For prime ministers not long out of the job, there is no task more urgent than building and enhancing their political legacy, and Julia Gillard has begun that assignment in typically focused fashion. First-up was the announcement of an honorary professorship at Adelaide University. Then came her appointment as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington (where she will work on global education initiatives), after which she gave her first public appearance since being ousted as Labor leader in June. Her sure-footed appearance at the Sydney Opera House - aided in part by a simpatico audience and interviewer - received extensive media coverage. This was in part because it was Ms Gillard's post-prime ministerial coming out but also because of the twilight zone that Labor has entered as it awaits the outcome of an extended leadership contest.
Declaring herself ''at peace'' with the circumstances of her downfall at the hands of Kevin Rudd, Ms Gillard was revealing and forthright about her tribulations while in office, particularly in regard to the attacks on her character (and person) that many viewed as sexist and misogynistic. Those responsible for this ''violent, ugly sexism'' had left her disbelieving and occasionally in a ''murderous rage'', she said. ''You just feel like saying, 'Well, if it was your daughter and she was putting up with sexist abuse at work, what would you advise her to do?' Because apparently if she complains, she is playing the victim, and playing genders wars, and if she doesn't complain, then she really is a victim.''
To Mr Rudd, whose destabilising was highly damaging to her (and Labor) during the 2010 election campaign, Ms Gillard was far more charitable, noting that she had given him the ''gift of silence'' during his own attempts to win re-election. Whether that tone of sweet absolution carries through into her memoirs remains to be seen, but Ms Gillard's poise and preparedness to move on is admirable. The lessons for Labor are obvious too, both in refusing to re-fight old battles but also in recognising the futility of putting personal ambition ahead of the party.
Because of the manner of Ms Gillard's rise and fall, and the extent to which gender played a part in that process, her prime ministership remains an enduring subject of fascination, and not just for political tragics. Her supporters will lament that had Mr Rudd not undermined Ms Gillard throughout her prime ministership the trajectory of her government could have been very different. Regardless, they take solace in the hope that her pioneering example will inspire other women to attempt the same journey in future.
Only with the passage of time will a proper assessment and evaluation be possible of Ms Gillard's time in power, but indications are that the historians may be kinder than her critics were.
Stay with the old program
ublic service hearsay has it that certain government departments have issued edicts to change the spelling of the word ''program'' (as it appears on websites and official documents) to ''programme''. This is said to be in anticipation of the Abbott government ordering that the English spelling of the word be used henceforth and forever more - as John Howard did when he became prime minister in 1996.
Anticipating the needs of a new government is always to be encouraged in the public service, but many will regard this initiative as verging on the inane. The spelling ''programme'' was, after all, an affection adopted by the Brits in a brief Victorian-era infatuation with all things French. Are the words kilogram, angiogram and hologram to be similarly burdened with enlarged suffixes?
Tony Abbott revels in his Anglophilia, but that is no reason for the public service to turn itself into a pale imitation of the British civil service and to burden itself with words spelt in a highfalutin manner. The government's style manual contains no specific ruling on the word ''program'', but spells it sans the French affectation. That is how it should remain.