Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dear Julia, Thanks for your leadership, and example.

"If there is something I hope I have done for the image of women in public life is that we can go into an adversarial environment like parliament and we can dominate it and conquer it."

Dear Julia,

Polls, parties and politics aside, thank you for your inspirational and epoch making leadership as Prime Minister. Six years ago when you first became Deputy Leader I wrote to you confidently predicting you would be the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Who could have predicted how that would come about, and how incredibly difficult a period this would become?

Throughout it all I have been a strong supporter of yours, and remain so today. You have been the most inspirational, ground-breaking, and personally principled leader in the ALP for many years. Not since Paul Keating have I been so impressed, not by policies or vision, but by character, courage and personal integrity.

I well remember sitting in the gallery with my three daughters watching you in the Senate chamber when Workchoices was voted down. Your joy in this achievement was a solid example of the value of politics in making a positive difference in peoples lives. I was delighted that they got to see you and Penny Wong congratulating each other.

Your achievements in the Gonski Education reforms, and in resurrecting the Government's direction and purpose when you became leader neatly bookend an all too short period in power, but one with a record of policy achievement that will in time be recognised as outstanding. That Gonski was finally legislated today, before the spill, is a tribute to your determination and drive to improve this nation and iconic of your focus on achievement no matter how hard the road may be personally.  An enduring legacy will be the results of the Royal Commission on Child Abuse. This will address a wound in the nation's psyche that no Australian leader has had the courage to address.

Your consummate political skill in 'the art of the possible' when establishing a minority government while Tony Abbott spluttered and fumed in his anger at the electorate for not handing him a clear victory was not only a deeply satisfying moment for me in seeing the Tories outdone, but also a lesson I could pass on to my daughters on the importance of being decisive, purposeful and focussed on your goals when opportunities come along. That you were in this position because of spiteful, petulant behaviour by ALP people who leaked information to damage you personally is shameful, but also a lesson on how far there is for the party to go in dealing with women in power.

Beyond personal style, personal animosities or factional positions I firmly believe that the extraordinary character of the endless smearing, shaming (attempted), and vile personal attacks on you are rooted in a deep fear of female power and a knee-jerk Australian misogyny that is so embedded in the culture it will take many years to uproot. You, however, have done far more than any one person could be reasonably expected to do in fighting this form of social malaise. 

When you made your famous 15 minute 'I will not be lectured on misogyny' speech I was in America, and so out of the reach of Australian media reaction, which was clearly shameful and testosterone driven. What was even more gratifying was the way in which that speech was so inspiring to women and girls around the world. That YouTube video had more watchers than any other political speech of any length anywhere in the world. The reaction of people in America and Canada who I met was not only strongly supportive, but also deeply impressed at your anger, passion, clarity of thought and self-control. It made me very proud that your sterling qualities, your world-class capabilities were recognised by people outside the Australian context.

I think you would do well to consider traveling outside Australia to lecture on feminism, pragmatism and politics. I am certain you would be well-received. It's also important to keep in mind that this country is very small, and very narrow minded. You may well have outgrown it. Certainly you have the talent, the record of achievement and the time to consider other ways to make a difference in the world.

It will be interesting to see whether the current determined mass media campaign against the government will continue in its current vein, given the change in leadership. I suspect that those who own and run the media will continue to fight the facts and focus on installing a Tory government no matter what.

Whatever the case, you have my thanks and my admiration. I haven't always agreed with your policy choices, but your personal qualities have always impressed me. You will always be a role model for my daughters. Your example to them both in grace under pressure, and in strength of character under the most appalling personal vilification will be a powerful memory for them and a solid reminder that there is much left to do in this country and around the world in putting women's rights, talents and opportunities in the forefront of social change and advancement.

You will always have my respect, admiration and support.

Best regards, Lee Kear

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