Where does the respect start?

By Chris Johnson

Tuesday March 23, 2021

The Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott walks past Prime Minister Julia Gillard on that day in October 2012
The Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott walks past Prime Minister Julia Gillard on that day in October 2012. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)


Julia Gillard’s powerful 2012 misogyny speech is being referred to a lot right now during the current heightened discourse on gender equality and respect for women.

With the continuing flow of despicable acts from Parliament House being revealed daily, snippets of Australia’s first (and still only) female prime minister taking the then opposition leader Tony Abbott to task are being replayed on television almost as frequently.

It is being referred to as a reference point only; not at all as a way of clumping Abbott and his team in with what is currently being exposed from within Coalition ranks.

Gillard’s was a brilliant address and one that Abbott must have found hard to hear.


But that’s the point. It was a tough and accusatory speech – and Abbott listened to it.

The vision of a fired-up Gillard making her points loudly across the dispatch box shows an uncomfortable opposition leader looking right back at her.

Abbott, still stuck in the 1950s with his regularly-uttered sexist remarks, deserved everything he got from the then PM. And he took it.

He sometimes had that familiar smirk on his face, and sometimes shook his head. But, for the most part, Abbott sat silently and seriously, looking directly at his accuser for the entirety of her speech.

Contrast that with another photograph that is being published a lot lately.

That of our current prime minister Scott Morrison, slouched in his chair, checking his mobile phone, his back turned to Labor’s Tanya Plibersek talking on these very topics inside the House of Representatives chamber.

The government turns its back on Tanya Plibersek during a session. Showing contempt for Australian politics
Australian politics in action. Question Time, October 20, 2020. (Image: Twitter:alexellinghausen)

Morrison’s display of ignorance is being mirrored by most of his front bench in the shot.

It is a perfect example of disrespect for women – and no surprise that it is another example from Parliament House.

With the very latest revelations of all sorts of lewd acts being committed inside parliament, Morrison has today fronted the media and addressed the issue directly.

This morning, he said a lot of the rights things.

“I’m shocked and I’m disgusted. It is shameful. It is just absolutely shameful…

“We must get this house in order. We must put the politics aside on these things…

“I welcome the spotlight that is now being placed on this.”

But those are mere words. Where is the action? It is way past time for action.

“I acknowledge that a lot of people, especially women, say I haven’t heard them,” Morrison also said this morning.

“That greatly distresses me.”

Perhaps he can show how much he is prepared to listen to women by listening to them in parliament. A tiny step, perhaps, but one with huge symbolic significance.


Reports of coalition staffers performing sex acts at Parliament House ‘absolutely shameful’, Morrison says

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