In case you haven’t heard, it’s Opposite Week in Australia. Adelaide United are sitting on top of the A-League and the New Yorker ran an article about how Julia Gillard could teach Barack Obama a thing or two about public speaking. ‘What on Earth is going on?’ you might well ask.
Well, the past couple of months have not been kind to Tony Abbott, who is officially the Leader of the Opposition and unofficially the Next Prime Minister of Australia. Firstly, he decided to give a rare interview outside of the safe confines of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd empire when he sat down with Leigh Sales at the ABC. Sales proceeded to absolutely destroy Abbott in an interview where he was ill prepared for her aggressive line of questioning.
A few weeks later, Abbott’s parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi gave an interview where he linked gay marriage to bestiality. Abbott was left with no choice but to ask for Bernardi’s resignation and gave a muted apology in a press conference referring to Bernardi’s comments as ‘ill-disciplined.’
Not long afterwards, Abbott was once again in the hot seat when conservative radio shock jock and Liberal Party mouthpiece Alan Jones gave a lecture at a Young Liberal Party dinner where he proclaimed that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father ‘died of shame.’ The Young Liberals denied any such comment was made but they came unstuck when a journalist attending the dinner secretly recorded the speech.
You might wonder what this has to do with Abbott. Alan Jones is Australia’s version of Rush Limbaugh, the influential American radio host who is so beloved by conservatives that he is considered an ‘honorary member’ of the Republican party. Alan Jones carries a similar level of influence with the Liberal Party in Australia.
Jones’ talk back radio show on 2GB has a large audience mostly comprised of angry baby-boomers who like to call in and complain about Julia Gillard, Muslims, gays, boat people and damned immigrants taking people’s jawbs. Abbott is a regular on Jones’ show and so it was a crushing blow when the tape leaked and public opinion turned on Jones. Once again, Abbott had to front the media and disassociate himself from the unsavoury comments being made by the people he associates with all the time.
Somewhere amongst this unrelentingly negative press, Tony Abbott must have finally concluded that his personal attacks on Julia Gillard and his views on women were damaging his appeal to voters. To give you an idea, here are comments that Tony has made publicly, regarding women in the last couple of years:
‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.’
‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’
‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’
‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’
– Tony Abbott
It seemed this outlook on women wasn’t working. So it was time to roll out his wife as a political prop! Margie Abbott was given a front page article on News.com.au telling the country about what a sensitive and caring man Tony was. He even watches and cries during Downton Abbey! Surely this would do the trick and allow the public to see the new Tony Abbott, a kind and sensitive new age bloke who was attuned to women’s feelings.
Abbott even spotted an opportunity to express his new-found sensitivity in the first session of parliament. It would be a great opportunity to call for the resignation of Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House. Slipper was a former Liberal turned Independent who left the LNP last year. Slipper was currently being sued for sexual harassment in a court case where text messages he sent about female genitalia (comparing them to ‘mussels without shells’) were made public as part of the trial.
Abbott threw his support behind a motion for Slipper’s resignation, claiming he was shocked and appalled by the content of the text messages and their attitudes towards women. Shortly thereafter, it was Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s turn to speak. Not many people anticipated what would happen next.
Gillard, who is notorious for being a poor public speaker, threw down a relentless fifteen minute verbal barrage on Abbott, calling him out on his hypocrisy. She came armed with direct quotes from Abbott himself and gave a full-throated impassioned speech about what an utter, utter bullshit artist he was. Abbott’s smirk of confidence before she took the lectern turned into a sullen look of despondence once Gillard got going.
The video clip then began circulating on the Internet and became a ‘thing.’ It garnered widespread attention on Reddit, Gawker, Huffington Post and Youtube. It trended on Twitter and newspapers across America and the U.K ran articles covering the story. This voracious, clinical and well organized take down of a Grade-A shyster was exactly what people were expecting to see from Barack Obama in his debate with Mitt Romney. And that’s what lead to a columnist in the New Yorker bemoaning the fact that Julia Gillard of all people, had something to teach the President of the United States about how to effectively make a stand against your opponent.
As for Adelaide United, its only the first round and they played the Jets who are totally rubbish. They’ll be wooden spooners by the time we get to Christmas.