Can We Get Australian PM Julia Gillard to Give Debate Lessons in America?

Reader YY forwarded a fiery speech by Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, attacking opposition leader Tony Abbot for his hypocrisy in attacking a member of her party over sexist text messages.

I’m featuring what might seem to be a topic of narrow interest as an object lesson in political discourse and skill levels overseas versus in the US. Look how Gilliard speaks effectively and energetically, referring to notes only when she needs to read quotations, for fifteen minutes. As YY indicates, the context is clear enough that you don’t need the backstory to infer what happened.

Do we have a single politician in the US who could command attention for that long and deliver a blistering attack with so little in the way of props? I suspect this is one of the by products of the Commonwealth tradition of “question time,” in which government ministers have to deal with the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debates, while in the US, we have far more staging and far less real controversy in our political discourse.

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  1. briansays

    me thinks these skills are honed if not required in a parliamentary system to advance within a more structured party system to a leadership role

    1. William Wallace

      Briansays, I have often wondered what the retirement system is like in Australia. In the USA, women on average live 6 years longer than men, but men can’t start drawing SS earlier than women, even though most SS payments are paid by men, never in human history has one group been able to get so much money out of another, unfairly to me, perhaps this was OK 50 years ago when men earned most of the income and jobs, but is it fair today? Whats it like in Aussie land?

      1. William


        This gives a pretty complete overview:

        I will just add that every year the Australian Financial Review gives a rundown of how well each superannuation grew in the previous year. Right now a conservatively balanced plan, that is not one with too much money invested in risky activities is pulling in something of the order of 5% growth per year. At least that is how well my girlfriend’s fund is doing.

        1. William Wallace

          Looking over that webpage, it doesn’t seem to suggest men can withdraw thier retirement earlier than women, what are the gender lifespans in aussie land? How is it fair if women live say 6 years longer like in the USA, but men can’t withdraw 6 years earlier, talk about the government unfairly giving women more resources, I thought we wanted equality in modern society?

          1. Jesse

            I’d initially written your comment off as trolling, but I actually find your argument persuasive (albeit somewhat removed from the thrust of the post.)

          2. William Wallace

            Jesse, I am not trying to troll, I do want to talk about in a fair and honest way how society is structured, and if there are huge gender differences or not. I may be wrong in thinking in the 99% class I deal with that men are very oppressed, yves says in the 1% class women are very oppressed. The australian prime minister is right, sexism, gender discrmination, etc in any form should be challenged if we truly want a fair and equal society, and we all have to start talking to each other and getting each others perspectives if we want to move forward, I am glad Yves broached this subject, it is very important, and even the australian prime minister thinks it is important too.

          3. Rog

            its equality because men have spent all that money on womens health to make them live longer….

            and retire at the same age right??(most women retire at childbirth and never work again at a taxable job)


          4. Yves Smith Post author


            I see a post on misogyny has brought out the like-minded.

            2/3 of the households with children in America have 2 working parents. And being a mother with no child care (which is the boat the other 1/3 are in) is work.

          5. JTFaraday

            “I am not trying to troll, I do want to talk about in a fair and honest way how society is structured, and if there are huge gender differences or not. I may be wrong in thinking in the 99% class I deal with that men are very oppressed, yves says in the 1% class women are very oppressed.”

            It might be an interesting question to investigate what demographic profiles “benefit most” from the way SS is currently set up. It is true that it was set up in a somewhat social formation.

            But anyone who starts out framing the question as a gender binary, makes the grotesquely overly broad statement that “in the 99% class I deal with men are very oppressed,” and suggests that women have the better societal deal just because they reputedly live 6 years longer on average , already has a predetermined agenda.

          6. Jesse

            “But anyone who starts out framing the question as a gender binary, makes the grotesquely overly broad statement that “in the 99% class I deal with men are very oppressed,”

            Agree- I thought his point about SS was interesting because I’d never heard it before, but for him to make that big of an extrapolation from that one point is clearly wrong.

  2. wanderer

    I guess that’s cause in US both parties are essentially for the same cause of advancement of corporate agenda, so there is no really controversy between them?

    1. mozzie

      Comment from AU.
      Nice pickup! The object of her derision Mr Abbott (given our dialect’s tendency to slur wors – Mister Rabbit) uses enough umms, aaars, aaaaaaaaahs and stony silences to average out.

  3. EH

    I can’t understand her, she packs all her words together like I’m Strunk & frickin’ White over here. Where are all the “um..uhhh”‘s?

  4. steelhead23

    Nigel Farage has been upstaged – by a gurl! Too bad ol’ Anthony Wiener wasn’t an Aussie MP, it would have been fun to watch Ms Gillard defend his, ah, er, photographic skills.

    Also, in the event Obama’s handlers haven’t sufficiently made him aware – failure to stand up to a bully (a simple, loud “shut up!” would do) is certain only to encourage him.

  5. scott bell


    You have jumped to a conclusion without gaining any of the pertinent facts.

    Gillard was giving the speech after defending a speaker who resigned after it was in a court of law revealed he sent many lurid texts regarding women.

    Gillard defended a man proven to hate women.

    She then played the victim card with absolutely no basis to take attention away from her hypocrisy. You of course like many others took the bait.

    Tony Abbott is actually a feminist! He has 4 daughters, all in professional careers, and his wife is also a professional and tells the world a different story than Gillard.

    Please, check your really invalidate your whole site posting this.

    How am I to value your opinion on other topics now.

    1. David Lentini

      Scott, the point really is about Gillard’s excellent speaking ability. The issue, and whether or not Yves characterized it accurately, is not the point.

    2. Jane

      I think you’ve missed the point. Yves was highlighting style as opposed to content. It doesn’t matter if you agree with Gillard or not – it’s the fact that she could speak in Parliament for such an extended period of time on a subject with little reference to notes and no teleprompter.

      However, I do concede that this is not debating.

        1. Ray Duray


          I was thinking along the same lines. Ms. Gillard is a fine and fiery orator. That said, however, I think we find Ms. Gillard’s rhetorical skills are often used for ends that George Galloway would find worthy of rebuttal if not excoriation.

