by JAMILA RIZVI
Yesterday David Farley, chief executive of the Australian Agricultural Company made a funny, funny joke. He had the whole room he was addressing in stitches.
Don’t stop reading now because you’ll want to hear his gag – it’s a cracker. This jolly old soul, stood up in front of a crowded room in Adelaide and as part of a formal speech he called our Prime Minister an, ‘old cow’.
Hilarious, I know.
Farley has since protested that his comments were taken ‘out of context’. Ah, I see, it can happen to the best of us. Actually, no, sorry – I don’t see. What kind of ‘context’ could possibly make that comment remotely acceptable?
Luckily the Turn Left blog has provided a transcript of Farley’s comments, to give us that context we need to properly comprehend his insulting, misogynistic and disrespectful remarks. This is what Farley reportedly said, while explaining his plans for a new Northern Territory abattoir:
“This plant is designed to process old cows… So the old cows that become non-productive, instead of making a decision to either let her die in the paddock or put her in the truck…
This gives us a chance to take non-productive animals off and put them through the processing system. So it’s designed for non-productive cows – Julia Gillard’s got to watch out.”
Ah. Now I get it. Farley wasn’t just labeling our Prime Minister as an ,‘old cow’, he was suggesting that she be sent to the slaughter. What a classy bloke.
There will be commentators who encourage us to dismiss these words as just one idiot’s off-the-cuff remarks. There will be those who protest that all politicians are subjected to this kind of criticism now and then. There will be those (and they will be great in number) who say that what was said about Julia Gillard has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman.
But all of that is complete and utter bollocks.
Our Prime Minister has faced a relentless barrage of negativity and insults from day one. A lot of that comes from how she came to the job and I understand that. But that is no excuse for the gendered nature of the attacks that Julia Gillard has continued to face.
The Prime Minister has been labelled ‘deliberately barren’ by a conservative Senator, she is regularly depicted as a prostitute by cartoonists, she was called a ‘weakling’ by a former Labor Party leader, labeled a ‘bitch’ and a ‘witch’ by carbon price protestors and according to frontbencher Kate Ellis, Gillard was written off by none other than former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as a “childless, atheist, ex-communist.”
Radio commentators like Alan Jones berate her during interviews, saying “Julia, Julia”. I know it sounds like a small thing but excuse me, she is the Prime Minister. You would never have caught Jones calling Prime Minister Howard by his first name – it’s a simple mark of respect.
I have worked in politics for long enough to tell you that the Prime Minister herself will publicly laugh these comments off and inform the media that her focus is squarely on delivering a National Disability Insurance Scheme or the other big political debate of the week.
And why? Because if she hits back at Farley, she’ll be called a ‘bitch’ and if she admits that the comments were hurtful, she’ll look ‘weak’. Heaven forbid the woman be allowed to show some humanity. Because even if she did, the Prime Minister would just cop another beating from the media and the Opposition with the underlying message – yet again – that a woman running the country is something be scared of.
This Government hasn’t lived up to its promise. It’s a shame but it’s the truth. The Gillard Government has achieved some great things but a failure to communicate effectively has left them flailing in the polls and distrusted by the electorate.
I don’t blame the gendered criticism of Julia Gillard for the position of the Government but I do think it has been a contributing factor. And even if it were not a contributor, it has still been a disgusting reflection on the inherent sexism that underlies our political culture and the fear we have of powerful women.
And it’s about time it stopped.
I don’t ask that you like the Prime Minister. I don’t ask that you support her or even that you respect her as an individual. What your views are about Julia Gillard, her Government and how she came to power are your business. But I do ask that you respect the office of Prime Minister.
Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister of our country and she deserves to be treated as such.
Jamila is a member of the Australian Labor Party and has worked for the Rudd and Gillard Governments.