Since Julia Gillard was ousted from the Labor Leadership on June 27 of this year, the former leader and first female Prime Minister of Australia was shrouded by an eerie media silence. It took more than two weeks for Gillard to return to Twitter, posting a single message of gratitude to her supporters. Buzz around the #spill and the fate of the former PM plateaued as swiftly as her popularity peaked, with election-fever all but diminishing Julia Gillard from the Australian sphere she so recently dominated. She would pop up in a political-whack-a-mole app, once in a while. She was written about with the kind of crushed nostalgia that rare media supporters clung to dearly in life post-JG. She moved from the Lodge.
Julia Gillard certainly lived up to her promise of quitting politics in the light of a leadership spill defeat; she all but disappeared.
The silence, however, has finally been broken a week in to Australia’s newfound government. Adding to the elegance she exuded in her congratulatory and sympathetic tweets on Saturday, Julia Gillard has spoken out in a lengthy op ed published on The Guardian Australia this morning. The article waxes lyrical on the purpose of the Labor Party as an essential thread of Australia’s fabric, with “nation-changing” reforms instilled by Labor such as Medicare and the NDIS evolving the country forever.
Gillard mentions the infamous spill in late June, saying it “was not done because caucus now believed Kevin Rudd had the greater talent for governing“, but because, “It was only done – indeed expressly done – on the basis that Labor might do better at the election.”
Most importantly, Ms Gillard weighs in on the current chaos that is the Labor Leadership contest. With Kevin Rudd finally conceding defeat, the leadership position will be contested by Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten under the rules initiated by Rudd—which Gillard labels as being drafted in “extreme haste”—the logistics of which are murky and undecided. News outlets around the nation have been questioning the Caucus how, exactly, it will run its new poll among Labor party members, a process which could take 30 days. The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is met with resounding hesitation. Gillard spoke out about the new leadership rules, condeming them as a potential path to power play:
“These rules literally mean that a person could hang on as Labor leader and as prime minister even if every member of cabinet, the body that should be the most powerful and collegiate in the country, has decided that person was no longer capable of functioning as prime minister…I argue against them because they are a clumsy attempt to hold power; they are not rules about leadership for purpose.“
The article also mentions Gillard’s acceptance at the political hurt incurred by her carbon tax, and the media’s twist and rushing condemnation of the word “tax.” “I wanted to be on the substance of the policy, not playing “gotcha”…I made the wrong choice.”
Julia Gillard ends by recalling her emotions at last week’s defeat: “I sat alone on election night as the results came in. I wanted it that way. I wanted to just let myself be swept up in it. Losing power is felt physically, emotionally, in waves of sensation, in moments of acute distress.”
With Julia Gillard’s silence well and truly shattered, Australia can expect to see more of its former leader in the public eye. Gillard will be in conversation with Anne Summers at the Sydney Opera House on September 30 and the Melbourne Town Hall on October 1; Adelaide students can look forward to learning from Gillard herself as she accepted a position of Honorary Professor at the University of Adelaide this week.