Tuesday, 12 November 2013

View From the Playground

I went into Parliament House this morning, just as a primary school group was coming out. Before I could get away, I found myself surrounded by excited ten-year-old girls, all competing with each other about who had had the most extraordinary visit.

"I saw Tony Abbott", one boasted, (or complained, depending upon your viewpoint).

"I saw Kevin Rudd", another countered.

"I saw Julia Gillard", a third shrieked, in an effort to top the other claimants.

"No, you didn't", they responded, "you couldn't have - she's not allowed to come here now."

"Isn't she?" stammered the third one, "I thought she was Prime Minister of Australia."

"Not any more", the one who claimed to have seen Tony Abbott told her. "She had such a horrible voice that no-one could stand it, so they told her she couldn't come back again."

"Yes", piped up the Kevin Rudd spotter, "she had to leave because everyone really, really hated her voice. It just really annoyed them."

So could it be that her downfall wasn't all about misogynism or Kevin Rudd's grim determination to make a comeback? Maybe all Julia Gillard needed was to find a latter day Lionel Logue.


  1. That's interesting - I thought that Gillard's voice would only be irritating to non-Australians. I assumed that what some wags have called the 'Irritable Vowel Syndrome' would have been a badge of honour Down Under, for its hyper-Aussie qualities (almost South African, with this pronounced as theeeess). I'm heartened that a small child could see it, even if they were echoing what their parents said.

    Closer to home I also found Tony Blair utterly sickening - his voice was a permanent, insincere smile. At least David Cameron just sounds as if he's escaped from a Trollope novel.

    1. Although my mother's Australian, I've never been able to adapt and speak with an Australian accent unless I bung it on deliberately, (someone once told me that your accent is fixed by the time you reach eleven years old and after that you can only change it if you do it very self-consciously and deliberately, something to do with the cortex and its development [??!!? no, I don't know what I'm talking about]). I always felt uncomfortable about this until I realised that generally speaking the people with the really weirdly strong Australian accents - eg Julia Gillard - tend to be migrants. There's nothing like a playground for encouraging (enforcing) conformism, especially in Australia (we love to think we're 'larrikins' but in many ways we're the most conformist country in the world, I think). That's a brilliant description of Blair's voice. Cameron is a bit inauthentic too, but there are some pretty inauthentic people in Trollope I'm guessing. In a way I think those children were right about Gillard - it would have made a difference if the first reaction many had when she opened her mouth wasn't to wince. Hard to get a message across in those circumstances. Mind you, the real problem for her I think was the same problem Malcolm Fraser had - lack of legitimacy, because they'd both offended the public's sense of order, they'd broken the rules. But I won't go on into a rave on the minutiae of Australian politics and constitutional tradition and whatnot.

  2. Interesting. But they'd have got all of that from their families, parents probably. Tragic. Not allowed into parliament because of her voice? Monoculturalism & conformity gone mad. Imagine what they say about asylum seekers........

    1. I don 't know that that would be my reaction. We all do make judgments based on voices and other stuff, but that's not to do with conformity - more instinctive, some voices are attractive, some not. For example, the most unfair thing in life is that those who are good looking naturally get a better reception from others than those who are plain, but I don't think that's to do with monoculturalism and conformity gone mad. It also struck me that this was a child's groping attempt to make sense of a set of political events that none of us - including adults - can entirely explain