Former prime minister Julia Gillard has hit out at “strongman” leaders across the globe for their response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying “unless you’re following the science”, you are doing the wrong thing.
- Julia Gillard has urged leaders to follow the science when it comes to coronavirus and praised Australia’s response to the pandemic
- Ms Gillard was taken to task by an audience member for not doing enough when it came to same-sex marriage during her time as prime minister
- She reflected on her famous misogyny speech and the reactions of Wayne Swan and Anthony Albanese in the moment
Some of the nations that are led by those types of men Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the USA’s Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among the countries that have fared the worst when it comes to handling the pandemic, with high case numbers and death rates.
The US and Brazil have the highest and second-highest case numbers globally as their curves continue to arch upward.
Those statistics led one Q+A audience member to ask Ms Gillard if populist leaders around the globe, including those named above, had been “exposed” for their shortfalls and if the future would look to the styles of politics “exhibited by female heads of state”.
Ms Gillard responded that in her view, male and female leaders were not inherently different but faced different challenges, before she unloaded on those leaders who were “blustering” strongmen who did not rely on the facts.
“Male and female leadership is received differently,” Ms Gillard said.
“A female leader, to succeed, has to manage a balance between strength and empathy. If she’s too strong, people will go, ‘Ugh, she’s not very likeable.’
“If she’s too nurturing and caring, people will say, ‘She hasn’t got the backbone to lead,’ so, women leaders are already very highly skilled in this balance of strength and empathy.
“And I think at a time like this, people want both they want to know that someone’s getting the job done, but they also want someone to care about how they’re feeling.
“I think people like Jacinda Ardern and Erna Solberg in Norway have been able to put that together.
“What you can’t do in this time is that blustering strongman, ‘I know, I can tell you, facts don’t really matter’ style of leadership that’s catastrophic.
“This is a time when unless you’re following the science you can’t possibly be doing the right thing. Evidence matters.”
Ms Gillard said that when it came to coronavirus, if you’re not following the science, you can’t possibly be doing the right thing.(AP)
Ms Gillard then called for a shift in the dynamic of global politics in the years to come.
“In politics in the last few years, people in many parts of the world have lost a sense of those things, and if we take those with us into the stage beyond the pandemic, then that’ll be better for global politics,” she said.
As for Australian politics, Ms Gillard spoke across her previous party lines and on more than one occasion praised current Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state leaders for their coordinated response to the pandemic.
“Across Australia, people have done very, very well,” Ms Gillard said when asked about the government response.
“I’ve been really pleased to see the spirit of bipartisanship that has been brought to the task. A conservative prime minister working with Labor premiers the opposition leaders at every level helping support the government.
“We’ve really had a national effort here.”
That national effort and success has taken a hit in the past week as cases in Victoria have spiked as part of a second wave that has caused a second lockdown.
The cases have left Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews whose initial response to the pandemic was lauded under siege over the new clusters and his handling of the outbreak but Ms Gillard refused to criticise him, citing just how tough and unprecedented this pandemic is.
“Errors will be made, people are human, some things will go wrong, I’d rather be here than almost anywhere else on the planet,” she said of Australia.
“And I think the realisation now is really with us that, for the next few years until we get a vaccine that there will be times of restrictions, times of loosening, times of restrictions, and getting our heads right for that, getting the economic settings right for that is incredibly complicated and something that I think leaders at all levels are still working through.”
‘I don’t buy that’
While Ms Gillard was praised on the episode for her strength when it came to women’s rights and her famous Question Time misogyny speech aimed at former PM Tony Abbott, she came under fire for her record on LGBT policy, particularly not advocating for same-sex marriage during her time as prime minister.
Audience member Kate, who spoke of being at the original Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 and being arrested, bashed and jailed, asked Ms Gillard why she as leader did not push for same-sex marriage to be made legal.
Ms Gillard promptly answered that she “voted yes” in the same-sex marriage plebiscite before saying she felt that as leader of a minority government that the opposition under Mr Abbott would have bloc-voted against the notion.
“Whatever one can say about Tony Abbott, he’s a formidable campaigner, and I think this would have been an issue that he brought his formidable campaigning skills to,” Ms Gillard said.
“And that would not have been in anybody’s interests to have that highly partisan debate. I actually don’t think we would have got it through the parliament at that point.”
However, as she turned the attention onto Mr Abbott, who was a noted opponent of same-sex marriage, host Hamish Macdonald interjected and pointed out that Ms Gillard during her tenure as prime minister was on the “conservative side” when it came to marriage equality.
“You pointed to your own family upbringing and said, ‘We believed in lots of things that are old-fashioned. We believed in politeness and thrift and fortitude, and doing duty and discipline. These were things that were part of my upbringing. They’re part of who I am today.'” Macdonald recited.
“You said that you thought the Marriage Act and marriage between a man and a woman had a special status.
“Is that different to what you’re saying now?”
Ms Gillard then went on to give a response about her upbringing within what she again described as a “traditional household” but said she ultimately did not get to have the marriage debate, before reiterating that she voted “yes”.
It was not an answer that resonated with audience member Kate, who was asked if she bought Ms Gillard’s response the answer was in the negative.
“I really respect you, I just don’t buy that”.
‘Don’t be naive’: Gender bias and the misogyny speech
The attacks Ms Gillard endured during her time in politics, particularly as the nation’s first female leader, were also discussed on the show.
And with her new book out, Ms Gillard, a vocal feminist, told a young woman in the audience that she can dream big but, based on her own experience, she should be prepared for the slings and arrows, however they come.
“My advice would be, if you’ve got a passion for leadership, a passion for politics, to absolutely go for it. No dream is too big,” Ms Gillard said.
“If anybody had suggested to me or my mother or father when I was your age that I’d end up as prime minister, it would have resulted in lots of laughter. So, you know, my life story is an indication that it’s possible.
“I’m not going to insult your intelligence, though, and say that there would be no gendered bit or no racism. You would encounter those things.
“I wish I could tell you, ‘No, it would all be fine’, but that wouldn’t be honest.
“In terms of getting ready for those things, I think it’s just important to think about them in advance.
“But don’t be naive you will get gendered reactions