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Gillard has faith in poll resurrection

"In stressing her determination to prevail, she pointed out she had endured thus far against the odds."

"In stressing her determination to prevail, she pointed out she had endured thus far against the odds." Photo: Penny Bradfield

Julia Gillard is not one to bemoan her lot publicly, nor is she prone to reacting to the potshots her detractors take at her personal life.

A case in point was the Prime Minister's appearance on Channel Ten's Meet the Press program yesterday.

Asked about Tony Abbott's brain snap last week, in which the Opposition Leader found himself in sync with the Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer, Gillard was abrupt.

Abbott's words, she said, were ''a matter for Mr Abbott''.

When pressed, she shut it down: ''I'm not going to add to what I just said.''

Abbott blundered when caught on camera while mixing with the crowd at a community function.

A woman, clearly not a fan of the Prime Minister or her wardrobe, told Abbott: ''Get some of those jackets off her.'' Abbott replied: ''I know, I know, I know. Germaine Greer was right on that subject.''

That was a reference to Greer setting back the cause a few decades last Monday night when she launched into Gillard's appearance.

''What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets … They don't fit,'' she said on the ABC's Q&A program. ''You've got a big arse Julia. Just get on with it.''

After being sprung, Abbott expressed regret for the remark but perhaps this sort of nonsense has preyed on Gillard's mind more than we knew.

On Thursday night last week, hours after Abbott's gaffe, Gillard gave a speech described by some members of the audience as ''extraordinary''.

The function was a private fund-raiser at Doltone House, Pyrmont. There were about 40 tables, each paid for by a business or some other interest group. Also there was most of the cabinet. Wayne Swan gave the warm-up address.

The elephant in the room was Labor's near-extinction at the Queensland election, five days before, and the subsequent Newspoll showing federal Labor's primary vote in the toilet.

As a way of broaching the Queensland result, Gillard told the audience that at her table was Anthony Chisholm, the Queensland Labor Party secretary. Chisholm, she said, was understandably having ''a couple of beers''.

According to people present, Gillard's tone was paraphrased variously as ''never say die'' and ''don't write me off''.

In stressing her determination to prevail, she pointed out she had endured thus far against the odds.

She likened the personal challenges stacked against her to those of the US President, Barack Obama, with whom she had caught up at the nuclear summit in Seoul, South Korea, earlier in the week.

She regaled the audience with a humorous exchange they often have when they meet.

''I'm good mates with Barack Obama,'' Gillard was quoted as saying.

''I tell him: 'You think it's tough being African-American? Try being me … Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as Prime Minister.'''

Gillard was using humour, insofar as she would never elevate her own struggle as a woman in politics to the same level as a black man becoming the President of the United States.

But it was, according to those in the room, humour with a sharp edge. Everything about her prime ministership so far had been unorthodox, so it would be wrong to use political orthodoxy to write off her government.

She told the function: ''If you are judging by normal political rules, it's impossible to explain how I became Prime Minister.

''It's impossible to explain how we got through the 2010 election campaign with all the leaking.

''Then I formed a government relying on two conservative country independents.

''And it's impossible to explain how a minority government did the big blockbuster reforms.''

Gillard's mission was to deliberately challenge the audience to consider that all she had done so far defied expectation, so it should not automatically extrapolate what happened in Queensland to the federal sphere.

''You can't explain, so don't use the [normal rules] to predict the future.''

Her defiance recalled the scene from the The Iron Lady, the film about the life of Margaret Thatcher, starring Meryl Streep.

In a scene that revisits Thatcher's decision to wage war against Argentina in the Falklands, she tells her wavering cabinet: ''Your problem, some of you, is that you haven't got the courage for this fight.''

When Ronald Reagan's secretary of state Alexander Haig seeks to caution Thatcher on the consequences of going to war, she equates it to her own struggle to get to where she is: ''With all due respect, sir, I have done battle every single day of my life.''

Phillip Coorey is the chief political correspondent.

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  • Gillard's got courage alright, crash test dummy courage.

    Date and time
    April 02, 2012, 7:19AM
    • You have to admire Gillard for the way she has stood up to the vilification she is subject to on a daily basis. Why have people taken such a personal stance against her? Perhaps it was the way she became prime minister. Let's face it, Kevin Rudd just did not achieve what he set out to do (too many committees rather than getting on with it - interestingly this is what Abbott proposing) as well as wanting to have control over everything. So we now know that the govt and cabinet functions better. There is the carbon tax issue - "no carbon tax" promise. Is this any different to the "iron clad, rock solid guarantee" that Tony Abbott gave before the 2004 election ( Also Abbott's - "don't believe anything I say unless it's written down, climate change is crap etc. Abbott also lacks judgment (big arse comment about Gillard, Margaret Whitlam comments, s%^& happens etc). I also believe that his lack of policies and the committment to slash $70 billion for the sake of a surplus is dangerous to our growth. Last time the LNP left us with a huge structural deficit.

      At least Labor have some vision (rare in our three year cycle) with the move to a digital economy (NBN), a new energy future (carbon tax, ETS leading to alternative and sustainable energy), spending on hospitals, education etc.

      North Coast NSW
      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 10:22AM
    • So imposing a crippling new tax on Australians increasing electricity bills, spending tens of billions on a white elephant technology project while our hospitals are run down with record waiting lists vision??

      Labor supporters are so hopelessly deluded.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 10:37AM
    • n720u I think I will leave Regh for you to dissect. You can do a much better job than me but it will not take much.

      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 10:52AM
    • I really cannot understand why this PM gets such a hard time from the media and communcity.

      Shes tough and intelligent. Her governement, dispite the odds, have got through the tough legislation that we need. We NEED action on climate change, we NEED world class broadband, we NEED to spread the benefits of the mining boom and we NEED infustructure spending.

      This governemnt has spend responsibly, but peple beleive the lies about waste (BER was a stimulus measure).

      She is right about one thing ... dispite the odds and the haters, she is getting things done.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 11:01AM
    • @ n720ute,

      Perhaps you can hand out the tissues during the next election.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 11:06AM
    • That's your problem 'righton'. Like the article says, you don't want change; you want everything to remain the same.
      Unfortunately I've got some very bad news for you King Canute and it's all just going to wash over you with your arms and legs flapping wildly whilst complaining.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 11:45AM
    • Yeah "Econorat" change gonna come, at the next election.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 2:26PM
    • Seems to me that The Age, just like the Labor party, has an unhealthy obsession with denigrading Tony Abbott at every turn, and finds it impossible to write any article without mentioning his name. Why is that?

      Surely Gillard's unpopularity has nothing to do with Tony Abbott - as she's managed to get this unpopular all on her own. And if she thinks that we will now turn around and "embrace" her, after all the lies and waste, she's more delusional than I first thought. No one likes a shifty person.

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 11:07AM
    • n720ute - "... stood up to the vilification she is subject to on a daily basis" - how has Gillard been "vilified" on a daily basis? When will rusted-on Labor voters wake up to the fact that Gillard is being criticised because she is duplicitous (no carbon tax etc) and incompetent (border protection, FWA etc) and not because of her sex, marital status, physical appearance or religious belief?

      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 11:27AM

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