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A week since Julia Gillard’s Government was returned to Kevin Rudd, and one could be mistaken for thinking he had never left, how deftly he picked up the reins of resumed power.
However, the daily homages spread across the cover of The Courier Mail, the pro-Labor spikes in the polls and the powerful sense of redemption felt strongly throughout the public who finally have the people’s leader back in the seat of power go to show that things have, in fact, changed.
The stakes of the leadership ballot this time around were quite a bit higher and have resulted in Ms Gillard’s retirement from politics. Among her achievements, the most publically discussed being the NDIS and Gonski, she also drew much needed attention to the role of women, not only in politics, but in our society in general.
Her very last act as Prime Minister was to slash the cost of the abortion pill RU486, originally $800, to as little as $12 for concession card holders, and $70 for women who aren’t eligible for concession.
Given the nature of this subject, this legislation was inherently controversial, however many commentators have noted what a brave step forward it is for more women to be able to afford the highly restricted pill (the Rudd government has gone on to offer a 24-hour hotline for women who are concerned about any symptoms they are experiencing after undergoing medical abortions).
This was the last act of pro-women leadership in her legacy of drawing attention to the Feminism discussion. Unfortunately, a position that many in the Australian public felt was obtained unjustly was only compounded by the fact that as much as we like to think we are an evolved race of accepting and rational human beings, we did not practice what many of us preached.
This was evident in the disrespect shown to her by the opposition, the slurs thrown around by the Australian public that were subjective to her as a woman (and that male Prime Ministers have never had to contend with). It was further demonstrated by reporters approaching her not as the leader of a country, but as the female leader of a country – clearly Australia was very, very unprepared for a female Prime Minister.
It is difficult to say whether, had she been voted to leadership by an election of the people, she would have commanded more respect, however there is little doubt that history will look back on her leadership fondly.