Julia Gillard has revealed in a TV interview why she was against same-sex marriage when she was Prime Minister and how she was ‘incredibly wrong’ at the time.
But the former Labor prime minister forgot about the alleged role of a powerful Conservative trade union in her decision.
It has been 11 years since the then Prime Minister was one of 98 MPs to vote against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Ms Gillard said at the time that she believed in the ‘traditional’ meaning of the union between a man and a woman.
Ms Gillard coped with strong public backlash and was later surprised when a candid six-year-old boy asked at a public forum in Sydney why she wouldn’t allow gays to marry.
Ten years after being put on the spot by the boy during the Q&A-style forum, she explained why her point of view changed in an insightful one-on-one interview with actor David Wenham that aired Tuesday night on the ABC.
Julia Gillard voted for same-sex marriage laws five years after she opposed a private member’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage
Asked if she felt obligated to play politics with the issue, Ms Gillard replied: ‘I wouldn’t use the word ‘obligate’, but it was a political matter, because it was about what Parliament was prepared to do. ‘
“I mean, I think the sense of same-sex marriage and marriage equality is a reformation whose time had come, but it didn’t happen in a moment. It happened over years and I was prime minister during that process.
And for me, as a feminist, I always wanted us to have a deeper debate about the role of marriage. I thought maybe now was the time for the deeper debate.’
“I misunderstood that, you know? Incredibly misunderstood and am very happy to say so.”
Ms Gillard explained why her position on the controversial issue changed after she was voted out.
“As the campaign for change got stronger and stronger and it became clear that the only debate to be had was about marriage equality, I was very happy to support marriage equality,” she said.
However, it was not mentioned in the interview whether Ms. Gillard’s opposition to same-sex marriage was related to the support of a powerful conservative trade union at the time, the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association (SDA).
Ms Gillard has previously denied that her stance was about support from the ‘Shoppies’ union as she clung to power. However, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that top Labor insiders had ‘no doubt’ that this was the reason.
The former prime minister (pictured) explained in a candid interview why her views on legalizing same-sex marriage changed
Either way, Ms. Gillard was soon inundated with viewer praise for her candid confession on TV.
‘I try to think of other politicians who have said ‘I’m wrong’. Very gracious and honest,” one of them tweeted.
Another added: ‘Julia showed dignity, grace, charm and a sense of fun. An outstanding feminist who left priceless legacies from her time as Prime Minister.’
Elsewhere in the interview, Ms Gillard reflected on her infamous misogyny speech against then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in parliament in 2012, which went viral worldwide.
“I didn’t create the opportunity. The politics of the time created the opportunity because it was about sexism and about a scandal involving the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper,’ Mrs Gillard recalled.
“But I knew the opposition would use that scandal as a weapon to accuse me of hypocrisy about sexism. And I think it was that kind of reverse play that made me think, ‘Oh my God,’ you know? For God’s sake, why the hell are we in this position?
“I mean, I just can’t believe that after all they’ve done, they’re now trying to use this against me.”
“And so I think it was that jittery frustration that came out in the speech.”
Ms Gillard was later “a little outraged” that the speech defined her three-year stint as prime minister rather than her work in introducing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and education reforms.
She has since come to the conclusion that the speech will be part of her legacy.
Julia Gillard remains famous for her blistering speech in parliament on misogyny in 2012 (pictured)
“For a while it was all everyone was talking about in terms of my tenure,” Ms Gillard recalled.
“But I’m really at peace with it now, because most of the leaders aren’t remembered, because that’s the truth. They certainly don’t get much international recognition.
“So now, as I spend a good part of my life abroad and people talk to me about that speech, it’s pretty much all they know about Australian politics.”
Ms Gillard remains the first and only Australian woman to have served as prime minister, prompting her to reflect on the challenges she and her female colleagues faced in parliament.
“We proved we could be great backbenchers, then proved we could be great shadow ministers and then proved we could be, you know, cabinet ministers in government and it went on and on,” she said.
‘Until women have answered that ‘women can do it?’ question – which people don’t articulate but they certainly think – until you’ve answered that one, you don’t get the liberty to say, ‘And now, let’s change the environment and make it really different.'”
“And I think we’re at that stage now and that’s a great stage to be in.”
Julia Gilliard (pictured in 2012) remains Australia’s first and only female prime minister