19 Nov 2014

Gillard continues push against sexism

9:16 am on 19 November 2014

Former Australian Prime Minster Julia Gillard steered clear of New Zealand politics in an address in Auckland last night, but continued her push for better treatment of women.

Julia Gillard speaks at the University of Auckland.

Julia Gillard speaks at the University of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Almost 600 people - a sellout crowd - came to hear her thoughts and insights post-politics at the University of Auckland as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.

Ms Gillard spoke for about an hour about her time in Canberra, as outlined in her book My Story.

She said she never used to aspire to be Prime Minister.

"Even when I went into Parliament I would have said my ambition was to be a Minister in a long-term Labor government, so my career has given me more than I expected and perhaps in quite unusual ways."

Ms Gillard was Australia's first female Labor leader and Prime Minister, and much of her talked centred on her own treatment as a female leader as well as what is experienced by other women.

"People don't like what they perceive to be ruthlessness or ambition in a woman, I think that gets judged differently," she said.

A key event in Julia Gillard's prime ministership was a powerful, almost 15 minute grilling of Tony Abbott in Parliament in 2012, who was then in Opposition.

She went into Question Time preparing to be "skewered" over her support of controversial politician Peter Slipper, before he quit as Speaker over revelations about offensive text messages.

Julia Gillard told her Auckland audience she was enveloped by anger and had asked her staff " to get together Tony Abbott's top 10 most sexist statements".

She hopes the focus on the appearance of female leaders will change, and said it would happen when there are more women in leadership.

Ms Gillard said focusing on appearances wastes time and was something she resented.

The "1961 kids"

Julia Gillard made hardly any mention of politics in New Zealand, but did reiterate why she believed she had a good relationship with John Key.

"I talk in the book about the 1961 kids - And by that I mean me, John Key and President Obama because we were all born in 1961, clearly a good year. There was a good friendship between each of us and the three of us."

She said she easily "spoke the language" of John Key and Barack Obama.

Ms Gillard was earlier asked what she made of the New Zealand Labour Party's efforts to have a better gender balance of Members of Parliament, but had a diplomatic response.

'I'm trying to stay out of even my own domestic politics, there is no way I am cantering into the middle of yours," she said.

Copies of the book "My Story" written by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Copies of the book "My Story" written by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

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