Prime Minister Julia Gillard has appeared at the Woodford Folk Festival with her Labor predecessor Bob Hawke.
Gillard told the gathering that the “big decisions” made by her government “would have been effectively the same” even if the government had not operated in a minority.
She said that she wanted to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme on July 1st and deliver “further education reforms” before “we get around to winning that election”.
- Listen to Gillard and Hawke at Woodford (42m)
Gillard said she was an “incredible optimist” and cited her own life story as one that “instills a sense of optimism in me”. She said that “it says something wonderful about this place” that she could come to Australia aged 4 and become the first female prime minister. “Why wouldn’t you be optimistic about the future?”
Bob Hawke said that no predecessor or successor of his “has had as much difficulty with the processes of politics” as Gillard has. Despite not controlling the numbers, “the legislative record of this government is quite remarkable,” he said.
Hawke said that Gillard had been subject “to some unfair criticism because she’s a woman”.
There were cheers from the crowd when Gillard referred to her misogyny speech. She said one upside to her experience was talking to girls about going into politics. She told the story of a woman who told her young son that he could become PM, only to be told by the boy: “No, mum, you need to be a girl to do that.”
Gillard said the “endless carry-on” about her dress and the attention on her private life worried her at times because girls might ask “why would you put yourself through that”.
Hawke, a regular visitor at the Sunshine Coast festival, lamented the “inadequacy of political leadership” overseas, particularly in Europe. He said this is the first time since the end of World War II that “there hasn’t been at least one outstanding political leader out there”. People of talent were not going into politics, said Hawke, partly because of the “increasing intrusiveness of the media into the private lives of politicians”.
Gillard said it was important to know where you want to go and to understand the mechanics of how to get there. “The mechanics down in the engine room can be mucky and not very edifying…and we’ve seen a negative approach taken to politics… but the day-to-day wrestling, pushing and pulling is about a more important purpose to create opportunity for our children.”
On the issue of climate change, Hawke was at pains to stress that there are fundamental differences between the Labor and coalition parties. There are people on the other side, he said, “who deny the reality”.
Hawke said it was important not to be frightened of change, since “the world’s history is one of change”, but that this highlighted the “fundamental importance of education”.
There was some heckling from the Woodford crowd during the joint appearance by Gillard and Hawke. One woman interjected about mandatory detention. Another called out, “ask her a real question”, but the crowd was generally good-natured.
At one point, someone called out, “sing a song, Julia”, to which Gillard said that for some reason the Gillards “are the only non-singing Welsh people on the planet”.
Gillard and Hawke were questioned by the festival organiser, Bill Hauritz. They did not take questions.
Opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull spoke at Woodford earlier this week.
- Watch Gillard and Hawke (1m)