‘Trailing clouds of glory’ is so apt for Julia Gillard AC’s post-prime ministerial career. This month the apolitical.co blog for the global public service published its 100 most influential fighters for women’s equality. In fourth place was young Malala Yousafzai. Islamists shot her in the head for advocating girls’ education. Gillard ranked ahead in third place.
Why No 3? Because in office, says apolitical, Gillard was an ‘outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – cue her anti-misogyny speech of 2012. Plus last April she became the inaugural chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College, London. Creating it was her own idea. She’s only been chair for a couple of months so bouquets seem premature. Kings College blurbed, ‘While in office, she became widely known as an outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – that speech again.
Gillard is with New York’s Harry Walker Agency, the ‘world’s leading speakers bureau’, fee on application. She’s done at least ten gigs, including for an Emirates outfit. (Emirates’ penal code endorses wife-beating providing you don’t leave marks). The bureau’s site includes: ‘Gillard’s prominence as an internationally celebrated feminist was solidified following her now-viral 2012 Parliament speech on misogyny’.
Her most important job has been chair since 2014 of the multilateral Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Her GPE biography includes, ‘In October 2012, Ms Gillard received worldwide attention for her speech in parliament on the treatment of women in professional and public life.’
Gillard, we learn, ‘successfully managed Australia’s economy during the global economic crises’, although she didn’t become PM till 2010, three years after the GFC hit. Gillard also ‘reformed Australia’s education at every level from early childhood to university’. Meanwhile we slip below Kazakhstan for secondary maths/science.
But back to that misogyny speech: Gillard was orating in defence of her Speaker, Peter Slipper, a Liberal party defector. Tony Abbott moved no-confidence over Slipper’s lurid text-messaging.
Here’s one text about women’s genitals (Trigger-warning – highly offensive): They look like a mussel removed from its shell. Look at a bottle of mussel meat! Salty c—s in brine! Gillard’s Scottish media manager John McTernan, who wrote the speech, was prone to sexism himself. During a disagreement with one of his staffers, he emailed office-wide, “C—-, you will be c—ed too’. (Pre-Gillard he’d been ‘Thinker in Residence’ for SA’s Labor Premier Mike Rann).
Gillard mid-oration suggested that Abbott’s looking at his watch showed that cad’s misogyny. The Global Partnership that Gillard chairs has allocated $US368m to Ethiopia, where 92 per cent of Muslim girls are genitally mutilated with knives and razors – and some sewn up. GPE says more education for girls correlates with less mutilation. It seems a slow remedy.
Gillard crusaded for Hillary Clinton’s re-election without any disclaimer as GPE chair. Clinton got videos made in 2015 of Gillard extolling her virtues and dissing her front-running opponent Trump. When I inquired, GPE assured me: ‘GPE is a firmly non-partisan and apolitical partnership working with all governments to ensure that children have access to a quality education.’ (GPE’s emphasis). The board reappointed her in early 2016 for a further three years, praising her good work. In May, Gillard squired Clinton round the Melbourne-Sydney speech market, a Trump-bashing exercise. Lacking a $195 ticket, I don’t know if Gillard disclaimed her GPE non-partisan role.
Gillard has been GPE’s white-haired girl (make that red-haired) since 2011 when she bailed GPE out of a funding hole with $270m courtesy of taxpayers. Traditional donors the Netherlands and Spain dumped GPE. (GPE says they’re back but only 1.5m euros cash so far). Norway had complained that GPE couldn’t manage its key documents, with staff running around on fruitless searches. Our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in 2012 rated GPE as ‘weak’ on demonstrable results. Julie Bishop has shovelled a further $230m to GPE, no questions asked.
But Britain makes its donations severely contingent on improved GPE performance. Our DFAT’s favorable GPE appraisal last May showed none of the hard scrutiny given by the Norwegians, Dutch and British.
In April last year Bangladesh tested Gillard’s diplomatic skills by welshing on its education spending. Bangladesh’s Mass Education Secretary is on the GPE board, so the problem was inside the tent.
GPE gave Bangladesh $US100m for 2011-17, conditional on raising education towards 20 per cent of its budget. By the 2017-18 deadline, the share was at a derisory 12.6 per cent and Bangladesh had only spent $US20m of the $US100m.
Gillard, styled ‘Her Excellency’, and CEO Alice Albright (daughter of Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madelaine) formed a tag team to bounce the Bangladesh finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith. Gillard warned him that his pledge for 20 per cent for education ‘is one of the key elements of the GPE replenishment this year  and a critical condition for access to the next grant.’ He had already been warned that ‘if the existing 12.6 per cent does not show improvement, it is highly likely that the GPE Board will not consider the domestic finance requirement met if Bangladesh fails to indicate an upward trend toward 20 per cent.’ Gillard and Albright carped that spending of GPE’s funds had ‘stagnated’ so badly that the country would miss the spending deadline.
Gillard warned of sanctions including clawing back unspent money unless the World Bank (GPE’s agent) could re-allocate the money in the country. The dispute was listed six months ago as ‘on-going’. GPE told me – strangely – that there had been ‘no dispute’ about the $US100m grant; the affair was just a due diligence process.
Conclusion: How nobler Gillard seems on the world stage than when, say, in 2012 her security had to physically rescue her, Mrs Petrova-style, from an indigenous riot outside a Canberra restaurant, a riot engineered by her own staffer.
Gillard at Kings College claimed that ‘it will take over 200 years until women have the same pay and job opportunities as men.’ In 2011 lucky NSW people had a Legislative Council president Amanda Fazio, a premier Kristina Keneally, a prime minister Julia Gillard, and a governor-general Quentin Bryce.