The Weird Knitting Photos of Australia’s Prime Minister

The pictures are a sharp contrast to the more assertive image that Julia Gillard, who is running for re-election this year, has cultivated during her tenure

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The Australian Women's Weekly

A recent photo session showing Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard knitting a “royal kangaroo” for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s unborn baby has sparked uproar Down Under as the country gets ready for its federal elections in September.

In the July edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly, Gillard is depicted in a decidedly domestic pose, sitting on an armchair while putting together a care package for the expecting British royals. Critics have lambasted the Prime Minister for the staged and “contrived” shoot, which is directly at odds with the edgier image Gillard has often portrayed in the media.

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Gillard, who has been polling rather unfavorably leading up to the nation’s elections, has often been characterized by her lack of femininity and homemaking skills in the media. In 2005, she drew criticism from the Australian press when she was pictured in a rather empty-looking and bare kitchen.

Although the Prime Minister’s office has since distanced itself from the shoot, noting that Women’s Weekly had full editorial control, an e-mail shows that the theme was originally suggested by a staffer from Gillard’s office.

The Herald-Sun reports that staffer Keely O’Brien wrote to an editor at the magazine on April 10. “I mentioned [Gillard] is putting together a knitting care package for Kate Middleton, who is due in mid-July, and I was thinking this would make a great story for the magazine,” O’Brien is said to have suggested.

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Gillard, who is the country’s first female Prime Minister, has taken the criticism in stride. “If there is something I hope I have done for the image of women in public life, it is that we can go into an adversarial environment like parliament, and we can dominate it and conquer it,” she told the Guardian.

Reactions from political and media pundits have been fairly mixed, with fellow Labor Party member Graham Perrett quipping, “I don’t think that’s a crime that’s going to attract the International Court of Justice in the Hague.” Meanwhile, Fiona Nash of the rival National Party told Fairfax Media’s Breaking News program, ”I think it just really shows … the lack of connection the Prime Minister has with the people. They want her to talk about policy. They want the Prime Minister to run the country. They want the Prime Minister to be competent in the job she is doing, and what do we see? A story about the Prime Minister knitting.”