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Australian Prime Minister's About-Face on Sexism, Two Years Late

Australian PM Julia Gillard at Antipodes Greek Festival - Melbourne  2012

A tense moment between Prime Minister Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (25 February 2012)
Copyright © Demotix. Photo by Angus Mordant

In October 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech in the Australian parliament was viewed by millions worldwide. Her target was the then-opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is now PM.

However, his claims on 11 December 2014 of sexism towards his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin have raised the issue again: “Do you really think my chief of staff would be under this kind of criticism if her name was Peter as opposed to Peta?”

Peta Credlin has been criticised for her rivalry with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as veteran journalist and blogger at The Conversation Michele Grattan reports:

Now the two are in a test of strength. It’s not as electric as has been portrayed this week when they were described as “like two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank” (the expert advice, incidentally, says you need large tanks for those fish).

According to Grattan, the attacks go much deeper:

The objections to the Abbott office are about Credlin’s centralisation and control.

…Credlin was the one closest to him in the trenches of opposition. But her degree of power, her management style, her omnipresence and her high visibility are eroding his authority.

Unsurprisingly, the PM's remarks have met with disbelief and ridicule by many online. This tweet came from a political opponent:

Alex McKinnon at news and pop culture website Junkee has not been the only one to use the ‘I’ word, in his satirical piece: Tony Abbott Claims Criticisms Of His Chief Of Staff Are “Sexist”; World Implodes From Irony.

Today will be remembered from now until the world is swallowed by a vastly-expanded sun, for today is the day Tony Abbott discovered sexism exists, and that it is a Bad Thing.

Accusations of hypocrisy have been common. This comment by Juanita Phillips, TV news presenter at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has been a very popular retweet:

Finger puppets - Gillard & Abbott

Finger puppets – Gillard & Abbott
Courtesy Flickr user Hil (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Others are more pointed in their comparisons:

It has bemused many people that Tony Abbott has members of his own Liberal Party in his sights, including members of his government:

Some have wondered if this new approach might bring some positive action:

There are doubts that the prime minister will be able to put the gender card back in the pack:

Marie Ryan seems to capture the general feeling:

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