It is as if the metaphorical media lens is a microscope, 1,000 times more scrutinising of women — indeed, less critical of men. If Julia Gillard had bat ears, it is unlikely she would have made it to the prime ministership in the first place.
A word of caution: If you happen to be a highly intelligent woman with deep philosophical convictions and passion for the future of Australia, and have aspirations to become prime minister, go for it. But only if you do not have any physical imperfections that make you lesser in appearance to Elle McPherson. But then again, if you are blond, the media will destroy you anyway.
As if looking back on the demise of Julia Gillard, Marilyn Lake wrote a piece for The Age, just one day before Australia’s first female prime minister was ousted by the Labor caucus, in favour of a … you guessed it … a male … who will, odds on, not be sexualised by Australia’s media and wider culture. By Bruce Keogh
An excerpt from Marilyn Lake’s article 25 June 2013:
How could we have foreseen what would befall her? The relentless persecution by senior male journalists, the vilification, the sexist mockery, the personal abuse and the contempt with which she would be treated. Between 2010 and 2013, the full force of Australia’s masculinist political culture would be brought to bear on this path-breaking woman.
It is now a truism that history will prove more sympathetic to Gillard’s prime ministership – and the policies she introduced – than contemporary commentators have been.
What will mostly attract historians’ attention, however, will be how she was treated, the rabid misogyny, the hysteria of men who could not abide the spectacle of a woman in power, who labelled her a bitch, a witch, a liar, a usurper, an illegitimate claimant who refused to bow down before her male rivals.
She has been sexualised in a way no previous prime minister has been sexualised.
In the past three years, obscenity has become a favourite mode of prime ministerial denigration.
Full columnby Marilyn Lake who is Professor in History at the University of Melbourne researching the international history of Australian democracy.
Mr Murdoch, no fool whatever his other failings, realised very early on that – just like a large shareholding in a company leads to control of the company – 70% media saturation can be turned into 100% control of political discourse.
… so writes David Horton in Independent Australia (22 May 2013) :
As Clive Palmer mounts his air-charged bid for the prime ministership, and his Palmer United Party mounts its PUP election campaign, his detractors claim that he is all hot air – big on promises, small on delivery, and full of hyperbole.
Whilst Palmer, who is known for his inflated ego, might take umbrage at these assertions, the average cynical punter would declare, “Perfect fit for PM, I’ll vote for the PUP. What a wag he is.”
Sub-editor: The circus is coming to Canberra.
Editor: No, better make it ‘Should Clive Palmer run our nation?’
And running with that headline, The Australian’s Inquirer ran a piece on 15 June 2013. Here are some excerpts:
Clive Palmer is courting the media and the popular vote in an ambitious bid to become prime minister. As his political bandwagon crosses the country and former footballers join Palmer relatives, friends and senior employees signing up for a wild ride on this Queensland-inspired electoral juggernaut, the promises fly thick and fast.
Palmer and his barrackers pledge to grow the economy, cut red tape and create thousands of jobs. They promise much more in a titanic quest for power but Palmer is a veteran of attention-seeking: the former Gold Coast property developer cut his teeth in politics with another unlikely leader, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. And Palmer has also mastered the art of hyperbole.
As Palmer asks Australians to size him up, look in his eyes, be impressed by his commercial success and then vote for him, he revels in his parallel universe. It is a universe embellished in cheerful profiles with the appearance of wealth and opulence on a gargantuan scale.
In this universe, those who work for him are often seen as highly fortunate and content.
The operation of the assets he owns or controls – from a Townsville nickel refinery, Yabulu, to a Sunshine Coast resort, the former Hyatt Coolum, to a vast iron ore resource in the Pilbara – is portrayed as vibrant and successful.
The communities in which Palmer’s businesses operate and the stakeholders with whom he does business are invariably depicted as grateful beneficiaries of his generosity and business acumen. And in this universe, Palmer is usually described as a billionaire miner, one of Australia’s richest, a somewhat eccentric, publicity-loving, far-seeing visionary and “professor” of international renown with a penchant for private jets, vintage cars and grandstanding entrances.
Part of the public and media perception is true. But it has also been fuelled by exaggeration, fiction and the omission of facts that do not fit a popular narrative.
Inquirer can reveal a different portrait emerges from the claims of still-serving staff as well as insiders who worked for Clive Frederick Palmer.
This different portrait is of a belligerent, finger-wagging and sometimes verbally abusive employer, increasingly in the spotlight in his quest to be prime minister, who makes promises big and small but does not always deliver.
Now, as he talks of the Palmer United Party’s plans for improving the lives of Australians, people from his core businesses describe bizarre decisions and numerous broken pledges. There have been serious hardships and job losses for staff and community who believed they had security.
In beachside Coolum on the Sunshine Coast, a little more than an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, numerous people interviewed by Inquirer have little positive to say about Palmer because of the impact his arrival and management style has had on local families, businesses and the community.
