Australia: Julia Gillard, cool, articulate, on song, & the nation's first-ever female Deputy PM Print E-mail
The Sunday Age ~~ Melbourne ~~ November 25, 2007

Team Julia delivers a win for history

Scroll down to also read "Gillard reveals: it was the go-girl factor" and 'Pom's daughter is toast of Australia"

(Photo: Ken Irwin)

The woman who will be DPM ended her campaign as she started it, writes Michelle Griffin.

JULIA Gillard's campaign finished in typical style for Labor's deputy leader ­ carefully planned, on message and running late.

The woman who will be Australia's first female Deputy Prime Minister couldn't blame traffic or rain when she strolled up 35 minutes behind schedule to her first polling booth pit stop.

The roads around Point Cook's raw new estates were clear, and the sun was beating down on the line of pram-pushing families waiting to vote at a school across the road from two building sites: a shopping mall and a new Catholic school. This is heartland territory for working families with new mortgages, and the most marginal booth in the safe Labor seat of Lalor. Volunteers perspired at the gate but Ms Gillard looked pristine in campaign uniform of black pants, brown jacket and discreet silver pendant.

"We thought you'd be wearing one of the T-shirts," cried a Labor volunteer.

"Oh yes: Kevin07," said Ms Gillard.

"No," said the man. "One with Julia something on it."

"The trouble with Julia," Ms Gillard replied, "is that it doesn't rhyme with anything."

Well, it does, but nothing she would want on her T-shirt. Team Julia ensured that nothing peculiar happened during their candidate's last campaign moments. She made whistlestop visits to three booths between 10.30am and noon yesterday, gave a single two-minute press conference, remembered to say "fresh ideas for Australia's future" yet again, and refused to talk to the media while she handed out leaflets.

She wanted to "have a yak" with voters, but mostly confined her comments to the nice weather, attractive children and a carefully rehearsed joke, which also plugged the national broadcaster's coverage: "I'm on the ABC tonight," she told well-wishers a few times. "I'll give you a wave as the results come in."

Boyfriend Tim Mathieson was not with Ms Gillard as she made her rounds. Instead, she hooked up with federal colleague Nicola Roxon, Labor's health spokeswoman, as they planned to vote together at Point Cook's Seabrook Primary School, on the border between the women's electorates. The pair was escorted into the polling booth by Roxon's two-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who held each candidate firmly by the hand. They were greeted at the doorway by State MP Lynne Kosky, who hugged each woman as Labor's sisterhood gathered around their best and brightest hopes of power and influence.

"I'm optimistic," said Ms Kosky. "I'm hosting the party tonight for Julia while she's in Canberra."

"It's a bit scary with all those cameras going off," Ms Gillard murmured sympathetically to Rebecca, but the toddler stared down the lenses as calmly as the grown-ups and even helped her mother to vote.

"What will you do tomorrow?" one woman asked Ms Gillard.

"I won't know what to do with myself," she said, laughing politely. "Might find something to do". Then she frowned and switched to serious. "One way or another," she added grimly, "there'll be work to do."

She seemed tense and distracted beneath her permanent smile, and who could blame her? She had spent six weeks turning on the charm across the country, deflecting with grace the weekly allegations about con men and communists in her past, and clocking her daily quota of references to "working families".

Asked about the Liberals' pursuit of her personal life throughout the campaign, she brushed it off by remaining on song: "I think Australians are more interested in new ideas and fresh thinking than desperate scare campaigns and personal attacks."

As she announced at her press conference: "I was tired enough after six long weeks of campaigning to get a good sleep. I'm not much of a nervous sort."

She said she had enjoyed a good sleep on election eve but admitted some election day jitters. "I'm a bit nervous," she said to a Labor volunteer at her third and final school, Bellbridge Primary in Hoppers Crossing. "Bit nervous," she repeated, nodding vaguely. "Nervous. Better when we see the results coming in." Then she laughed and turned on the smile again.