          Ms. Gillard has shown herself to be a wiling member of the Anglo-American Imperialist Club. Current overseas deployments:

          George Galloway’s best performance ever, IMHO, was this session in Washington, D.C. when Galloway took on Sens. Norm Coleman and Carl Levin and pretty much put these two crybabies into diapers over the matter of over-wrought American imperial aggression and criminality:

    3. Ned Ludd

      This is what Julia Gillard said at 10:45 in the video, about then-speaker Peter Slipper:

      On the conduct of Mr. Slipper, and on the text messages that are in the public domain – I have seen the press reports of those text messages. I am offended by their content. I’m offended by their content because I am always offended by sexism. I’m offended by their content because I am always offended by statements that are anti-women…

      I am offended by those text messages.

      How does this constitute a defense of Slipper?

        1. ebear

          “What’s wrong with being against sexism wherever it’s found?”

          Just so long as it’s not an included feature of someone’s precious religion, right?
          That we have to respect.

          In the immortal words of Nina Hagen: Stand up or shut up.

      1. lambert strether

        Ned, also note, just in your quote, the anaphora: “I am offended… I am offended… I am offended.” Now I’ll have to listen to the speech again to get other examples, but they are there.

        Technically, the speech is extraordinary. And, to my mind, the speech is made in a very good cause, which needless to say has little to do with Peter Slipper, who provided, as it were, the occasion rather than the reason.

    4. Bushfire Bill


      You have jumped to a conclusion without gaining any of the pertinent facts.

      Gillard was giving the speech after defending a speaker who resigned after it was in a court of law revealed he sent many lurid texts regarding women.



      He sent ONE text BEFORE he became Speaker. The “revelation” in a court of law was a planted affidavit that had only been introduced into evidence the day before without a right of reply.

      What he said in the text was fairly tame, but lewd schoolboy-type banter, no more horrifying than any adult (male or female) has uttered at least once in their lives when a private conversation turns to matters of the opposite sex.

  6. Ray Duray

    Thanks to Scott Bell for raising a dissenting voice to the accolades for Ms. Gillard’s emotional performance. The breaking news is that Speaker Peter Slipper, whom Ms. Gillard was defending, has resigned subsequent to her speech, negating much of Gillard’s political intent.

    Here’s a sample of the SMS texts written by the man that Gillard was defending:

    As can be seen, there are no clean hands in this brouhaha.

    Why was Gillard’s attack on Abbott so vehement? Why did Peter Slipper resign, in spite of Gillard’s staunch defense of him as a team member?

    The one thing that seems plain enough to me is that at least in this instance, Australian party wrangling is about on a par with the ridiculousness of competing elites we are saddled with here in the U.S. Congress. Ms. Gillard’s bravura rhetorical flourishes notwithstanding.

      1. Ray Duray

        Hi Lambert,

        Re: “Ooooh, “emotional.” You don’t call Obama “articulate,” I trust? Heh heh.”

        Thanks for providing the segue. Generally, I never listen to Obama, preferring to read the transcripts to seek out the lawyer’s argument and not the pitchman’s emotional appeal. On that score, I’ve always been disappointed by a profound lack of content in Obama’s presentations. If Obama is ‘articulating’ anything, it is the same sort of homilies and generalities that so endeared Ronald Reagan to a malleable and gullible nation.

        I find it quite extraordinary that anyone would concern themselves with Obama’s articulation of content, when Obama so assiduously attempts to obscure his content from the masses. I hope for change, but all I get from Obama is the perfect indication that we’re going to have four more years of coddling the Wall Street banksters while a floss and gloss of rhetoric seduces the weak-minded to trust that Obama is still leading the party of Franklin Roosevelt. Obama is clearly not. His followers are clearly not understanding their predicament, trapped as they are in the moderate wing of the Corporate Party.

    1. Ned Ludd

      Have you ever characterized a speech by Bill Clinton as an “emotional performance“? When Joe Biden blasts Mitt Romney in a speech, would you ever think to describe it as an “emotional performance“?

      Regarding the text messages by Peter Slipper, everybody agrees that the messages are offensive. There is no argument on that point. “On the conduct of Mr. Slipper, and on the text messages that are in the public domain… I’m offended by their content because I am always offended by statements that are anti-women… I am offended by those text messages.

      Obviously, you have a problem with Tony Abbott being attacked for his double standard. Maybe Julia Gillard should have sent him a nice note instead, asking him to pretty please stop being such a hypocrite. But instead she got all emotional and said this:

      What I won’t stand for, what I will never stand for, is the leader of the opposition coming into this place and peddling a double standard, peddling a standard for Mr. Slipper he would not set for himself, peddling a standard for Mr. Slipper he has not set for other members of his front bench…

      Sexism should always be unacceptable.

      Is Tony Abbott’s sexism unacceptable? Is the Liberal Party’s sexism unacceptable? Or is it simply unacceptable to call them out on it?

  7. Middle Seaman

    Gillard’s attack appears here as a response to Obama’s “let me roll over and play dead” debating style. He always behaves this way in debates. (E.g. 2008.) In my opinion, Obama’s style has very few followers. Most of our politicians go through debates quite often. Most of them do well in debates. Gillard may not need a reference, but using a reference is commonplace and acceptable.

    Bill Clinton can debate, give a speech and otherwise engage a crowd without notes or preparation. Obama’s style is a mixture of arrogance (totally unjustified) and limited intellectual ability. Obama is not Clinton.

  8. Michael

    Scott – I think it’s pretty clear that Gillard was not defending Slipper (she specifically says his behaviour was offensive, and it turns out that his resignation was a done deal), but rather demonstrating with some fairly damning examples that Abbott didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. Slipper’s certainly a slimy weirdo, but Abbott’s anti-women positions would have effects at the nationwide policy level, rather than at the closeted-schoolboy joke level.

    This was just an excuse for Gillard to get stuck in to Abbott over misogyny, and it was only the fact that he made the “die of shame” comment that made her go in with both boots. He’d had it coming for quite a while.

