Tough warrior sheds not a tear in brisk farewell

TONY WRIGHT
Last updated 07:39 27/06/2013
Julia Gillard.
Reuters
OUSTED: Julia Gillard addresses the media after losing the Australian Labor Party leadership ballot.

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Julia Gillard was, declared her outgoing deputy Wayne Swan, "one of the toughest warriors who have ever led the Australian Labor Party".

Watching Ms Gillard present her last press conference as Prime Minister, few would have much argument with Swan's assessment.

There was to be no long Ruddesque farewell speech for Julia Gillard. Three years ago, when Ms Gillard took the prime ministership, the vanquished Mr Rudd stood for near on half an hour in his courtyard, struggling to speak, tears in eyes, his family huddled about him.

Not Ms Gillard.

She stood alone before the gathered media in her press conference room, listed briskly the achievements of which she was most proud, declared her gender meant neither everything nor nothing about her prime ministership, thanked her staff, her partner Tim Mathieson, the Australian Federal Police who had protected her, offered that she would be "the most meddlesome great-aunt in history" to a new family arrival ... and she was gone.

Ms Gillard pressed down the emotion that threatened a couple of times to well up; her eyes grew no more than the merest hint of moist.

She spoke of those colleagues who had stood by her when others reading the polls judged that there was nothing for her but to resign and allowed that finally, on Wednesday, the pressure had become too much for others.

But "don't lack the guts and the fortitude" to take Labor's principles forward, she lectured the colleagues who will soon be ex-colleagues.

Ms Gillard congratulated Kevin Rudd and said she had written to the Governor-General, asking that Mr Rudd be commissioned as Prime Minister.

She would not re-contest her Melbourne seat of Lawler at the next election, meeting the promise she had made earlier in the day when she laid down the gauntlet to Mr Rudd.

She would visit the electorate soon to say hello and goodbye, but did not offer any plans post-goodbye.

Ms Gillard admitted she had faced the twin difficulties of minority government and internal divisions within her own party.

But she did not dwell on the negatives.

She wanted all to know she was proud of introducing the National Disability Insurance Scheme; of putting a price on carbon, having stared down a massive scare campaign; of introducing education reforms that so far would embrace 60 per cent of Australian schoolchildren; of establishing a royal commission on the sexual abuse of children that would change Australia forever.

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She found pride, too, in strengthening the alliance with the US while also taking large strides in the relationship with China.

She mentioned the pleasure of getting to know Australia's Defence Force personnel, and spoke of the sorrow of attending 24 funerals of Australians who had died while serving in Afghanistan.

Ms Gillard said much had been made of the so-called gender wars, but she knew that her experiences as Australia's first female prime minister would make it easier for the next woman to take the job, and easier still for the next.

Politicians, she said, weren't fashionable in Australia, but they all worked incredibly hard, and she singled out Mr Swan, her deputy, for special praise for his fortitude and support.

Ms Gillard took no questions. She'd said her piece. And that was all.

-The Age

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