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Julia Gillard: struggling to put into words her feelings about Mark's diaries
G'day. This morning Julia Gillard gave this speech to the GOING PUBLIC Conference sponsored by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, after which she coped as best she could with media questions on Mark Latham's diaries. Thanks to Julia for her permission to publish the speech on on Webdiary.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak today and I want to start by making a declaration.
I do not keep a diary.
But as you may have noticed in the media, others do.
Understandably, the media is loving the feeding frenzy over Mark Latham's diaries. Indeed, loving it so much, they are fighting over it. Each insult or nickname or piece of plotting and intrigue is great grist to the media's mill.
It would be easy for Australians watching to sigh and conclude - yet again - that this is the stuff of politics.
But politics is - or should be - about so much more.
It should be about the uncared for child who has gone to school without breakfast. It should be about the obese child who has had McDonalds for breakfast, again.
Politics should be about the indigenous child born today whose life expectancy will be 20 years less than ours.
Politics should be about the great issues. How to create economic prosperity, how to share it, how to build this nation's identity and its place in the world, how to ensure every Australian has the opportunity to achieve and the support they need as they strive for achievement.
Mark Latham, at his best, had insight about many of the big issues which confront us as a nation and a people.
It saddens me greatly to see Mark's loss of faith in the power of politics to make change for the better.
It saddens me even more to see Mark's loss of faith in the Labor Party.
It saddens me and I do not share it.
I have always believed and will always believe that the Australian Labor Party, warts and all, is the only institution in this country that can create a better and fairer Australia.
I have always believed and will always believe that the Australian Labor Party can only achieve its historic mission of governing this country and creating a fairer country if its internal culture is living up to its ideals.
You can't preach compassion if you don't show it to those nearest to you.
You can't argue for fairness if you treat people unfairly.
You can't stand for honesty, if you aren't honest with yourself and your own.
In the period between the election defeat of 2001 and Simon Crean's resignation as Labor Leader in late 2003, I believe my Australian Labor Party failed to live by the ideals it professed.
Labor put its faith in Mark Latham, because of his thoughtful insights in to the issues that confront this nation and because of the power of his public advocacy.
Mark was trusted by Labor as a thinker, as a formidable parliamentarian, as a moving advocate of Labor's great ideals.
But almost more than this, Labor put its faith in Mark Latham because the Caucus wanted to register its protest about the corrosion of its internal culture. In electing Mark, Labor Caucus said to the world and to itself that it wanted to change for the better. And I believe it has.
On the day Caucus members voted no-one could have forseen all of what was to the follow. Indeed, any one who is now pretending to have had 20/20 forsight is kidding themselves.
Let's remember for a minute the early period of 2004 when Mark Latham appeared to be political magic. Let's remember the media's excitement about a new young Leader and then its rapacious inquiries into every breath Mark Latham had ever taken. Let's remembers the highs of the election campaign like the victory in the campaign debate and the lows of the election campaign like the forest policy.
Caucus knew that after more than two years of internal destabilisation and facing a government riding a wave of economic prosperity, the 2004 election campaign was always going to be hard for Labor.
Nevertheless, even when your head knows a defeat is likely, in your heart and your guts you are fully committed to trying to win. The election defeat was painful for all of us who believe in the cause of Labor.
As bad as the election result was, the situation was to spin more out of control with Mark's illness and his dramatic and traumatic resignation from politics.
Clearly Mark has been changed by this amazing set of experiences.
And now we have Mark's diaries.
I have struggled overnight and from early this morning to put down into words my reaction to Mark's diaries and to what it means for Federal Labor.
It isn't easy to capture in a few short sentences. And, of course, like all of you, I do not have the full book.
But my view is this.
I do not believe that Mark Latham should have published these diaries in this form.
I suspect when we see the full book that it will describe some major issues that need to be addressed, about Labor's policies, about its culture, about Australia's political culture generally and the way the media works.
I suspect the truths in the book will be ignored because the focus will be on the spleen, not the substance.
I think that is a great pity.
I also think that it is a great pity that the diaries have diverted us, even for a few days, from our true task of holding this extreme and arrogant Government to account.
Instead of the focus yesterday being on the Government's sale of Telstra, it was on us and particularly on Kim Beazley's response to Mark's diaries.
Kim Beazley is a man with a noted public reputation for decency. Australians generally have a jaundiced view of politicians, but they do not have a jaundiced view of Kim Beazley. They believe in his essential decency.
