Phillip Coorey April 03, 2012
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox
THE United States Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, has diplomatically declined to take sides in the running joke between Julia Gillard and Barack Obama about who has had to overcome more to get to where they are.
At a private function last week, Ms Gillard regaled the audience with a joke she and the President sometimes share when they discuss various prejudices they experience.
''I tell him, 'You think it's tough being African-American? Try being me','' Ms Gillard recounted. ''Try being an atheist, childless, single woman as prime minister.''
Yesterday Mr Bleich said: ''I don't make those sort of comparisons. It sounds like '[Is] the rock as heavy as the rope is long?' So I'll just leave it at that."
Speaking at the fundraiser in Sydney on Thursday night, there was an edge to Ms Gillard's use of the anecdote. It was part of a defiant speech in which she urged people not to give up on her government, despite its poor standing in the polls and the recent wipeout in Queensland.
Ms Gillard said it had been ''impossible to explain'' how she had become prime minister, won the last election, formed a minority government with conservative independents and ushered through such reforms as the price on carbon. She argued that because conventional political wisdom had not applied so far, it should not be used to predict the future.
The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, backed Ms Gillard yesterday
He acknowledged that her being unmarried, childless and an atheist was a negative ''in the eyes of some voters'', especially those of strong Christian belief.
Dr Emerson said that in the end voters would ''reward leadership which has an eye to the future rather than an eye to the opinion polls''.
''What they don't respect is somebody who rolls out of bed every Monday or Tuesday, checks the opinion polls - like the weather vane that Tony Abbott has described himself as - and then changes their position.''
The fundraising dinner was attended by cabinet ministers. The Minister for Employment, Bill Shorten, was the master of ceremonies and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, introduced Ms Gillard.
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