  9. Andrew Lusocmbe

    To all those people claiming Julia Gillard was defending Peter Slipper, you just haven’t paid attention. Voting to let a legal issue take its course in court is not the same as defending a person. You will not find any defence of Peter Slipper’s text messages from Julia Gillard, because no such thing has happened.

  10. lambert strether

    Technically, the speech exhibits a mastery of a rhetorical technique called anaphora (“I am offended…” is but one example). Anaphora is one of The Obama’s favorite devices, but Gillard could school him.

    I actually listened to it several times, it was such a pleasure to see a real old-fashioned beatdown delivered. (Compare this to our vacuous “debates!”)

    It’s a symphony of shredding!

    And do listen all the way to the end, when “the leader of the opposition” makes the mistake of looking at his watch…

    NOTE Of course, such a speech could hardly have been given in the American context…

  11. Ray Duray

    Re: “from my perspective, most men in the USA are vastly discriminated against”

    An interesting conundrum is coming about for feminism. Arguments about women’s minority status in higher education are going to have to be re-worked, in view of the fact that women are clearly now in the majority there as far as student enrollment is concerned.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Are you nuts? (or in fairness the person you are responding to, your comment was more measured). I didn’t want this thread to be about the status of women, I posted that clip despite its content, but having opened a bit of a can of worms, I feel compelled to wade in.

      The fact that more women are getting higher educations does not translate directly into more power in society, particularly now that there is tons of slack in the job market and many grads get where they are by taking on a big debt load. There is a strong case to be made that getting a college education at current prices is a bad investment, unless you are going into specific professions where you have good reason to expect to get a well paid job.

      I’ve never had a woman as client. Ever. Virtually all the people who handle big money and make the decisions in finance are men, and as Simon Johnson pointed out in his article The Quiet Coup, bankers are now pretty much in charge here.

      Women are still paid less than men for comparable work. Feminized professions are low paid professions. The woman who was the first woman partner in M&A at a major Wall Street firm shocked a Radcliffe confab about work life balance by telling them they were all wet, the only way to get employers to be more accommodating to women needing more flexible career paths and work schedules to deal with child rearing was not by pleading or reasoning, but by women owning more of the means of production. This was in the 1980s, and I don’t see things having changed much, if at all, since then.

      Transgendered women to men say the same thing, that the way they get treated on a routine basis as men is completely different than the way they had been treated as women. For instance, if I interrupt a man (which I do, I’m not shy) I’ll often have men jump on me in a way they would absolutely NEVER jump on a man. Never. They’d get punched at some point if they did. Women are subjected to all sorts of displays of dominance that they are trained to respect. Some women like me don’t and that makes us bitches.

      1. Ray Duray


        Sorry if I pushed the wrong button. I was just making an off-hand remark about a success for women, i.e. opportunities in higher education. It’s nice to win a few, eh?

        You’ll get no opposition from me in any of your points except one. I’ve never regarded you with the “B” word. I’ve always admired your stunning knowledge base, your determined good will and your basic humane instincts. I don’t detect a bitch. I detect an angle, er, correction, an angel.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Erm, that’s a bit over the top.

          I’ve never minded the bitch word (I actually don’t get called it, probably for that very reason, it doesn’t have any sting for me). First, Radcliffe women were “Cliffie bitches” it was a sort of badge of honor. Second, the sort of men who call women bitches are saying: “You aren’t the sort of feminine subservient woman that I find acceptable/attractive.” Well guess what? I don’t CARE what your tastes are in women, I have no interest in catering to your gender neuroses.

        2. JTFaraday

          “Sorry if I pushed the wrong button. I was just making an off-hand remark about a success for women, i.e. opportunities in higher education. It’s nice to win a few, eh?”

          Becoming the higher ed cash cow, in addition to all the other ways women are vulturized, is no win.

  12. Yves Smith Post author

    Although the attention given to the debates give readers a point of reference, I’ve been off and on looking at CSpan on Congressional hearings and speechifying for quite a while. It’s generally stultifying.

    The reason for posting this goes well beyond the debates, as I indicated in my intro to the Gillard clip. Can you think of a single American pol who could have given a performance like that? My impression is Clinton was in larger measure scripted and did not extemporize from a (presumably memorized) outline the way Gillard did.

    1. lambert strether

      Not quite. Clinton improvises off the teleprompter. In Charlotte:

      I was sitting behind and high above him—the press seats at the DNC are somehow even worse than at the RNC—and I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he spoke, even though he was smaller than a G.I. Joe action figure. But my position meant I could see the giant teleprompter from which Clinton was reading, which meant that I knew exactly when he was improvising. He would stray from the Star Wars word crawl for five minutes at a time, launching into numbers-heavy digressions about health insurance premiums seemingly off the top of his head before fusing that digression seamlessly with the prepared speech, and then the suspended words on the teleprompter would lurch to life again and accompany Clinton for a while before he decided to wander off, in search of some other fact or figure with which to brutalize the Republicans. (On Twitter, reporters noted with some sense of awe that Clinton’s prepared remarks were just over 3,000 words long. He wound up saying more than 5,000 words.)

      As I recall (and I may not be correct) he actually improvised a large portion of a SOTU when the teleprompter failed.

      * * *

      To the larger point, yes, I agree: No US politician could do this or anything close to it. (Techically, Jesse Jackson’s “They work every day” speech might be close). And it’s the way she uses the rhetorical figures to construct, on the fly, the flexible framework of the speech that lets her speak without an outline. We can’t do rhetoric in this country any more; it’s a lost art. Clinton can improvise, but he works his empathy trick and subject matter mastery to cover the ground, and as for Obama, all Axelrod and the rest of his handlers can do is try to stuff him full of one-liners. Not the same at all.

      UPDATE Adding, I guess you could say that Clinton and Obama are both bullshit artists. The structure of their speech is that of the con. Whatever one might think of Gillard’s speech, it isn’t a con, and it isn’t bullshit.

    2. Max424

      Back in the day, Alan Grayson. A little different stylistically, but he tore people up.