In January this year I described Kim Beazley as a big man with a big heart who has a big vision for this big country of ours. Each day as Labor Leader he shows those characteristics, including and most particularly yesterday.
One of the most important character traits I believe any one can have is a capacity for loyalty.
I am a loyal person. I suspect in respect of Mark Latham, after this speech, some will say too loyal.
But I have always believed you give loyalty to the Labor Party and to those who lead it.
I was loyal to John Brumby when I served as his Chief of Staff.
I was loyal to Kim Beazley as Labor Leader when I was elected in 1998.
I was loyal to Simon Crean and then Mark Latham.
From the moment Kim Beazley resumed the leadership in January this year, he has had my 100% loyalty and that has not and will not change.
The next few days will be difficult for Federal Labor.
But as always, we will endure.
I would sound one word of caution about what is said in the coming few days.
Given the nature of the matters that have been published to date from the diaries, it is no surprise that people have come out with stinging criticisms of Mark.
This is to be expected and I suspect Mark did expect it. But I trust that we will not see an unseemly competition for the worse insult. Or triumphalism from those who did not support Mark about right they always were.
We are better than that.
And in a week's time, the media will move on.
Labor is already moving on.
And I trust Mark Latham will move on and enjoy his life surrounded by his wife and his boys who he loves without reservation.
I was asked to speak at this conference about women and politics. Disturbingly, I have spent a lot of time talking about men.
However today, I did want to talk about women's experiences in politics and given we are on the eve of the New Zealand election, I thought it appropriate to spend some time talking about our sister, Helen Clark.
In New Zealand, Helen Clark has experienced both the highs and lows of politics. Before becoming Prime Minister though, Helen Clark spent nine long years in Opposition (sounds familiar), five of those she spent as Leader. Not long before the 1996 election, Helen Clark's preferred Prime Minister rating was all of two per cent. At this time, there was serious debate in New Zealand about whether Labour would cease to be one of the two main political parties.
Described as cranky and bossy during her time in Opposition, Helen Clark noted that men who are bossy would more likely be deemed 'invested with authority'.
She commented in 2002: "I wouldn't describe myself as bossy, but I am direct and I am authoritative. I know what's worse, being seen as weak, indecisive creature who can never make up her mind. I'd rather have the opposite reputation to that."
Helen Clark walked out of a media interview in Australia when asked about her childlessness (again, sounds familiar) and her long distance marriage.
Just after the last election, not only was the Prime Minister a woman, so too was the Opposition Leader, as were nine of Clark's Ministers, her Cabinet Secretary and her chief of staff.
As a Minister, Helen Clark copped it from all sides. She was criticised because her hairstyle was too 'severe' and her teeth too crooked. In 1993 when she ousted Mike Moore as Opposition Leader, placards brandished by her own party read "It's Mike versus the Dyke". Her opponents cast her as the head of "lesbians, husbandless women and feminist extremists".
Helen Clark has been described as 'the ugly duckling of New Zealand politics'. I ran through my mind how many men would have made it into politics if the measure were looks. Nothing personal boys but lets be frank, not many of you would make the cut. The only comfort is that just like the ugly duckling who had a tumultuous beginning, Helen Clark has come through to lead a country and that is a beautiful thing.
Indeed, would our weekly magazines be full of shock revelations and dieting stories of our male leaders? If we applied the New Idea test to our male leaders who are often ageing quite ungracefully, our weekly magazines would be full of sealed sections of male angst!
Of course I make this point in jest. However, we should never forget that the female image still dominates the way in which she is perceived. For female leaders in Australia to become commonplace this needs to change.
Even when describing Clark's absolute intolerance for pretension we are assured she has a 'wardrobe to match'. Obviously this is very important. The Prime Minister of this country is intolerant of many things. However, I am not sure if he does in fact have a wardrobe to match, or more importantly, if it has ever been commented upon.
So is it all about hairstyles, our teeth, our wardrobes and our status as mothers or childless?
I am too much of an optimist to say yes to that question.
Women in politics still face differential attention from men. Helen Clark's example proves that.
But it is changing fast as women enter politics in greater and greater numbers.
I am optimistic that we will see a time when women are so 'normal' in politics no-one bothers to remark on it any more.
I know that many of you here today are actively engaged in ensuring we reach that time as quickly as possible.
I look forward to getting there together.
Thank you very much.
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