and politeness and civility no longer seem to matter. It makes me sad. I wish we could turn things around, but alas I fear it is too late for us.

  • Susan Edwards

    Shame Lady Macbeth you didn’t reveal your true identity or did you? The name says it all.

  • Pam Ryan

    I give up!!!!! We speak daily to students about respect particularly when it comes to social media! My catch cry is “don’t write or say anything you wouldn’t like said or written about you!”
    Well it’s obvious some of our politicians, media personalities and “adults” need to go back to school! How can we call ourselves civilised when women can be treated this way in the “lucky country”: shame Australia shame.

  • Carol Smallman

    Thanks Anne for being so honest. I too believe that it is because we have a female Prime Minister…Yes a female. I thought we got past this gender equality long ago, but the likes of the Coalition, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones and all the rest still think otherwise…The old saying like” Women should stay at home and raise the kids”. Heaven forbid, get a life you naysayers.

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  • Shakti

    Thank you. And go for gold.

  • Shirley Castley

    Excellent ground breaking feminist research.

  • Ian Harris

    Thank you for a very comprehensive and thoughtful expose’.
    Deeply disturbing none-the-less.

  • Frank

    Thank you Anne,
    Julia Gillard is up against the most venomous attack by Abbott supporters who cannot accept that he lost the battle for leadership of this country. God help Australia if this man is allowed to become PM next year. It continues to be my biggest nightmare.

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  • Alex Chalmers

    Thank you Anne for highlighting this appalling behaviour. Why people think it’s OK to treat public figures like this but would (I imagine) be the first to be outraged if someone in their family was treated in this manner.

    Also not just our Prime Minister is being treated like this – there is a dreadful page on FB “Mining memes” that has some of the most disgusting and horrific comments about Gina Rinehart. Regardless of personal beliefs or politics these comments are inexcusable (and I would think be devastating to the recipient).

  • penny

    Thanks Anne, I heard your interview on Life Matters, then watched your speech on Youtube. Hearing Tony Windsor and Natasha Mitchell as well as reading Nikki Gemmel in The W/E Australian Magazine on the same subject last Saturday, makes me sigh with relief. So I am not the only one who was furious because of the blatant injustice that has crept into our EQUAL RIGHTS society. Let’s stop it.

  • Anne Wakatama

    Thanks Anne,
    Much overdue. I have been amazed at Julia Gillard’s strength and courage in continuing to do her job with the degree of dignity she has demonstrated in the face of the onslaught. If more of our politicians could act in this way Australia would be a far better place. I admire her intelligence and her perseverance and believe she is an excellent role model for other women.
    I do hope the people of Australia get on board and help to stop what has become a disgusting display of denigration and sexism.

  • Helen of Perth

    I agree with Anne 100%. We need this kind of solidarity for women, otherwise we will regress. I am proud to be a Labor supporter, esp. that we have our first female Prime Minister.
    The leader of the opposition is an inept school-boy bully.
    Thanks for this article, Anne Summers. Yay! to the empowerment of women everywhere.

  • pamela

    Great interview on Radio National, especially as I, too, am fed up with the crap that much of the (non-ABC) media (and certain politicians) dish up towards female politicians (the PM, in particular)….it reminds me of my teenage years, when most boys resorted to sexist “bullying” tactics when they realised they had neither the intellect nor the “education” to deal with girls like me. Seems that the only thing that’s changed in 40 years, is that this crude behaviour has reached the public, political domain. Let’s hope your work can remove it…from both private and public life!

  • lady mcbeth

    For a Fabian Socialist Marxist she has a peculiar perspective on the “worker”. A true Comrade would see dignity and have respect for those doing the most menial jobs, not describing them as “low-status” as well as having low paid, uninteresting and unfulfilling jobs.

    She sees “nothing wrong” in her and her union Comrades such as Wilson,Thomson and Williamson stealing millions from such workers.

    There is NOTHING 1600 spin doctors can do that will EVER convince me that this woman is deserving of anything other than a prison term AND the loss of all her ‘entitlements’.

    As for the example she has set other women??? Bloody hell – the only lesson there is use your gender to spread a little sunshine around the office, pussy-whip your boss, your clients and your colleagues to get what you want, knife your boss in the back to take his job and then plead “I’m only a poor woman – stop picking on me”.

    Rage doesn’t begin to describe it.

  • John Pratt

    Excellent Anne we seem to have lost our manners, leaders should be very aware of their responsibilities.

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  • Tricia Taylor

    Thank you Anne. And you say it so well! I am so angry at the way our Prime Minister is being treated, and fearful for the repercussions this has for all young women in Australia today. The more peolpe who stand up against this, the more hope we have. I am inspired. Keep up the good work.