      On Financial Services, when Grayson was cutting someone or something to the quick, I always got the sense that Barney wanted to interject Parliamentary style, “Will the Right Honorable Gentleman from Florida please cede the floor or shut the fuck up?”

      “Or both?” …hand over mike, whisper, whisper, left and right, “God, this clown just doesn’t get it.”

    3. Glenn Condell

      ‘Can you think of a single American pol who could have given a performance like that? My impression is Clinton was in larger measure scripted and did not extemporize from a (presumably memorized) outline the way Gillard did.’

      Gillard’s industrial law career would have obliged her to master a brief and apply rhetorical skills. It helps that she is smart and tough.

      Your point about question time is part of the story for sure, but there is also the media angle. Although ours has lately slouched more toward the almost reverent tones yours uses toward anyone with any power or wealth, it is still a bear-pit in comparison. The MSM don’t ALL drink Kool Aid and they take the blow torch out on occasion.

      In contrast, watching US political coverage is often quite hilarious nowadays, the network Ken or Barbie with nary a hair, or a word, out of place, never making the talent break a sweat. Hence the congressional cattle don’t hone the debating skills, within or without Congress, required to reach that level.

      I have seen Gillard debating on ABC current affairs shows for years now and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone roll her completely. The odd dead heat maybe. Abbott she always beat hands down.

      She has some wind at her back right now, because Alan Jones (our Rush and a great Liberal man) said a dreadful thing at a function about Gillard’s recently deceased father (that he would have ‘died of shame’ at her policies), which got out and via the wonder of the social internets, has proved a watershed moment in our political sphere. Every single advertiser has been forced by public pressure via internet petitions to drop ads on Jones’s radio show.

      Julia was on the nose only a short while ago for most voters, but her resilience and grace under all this pressure has sown some grudging respect. And the carbon tax hasn’t led to the sky falling in as the conservatives predicted.

      Now for her game-changing speech on Assange…

  13. Mark

    A fine speech, she’s smart but maybe too interested in being a political animal and therefore while the points are good, I’m still left feeling a little flat as I know there is always political strategy behind any supposedly moral stand she takes.

    The context of the speech is that Abbott, the opposition leader, advanced a no confidence motion against Slipper, the speaker of the house, due to Slipper’s sexist text messages that were made public. The government, lead by Gillard, didn’t want a victory for Abbott’s opposition so opposed the motion but told the Slipper he had to voluntarily resign after the vote. Gillard then, due to formalities of the vote, had to offer some defense of Slipper which Abbott probably thought would be a win/win situation for the opposition. He probably wasn’t counting on Gillard coming out guns blazing like that, and good on her for doing it, however I feel it was only done because it suited her politically at the time.

    All these high office politicians are still a very cynical bunch at the end of the day.

      1. Mark

        An isolated Gold nugget for sure. I’m just saying I’ve been disappointed in her as I thought she was smart and expected more from her when she became PM.

        Hopefully the environment swings her way and she gets the opportunity to hit a few more home runs.

        Its the weight of public opinion that gives her the opportunity to perform. The public’s psyche is where the real source for change comes from, rather than from statesmen/women in my opinion.

        1. Nathanael

          She’s actually had some impressive successes; look carefully at the policy accomplishments, particularly on the carbon tax. It looked like Rudd wasn’t going to get it passed, but she’s now gotten it passed, and with a constiuency supporting it, hard to repeal!

          Even if she’s defeated she’s left a record of accomplishment. Under what I consider really tough political conditions.

  14. sadness

    yes stepping into a foreign space can be a wee problem, but the speech was what it was, timeless and, urm, placeless, and accurate as to her subject matter (victim) imo – and, some might say it is not before time that Julia is at last returning to her forté –

    as an aside; federal politics is currently a can of worms down here, there is a hung parliament so the libs (read republicans) need every vote they can get, and they will have one less problem with the removal of Slipper (formally speaker), so some might say that he was setup – hmmmm – and he was a lib before he turned….so……

    but back on topic – go Julia – Tony’s a phoney – sadly one look tells all for that lot …… and ….. dear Julia can be a winner again

  15. David

    Back in the day, it was always amusing to listen to the Australian Parliament debates. To me the funniest thing I have ever heard a politician say was when the then opposition Labor party leader Mark Latham refer to the prime minister John Howard as leading a “Conga line of brown nosers” for their support of Bush.

      1. Lambert Strether

        That’s really funny — I was looking at the comment list, saw “When something makes me laugh”, scrolled down, read “a conga line of brown nosers,” laughed, and saw your comment.

        The meta! It b-u-r-n-s!!!!

    1. David Bracewell

      Or when Labour PM Paul Keating said of John Howard:

      “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

      Actually Keating was one of the funniest parliamentarians of any Commonwealth nation.

      Of Howard again Keating said:

      “What we have got is a dead carcass, swinging in the breeze, but nobody will cut it down to replace him.”

      He said this of opposition Leader Hewson:

      “like being flogged with a warm lettuce”


      “I was nearly chloroformed by the performance of the Honorable Member for Mackellar. It nearly put me right out for the afternoon.”


      “What we have as a leader of the National Party is a political carcass with a coat and tie on.”

    2. Glenn Condell

      Latham said: ‘There they are – a conga line of suck-holes on the conservative side of Australian politics. The backbench sucks up to the prime minister and the prime minister sucks up to George W. I thought it was an arse licking effort, in that Australia needed a prime minister who was willing to stand up for Australia’s best interests.’

      I miss Latho. Mad as a meataxe but independent, and good for a quote!

      1. skippy

        Glenn, have you seen Bill Mitchell’s gone tropo? Even with the difficulty’s he suffered, one must wonder if there more too it.

        Skippy… I’m seeing all kinds of signs… Hearing lots of leaks out of Rumor Control… and at the same time everyone is getting new cars – LOL – its a flipping Eruo luxury car lot at the school green zone…

          1. skippy

            Yeah, I know you from a few other blogs, your work is know to me. BTW the neoliberal army of MBA Sudikar are everywhere and infest the highest levels of society… weep.