Early in the piece in 2011 when Palmer, using funds from the then-profitable Queensland Nickel, bought the five-star Hyatt-badged resort and its adjoining golf course from Lend Lease, the community had high hopes.
Palmer promised a major refurbishment, redevelopment and better conditions and more opportunities for staff and Coolum. He was heralded as a lightning rod for positive change and a draw-card for visitors. The struggling local economy relied heavily on spending by international and Australian visitors to the Hyatt and some 150ha beneath Mount Coolum. Its annual showpiece, the signature Australian PGA Championship, was a lucrative earner that taxpayers had helped foster.
But the bubble has burst in the Coolum community, part of the federal seat of Fairfax in which Palmer is running as a 2013 election candidate.
The Hyatt brand and much of the goodwill is long gone – its ties with Palmer were severed in 2012 after he accused it of running something approaching a criminal racket (one of a number of serious claims that he backed away from when their dispute went to the Supreme Court).
Now, the resort is shunned by visitors and has become a focus of ridicule and regret. They cite the abysmal occupancy rates (sometimes in the low single-digits) of the re-named Palmer Coolum Resort, the sacking of hundreds of workers, the loss of the Australian PGA, the bizarre dinosaur replicas in the grounds, a wall of framed portraits of Palmer in the lobby, the screening in the rooms of a fawning profile by the ABC’s Australian Story, and curiously higher prices, all of which have deterred visitors. The resort’s more scathing reviews by guests on Trip Advisor are excruciating reading.
While many people fear being sued if they speak out, Gaye Williams, a respected longtime Coolum stalwart and business owner, tells Inquirer that Australians need to know this side of the Palmer story. Palmer is, after all, seeking to be the next prime minister. She says hard-working families in Coolum and its local economy bear scars from Palmer’s arrival and antics at the resort over the past two years.
“It has been a huge kick in the guts. This is a small town. It is affecting everyone the tradies, the restaurants, retail, lifeguards. We are very disappointed,” says Williams. “It’s his resort. He owns it. He is entitled to make these decisions. But he spruiks in the media, on TV shows and on 60 Minutes about how he’s doing wonders for the Australian economy and growing businesses. The reality here is different.
“He can sack who he likes but don’t tell them one day their jobs are safe, then get rid of them. Don’t say you’re doing the right thing. He has been such a successful businessman that I actually defended him at first. Now he is treated as a joke. The resort is a shrine to Clive. People here look and laugh about it. Everyone laughs at him.”
Sixteen months later, an estimated 400 staff and casuals are gone from a quality resort that is likened by locals to a Jurassic-style circus. Several of those who remain tell Inquirer of Palmer’s strong influence on key decisions in the running of the resort in spite of its continuing loss of market share.
“A lot of people are unsure about the future of the area because of him coming in here,” says a Coolum retailer, Howard Gelfand. “I’m not a great fan of Clive. I don’t see any good points from him coming here. If he did just 5 per cent of what he said he was going to do, Coolum might get a lift. What has he done for the area? He wants to be pandered to. He doesn’t want to be asked any tough questions.”
In retrospect: Q&A 14 May 2012 – gay marriage watershed moment
Joe Hockey verbatim: I must confess my views have changed since I’ve had children. I think in this life we’ve got to aspire to give our children what I believe is the very best circumstances, and that’s to have a mother and a father.
Penny Wong acknowledged that comments like Hockey’s were hurtful, and concluded by calmy saying: ”I know what my family is worth.”
In retrospect: What he said and what she might have thought.
It was at Parliament House where Prime Minister Robert Menzies, a devout royalist, was to quote the 17th century words of Thomas Ford: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.”
Sir William Heseltine Private Secretary to HM the Queen 1986-1990: “It was one of the very few occasions I think Sir Robert misjudged his audience. And I can remember that there was a frisson of embarrassment and this was perhaps reflected on the Queen’s own look on that occasion.”
CONSPIRACY THEORY: Kevin Rudd is a cunning character whose game-playing had not been seen through by even his own supporters.
Kevin Rudd‘s sole aim has been to fiendishly plot the ruination of the party that dumped him from the prime ministership – and if his own supporters lose their seats, so be it.
He routinely authorised his supporters to leak damaging stories to the media with the singular purpose of destabilising Prime Minister Julia Gillard. And it worked.
He made many and varied media appearances, clearly designed to bolster his own popularity – as if to be a pretender – in both senses of the word. And the polls had him way ahead of Gillard as preferred prime minister.
He knew that Gillard was becoming increasingly unpopular in her own party and that numbers were shifting his way.
He could see that Labor would be massacred in the September 14 election and that only he, as leader could save the party from that.
He continued to set the trap.
The bitter Gillard/Rudd divisions within Labor were sinking the party and destroying the credibility of both sides.
The Gillard government had become dysfunctional.
