Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September 1961) is the 27th and current Prime Minister of Australia, in office since 24 June 2010.
Gillard was born in Barry, Wales, United Kingdom and migrated with her family to Adelaide, South Australia in 1966, attending Mitcham Demonstration School and Unley High School. In 1982 Gillard moved to Melbourne, Victoria. She graduated from the University of Melbourne with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees in 1986. In 1987, Gillard joined the law firm Slater & Gordon working in industrial law, before entering politics.
Gillard was elected at the 1998 federal election to the House of Representatives seat of Lalor, Victoria, for the Australian Labor Party. Following the 2001 federal election, Gillard was elected to the shadow cabinet with the portfolios of Population and Immigration. The Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs and the Health portfolios were added in 2003. In December 2006, Kevin Rudd was elected Labor leader and Leader of the Opposition, with Gillard as deputy leader.
Gillard became the Deputy Prime Minister upon Labor’s victory in the 2007 federal election, also serving as Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. On 24 June 2010, after Rudd lost the support of his party and stood aside, Gillard became federal leader of the Australian Labor Party and thus the Prime Minister, the first female holder of the office.
The 2010 federal election saw the first hung parliament since the 1940 federal election. The incumbent Gillard Labor government was able to form a minority government with the support of an Australian Greens Member of Parliament (MP) and three independent MPs on a 76–74 margin, defeating the Liberal/National Coalition opposition led by Tony Abbott. Labor received 50.12 percent of the two-party-preferred vote.
Gillard was born in 1961 in Barry, Wales.After she suffered from bronchopneumonia as a child, her parents were advised it would aid her recovery if they were to live in a warmer climate.The family migrated to Australia in 1966, settling in Adelaide.Her mother, Moira, lives in Pasadena, South Australia.She has a sister, Alison, who is three years older.Gillard’s father, John, died in 2012.
Gillard’s father worked as a psychiatric nurse, while her mother worked at the local Salvation Army nursing home.She and her sister attended Mitcham Demonstration School, and Julia went on to attend Unley High School.She then studied at the University of Adelaide but cut short her courses in 1982 and moved to Melbourne to work with the Australian Union of Students.She graduated from the University of Melbourne with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees in 1986.
In 1987, Gillard joined the law firm Slater & Gordon at Werribee, Melbourne, working in industrial law.In 1990, at the age of 29, she was admitted as a partner.
Introduced to politics in her second year at the University of Adelaide by the daughter of a State Labor Minister, Gillard joined the Labor Club and became involved in a campaign to fight federal education budget cuts.
After moving to Melbourne, in 1983 Gillard became the second woman to lead the Australian Union of Students. She was also formerly the secretary of the left-wing organisation, Socialist Forum.
In 1995, Gillard took leave from her legal firm to contest the 1996 Australian federal election as a Senate candidate, standing third on the ALP’s ticket. She was unsuccessful.
In May, 1996, Gillard resigned from her position with Slater & Gordon, and until 1998 she served as Chief of Staff to John Brumby, at that time the Victorian opposition leader.She was responsible for drafting the affirmative-action rules within the Labor Party in Victoria that set the target of preselecting women for 35 per cent of “winnable seats”.She also played a role in the foundation of EMILY’s List, the pro-choice fund-raising and support network for Labor women.
The Welsh Labour politician Aneurin “Nye” Bevan remains one of her political heroes.
Gillard was elected as Member for Lalor, a safe Labor seat near Melbourne, in the House of Representatives at the 1998 election, replacing Barry Jones, who had retired. She made her first speech to the house on 11 November 1998.
Shadow Minister for Population and Immigration: 2001–2003
After Labor’s defeat at the 2001 election, Gillard was elected to the shadow cabinet, with the portfolio of population and immigration. In February 2003, she was given the additional portfolios of reconciliation and Indigenous affairs.
In the wake of the Tampa and Children Overboard affairs, which were partly credited with Labor’s 2001 election loss, Gillard developed a new immigration policy for the Labor Party.
Shadow Minister for Health: 2003–06
Gillard in 2005
Gillard was promoted to the position of Shadow Health Minister in July 2003.Shortly after this, the government moved Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott to the health portfolio. The rivalry between Abbott and Gillard often attracted attention from the media. She gained additional responsibility for managing opposition business in the House of Representatives.
In the aftermath of the Labor loss at the October 2004 election, it was speculated that Gillard might challenge Jenny Macklin for the deputy leadership, but she did not do so.
Gillard had been spoken of as a potential future leader of the party for some years but, until 2005, she stayed out of leadership contests. After Mark Latham resigned as leader in January 2005, however, she emerged as a possible successor along with Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd.
