Moments after Julia Gillard’s downfall was announced I took a call from Jason Morrison, live on Radio 2UE. Virtually levitating with glee, the phone in one hand and a flute of ice-cold Moët in the other, I relayed ‘wild scenes of jubilation in this household — we’re practically dancing on the tables!’ Later, as we watched Gillard’s concession speech over cheese and an exceptional Pinot Noir, my fiancé Peter raised his glass and said: ‘Darling, I am so pleased for you and all your weirdo mates, congratulations! But you’ve done enough. Now perhaps you can step back from public life?’
For a nobody like me, Janet Albrechtsen of the Australian newspaper was surprisingly easy to contact. I called in May 2007 to explain that as the owner of an industrial relations business I was worried no one understood the implications of Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations policy. Ms Albrechtsen encouraged me to submit an opinion piece, and to my complete astonishment it was published. A month later, without invitation, I sent a second piece to Tom Switzer, who was then opinion editor of the Australian. The next morning, half-asleep and staggering about in my dressing gown with über-strong coffee in hand, I picked up the glad-wrapped newspaper from my gravel driveway. On the front page was a dreadfully unflattering picture of my face, with ‘Opinion — what Rudd owes to the unions’ emblazoned next to it. I fell backwards into my clipped box hedge and shattered my favourite mauve and white striped Limoges beaker.
Later that week, my best friend Ginger and I found ourselves ransacking the kitchen of a gauche canal-front Gold Coast mansion searching for proper crystal champagne flutes, concerned that drinking Veuve out of plastic glasses might be a tad tacky. You have to draw the line somewhere. As we collapsed to sun ourselves on gold recliners, a call came on my mobile from a union official I worked with in the late Nineties. He wasn’t happy. He referred to the two pieces of mine that had appeared in (shock horror!) the Australian in a tone so serious I excused myself from poolside. I returned within minutes, flopping down in a huff. ‘Why were you laughing so loudly on the phone?’ Ginger asked. I peered at her over my blue aviator Ray-Bans. ‘Julia Gillard’s office wants me to know that if I write any more articles I will never get any more government consulting work,’ I said. There was a moment’s silence. ‘What are you going to do?’ enquired Ginger. I raised my crystal flute and took a long, slow sip. ‘Keep going until I get my own column in a national newspaper, I suppose,’ I finally answered, settling back into my recliner. Behind the calm exterior I was seething; just who did these uppity politicians think they were dealing with, some pathetic schmuck?
As a result of being constantly abused as a leftie and a commie when I was a union official, I have an aversion to ideology, dogma and labels. So when I reluctantly accepted Jonathan Green’s invitation to be interviewed on Radio National recently as to why Julia Gillard was being treated disrespectfully, I did so on condition I wouldn’t be introduced as a ‘right-winger’. I dislike the way the ABC invites token ‘right-wingers’ onto their programs to set them up for abuse and ridicule. A case in point is the ABC’s detestable Q&A program; a boring and morally smug version of America’s Jerry Springer Show, with a dumber audience. After the interview, we went shopping for a blue tie for me to wear that night on Paul Murray Live. When we finally arrived home it seemed all hell had broken loose. Offence had been taken at my on-air statement that Parliament was the wrong place to be displaying cleavage. I hadn’t been allowed to finish my point (which was that perhaps the real reason Gillard is disrespected is because she is under investigation by the police) and vaguely wondered that if I had, would any offence have been taken?
Our office spent Monday under cyber-attack. Channel 7’s The Project contacted me for an interview but I declined. I was skulking in my office, feeling guilty at the grief I had brought down upon our business, when I received a text from Jane Marwick of Perth’s Radio 6PR telling me the cleavage story had made the English papers! Gloomily I googled the link before shrieking for Peter. He stuck his head round my office door with a weary ‘what now?’ look on his face. ‘Anti-sexism group Destroy the Joint said I am an “idiot” and have “an irrational horror of the female breast”,’ I said, ‘and 700 women are going to send me photos of their cleavages as a protest!’ I have never seen Peter look both so bemused and elated. I tweeted ‘delighted, excited and eagerly awaiting the 700 cleavage photos!’ When the ‘cleavage collage’ arrived, we tried to enlarge the images on my computer,
but were unable to. Despite this, we popped the cork on a vintage Bollinger and gave each and every cleavage careful examination and a score out of ten. I tweeted the collage to all my followers so they could do the same. Finally, I tweeted a message directly to Destroy the Joint: ‘Thanks 4 pics, confess prob am sexist poss lesbian, pls kindly send more pics so I can work it out, ever in your debt, G x.’ Never got a response.
Grace Collier is a columnist with the Australian Financial Review and managing director of Australian Dismissal Services.
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