  • geraldine willesee

    I had an eleven year old Sydney boy as a house-guest recently. When the PM appeared on television he began a tirade of “I hate Julia Gillard, everyone hates her. I know millions of people who hate her…..” Eleven years old, and he didn’t learn it at home.

    Terrific piece. Overdue.

  • Chris Bundy

    If I were to admit that I left your lecture feeling incredibly upset and angry I would probably attract the accustation that I had my “rags.” (one of those endearing little snippets of wisdom that seems to permeate Australian male culture!) What poor excuse for a human being came up with “Sack the Crack”? Maintain the rage..I WILL! Prime Minister Julia Gillard has my support now more than ever.

  • Chris Bundy

    If I were to admit that I left your lecture feeling incredibly upset and angry I would probably attract the accusation that I had my “rags.” (one of those indearing little snippets of wisdom that seems to permeate Australian male culture!)What poor excuse for a human being came up with “Sack the Crack”? Maybe “sack the “member” for (an unidentified electorate located some where on the Central Coast needs to be rephrased to “sack the dick.”
    Maintain the rage I will! To Prime Minister Gillard..More than ever you have my support.

  • Jean Abbey

    I have no doubt Miss Gillard’s father would have been gravely distressed at the constant and despicable vilification of his daughter, mortal blows that were hard to take at his age. Talk about blood on hands…

  • denese

    Dear anne
    Thank U, please keep discussing this, maybe on radio and television.
    We all saw her sadness and sorrow at her dads passing.
    But some in the media call her wooden, I see none of that.
    I see a compassionate, very intelligent amazing lady who has negotiated legislation through a minority government for the good of us all.

  • Christine

    Congratulations on your stand. Please keep raising this issue and hopefully it will have an effect. YES, our prime minister has been treated appallingly and primarily because of her gender. I am disappointed when I hear the leader of the opposition regularly refer to our PM as SHE and appeared to be supporting and encouraging the abusive comments we saw plastered across our TV screens when the Mining tax and the Carbon Tax issues were being debated in parliament. The media have continued to feed this approach and I note if Tony Abbott makes a guff or mistake it is glossed over, not so if our female PM.
    In male dominated industries such as politics and media, the leaders of these industries need to take stock and realize their behaviors, comments and attitudes are unacceptable. Importantly, women like Wendy Harmer need to have a good hard think about their comments and ‘ play the ball not the man’

  • david thummler

    Dear Anne
    It is about time some had the guts to tell it like it is. I was distressed to hear Wendy Harmer and Debbie Spillane(?) on ABC radio 702 talking about this issue. Neither believed that Julia was being unfairly treated because of her gender. I was amazed that two women who have done it tough at times were so adamant that this was the case. I am 66 years old and very politically aware. I cannot remember a time when such vile, sexist material was produced about a leader. Then again there was a TV show about Julia involving a dog weeing on our nation’s leader – says a lot about us as a people doesn’t it?

  • Miss Eagle (@misseagle)

    Anne, I am a redhead who married a redhead and had redheaded children. My daughter maintains that the discrimination against Julia is not only gender based but has to do with her red hair. My daughter insists there is widespread discrimination against redheads. I have never felt this. In fact, I said to her that when I was growing up some of the biggest, most beautiful and admired movie stars were women with red hair – Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward to name two. So, if my daughter is right, when did this all start. When exactly did the word ‘ranga’ (presumably a reference to orangutangs?!) enter the lexicon. I realise that humanity is a demarking race. If there were no racism, no discrimination on the basis of skin colour, there would be something else. But where does it all stop?

  • Anna McCormack

    Thank you Anne, this speech is long overdue and hugely significant. I agree 100% with Magi and Stephanie above.

  • lesley skinner

    How many times have we allowed our female leaders to be unfairly attacked, but there has never been quite this degree of filth. are we so different from cultures where females are traditionally mistreated.

  • Roger Farquhar

    Good article; for some time I have been dismayed at how this debased form of discourse has become accepted as legitimate amongst political operatives.

  • Matt Lumb

    Congratulations Anne on this important speech.

  • Margaret Kelly

    Thank God somebody with a high profile has finally said all this. I’ve been having digs at various members of the press for some time but they’ve been sinking without a trace. Agree with everything you said. More power to your pen Anne!

  • Stephanie Miller

    Congratulations on shining a light on this Anne. Julia Gillard has exhibited enormous courage and resilience in the face of an unrelenting barrage of sexist derision coming from the very worst elements of our society. The fact that very few politicians have objected to this sexist vilification is as opportunistic as it is disgraceful.

  • Magi Marcon

    Well done Anne. It is obvious to anyone with any brains at all that Julia Gillard has been experiencing a gender backlash the likes of which hasn’t been seen, in my opinion, since our modern women’s liberation movement in the 70’s. It was shocking to see and hear the lengths to which opponents would go then and it is even worse now.

  • Douglas

    As has been observed, this is the longest political dummy-spit in history.