After appearing on the ABC’s Australian Story program in March 2006, an Ipsos Mackay poll in April 2006, conducted for Network Ten’s Meet the Press program, found that respondents would prefer Gillard to be Labor leader. She polled 32% compared with Beazley’s 25% and Kevin Rudd’s 18%.
Although she had significant cross-factional support, she announced on 25 January 2005 that she would not contest the leadership, allowing Beazley to be elected unopposed.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
On 1 December 2006, in a cross-factional political partnership with Kevin Rudd, Gillard launched a challenge for the deputy leadership of the ALP.Once Rudd was elected as leader, the incumbent deputy leader and Kim Beazley’s deputy, Jenny Macklin, chose not to contest the position and on 4 December 2006 she was elected unopposed.In the frontbench reshuffle following the leadership change, Gillard was allocated the Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion portfolios.
Deputy Prime Minister: 2007–10
The Labor Party won the 2007 federal election and, on 3 December 2007, Gillard was sworn in as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
In addition to the deputy prime ministership, Gillard was given responsibility for a so-called “super ministry”, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. She had three distinct portfolios: Minister for Education; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; and Minister for Social Inclusion. In her role as Minister for Education, Gillard travelled to Washington, DC, where she signed a deal with the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to encourage improved policy collaboration in education reform between both countries.
On 11 December 2007, she became the first woman in Australia’s history to be in the prime ministerial role, by assuming the role of acting prime minister while Kevin Rudd attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali.In the first year of government, she served as acting prime minister for 69 days during Rudd’s overseas travel engagements.
Gillard is a highly regarded debater, and her performances during parliamentary question time have prompted Peter van Onselen to call her “the best parliamentary performer on the Labor side”.
Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Gillard removed the WorkChoices industrial relations regime introduced by the Howard government, and replaced it with the Fair Work Bill.This established a single industrial relations bureaucracy called Fair Work Australia.
In 2009 Gillard oversaw the government’s “Building the Education Revolution” program, which allocated $16 billion to build new school accommodation including classrooms, libraries and assembly halls.
On 23 June 2010, after meetings throughout the evening between Gillard and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, as well as factional leaders, Rudd addressed the waiting media at 10:30 pm AEST and announced that Gillard had asked him to hold a leadership ballot in the 115-member caucus the following day to determine the leadership of the Labor Party and hence the prime ministership of Australia.
Rudd initially said he would challenge Gillard at the caucus. However, it soon became apparent that he didn’t have enough support to fend off Gillard’s challenge. Hours before the vote, he stood aside as leader and ended his candidacy, leaving Gillard to take the leadership unopposed. At the same caucus meeting, Treasurer Wayne Swan was elected unopposed to succeed Gillard as Labor’s deputy leader, and hence Deputy Prime Minister.
Gillard with U.S. Ambassador Jeff Bleich in June 2010
Shortly afterward, Gillard was sworn in as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, and Wayne Swan was sworn in as her deputy. The other members of Kevin Rudd’s ministry, except Rudd himself, became the remaining members of the First Gillard Ministry.
Later that day, in her first press conference as Prime Minister, she said that at times the Rudd Government “went off the tracks”, and “I came to the view that a good Government was losing its way”.She also said that she wouldn’t move into The Lodge unless she was elected Prime Minister in her own right, preferring to divide her time between a flat in Canberra and her home in Altona, a western suburb of Melbourne.She eventually moved into The Lodge on 26 September 2010.
As well as being the first woman and the first who has never been married, Gillard is the first Prime Minister since Billy Hughes (1915–1923) to have been born overseas.
In the aftermath of the leadership challenge, Bill Shorten, former trade union leader, and key Parliamentary member of the ALP Right Faction, nominated the government’s handling of the insulation program; the sudden announcement of change of policy on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme; and the way in which they had “introduced the debate” about the Resource Super Profits Tax as the key considerations which had led to a shift in support from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard as leader of the party.
On 17 July 2010, 23 days after becoming prime minister and after receiving the agreement of the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Gillard announced the next federal election would be held on 21 August 2010.Gillard began campaigning with a speech utilising the slogan “moving forward”.In the early stages of the campaign, a series of leaks were released by purported Labor Party sources, indicating apparent divisions within Cabinet over the replacement of Kevin Rudd by Gillard.Mid-way through the campaign, Gillard offered journalists a self-assessment of her campaign by saying that she had been paying too much attention to advisers in her strategy team, and she wanted to run a less “stage-managed” campaign:
“ I think it’s time for me to make sure that the real Julia is well and truly on display, so I’m going to step up and take personal charge of what we do in the campaign from this point. ”
Gillard met Opposition leader Tony Abbott for one official debate during the campaign. Studio audience surveys by Channel 9 and the Seven Network suggested a win to Gillard.Unable to agree on further debates, the leaders went on to appear separately on stage for questioning at community forums in Sydney, New South Wales and Brisbane, Queensland. An audience exit poll of the Rooty Hill RSL audience indicated an Abbott victory.Gillard won the audience poll at the Broncos Leagues Club meeting in Brisbane on 18 August.Gillard also appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program on 9 August.On 7 August, Gillard was questioned by former Labor leader turned Channel Nine reporter Mark Latham.
