Gillard stares down the 'nut jobs'
Prime Minister Julia Gillard during a press conference to address matters related to her time at law firm Slater and Gordon. Photo: Andrew Meares
Taking aim at ''misogynists and nut jobs'' on the internet and ''defamatory'' News Limited reports, Julia Gillard moved yesterday to end claims she did anything wrong when acting as a lawyer 17 years ago to give free advice to her then union boss boyfriend.
In a confrontational media conference that lasted for more than an hour, the Prime Minister condemned her accusers as she fielded questions about her time as a partner of law firm Slater & Gordon.
Describing an internet smear campaign against her as ''sexist and vicious'', the Prime Minister said she was absolutely satisfied she had acted ethically as a lawyer throughout the entire matter.
On a day when Ms Gillard also had Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the ropes over his bungling response to BHP's decision to delay its Olympic Dam expansion, the Prime Minister was on the front foot and determined to take no prisoners.
Her performance followed a significant win over The Australian newspaper after the Prime Minister secured a humiliating apology from News Limited's flagship publication, which printed wrong information about her time at law firm Slater & Gordon.
But in condemning the report as ''false and highly defamatory'', the Prime Minister conceded The Australian's apology and retraction would not stop sexist and vile blog entries by other online commentators.
''Will the misogynists and nut jobs continue to post them? Yes they will,'' she said.
Following a week of recycled media claims and Coalition sniping from the sidelines, she said enough was enough, noting that even Mr Abbott could not articulate any questions he says he wants answered over the allegations of impropriety.
Ms Gillard said she had chosen not to dignify the campaign, which has been continuing for a number of months, with a response.
But that all changed yesterday with The Australian's report and subsequent apology over its claim about her setting up what it called a ''slush fund'' that was later misused by then Australian Workers Union boss Bruce Wilson, who was Ms Gillard's boyfriend at the time.
''The Australian newspaper republished a false and highly defamatory claim about my conduct in relation to these matters 17 years ago … '' she said. ''In these circumstances, where I am seeing, recycled again, false and defamatory material attacking my character, I have determined that I will deal with these issues.''
She has not seen Mr Wilson since that time. ''I am standing in front of you now as a 50-year-old woman. Have I learned a few things across my lifetime? Yes, I have.''
Ms Gillard stated her case and answered media questions for an hour immediately before entering the fray of parliamentary question time.
During the media conference she admitted she had given free advice regarding establishing a workplace reform association and trust fund, but that it was ''par for the course'' at Slater & Gordon then to give such free advice to unions and trade officials.
In hindsight, she said, it would have been better if she had opened a file on the system but it did not strike her as a matter of particular significance at the time.
''My role in relation to this was I provided advice as a solicitor. I am not the signatory to the documents that incorporated this association. I was not an office bearer of the association,'' the Prime Minister said.
''I had no involvement in the working of the association. I provided advice in relation to its establishment and that was it.''
And she outright denied any suggestion that any of the fund's money was used to renovate her home.
Ms Gillard rejected calls for her to deliver a statement to Parliament, saying that answering questions from the ''journalistic elite of this country'' should satisfy those demands.
''I remind you that there is not one direct question that has been put to me either in Parliament or through their regular media interviews by the opposition that they say I have to answer,'' she said.
''In those circumstances where they are unable to articulate a question and I am sitting here in front of, what, 20, 30, people, answering any question they choose to ask me, I think that that is satisfactory to deal with the matter.''
Ms Gillard bemoaned the ''Americanisation of our politics'' that is giving way to ''eccentric lunar right Tea Party-style interventions'' and singled out bankrupt businessman Larry Pickering for spreading rumours about her.
During question time Ms Gillard tore strips off Mr Abbott for appearing on national television the night before trying to blame the government over the Olympic Dam decision and yet confessed to have not even read BHP's statement on the matter. Mr Abbott later claimed to have been misrepresented.