By midday, it was over. She was in a car, heading off to a campaign headquarters to debrief before catching the 2pm flight to Canberra, where a seat waited for her in the tally room. And, it seemed as polls closed last night, a seat next to the new Prime Minister.
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Sydney Morning Herald ~~ Monday November 26, 2007

Gillard reveals: it was the go-girl factor

By Cosima Marriner


An exciting moment … Tim Mathieson and Julia Gillard in Brisbane yesterday (Paul Harris)

WHEN Welsh immigrants John and Moira Gillard arrived in Australia 40 years ago, they could not have foreseen that their four-year-old daughter would one day be elected as the country's first female deputy prime minister.

"If anybody had suggested to my parents when we migrated to this country that something like this was possible, they would have taken their temperature and said they needed to go to bed," Julia Gillard told the Herald in Brisbane yesterday.

More softly spoken in person, Gillard insisted she had never consciously sought to make political history because of her gender. "I didn't get involved in the Labor Party or go into Parliament to become the first woman to do something. I did both of those things because I passionately believe we can be a better country than we are."

However, Gillard acknowledges that her ascension to the second highest political office in Australia is an exciting moment for the sisterhood and historians. "There's been all through the campaign this real sort of 'go girl' factor and I'm conscious of that," she said. "I have people come up to me to get my photo taken with their daughters and it's part of sort of proving to their daughters that there's this world of options for their daughters growing up now and I think that's terrific."

She may be of the so-called fairer sex but Gillard is widely considered to have one of the thicker hides in the rough and tumble of federal politics. She has shrugged off being demonised as a union hack in Coalition advertising, dubbed a communist by Peter Costello, and derided as barren by the renegade Liberal senator Bill Heffernan. When asked why she thinks it was her and not some other woman who made political history on Saturday night, Gillard suggests: "Politics is not for the faint-hearted and I think I am a resilient person."

But she admitted it had been difficult to endure attacks on people close to her, including her partner, Tim Mathieson, and his daughter.

"It gets a little bit more problematic when it's about family members … You can be armour-plated yourself, but when it comes to those you care about, that's tougher."

Gillard said she and Mathieson, who was in Brisbane with her yesterday, had not discussed the likely effect of her new role on their relationship. "We'll just see take it a step at a time, see how it unfolds." Mathieson, his daughter and Gillard's sister were with her in the National Tally Room on Saturday night. Despite Kevin Rudd's order that celebrations be limited to a cup of strong tea and an Iced VoVo, Gillard admitted she and her close friends and family indulged in some champagne in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Once a contender for the leadership of the Labor Party, before realising she had better prospects as Kevin Rudd's No. 2, Gillard was careful not to overstate her power as deputy prime minister yesterday. "I will be doing my job as deputy prime minister. Whether I'm doing that job or occasionally acting for Kevin, I think I'm an inclusive person, I seek to kind of get views from people, to test views, that's the way we put, for example, the industrial relations policy together and when you've heard from sort of all sides, form a judgment, back your judgment and get on with it."

Gillard said she had yet to discover what the greatest challenge of her new role would be. She said she was excited about the implementing the agenda Labor laid out during the election campaign, particularly in her own portfolio of industrial relations.

"I would be tremendously proud to be able to say that there was fairness and balance in Australian workplaces because of initiatives that Labor took."

While shying away from naming a female political hero, Gillard said she had watched and learnt from those who had gone before her in Australian politics.
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The Age ~~ Melbourne ~~ November 26, 2007

'Pom's daughter' is toast of Australia


Deputy Prime Minister elect Julia Gillard in Brisbane (Paul Harris)

Australia's new deputy prime minister still cannot quite believe the new reality of her life, writes Jewel Topsfield.

THE woman dubbed the "Ten-Pound Pom's Daughter" by London's Daily Telegraph is struggling to explain what it feels like to be the most powerful woman in Australian history.

"I think I'm going to have to sleep on it to have a sense of reality," Julia Gillard says, when it becomes irrefutable that she will be the nation's first female deputy prime minister, midway through the vote count she is co-hosting on the ABC.