            Skippy… Bill will probably like it up there, after he weans himself off the cosmopolitan thingo. Lots of people looking for refuge, going bush or tropo. Be well Glen.

  16. skippy

    The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) on Parliament

    Skippy… for the road see: newstopia: US electoral system explained

    PS. Joh Bjelke-Petersen And Bob Hawke used to call each other up, after a public political piss fight, and guffaw about whom took strips off the other.

    PSS. Oh Gillard is just Neoliberal light… the bastard you know. The Abbott is just the BBQ Basher Neoliberal storm trooper.

    1. Glenn Condell

      ‘PS. Joh Bjelke-Petersen And Bob Hawke used to call each other up, after a public political piss fight, and guffaw about whom took strips off the other.’

      I would pay good money to hear those tapes. Even more to hear Max Gillies render them.

      ‘PSS. Oh Gillard is just Neoliberal light… the bastard you know. The Abbott is just the BBQ Basher Neoliberal storm trooper.’

      Good cop bad cop; pea, pod.

      This is good Julia but it’s a bit like good Barack when he manages passion and eloquence about racism, which like sexism is important and all, but does not threaten the interests that govern him. I’m disappointed in her too, but still expect far more from her than I would from Obama if I was American. She is constrained and in many ways ineffective (though circumstances are more than partly to blame for this), but she is not a sell-out. Not yet anyway.

      Some fortitude on Assange would be welcome though.

  17. The Claw

    One tiny aside.. the sender of the sexist text messages, Peter Slipper, is not actually “a member of her [Julia Gillard’s] party”. He’s currently an independent, formerly a member of the opposition Coalition.

  18. victoria

    To understand why Gillard was speaking like that is what is important. She leads a minority government [after stabbing the elected prime minister in the back…and saying he had to go because he is a psycopath].She governs with the support of a minority party and some independants. The current trends show her party will be annihilated at the next election, and she is desperate to show opposition leader Tony Abbott in the worst possible light.That is why she persists with the line he ‘hates women’. He has three successful daughters, a loving wife of 24 years, and many women on his staff. Gillard has imported a Scottish media man known for ‘dirt files’. She is desperate to keep the pressure up on Abbott so that the sleazy behaviour of former speaker Slipper is not looked at too closely. She has a past which is very interesting. [see Michael Smith News and Larry Pickering Post…you just won’t believe it].Her rant is understandable…she is fighting for her political life.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Since this post is all about the art of speaking, I must point out your post is 100% ad hominem, which is a fallacious form of argumentation.

      You have not laid a glove on Gillard. Have you said a single thing she said about Abbott’s allegedly sexist remarks are untrue? No and I suspect you won’t because you can’t. Gillard looks to have the goods on Abbott on this one.

    2. Glenn Condell

      ‘after stabbing the elected prime minister in the back’

      He stabbed himself in the back, a knife for each of the party heavyweights he pissed off in his short reign. Julia stuck by him longer than most; I wonder how long you would have copped him.

      ‘she is desperate to show opposition leader Tony Abbott in the worst possible light’

      A, that is part of her job description and B, he does a better job of that than anyone else. Apart from possibly Alan Jones.

      ‘She has a past which is very interesting. [see Michael Smith News and Larry Pickering Post…you just won’t believe it].’

      And unless proof is obtained you shouldn’t either. One of Julia’s other moments was when she knocked that on the head in a press con. Hey, it may be true, but you know what they say, put up or shut up.

      ‘Her rant is understandable…she is fighting for her political life.’

      My sense is she has ridden out the worst of it and emerged stronger. The Libs are mad if they don’t remove Abbott and install Turnbull, whose surprising dig at Jones the other day is another clear marker to where he might take the party if the dry ascendancy fails to beat the government. It may be Abbott who ends up fighting for his political life.

  19. Jo

    Fine words but this is a parliament so she will listen-to and she will be lectured-to every time the guy has the floor and chooses to do so.

    Posturing is easy; cold hard facts, not so much.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Again, ad hominem. This was a fine 15 minute speech and you have failed to dispute a single fact, so your empty harrumphing is tantamount to an admission of accuracy.

  20. citizen chump

    and how about this as a memorial to a nation’s intellectuals
    — Gore Vidal, Vonnegut, others, got zip from the U S Congress? – Mr Turnbull’s delivery is scrupulous and gets to the point and closes on point —
    — and this viewer is not bothered that he used some notes to stay on message —

    1. Glenn Condell

      Turnbull, the next Liberal leader if they have any sense, was Hughes’s nephew-in-law and apparently they were close. What a family – Hughes with Fatal Shore and Shock of the New, Turnbull dismantling British intelligence thru the Wright spy case, then making a motza in a merchant bank with Labor luminaries Neville Wran and Nick Whitlam, then inevitably he fell into conservative politics. As you do.

      Julia cops it for her voice but Malcolm is more wooden for mine. Still, it was heartfelt and that is more than I can say about any speech I’ve ever heard Abbott give.

  21. Max424

    I’ve long made the case that a Parliamentary system, even a really bad one, is way better than whatever you call our system –hell, the undemocratic makeup of the Senate alone makes this country the least democratic pseudo democracy in the history of semi-democracies.

    I’ve also, long made a case, that Parliament was vastly superior to KISS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a KISS hater (I consider Detroit Rock City a timeless classic), but regardless of what Whitey the Oppressor would have you believe, Parliament came first (with the make-up and the costuming), and man, could they jam. Here’s a sampling:

    Note: There was always a revolving shitload of people in band, but each member, new or old, invariably received an equal say.

    Just kidding. I have no idea if the inner political gears of Parliament spun in parliamentary fashion.

  22. McWatt

    Powerful. She appears to understand the maxim:

    “Catch-22 says they can do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”

  23. skylark

    My daughter is an AIDS/Gender consultant working in Rwanda, and she said they are talking about this speech there as well as in Zambia where she is working this week.

  24. skippy

    Maybe I should splain myself better.

