Julia Gillard was one of those politicians who always kept me thinking – there were aspects to her that I equally liked and despaired of. She was clearly a tireless worker and she clearly had a great deal of passion. A lot of people will end up remembering her most, I think, for her misogyny speech in Federal Parliament, but by that stage I was already greatly impressed with her ability to speak with absolute fire and dignity, facing her opponents with steely resolve.
That admiration came from one of the press conferences she gave about events from more than 25 years in her past which the then opposition party were continually trying to drag up to smear her with. I don’t want to talk whether she was in the right or in the wrong – I have neither the information nor the skills to make that assessment. But she was remarkable and unflinching. She’d stand in front of the press gallery for an hour or more answering question after question on a topic she clearly was tired of talking about and they’d not land a single punch. The best efforts of the pack, determined to ask the imagined question whose answer would bring down a government would be met, and defeated. In the end, Julia Gillard would walk triumphantly from the room, untouched, while the press gallery sat dazed and bewildered by their bloody noses.
During the Gillard days, I was oft reminded of that line from Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter:
You may not like him, Minister, but you can’t deny: Dumbledore’s got style.
Regardless of whether I personally agreed with Julia Gillard on a topic, I still had to acknowledge that she had style.
By comparison, our new Prime Minister doesn’t create that impression at all. Over the weekend an asylum seeker boat sank with dozens of fatalities. When journalists attempted to question him about this, they were met with a stone faced man sullenly walking off and refusing to respond:
Here’s Ten News’ raw footage from that event, too:
(It’s also interesting that around the 1m 6-7s mark in that video when the PM is closing the door of the car there’s a somewhat audible “ah f*ck”. It certainly sounded to me that it was the PM saying it, but unfortunately we can only speculate as his face was obscured at exactly that moment in the video.)
Of course, stalking away from the media is not abnormal for Tony Abbott – in opposition he was quite proficient at it, walking away from any press conference or door stop discussion that resulted in questions being asked he didn’t want to answer:
Of course, like all the other times when he was in opposition, it was easy for the PM to just walk away from the journalists … he was on land rather than floating in a dangerous ocean, like those asylum seekers who died, including the 20 or more children he was being asked about. They didn’t get the chance to just walk away because things were getting uncomfortable.