Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has lamented the Americanization of politics down under and compared her treatment by some opponents to that of the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama.
In a lengthy press conference on Thursday, the Prime Minister addressed allegations that have been swirling around for years and which she apparently thought had been put behind her, but which resurfaced in The Australian, a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd / News Corp. In addition, she had some biting observations on the state of Australian -- and American -- politics.
According to the PM:
For a number of months now there has been a smear campaign circulating on the Internet relating to events 17 years ago. Much of the material in circulation is highly sexist. I had taken the view over time that I would not dignify these accusations, and the people who make them, with a response.
In recent days we have seen some of this kind of material reported more generally in the mainstream media. I had taken the view over the past few days that given no new assertions of any worth have been made that I should not dignify this campaign response with a campaign either. However, this morning something changed on that.
The Australian newspaper republished a false and highly defamatory claim about my conduct in relation to these matters 17 years ago. It is a claim about me setting up a trust fund. A claim was first published by News Limited in relation to me and funds during the election campaign in 2007. On that occasion, the claim was retracted and apologized for...Despite these events, a similar claim has been recirculated by The Australian newspaper today. People may already have seen that the claim has been retracted and apologized for, and that retraction and apology appears on The Australian website, as I understand it on all News Limited websites.
In these circumstance where I am seeing recycled again false and defamatory material attacking my character. I have determined that I will deal with these issues...
Ms. Gillard then went on to answer questions about the trust fund allegations. Near the end of the press conference she had this to say about the world of politics today:
Will the misogynists and the nut jobs on the Internet continue to circulate them? Yes they will. And it wouldn't matter what I said, and it wouldn't matter what documents were produced, and it wouldn't matter what anybody else said, they will pursue these claims for motivations of their own, which are malicious and not in any way associated with the facts...
...So this is not reasoned, it's not facts, it's not anything to do with any of those things. It's to do with, you know, this sort of Americanization of our politics, this eccentric, lunar-right Tea Party style interventions that we're seeing in our politics, and there's nothing that a person of reason can do to deal with it. The best thing I think you can do is just ignore it, because I suspect giving it any attention gives them some satisfaction...
...It does worry me that we live in an age where a number of years later people in America can be wandering around saying 'President Obama wasn't born in America and did you know he's a Muslim.' Yes, it does worry me that that's where politics has got to, that things that are demonstrably untrue, indeed absurd, are circulated and recirculated and recirculated and somehow, at least in some section of the population, manage to worm their way to become the orthodoxy.
Larry Pickering, an Australian blogger and cartoonist, was the only 'misogynist nutjob' mentioned by name. If you're wondering why he was singled out, perhaps these links will shed some light on the matter -- be careful, NSFW:
Here is a link to a video of the full press conference: Gillard blasts 'misogynists and nut jobs'
Below is an Australian news report on the Prime Minister's press conference.