PM gets personal in first hangout
Topics for discussion ranged from obesity to job security to gay marriage in the first Google+hangout with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.PT0M0S 620 349
Julia Gillard has signalled she has no intention of quitting the Prime Ministership, telegraphing to her enemies in Labor ranks that she plans to stay firmly in the top job.
And last night her position was slightly strengthened when it appeared Labor candidate Jennifer Kanis would stave off a predicted Greens victory in the Victorian state seat of Melbourne.
With 66.32 per cent of the vote counted, Ms Kanis led the Greens’ Cathy Oke 51.38 per cent to 48.62 in the two-party preferred vote.
Take a seat … Julia Gillard, with journalist Misha Schubert, takes part in a Google+ hangout at Media House in Melbourne. Photo: Craig Abraham
Asked about the leadership issue, which swirled again last week as key Gillard backers were spied in talks with the man she deposed – Kevin Rudd – at the annual leaders dialogue in the US, Ms Gillard was blunt after her first online Google+ hangout yesterday.
‘‘You’ll see me as Prime Minister for another Google hangout in 2013,’’ she told Fairfax Media.
Leadership chatter reignited last week after the chief government whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, mused publicly that leaders with prolonged bouts of poor polling did not tend to last, before key union figures backed Ms Gillard yesterday.
Answering questions from the public as part of the Google+ hangout, Ms Gillard remained adamant she would not be taking her cue from Barack Obama’s ‘‘evolution’’ on gay marriage, telling the online audience that her opposition to same-sex couples tying the knot remained intact and ‘‘deeply held’’.
Her answer, in her latest social media foray via an online video chatroom hosted by The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald yesterday, elicited a condemnation from the young gay man who won a public poll for the chance to quiz her directly on the topic.
‘‘Just so long as you remember that you’ll be on the wrong side of history,’’ Shane Bazzi told the Prime Minister in reply, while the Australian Christian Lobby later lauded her stance.
Ms Gillard fielded questions from the public on school funding, military pensions, obesity, jobs, school chaplains, asylum seekers, the carbon tax, racism, and male suicide. Musing on whether she was happy, the Prime Minister told 21,000 people viewing the live session that she drew satisfaction at work from getting things done.
‘‘I’m happy when I feel like I’m achieving things,’’ she said. ‘‘We can point to achievements in schools and health and jobs and many areas.’’
In her personal life, happiness revolved around family and friends, she said.
‘‘Getting to spend some time with [partner] Tim [Mathieson], with mates and just doing all the things people usually do when they are trying to wind down a bit,’’ she said.
The experiment attracted mixed reviews, generating twice as many dislikes as likes from viewers within the first hour after it aired. In online comments, some congratulated the PM for engaging in social media, others accused her of not answering some questions.
Pressed on gay marriage, Ms Gillard told Mr Bazzi she did value people in same-sex relationships but ‘‘I’ve got a view about the cultural status of marriage in our society’’.
‘‘You don’t agree with me, a lot of other people don’t agree with me, and you’ve pointed to opinion polls about all of this, but for me, politics isn’t about making decisions based on opinion polls; it’s about making decisions that you feel are right.’’
In May, the US President, who had previously declared the same view to Ms Gillard, confirmed an ‘‘evolution’’ driven by thinking about close friends and staffers who were in loving, gay relationships and raising children with their partners. Ms Gillard also has close friends and colleagues in long-term same-sex relationships raising children.
‘‘Look, President Obama did change his mind and he’s explained his personal journey and I’m a huge respecter of President Obama ... and I very much value his wisdom and views,’’ she said.
‘‘I do have a different view and I’ll be called on to exercise [that] not in the long distant future, but in the parliament this year.’’
In other questions chosen by public polling, Ms Gillard rejected a call from the Defence Force Welfare Association president, David Jamison, to lift the indexation rate for military pensions, arguing it would cost $6billion.
And she disappointed the Atheist Foundation of Australia president, David Nicholls, by standing firm on supporting federal funding for school chaplains.
While not releasing any more detail of how Labor will tackle a call for a $5billion-a-year injection of funds for schools, targeted towards the most disadvantaged children, Ms Gillard confirmed the government would unveil its plans ‘‘well before the end of this year’’.
‘‘I’m not going to rest as Prime Minister while it’s true that a kid from a poor home is getting less of an education than a kid from a wealthier home,’’ she said.