You’ve got to feel for Moira Gillard. I’m sure when Julia was a little girl, being teased at school, Moira would sweep up her second born and bury that little ginger head in her bosom , saying “Shush your noise my wee one. You can be whoever you want to be.” (she’s Welsh. They say things like ‘shush your noise’ and ‘wee one’). “You can be the Prime Minister of Australia if that’s what you want.”
Today, John and Moira will be holed up in their Adelaide home wondering if this is what they really wanted for their bright, ambitious little girl.
Julia Gillard is in the boxing ring, and she’s having the crap beaten out of her.
Her cabinet colleagues have got her back, but the vitriol from the public is chilling.
If you turn on talkback radio for any length of time, you’ll hear callers use the vilest language to talk about the Prime Minister.
Phrases like “deranged”, “ugly”, “slut” and “unhinged”. I’ve heard people crying over how much they hate her.
Prime Minister of Australia is a job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
From the minute she became PM, the commentary has focused on her looks and her gender. Can you imagine the whole country bagging your nose, your hair, your choice of clothes, your voice… every single time you leave the house?
At a media event last year, Julia Gillard was unveiling a statue of ex-Prime Ministers, John Curtin and Ben Chifley. She was giving a small speech when two young blokes drove past in their ute.
“Dumb c#*t” they yelled out the windows at her.
My jaw cracked, it opened so wide. She didn’t flinch. Not even an eyelid. Didn’t skip a beat, just kept talking like nothing had happened.
It made me incredibly sad to think any woman would hear that and have no reaction. Water off a duck’s back. Imagine how bad things must be if that doesn’t phase her.
It’s not just Julia. Kevin Rudd has had shreds torn off him over the past couple of days. But he’s copping it off his own colleagues.
One of his supporters, Senator Doug Cameron called it “gratuitous political violence”.
“The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues.” Wayne Swan
“We need to get out of this idea that Kevin is a messiah.” Nicola Roxon
“He can’t win. If he can’t be part of the team then he should exit the team or challenge.” Simon Crean
“Only a psychopath with a giant ego would line up again after being comprehensively rejected by the overwhelming majority of colleagues,” Steve Gibbons
“The Caucus overwhelmingly doesn’t want him back.” Stephen Conroy
Tony Abbott gets his fair share too. His ears. His speedos. His religion…… being a leader in this country makes you fair game to very personal attacks.
It’s our right to debate failed or harmful policies. We should do that more. If you say you’d never vote for Gillard because she presided over this failed policy or she made a bad decision over this issue – that’s completely fair and valid. If you say you’d never vote for Rudd because he couldn’t get this policy through or wasn’t able to manage this situation - again, that’s your democratic right. But to say you wouldn’t vote for her because her voice is annoying, or him because he says dorky things – that’s not productive or relevant to how they do their job. If you use words like slut and psychopath, the political debate in Australia stays firmly in the schoolyard.
These people have families who love them and are proud of them. We’ve heard from Jess Rudd and Therese Rein. They clearly love Kevin. Tim Mathieson has spoken publicly before about his wish for people to be a little kinder to Julia.
I know my Mum would be heart broken to hear complete strangers say they wish I was dead. I’m her baby. Always will be, no matter what. I’m sure Moira Gillard feels the same.
The uglier it gets, the more disrespect we show our leaders, the more unappealing a political career becomes. There’s a generation of bright young things out there thinking, “as if I’d want to be PM.”
When I have children, I certainly won’t be encouraging them into a political career.
Lauren Dubois is a freelance political reporter. You can follow her on Twitter here