    Tony Abbott & Julia Gillard Flirting

    Did Julia make political hay? Sureee nuff. Will it change anything, sadly no. FYI both party’s, both federal and states are selling the commons off and some where down the road, will privatize almost every thing. The ID polotics is just a form of finding what the constituency’s palate is like. Do they favor LIberal or Labourdor / waning Greens (Bobs exit) coalition.

    Skippy… BTW see:

    Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) president David Goodwin says the result was not affected by the recent loss of 14,000 Queensland public service positions.

    “Our research indicates the number of people who lost their jobs in the State Government is very small as a percentage of the overall workforce that wouldn’t account for that change,” he said.

    “That’s the private sector starting to move and big companies changing investment plans in the face of escalating costs.

    “We’re seeing mines pull back their activities and I think this is a bit of the response to changing investment plans.

    “The Australian dollar is held up and of course the Australian cost of doing business is escalating and that is seeing business shelving investment plans.”

    PS. I should not have to parse the above links to the informed readership here.

  25. skippy

    neoliberal reform

    Gillard pushes big business barrow

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard knew just who she was talking to when she gave her address to the Australian Industry Group’s annual dinner on October 25.

    The AIG and its affiliates represent more than 60,000 bosses, according to its website. This includes Veolia, the privatisation juggernaut.

    But just so she didn’t rustle too many feathers, Gillard spoke to them in the kind of arcane riddles she hoped only they could understand.

    Building on the promises she made to the biggest bosses in her address to the National Press Club on July 15, Gillard promised the manufacturing barons of the AIG that Labor had “a reform agenda to deliver” — one that no hung parliament, recalcitrant premier or populist opposition was going to stop it from making good.

    Kevin Rudd has resigned as Foreign Minister to battle for the Prime Ministership against the incumbent, Julia Gillard.

    Rudd is no Paul Keating, and Gillard is no Bob Hawke. When it comes to convincing us to buy the shit sandwich that is Labor Party neoliberalism both are, unlike Hawke and Keating, hopeless sales people.

    Here’s some of what I wrote the other day that still seems relevant.

    The battle between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd is a consequence of Labor’s degeneration, not its cause.

    This struggle between two neoliberal nobodies is not about policy.

    They agree on the fundamentals and general direction of Labor as a neoliberal party, reflected in the move over the last 30 years or so from being a capitalist workers’ party to a CAPITALIST workers’ party.

    Neither Gillard or Rudd offer alternative visions, different world views, about the way forward for Labor and the nation. Neither ever side with the working class.

    The battle is purely about electability, of perhaps, more realistically, about who has the best chance of avoiding a complete rout at the 2013 election.

    The ALP is no longer a social democratic party. Thirty years of neoliberalism have destroyed its membership, its support base and the quality of its parliamentarians.

    The battle between Gillard and Rudd is a fight over who is the best executioner to lead Labor.

    The electric chair or lethal injection are the choices facing the ALP in this ‘leadership’ struggle.

    There is another option for Labor. Ditch your neoliberalism and failed trickle down theories and fight for workers and their jobs and living standards against the bosses and their constant attacks on both. That way you might have a chance of surviving as a party of the working class.

    No-one in the ALP in Parliament stands for that.

    1. skippy

      Sorry all just driving the point home…

      Gillard’s response — her particular effort at the squaring of liberty with equality — is to suggest that in an age of globalisation, the emancipative purpose of the latter is to facilitate the former:

      “[T]oday our ethos of collective action must respond to individual needs and demands for choice and control … Australians want to make their own choices and control their own lives. But this can only happen if the power of collective action, in creating opportunity, sharing risk and not leaving any one behind, is joined to meaningful individual empowerment, joined to personal choices and control. This is our Labor mission today.”

      What is so striking about this analysis is the extent to which it reproduces an idea of the good life that seems inherently neoliberal as much as anything socially democratic. Counting how often a key term is used in a speech can be a crude tool, but in this case the word cloud precipitates a clear story. In Gillard’s rendering of Labor’s values, the word “society” is not mentioned once, while the word “choice” appears more than 20 times. There is no real sense of the communal as having a value beyond the fulfilment of self, or that the Labor Party’s abiding purpose should be more than just realising gain on the part of individuals.

      Despite Julia Gillard’s Support for Neoliberalism, Progressives in Australia Should Now Back Her

      Australia has a new Prime Minister after the bursting of the Rudd asset price bubble. As I stated long ago, when the Rudd bubble was in full flight, his leadership of the ALP was based on little else but his high poll numbers. These numbers were a bubble, I had argued, for Rudd was a leader distinctly lacking in substance.

      Mark Latham summed him up very well in his diaries.

      I had stated that the Rudd bubble might prove to be a dilemma for the ALP in the future. I had not expected that the bubble would burst so suddenly and with such force. If the property bubble, that the former PM has helped to sustain, bursts like the Rudd bubble then heaven help us.

      Julia Gillard has achieved the highest political office in the land by betraying her socialist beliefs and her core working class constituency. If she had not done either of these things during the course of her political career, rather than being PM, she would be organising the next Altona ALP chook raffle. Lindsay Tanner, who has done the same, was right to have characterised her as a “careerist”.

      In the Tanner lexicon no pejorative ranks higher.

      Although in media commentary much as been made of Gillard’s working class roots, this all should not be taken too seriously. Gillard has announced, loudly and clearly, her whole hearted support for neoliberalism and her dedication towards the further pursuit of neoliberal reforms.

      The Age reports newly minted PM Gillard as stating today that

      …“I give credit to the Labor giants Bob Hawke and Paul Keating as the architects of today’s modern prosperity,” she said.
      “I give credit to John Howard and Peter Costello for continuing these reforms,” she said…
      These remarks are truly amazing. The former socialist Gillard even has gone so far as to praise Howard and Costello for continuing and extending neoliberal reforms!! This is how low the ALP has sunk since Gough Whitlam took away the power of the organisational wing.

      If Gillard stays true to these comments then this change over will amount to what Keating would have called “embroidery.” Gillard might change the style and packaging of neoliberal Labor, but the essential commitment to neoliberalism, one of the defining features of the Rudd leadership, will continue to obtain.

