History loves great speeches, and much of the time ignores their backstories. Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a brilliant address to the House of Representatives on October 9, 2012 excoriating the current opposition leader Tony Abbott. It made headlines around the world and the video has been viewed online more than a million times to date.
Make no mistake, history will record this as one of the Great Australian Speeches, and for that reason alone I present it for posterity here. I deliberately am not referring to the mundane context of the speech on this page except to quote the PM in her transcript below. But for further international analysis, I would recommend Amelia Lester's post for the New Yorker's News Desk blog. More locally, contrasting analyses at Fairfax Media's National Times from Lenore Taylor and Julia Baird.
Here begins the video, and the transcript from Hansard follows:
Interjections and remarks by the (then) Deputy Speaker have been edited from the transcript below. The full debate, including other speakers, can be read at OpenAustralia.org, while the Prime Minister's speech can be seen on the official Hansard website here.
Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:42): I rise to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and in so doing I say to the Leader of the Opposition: I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. The government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man—not now, not ever. 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 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 does not need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror. That is what he needs.
Let's go through the opposition leader's repulsive double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism. We are now supposed to take seriously that the Leader of the Opposition is offended by Mr Slipper's text messages, when this is what the Leader of the Opposition said when he was a minister under the last government—not when he was a student, not when he was in high school but when he was a minister under the last government. In a discussion about women being underrepresented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros and the Leader of the Opposition said: 'If it's true, Stavros, that men have more power, generally speaking, than women, is that a bad thing?'
Then a discussion ensued and another person being interviewed said, 'I want my daughter to have as much opportunity as my son,' to which the Leader of the Opposition said: 'Yes, I completely agree, but what if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?' Then ensues another discussion about women's role in modern society, and the other person participating in the discussions says, 'I think it's very hard to deny that there is an underrepresentation of women,' to which the Leader of the Opposition says, 'But there's an assumption that this is a bad thing.' This is the man from whom we are supposed to take lectures about sexism!
And it goes on. I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition as minister for health said, 'Abortion is the easy way out.' I was very personally offended by those comments. He said that in March 2004, and I suggest he check the records. I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of the carbon pricing campaign the Leader of the Opposition said, 'What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing.' Thank you for that painting of women's roles in modern Australia! Then, of course, I am offended 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'—something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.
I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside the front of the 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. I was offended by those things. It is misogyny, sexism, every day from this Leader of the Opposition. Every day, in every way, across the time the Leader of the Opposition has sat in that chair and I have sat in this chair, that is all we have heard from him.
Now the Leader of the Opposition wants to be taken seriously. Apparently he has woken up, after this track record and all of these statements, and has gone, 'Oh dear, there is this thing called sexism; oh my lord, there is this thing called misogyny. Who is one of them? The Speaker must be because that suits my political purpose.' He does not turn a hair about any of his past statements; does not walk into this parliament and apologise to the women of Australia; does not walk into this parliament and apologise to me for the things that have come out of his mouth—but he now seeks to use this as a battering ram against someone else. This kind of hypocrisy should not be tolerated, which is why this motion from the Leader of the Opposition should not be taken seriously.
Second, the Leader of the Opposition is always wonderful at walking into this parliament and giving me and others a lecture about what they should take responsibility for. He is always wonderful about everything that I should take responsibility for, now apparently including the text messages of the member for Fisher. He is always keen to say others should assume responsibility, particularly me. Can anybody remind me whether the Leader of the Opposition has taken any responsibility for the conduct of the Sydney Young Liberals and the attendance at their event of members of his frontbench? Has he taken any responsibility for the conduct of members of his political party and members of his frontbench, who apparently when the most vile things were being said about my family raised no voice of objection.
No-one walked out of the room, no-one walked up to Mr Jones and said that this was not acceptable. Instead, it was all viewed as good fun—until it was run in a Sunday newspaper, and then the Leader of the Opposition and others started ducking for cover. He is big on lectures on responsibility; very light on accepting responsibility himself for the vile conduct of members of his political party.