And so, as if following Rudd’s script, Labor veteran Simon Crean decided that something had to be done to save his beloved party from ruin.
Crean, a long-time supporter of Gillard had also become disenchanted with her, and could see that Rudd resuming the leadership was the only possible hope.
“Saint” Simon did the honourable thing and called for a leadership spill for the good of the Labor party. He announced his support for Rudd, knowing that he would be sent to the back benches if Rudd lost.
Simon had received assurances from the Rudd camp that Rudd would contest.
But Rudd did not contest!
Because Kevin knew that by not standing, he would throw the party into absolute chaos, making it look an even more farcical shambles with a greater likelihood of being sent into oblivion come September. And it worked!
Rudd’s own supporters are furious with him. Why had they bothered to support someone who would back out of a challenge? Gillard has now relegated them to obscurity.
But Kevin doesn’t care. He never intended to become Labor leader again and has achieved what he set out to do – destroy the whole party.
Now, the even-more-damaged Gillard, who has lost a swag of pro-Rudd talent from her ministry, is looking more vulnerable, no longer from Rudd, but from the electorate which is more than fed up with the dysfunction and bizarre power plays, which are due in part to Rudd himself.
SIMPLE SIMON OR SAINT SIMON?
Saint Simon? The spill was initiated by Simon Crean who was saint-like enough to put himself on the line for the good of the party.
Simple Simon? He was silly to believe Rudd, who he decided to support, and who was delivering directives to him via his supporters.
As it turns out, Crean has done Gillard a huge favour – but he has been sacked by her. As Michael Gordon wrote in The Saturday Age on 23 March 2013:
“The bitter irony of the coup that collapsed is that the man who did Julia Gillard the biggest service pays the heaviest price. Simon Crean has not only removed the threat of Kevin Rudd, he has done more than any other individual to end the destabilisation of Gillard and give her prime ministership a fresh start. Now he’s in exile.
Thanks to Crean, Gillard is more in charge of her destiny than at any point since her 2010 campaign was sabotaged from within and by some poor judgment calls. The upside is that she can govern with more confidence and less concern about being undermined; the consequence is that she will be held singularly responsible for Labor’s performance at the looming election.”
Julie Bishop: He should certainly step down. It is untenable for the Prime Minister to have a Foreign Minister that she cannot trust. Senator Bob Carr was a prominent although covert supporter of the Rudd camp …… If Julia Gillard has a shred of authority left she should sack Senator Bob Carr immediately …… It’s untenable for him to continue as Foreign Minister. There shouldn’t be a slither of light between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and yet there’s this yawning chasm and Bob Carr while-ever he remains in that role will be undermining Julia Gillard, she knows it, everybody in Parliament House knows it. He should go.
This painting by Arthur Boyd (1920-99) was commissioned in 1984 by the Parliament House Construction Authority as the design for a tapestry to hang in the Great Hall. Arthur Boyd, one of Australia’s greatest artists, was approached by the Parliament House architects, Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp, to conceive of a work of art for this key position on the south wall of the Great Hall – a space intended for ceremonial and state occasions ….. The architectural vision for the Great Hall was that it would convey a sense of the Australian land, emphasising the importance of the physical environment in shaping Australian values.
Imagine that! Parliament House and “shaping Australian values” – presumably good ones – in the one sentiment!
Imagine even remotely linking parliament with its hatreds, vitriol and duplicity with the spirit of the Australian bush! Banjo would turn in his grave.
What is it about ‘the bush’ that is so special to Australians? The bush has an iconic status in Australian life and features strongly in any debate about national identity, especially as expressed in Australian literature, painting, popular music, films and foods.
The bush was something that was uniquely Australian and very different to the European landscapes familiar to many new immigrants. The bush was revered as a source of national ideals by the likes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Romanticising the bush in this way was a big step forward for Australians in their steps towards self-identity. The legacy is a folklore rich in the spirit of the bush.
And so, with inspiration from Banjo, we have Julie’s poetic take, as she covets Bob’s job:
CLANCY OF THE AFTERGLOW – J.B. “Bishop” Patters-on
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I saw him in Washington, weeks ago,
He was fraternising when I saw him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just “on spec”, addressed as follows: “Clancy, of The Afterglow”.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his secretary who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to New York crowing, and we don’t know where he are.”
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-dining “down the UN” where the western delegates go;
As the limos are slowly stringing, Clancy rides with them singing,
For the Senators life has pleasures that the Opposition never know.
And the UN hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the dealings and the shimmer of its brass,
And he sees the vision splendid of the Security Council extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting bars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the chambers tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty polity
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of foreign tattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the cameras and the mikes making hurry down the hall,
And the language uninviting of the media scrum fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of gall.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For Liberals have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at Foreign Affairs where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the doorstop and the journo –
But I doubt he’d suit the Opposition, Clancy, of “The Afterglow”.