Julia Gillard: Gender-General-in-Chief?

By Dennis Shanahan

After starting the class war denigrating mining bosses and billionaires, the Gillard government has launched a gender war and Julia Gillard has appointed herself the gender-general and commander-in-chief.

The Prime Minister has become the political arbiter of sexist and misogynist behaviour and offers judgments and condemnation accordingly. Embarrassingly, Gillard has already discovered that means being held to your own standards and being forced to condemn your own side.

Explaining the reasons behind her furious attack on Tony Abbott as a misogynist during her parliamentary defence of Peter Slipper's position as Speaker, Gillard said: "The motivation for my speech on Monday was, I'm just going to call out sexism and misogyny where I see it."

Gillard and her ministers were desperately fending off charges of double standards, accusing the Opposition Leader of being a misogynist while refusing to support the motion to remove Slipper as Speaker after the exposure of a trove of degrading texts that he conceded had ended his career as Speaker.

Being caught without a strategy to deal with the unravelling of Slipper's position and determined to protect Slipper to get his vote on key legislation later, the government resorted to attacking Abbott.

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Without any knowledge of the Coalition's plans to try to remove the Speaker or any hint independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott were going to try to force him to resign, Labor framed a case of misogyny and sexism against Abbott on Tuesday. Leader of the house Anthony Albanese called a press conference minutes before question time and set out a charge sheet for Abbott. This is the case according to Albanese: "I want to give just a select four quotes that Tony Abbott made as either a minister or as Leader of the Opposition. In 1998, Tony Abbott, then a government frontbencher in the Howard government, did a very revealing round table that included Michael Costa, then a minister from NSW. Tony Abbott said this: 'If it's true ... that men have more power, generally speaking, than women, is that a bad thing?'"

Albanese continued: "Abbott: 'what if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue commands?' Tony Abbott then went on of course to be the health minister. And in March 2004, when a minister in the Howard government, he had this to say: 'Abortion is the easy way out.' Tony Abbott, of course, in more recent times as Opposition Leader, has assumed that housewives are the people who do the ironing. In his attitude towards the Prime Minister, he said on 25 February, 2011: 'I think if the Prime Minister wants to make, politically speaking, an honest woman of herself'."

This was Albanese's case, picked up by Gillard in parliament and prosecuted by Jenny Macklin, Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong. Based on this argument, Macklin said on radio that Abbott - the father of three daughters - did "hate" women and girls. When asked, "So he has a hatred or dislike of women or girls?", Macklin said: "Well, all of the way that he behaves shows that that's true."


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