Australian prime minister accuses opposition leader of sexism

Julia Gillard's speech questioned after speaker resigns

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is making headlines after she lashed out at opposition leader Tony Abbott, calling him sexist and misogynist during an impassioned speech in Parliament.

According to The Herald Sun, Gillard launched into her tirade after Abbott questioned the prime minister’s appointment of speaker Peter Slipper, who has been at the centre of a scandal after he was found to have sent a text message to a former staffer, comparing women’s genitalia to mussels.

“I say to the leader of the opposition, I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man,” Gillard said. “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion, he just needs to look in the mirror.”

Gillard went on to say that Abbott should be the one ready to resign for his history of sexist remarks and actions.

In her speech, Gillard, who is the country’s first female prime minister, said that she has been personally offended by the opposition leaders’ actions. She cited examples, saying Abbott told her to “make an honest woman of herself” and that he stood beside protesters outside of Parliament, who were holding signs that said “ditch the witch” and another one that described her as a “bitch.”

Slipper later resigned for his actions, leading pundits to ask why Gillard went to so much effort to defend a speaker whose actions were deplorable in the first place. An excerpt from The Australian editorial reads: “Yet, undignified as the manner of his departure may have been, Mr. Slipper yesterday showed better judgment than Julia Gillard, who just four hours earlier was defending the indefensible by backing him to the hilt.”

Gillard’s speech seems to show a double standard, writes Sydney Morning Herald political editor Peter Hartcher. “The moment Gillard rose to defend Slipper and keep him in office, she chose to defend the indefensible, to excuse the inexcusable. The government had spent a month vilifying Tony Abbott for having ‘a problem with women.’ But when one of the bulwarks of the government was exposed as having a problem with women, it was suddenly acceptable.”