      Skippy… Again apology’s for the spam, but it must be said… This is not the old labor party as pointed out above, its just “embroidery” and Glenn she will never support Assange, on any front, it would be in direct conflict with the currant foreign policy – slash – back stepping on her, and the party’s support for the wars.

      1. Aquifer

        So, skippy, if I have this right, Gillard is just Obama “down under” or Obama, Gillard “up top”?

        1. Nathanael

          Not really accurate at all. Australian politics really are very different from American politics.

          It’s true that ALP has definite neolib tendencies.

          But there’s a hammer and tongs fight over environmental issues going on in Australia right now (partly because Australia basically caught on fire last year due to global warming). The Greens are on one side, the Liberal/Nationals are on the other side, and ALP is… in the middle.

          Australia suffers from single-member district elections in the lower house (just like the US), which create a two-party system. But it has proportional representation for the UPPER house, which makes all the difference. This has been driving the political coalitions for years now.

          1. skippy


            I found this to be a cogent summery… see:

            There was a point, and even some gain to be had from the epic battles of Labor right and left — there is none to be had from the deranged vendettas of Labor’s rightoid fragments. The party now resembles Somalia, a realm of warlords, ancient hatreds and territorial grabs with only the external appearance of an ordered state. Personal sleaze is never a mere matter of individual failing — when the taking of perks and freebies has become compulsive and widespread, it marks the internal, moral, collapse of a whole movement.

            Worse than the right’s hacks has been its ideologues — those, such as Craig Emerson and Michael Costa, who have argued for a relentless push of laissez faire economics, far ahead of the Australian public’s appetite for it. Though Labor’s right places the blame solely on its accommodation with the Greens, the dismal polling of the Bligh government — which identified itself with a relentless campaign of privatisation — shows the obvious truth; when Labor abandons its heartland groups, they become free agents, and change their whole approach to politics, from fealty to fee-based, giving their vote to the higher bidder.

            Craig Emerson’s blast at Tony Abbott for making some noises about maintaining heavy industry — “he’s an unreconstructed protectionist!” — is either a piece of desperate sycophancy to News Limited or a genuine cri de coueur, or both, but in either case it ignores the obvious fact that many of Labor’s core supporters are “unreconstructed protectionists” as well. They never drank the Kool-Aid, and so they have not yet been indoctrinated with the idea that ‘protection’ is the worst thing in the world.

            In the vexed discussion of Labor’s estrangement from its base, and its cave-in to the inner-city “elites”, the party centre ignores the obvious fact that it is figures such as Emerson who are the true elitists, products of University economics departments wholly devoted to neoclassical ideology, and who look on the values of rank-and-file members, with arrogance and disdain.

            Indeed part of the problem for Labor is that figures such as Emerson and Costa would prefer to win the argument in the party and lose the election, than the reverse. Their commitment is to the idea and practice of neoliberal economics, and they see the party as a host body for those ideas to propagate through. When such policies deliver a relentless decline in Labor’s base, they blame the relatively marginal role of social issues politics associated with the Greens. Given all these factors we can say that Labor is not fit for purpose, and it seems prudent to work on the assumption that the rest of the ‘teens is Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s to lose (and if anyone can do that, it’s Abbott).


            Skippy… caveat Australian politics is always in flux, hence the underdog scrap. No were the underdogs…. No – were – the underdogs… your way ahead… roll eyes…

      2. David

        The thing about the Labor party is that as you know, there are three formal factions, right, left and centre and that the strengths of each change from state to state. Is there still much of a left faction ? I remember they dominated Victoria state politics, is this still true ?

        1. skippy

          @Aquifer… See if you can determine the visual clues and not just the kiss… there’s more idiosyncratic going on than just the PMs and POTUS interaction.

          David… In my and others opinion NO. Anne Henderson did a neoliberal – objectiveness pieces in the Sydney Institute Quarterly, Page 7 2011


          13 years of neoliberal governance on the back of an epic economic bubble has modified citizens minds. Its been a world wide push emanating out of america for a long time.

          Skippy… One of the biggest cases Stockholm Syndrome our species has ever seen IMO, my two cents.

  26. OMF

    Do we have a single politician in the US who could command attention for that long and deliver a blistering attack with so little in the way of props? I suspect this is one of the by products of the Commonwealth tradition of “question time,” in which government ministers have to deal with the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debates, while in the US, we have far more staging and far less real controversy in our political discourse.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that it is down to the physical setting of the parliament chamber.

    Deputies sit on bare benches, facing on another directly. They must shuffle in to seats not their own, to some extend jostle, they must stand up and debate their opponent who sits only feet away directly opposite them. There is an open floor, with little separating the benches, the speaker and staff sit at an end of the hall, not in the middle.

    It’s like a football match with no players, where the supporters are the ones playing the game. It a tougher place to debate, to make points, and to defend them. Good MPs consequently become very good at debating.

    I doubt the the PMs comments would have been permitted by the Speaker in the UK commons. The Australians obviously run their own chamber.

  27. Aquifer

    This whole thread has been rather interesting, i wanted to say amusing, but that would mean if anybody gave a rat’s ass about what i thought i might be forced to do a riff on THAT, which would actually be a perfect demonstration of what i found amusing ….

    In any case – One simple thing i would like to point out – Gillard had 15 minutes to riff – the formats we call “debate” have 2 minute or even 30 second limits – what could Gillard have said in that context? “I find offensive …” 3 times would have just about done it.

    What we call “debate” in this country is taking turns at seeing who can get off the best one liners – there is no opportunity for defining terms, developing context, exercising any rhetorical skills …

    The “opponents” do longer monologues outside these “debate” chambers, but there is no cross exam, no real rebuttal in these instances – we have to wait for the pundits to parse what was said at a time removed …

    What we need are Lincoln-Douglas type debates, instead we have Twitter style exchanges …

    Me thinks there may well be folks out there who could do a Gillard style thing in the US – but they are not valued by party “handlers”, nor ever really given a chance …

    I love real debates – was a HS debater – read Musgrave’s rules ….

