Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Lashes Out Against Sexism in Blistering Video

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It might be one of the most scathing takedowns in parliamentary history. Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood up in the House of Representatives to attack opposition leader Tony Abbott for misogyny and sexism in a video that has since gone viral.

In a clip uploaded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Gillard is seen lashing out at Abbott in a parliamentary session during a kerfuffle over the political future of Speaker of the House Peter Slipper. The backstory is complicated: Slipper faces charges of sexual harrassment from a gay former staff member, who has alleged that the speaker had sent him crude text messages “in which the Speaker used offensive language to describe female genitalia,” as a report by the ABC put it.  Opposition leader Abbott had forced a vote in parliament to oust Slipper — a Gillard appointee and a defector from the opposition party — arguing that he was unfit for the role in light of the ongoing court case.

Abbott’s comments, however, prompted a scathing retort from the prime minister during Question Time, in which she went on — at considerable length — about Abbott’s own record on the issue of sexism and misogyny:

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The leader of the opposition [Abbott] says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office… If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.

She went on to cite Abbott for reportedly musing in an interview on whether the underrepresentation of women in politics was really a bad thing; appearing next to a sign reading “ditch the witch” — meaning the prime minister — at a recent anti-carbon tax rally; and allegedly making catcalls at Gillard across the floor of the parliamentary chamber. The video of the prime minister’s remarks has now been viewed more than 400,000 times on YouTube.

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Though many lauded Gillard’s speech, others have criticized the move. The Sydney Morning Herald’s political editor, Peter Hartcher, writes that:

The moment Gillard rose to defend Slipper and keep him in office, she chose to defend the indefensible, to excuse the inexcusable. The government had spent a month vilifying Tony Abbott for having “a problem with women.” But when one of the bulwarks of the government was exposed as having a problem with women, it was suddenly acceptable.

The motion to remove Slipper as speaker was narrowly defeated; however, he stepped down from the post voluntarily on Tuesday, noting in his final address to lawmakers that “recent proceedings have prevented me from continuing.”

Gillard is Australia’s first female prime minister, having been elected to office in 2010.

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

10 comments
DerrickBP
DerrickBP

Bahahaha! I love this woman! In fact...I think she's mildly attractive. She could bring order to my parliament any day. But seriously...in the face of the agonizing Tony Abbott she held up rather well. He's a liberal bitch that was using Peter Slipper's sexual incantations to advance his own agenda; and he did so with complete hypocrisy. "Ditch the Witch"? You'd be arrested in the states for that. BTW sexual harrassment issues set aside I thought the content of those text messages was rather funny.

FeeFiFoFum
FeeFiFoFum

She deserves a medal for this! Hurrah!

Stoneyjack
Stoneyjack

Why is grumpy goat Gillard ranting about sexism? Nobody wants sex with her. Oh, right; that's why she rants.

abjnicho
abjnicho

As an expatriate from Australia, to any destination other than it, the thing Australia seems to be keeping well under the bonnet is that there is mass gathering of highly unconstructive women, who are hating men purely becuase they are men, which has nothing to do with how worthy they are in roles of all sorts.  Yes there are also some really, really wonderful women in Australia too, but the unconstructive ones have been getting far to much airtime of late.  

The underlying principles as to what Germain Greer wrote about in her initial book are actually not to bad but she loses the plot all so often too.  She does say though that there is a large movement within the feminist community who really do have no idea about the core principles under which she was initially shooting for... that is actually having healthy relationships. 

What seems to have supercede all the good ideas, are self absorbed but self laothing women who blame their problems on men and everthing else but themselves.  There are far more problems in the world of equal rights and healthy relationships than whats being shown in the tabloids and the people in the position of power, I get feeling, now it very well. They're licking their lips as to how they can exploit it and they really just don't give a crap about anything other than themselves. 

Those poor souls appear to be more excited that they've been able to get themselves in a newspaper and that they can tell their friends about it then actually doing something that's really good or actually worthwhile for the actual good of the community.  There are some very sick souls out their abusing the channels which were meant to be helpful to women but it seems that in the long run it's more likely these avenues are going to hurt their chances of better lives rather than aid them.

Edgar Lores
Edgar Lores

This is utter drivel. How can Julia Gillard be accused of hating men? She lives with a man without the benefit of a marriage licence. What greater proof does one need that she holds love above all else?