The political junkies crammed into the tally room behind the makeshift television studios are not quite so phlegmatic. "Julia, Julia, Julia, JULIA," they chant, until the screaming drowns out host Kerry O'Brien's number crunching.

For a split second Ms Gillard turns around and catches a glimpse of the wild, cheering mob behind her.

She smiles beatifically and says something anodyne about people being interested in the agenda of the future.

"How can she be so calm?" asks one woman, one of the thousands of people to queue for hours to get into the tally room and see democracy in the raw. "She must be in shock."

Ms Gillard's partner, Tim Mathieson, a dapper hair-product salesman, hovering quietly backstage in an immaculate suit, shrugs when asked the same question.

"We've been through too much," he says. "It's a bit like the Geelong Football Club. We're keeping a lid on it."

Nearing the end of the gruelling five-hour TV marathon, Ms Gillard's trademark nasal "Footscray fishwife" voice ­ as much a part of her mythology as the empty fruit bowl in her kitchen and the endlessly scrutinised auburn hair ­ finally turns husky as she thanks her family, friends and staff.

"Well done, Team Gillard," a staffer shouts. "Buck up, you guys, he won!" Team Gillard are a muted bunch. They drink bottled water and graze on fruit and sandwiches throughout the night.

They do not emote much, and appear pensive. Even when the monumental news breaks that John Howard could lose Bennelong, there are no bear hugs, no high-fives, no back slaps, no cheers. Was there an official edict to avoid hubris at any cost?

"No, I think it's a serious thing," Ms Gillard told The Age in Brisbane yesterday. "John Howard has been in Australian politics for so long, 30-odd years, he's been prime minister of the nation for 11½ years. I think that transition moment is one you absorb. It's not like barracking at a football contest, it's a significant moment and I think people were paying it due respect."

As soon as Ms Gillard came out of the TV studio, she rang her parents, John and Moira, the 10-pound Poms to which the Daily Telegraph referred, who migrated to Australia from South Wales in 1966 to provide Julia and elder sister Alison with a better life.

Mr Gillard had spent the day campaigning with the hapless Nicole Cornes, who was defeated in the Adelaide seat of Boothby, where Ms Gillard grew up, so the victory was bittersweet.

"They've lived every minute of it. They are both interested in politics," Ms Gillard says of her parents.

"They're very pleased, very proud, sort of relieved. They've lived with the anxiety of, 'will it happen, won't it happen?' "

Ms Gillard says John and Moira were full of parental advice, urging her to get enough sleep and eat well.

She has lived life at breakneck speed since she was appointed deputy leader of the Labor Party late last year.

"Our lifestyle already is one where we are quite used to me being on the road, and being in Canberra and travelling around the country," she says.

"I think that will continue. There might be a new intensity to it, but it's hard to imagine it could be more intense than this year has been." Still, she has always cherished "dagging out" with Mr Mathieson and watching The Bill.

Now the election has been won, Ms Gillard jokes she has had the strong cup of tea and Iced Vo Vo that self-declared nerd Kevin Rudd advocated in his acceptance speech, and it's time to get on with realising the dream team's vision.

She says ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, developing an IR transition bill to abolish AWAs, and attending the UN climate summit in Bali are immediate priorities for the new government.

"Kevin is a very measured person but he's also someone who wants to get things done, and he works incredibly hard, and as a result it will be a very hard-working government," she says.

Now that Ms Gillard has gone to bed and woken up as Australia's first female deputy prime minister, there were no strange dreams, she says, but the magnitude of the achievement is yet to fully sink in.

"I didn't become involved in the Labor Party in order to become the first woman to do something," she says. "I became involved in order to pursue what I thought was a vision of a better country, so it's not been the prism through which I've seen the election campaign.

"But yes, the fact it is kind of a special moment, that there will be a lot of Australians, particularly women, who give that a tick because they want to see female faces in the realms of political leadership ­ it's a good feeling."