    This thread wound up being a debate in itself – as such would have benefited from the development of a formal proposition – “Resolved – that Julia Gillard’s speech was a good example of effective rhetoric” or some such, then one could have swiftly pointed out that the discussion on whether men or women were actually discriminated against would have been ruled irrelevant ….

    That is not to say that i think a blog should adopt Musgrave, e. g. only to suggest that if we really want to talk “debate”, what passes for it these days, is so, by turns, unstructured/restricted as to, IMO, barely qualify in any recognizable sense ….

  28. Aquifer

    Hmmm, seems that comments are showing up in weird places – stuck in willy-nilly, out of sequence – just an observation …

  29. Lambert Strether

    It’s not about Gillard. IT’S ABOUT GILLARD’s SPEECH!!!

    Sorry to shout, but it’s important because public speaking is an important part of being able to do non-electoral politics, and anybody who is (a) afraid of public speaking (most people) (b) has something to say (increasingly many) and (c) wants to say it (ditto) can learn from it. See under Walmart, Occupations, carre rouge, fracking, etc., all of which require public speaking. If we do not wish to delegate all speaking to spokesholes and oldsters like myself who still know it when we see it, then we need to empower people to speak for themselves! That is the point of this post, not displays of expertise on the minutiae of Antipodean parliamentary maneuvering, interesting though those details actually are.

    * * *

    Readers, if any of you need to learn how to become a public speaker*, watching this YouTube and trying to learn from it will be a fine and inspiring introduction. Think of it this way: You’re Nuke LaLoosh; Gillard is Crash Davis:

    Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
    Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
    Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
    Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
    Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.

    Gillard’s speech is a glorified, glorious example of an identical process, except with a much more powerful toolkit; anaphora, e.g., as opposed to cliche.

    I should turn this into a post so people don’t miss the point any more.

    NOTE * Which we might define for our purpose as a speaker on public goods!!!!

    UPDATE Adding: WP’s recent suckitude on comments seems to have misplace this one in the thread; adding to my irritation is the fact that although it is last in time it is not last in sequence, so the continued shouting into the void will continue. Snarl.

    1. Aquifer

      With all due respect, Lambert, the TITLE of this piece was a question as to whether we could get Gillard to give DEBATE lessons, so it seems to me that a discussion of what “debate” is is precisely on point ….

      You are correct that we need more and better public speakers – but we also need better debaters – not necessarily the same thing; the latter need to be the former, but the former not necessarily the latter … The reason the terms are important is that they impose some discipline on the speaker – without which one can ramble on forever – The reason, i suggest, that her speech is so good is that she has mastered and internalized “the rules” and the discipline to the point where they are not obvious …

      The twitterization of discourse, IMO, is one of the best tools for dumbing down everything and everybody ….She is good because she is given TIME to be good and knew how to use it …

      Chomsky once said that one of the reasons he wasn’t invited on more TV shows was his lack of “concision” … he might well not be a good debater, because he could get bogged down in detail – a temptation succumbed to by much of the left i have heard – BUT, my gawd, ISTM it requires more than political haiku to make a point to a broad audience … We must insist on more time and not more Twitter ….

      1. ebear

        “The twitterization of discourse, IMO, is one of the best tools for dumbing down everything and everybody”

        Twitter was never meant to be a debating tool. This forum could be, except it’s run by a couple of dilettantes who quickly move on whenever someone poses an uncomfortable question.

        1. Aquifer

          no, perhaps Twitter was not intended that way, but as more and more folks express themselves more and more often in that format, ISTM that it achieves a normative status – and the “unintended” consequence is that we all begin to think, if not as, at least in terms of, twits ……

    2. Glenn Condell

      ‘That is the point of this post, not displays of expertise on the minutiae of Antipodean parliamentary maneuvering, interesting though those details actually are.’

      Well y’know, sorry. But we are starved of prominent fora in which to have discussions like this. The sphere here is either wingnut or the sort of prog blog where you are a rape apologist if you express any concern for Assange and what our sovereignty actually amounts to if he continues to be abandoned.

  30. skippy

    Thunder from down under…

    Skippy… Sonny & Cher The Beat Goes On… and Cher was human at one point in her life!

  31. Birch

    They’ve been playing the juicier parts of this speech on CBC national news in Canada for a couple days. Right on!

      1. Francois T

        You got it!
        Good performances sell. Here, they ought to hype a performance to make people believe it’s good.

  32. Capo Regime

    Oh my Ives and Lambert, never before have so many posters missed the friggin point. Yeesh. guess this explains why the typical american politician cannot speak for more than 2 minutes without a script–there is simply no demand for it. Based on living in D.C. for 30+years and confirmed by these posters you can bring in Churchil, Pericles and Diocletian back to life and conversant in English and it would be a true case of pearls before the swine. As an aside–Mario Coumo was probably the best extemporaneous speaker in politics and close second would be Reagan–he used index cards with concepts never a teleprompter or read a speech Parliamentary systems tend to bring better politicains–lived in Oz and EU and have to say compared to the typical backbencher the typical member of u.s congress appears retarded.

  33. sk

    Sure, she is firing very effectively and keeping boys in blue ties nailed to chair just the way they deserve.

    I would have liked her to show same kind of boldness in resisting blackmail by the U.S. authorities and protecting and standing with Australian Julian Assange of Wikileak. Instead, she, along with rest of the Australian government, caved in and shamefully betrayed and abandoned its own citizen.

  34. Francois T

    Obama can count himself very lucky that he had to debate Rmoney instead of Gillard.

    Even better, imagine JG publicly quartering Rick Santorum on his 13th century positions on women.

    Truth be told, JG would’ve kicked the sorry softie keisters of each and every clown in the Reichpubliscum filed of candidates this year.

  35. Mark K

    It’s a joke that you’ve posted this. Gillard is a laughing stock in this country.

    To prove your point about debating skills from parliamentary systems you could have drawn upon any session in Australia from the last few decades. Why not Keating, Hawke; or Whitlam’s classic “Well may we say God save the Queen…”

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