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Et tu, Julia

By Matthew Lilley - posted Tuesday, 29 June 2010

If you listen to the way they spin it, last Thursday was apparently a great day for Australian women. Gender equality, it seems, was finally proven in Australia having its first female Prime Minister. A Prime Minister not elected, but imposed upon it.

Only those who value quantity over quality can see this as a victory for women. It's not merely that Julia Gillard joins Kristina Keneally in New South Wales and John Brumby in Victoria as unelected leaders who have no democratic mandate to rule.

All Julia Gillard did for Australian women last week was prove that she can connive, lie, backstab and bitch with the best of them. The benchmark for future female leaders in this country could not have been set any lower. Let us be honest here, what Julia Gillard and the ALP factional powerbrokers perpetuated this week was the despicable act of those who desire power above all else.


The sharpening of knives for Rudd was as senseless as it was gutless. Justified as the removal of a leader on the nose, the most cursory of glances at the polls reveals that despite having a poor few months, Rudd was still favoured to win the upcoming election.

Yet this wasn’t good enough for the powerbrokers who, acting as judge, jury and executioner, decided that Rudd’s tenure was over. Second chances, it appears, are too archaic in the Sussex Street model of life where loyalty is no more than a soundbite.

Those who rode into power on Rudd’s success deserted him the moment the going got tough. It is extremely rare for a PM to be rolled by their own caucus, rarer still this close to an election. Nothing else could have given a stronger image of a party in desperation.

I feel genuinely saddened for Rudd, a man for whom, despite the differences in our political philosophies, I have significant respect. It will be to his lasting credit that Australia so well survived the global financial crisis, and his largest erring on an emissions trading scheme came only after being repeatedly frustrated by an uncooperative Senate.

Historically, the office of the Prime Minister has been one that demanded respect, an acknowledgment of the democratic mandate of the Australian people. While Rudd’s mistakes are certainly not non-existent, his tenure can and should be seen in such light.

By Wednesday night however, the integrity of the PM’s office lay bloodied on the ground, trampled over by faceless Mafioso. As the events unfolded, you had to pinch yourself to know it was real.


What should be the most serious of professions had morphed into a scene out of Mean Girls with the biggest upstart in a clique of 15-year-old girls clawing their way to become the new Queen Bee. Yet alluding to schtick Hollywood comedy really isn’t going to cut it, given all else literary history has to offer.

Wayne Swan, who should have been Rudd’s strongest ally, has clearly taken to channelling Judas Iscariot. As Sir Humphrey Appleby sagely observed, “it is necessary to get behind someone before you can stab them in the back”.

The farcical manner in which Swan “transferred” his loyalty from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard, with his 30 pieces of silver presumably, to the deputy PM’s position, speaks volumes. This political definition of loyalty is naught but chilling.

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About the Author

Matthew Lilley is a second year Economics (Hons) student at the University of Sydney. In 2008, he was a member of Australia's team to the International Geography Olympiad, in which Australia placed third.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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