I turn to the third reason why the Leader of the Opposition should not be taken seriously on this motion. The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have come into this place and talked about the member for Fisher. Let me remind the opposition, and the Leader of the Opposition particularly, about their track record and association with the member for Fisher. I remind them that the National Party preselected the member for Fisher for the 1984 election, that the National Party preselected the member for Fisher for the 1987 election, and that the Liberal Party preselected the member for Fisher for the 1993 election, then for the 1996 election, then for the 1998 election, then for the 2001 election, then for the 2004 election, then for the 2007 election and then for the 2010 election. Across many of those preselections Mr Slipper enjoyed the personal support of the Leader of the Opposition. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that on 28 September 2010, following the last election campaign when Mr Slipper was elected as Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the member for Maranoa, who was also elected to a position at the same time, and went on:
'… the member for Maranoa and the member for Fisher will serve as a fine complement to the member for Scullin in the chair. I believe that the parliament will be well served by the team which will occupy the chair in this chamber … I congratulate the member for Fisher, who has been a friend of mine for a very long time who has served this parliament in many capacities with distinction …'
They are the words of the Leader of the Opposition on record about his personal friendship with Mr Slipper and on record about his view of Mr Slipper's qualities and attributes to be the Speaker. There is no walking away from those words—they were the statements of the Leader of the Opposition then.
I remind the Leader of the Opposition, who now comes in here and speaks about Mr Slipper and apparently his inability to work with or talk to Mr Slipper, that he attended Mr Slipper's wedding. Did he walk up to Mr Slipper in the middle of the service and say he was disgusted to be there? Was that the attitude he took? No, he attended that wedding as a friend. The Leader of the Opposition is keen to lecture others about what they ought to know or did know about Mr Slipper but, with respect, I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that, after a long personal association, including attending Mr Slipper's wedding, it would be interesting to know whether the Leader of the Opposition was surprised by these text messages. He is certainly in a position to speak more intimately about Mr Slipper than I am and many other people in this parliament are, given this long personal association. Then, of course, the Leader of the Opposition comes into this place and says:
'And every day the Prime Minister stands in this parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this parliament; another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame.'
I indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that the government is not dying of shame—and my father did not die of shame. What the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of is his performance in this parliament and the sexism he brings with it.
That is a direct quote from the Leader of the Opposition, so I suggest those groaning have a word with him.
On the conduct of Mr Slipper and on the text messages which are in the public domain—I have seen the press reports of those text messages and I am offended by their content. I am offended by their content because I am always offended by sexism. I am offended by their content because I am always offended by statements which are anti women. I am offended by those things in the same way I have been offended by things the Leader of the Opposition has said and no doubt will continue to say in the future—because if this, today, was an exhibition of his new feminine side, I do not think we have much to look forward to in terms of changed conduct.
I am offended by those text messages but I also believe that, in making a decision about the speakership, this parliament should recognise that there is court case in progress and that the judge has reserved his decision. Having waited for a number of months for the legal matters surrounding Mr Slipper to come to a conclusion, this parliament should see that conclusion. I believe that is the appropriate path forward and that people will then have an opportunity to make up their minds with the fullest information available to them.
But, whenever people make up their minds about those questions, what I will not stand for—what I will never stand for—is the Leader of the Opposition coming into this place and peddling a double standard. I will not stand for him peddling a standard for Mr Slipper he would not set for his himself, peddling a standard for Mr Slipper he has not set for other members of his frontbench or peddling a standard for Mr Slipper which has not been met by the people—such as his former shadow parliamentary secretary, Senator Bernardi—who have been sent out to say the vilest and most revolting things. I will not ever allow the Leader of the Opposition to impose his double standards on this parliament.
Sexism should always be unacceptable. We should always conduct ourselves in such a way as to make it clear that it is unacceptable. The Leader of the Opposition says, 'Do something.' He could do something himself if he wanted to deal with sexism in this parliament. He could change his behaviour, he could apologise for all his past statements and he could apologise for standing next to signs describing me as a witch and a bitch—terminology now objected to by the frontbench of the opposition. He could change standards himself if he sought to do so. But we will see none of that from the Leader of the Opposition, because on these questions he is incapable of change. He is capable of double standards but incapable of change. His double standards should not rule this parliament.
Good sense, common sense and proper process are what should rule this parliament. That is what I believe is the path forward for this parliament, not the kinds of double standards and political game playing imposed by the Leader of the Opposition, who is now looking at his watch because, apparently, a woman has spoken for too long—I have, in the past, had him yell at me to shut up.
But I will take the remaining seconds of my speaking time to say to the Leader of the Opposition that I think the best course for him is to reflect on the standards he has exhibited in public life, on the responsibility he should take for his public statements, on his close personal connection with Peter Slipper and on the hypocrisy he has displayed in this House today. On that basis, because of the Leader of the Opposition's motivations, this parliament should today 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."