There is something very satisfying about seeing someone publicly confronted with evidence of their own double standards, particularly when the argument is strong and clearly presented. Perhaps that’s why a 15-minute video clip of a speech by Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, has gone viral. In parliament on Tuesday, Gillard launched into a lacerating tirade against the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, accusing him of hypocrisy after he called for the Speaker of the House to be fired for sexist text messages.
The effectiveness of Gillard’s speech lies in its reliance on fact: she has simply collated multiple examples when Abbott was clearly sexist, and takes the listener through them one by one, giving dates and context. The passion is evident in her voice and her clenched jaw, but she never dissolves into incoherent fury, despite the personal insults she recounts receiving from Abbott (he once appeared to bring her unmarried state into the political debate, asking if she wished to ‘politically speaking, make an honest woman’ of herself; another time, he stood next to a placard that said ‘Ditch the Witch’).
Now, it should be noted that through her speech, Gillard was pursuing a political end entirely separate to the protection of equal rights – she was also arguing against a motion to force the disgraced Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper, to leave office. That was an outcome she wanted to avoid because she had herself helped Slipper secure his job, and he counted towards the Labor party majority. In the end, the motion to forcibly remove Slipper was defeated – but he resigned anyway.
Regardless of your politics, the speech makes for an invigorating watch. The full transcript is here – but we’ve pulled out some of the best quotes [our emphasis] below.
Update: A bit of extra context. At one point during the speech, Gillard criticizes Abbott for saying: “Every day the Prime Minister stands in this place to defend this Speaker will be… another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame.” The reason she resents those words is because they echo comments made by an Australian shock jock after the death of her father last month. During a speech at a young Liberal party gathering, the broadcaster Alan Jones said: “The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.”
Back to the speech:
“I say to the Opposition I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man…
The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror…
He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia… “If it’s true… that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?…what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”
This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism. And then of course it goes on. I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out.”
…I was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition catcalling across this table at me as I sit here as Prime Minister, “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself…”
…I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said “Ditch the witch.”
I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch.
…And now, the Leader of the Opposition wants to be taken seriously, apparently he’s woken up after this track record and all of these statements, and he’s woken up and he’s gone “Oh dear, there’s this thing called sexism, oh my lords, there’s this thing called misogyny. Now who’s one of them? Oh, the Speaker must be, because that suits my political purpose.”
…what I won’t stand for, what I will never stand for is the Leader of the Opposition coming into this place and peddling a double standard.
…this Parliament today should reject this motion and the Leader of the Opposition should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.”