Gillard officially “launched” Labor’s campaign in Brisbane five days before polling day, outlining Labor policies and utilising the slogan: “Yes we will move forward together”.
Labor and the Coalition each won 72 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives,four short of the requirement for majority government, resulting in the first hung parliament since the 1940 election.Both major party leaders sought to form a minority government.
Six crossbench MPs held the balance of power.Four crossbench MPs, Greens Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor declared their support for Labor on confidence and supply,allowing Gillard and Labor to remain in power with a minority government.Governor-General Bryce swore in the Second Gillard Ministry on 14 September 2010.
During her first major international tour as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard told ABC TV’s 7.30
“ [F]oreign policy is not my passion. It’s not what I’ve spent my life doing. You know, I came into politics predominantly to make a difference to opportunity questions, particularly make a difference in education. So, yes, if I had a choice I’d probably more be in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings. ”
Following her 2010 election victory, Gillard selected her former leader Kevin Rudd (a career diplomat) as Foreign Minister. Gillard travelled to the United States in March 2011 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance and was invited to address the United States Congress.
Gillard with General David Petraeus, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, during a visit to Afghanistan on 2 October 2010
In a 2008 speech in Washington, Gillard endorsed the ANZUS Aliance and described the United States as a civilising global influence.Her former colleague and leader Mark Latham wrote in a 2009 article for the Australian Financial Review that these comments were “hypocritical”, given past private communications Gillard had exchanged with him which apparently mocked elements of American foreign policy: “One of them concerned her study tour of the US, sponsored by the American Government in 2006—or to use her moniker—’a CIA re-education course’. She asked me to ‘stand by for emails explaining George Bush is a great statesman, torture is justified in many circumstances and those Iraqi insurgents should just get over it’.”
War in Afghanistan
During her first day as Prime Minister, Gillard reassured US President Barack Obama of Australia’s continuing support for the military campaign in Afghanistan.She visited Afghanistan on 2 October 2010 and met with Australian forces in Tarin Kowt and President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. The visit formed part of her first overseas trip as prime minister.
A parliamentary debate was conducted for four sitting weeks of parliament, with the agreement between Gillard and Abbott that it is necessary to stay in Afghanistan and prevent it from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Like her predecessor Rudd, Gillard has said that health is a priority in her agenda. She announced during the 2010 election, that there would be an increase of 270 placements for emergency doctors and nurses and 3,000 extra nursing scholarships over the following 10 years.She also said mental health would be a priority in her second term, with a $277 million suicide-prevention package which would target high-risk groups.As the election delivered a hung parliament, a $1.8 billion package was given to rural hospitals, which was agreed to by the independents to support her re-election.
In October 2010, her government introduced legislation to reform funding arrangements for the health system, with the intention of giving the Commonwealth responsibility for providing the majority of funding to public hospitals and 100 per cent of funding for primary care and GP services.In February 2011, Gillard announced extensive revision of the original health funding reforms proposed by the Rudd Government, which had been unable to secure the support of all state governments. The revised Gillard government plan proposed that the federal government move towards providing 50% of new health funding (and not 60 per cent as originally agreed) and removed the requirement of the states to cede a proportion of their GST revenue to the Federal Government in order to fund the new arrangement.The new agreement was supported by all state premiers and chief ministers and signed on 2 August.
In relation to population targets for Australia, Gillard told Fairfax Media in August 2010 that while skilled migration is important: “I don’t support the idea of a big Australia”. Gillard also altered the nomenclature of Tony Burke’s role as “Minister for Population” to that of “Minister for Sustainable Population”.
Unauthorised persons arriving by boat to Australia by calendar year
After winning leadership of the Labor Party, Gillard identified addressing the issue of unauthorised arrivals of asylum seekers as a priority of her government. She announced that negotiations were underway for a return to “offshore processing” of asylum seeker claims. Gillard ruled out a return to processing at Nauru and named East Timor as a preferred location for new detention and processing facilities.The East Timorese Government rejected the plan.
In October 2010, her government announced that it would open two detention centres for 2000 immigrants, due to the pressures in allowing women and children to be released into the community. One to be opened in Inverbrackie, South Australia and one in Northam, Western Australia.She said it would be a short-term solution to the problem and that temporary detention centres will be closed.
Protesters on the roof of the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, 2011
On 15 December 2010 a ship containing 89 asylum seekers crashed on the shore of Christmas Island, killing up to fifty people.Refugee and migrant advocates condemned government policy as responsible for the tragedy,and ALP Party President Anna Bligh called for a complete review of ALP asylum seeker policy.Gillard returned early from holidays in response to the crash, and to review asylum seeker policy.Some months later Gillard would announce “The Malaysia Solution” in response.
In April 2011 the Federal Government confirmed that a detention centre for single men will be built at the old army barracks at Pontville, 45 minutes north of Hobart, Tasmania. This immigration detention centre will house up to 400 refugees.Also in April 2011 immigration detainees at the Villawood detention centre rioted in protest of their treatment, setting fire to several buildings.
In May 2011 Gillard announced that Australia and Malaysia were finalising an arrangement to exchange asylum seekers. Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said they were close to signing a bilateral agreement which would result in 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat being taken to Malaysia instead. Australia will take 4,000 people from Malaysia who have previously been assessed as being refugees.
On 31 August the High Court ruled that the agreement to transfer refugees from Australia to Malaysia was invalid, and ordered that it not proceed. Australia will still accept 4,000 people who have been assessed as refugees in Malaysia.
The asylum seeker debate returned during August 2012 following the report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, led by retired Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston. Accepting the panel’s recommendation, Gillard on 12 August 2012 announced that a bill then before Parliament would be amended to allow the Government to choose sites for off-shore processing. At the same time she announced the Government would nominate Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea to be re-opened.The amended bill passed with the support of the Opposition on 16 August 2012.
When she became Prime Minister, she gave her Education portfolio to Simon Crean. She has promised to “make education central to my economic agenda.”After her re-election, she extended tax-cuts to parents to help pay for school uniforms for people struggling to cover the costs of education under the Education Tax Refund scheme.Gillard continued to put the My School website centre of her education agenda, which was controversial when she implemented when she was the Minister for Education. Although it was popular amongst parents, the website helped parents view statistics of the school their children attended. She has unveiled the revamped version, My School 2.0, promising better information to parents.
Universities also placed highly on her education agenda. Legislation due to be voted on in November 2010 that would see the introduction of a national universities regulator was delayed till 2011 following criticisms from the higher education sector. It was also announced by her government that legislation to establish the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency would also be introduced early 2011.
The Rudd Labor opposition promised to implement an emissions trading scheme (ETS) before the 2007 federal election which Labor won. Rudd, unable to secure support for his scheme, dropped it.
Gillard, during the 2010 election campaign, said no carbon tax would be introduced under a government she led.In the first hung parliament result in 70 years, the government required the support of crossbenchers including the Greens. One requirement for Green support was a carbon tax, which Gillard proceeded with in forming a minority government. A fixed-price carbon tax would proceed to a floating-price ETS within a few years under the plans. The government proposed the Clean Energy Bill in February 2011,which the opposition claimed to be a broken election promise.
The bill was passed by the Lower House in October 2011 and the Upper House in November 2011.
2012 leadership vote
Weeks of speculation, in the light of poor polling results for the Gillard government, that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd wished to regain the Labor Party leadership culminated with Rudd resigning from cabinet on 22 February 2012. Rudd told the media “I can only serve as Foreign Minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers” after Gillard failed to repudiate cabinet ministers who publicly criticised Rudd and his tenure as prime minister.The situation had been further exacerbated by the revelation on Four Corners that Gillard’s staff wrote her victory speech for the 2010 leadership spill two weeks prior to her challenge, contradicting Gillard’s earlier claims that she had only decided to challenge Rudd the day before the vote. The revelation caused conflict between Labor factions to surface with Labor MP Darren Cheeseman calling on Gillard to resign, while his colleague Steve Gibbons called Rudd a “psychopath with a giant ego”.
After resigning, Rudd said that he did not think Gillard could defeat the Coalition in the next election and that, since his resignation, he had received encouragement from Labor members and cabinet ministers to contest the leadership.
Gillard responded to the developments by announcing a leadership ballot for the morning of 27 February 2012 and that she would renominate for the Labor Party leadership. She announced that if she lost the vote she would go to the backbench and renounce any claims on the leadership. She asked that Rudd make the same commitment.
At the leadership ballot, Gillard won by a vote of 71 to 31.
Gillard speaking at the launch of the Australian Multicultural Council in August 2011
Gillard has expressed a pro-choice position on abortion saying that “Women without money would be left without that choice or in the hands of backyard abortion providers” and that she understood “the various moral positions” regarding abortions.
Concerning euthanasia Gillard warned that it may “open the door to exploitation and perhaps callousness towards people in the end stage of life” and that she is not convinced that the policy of pro-euthanasia advocates contain “sufficient safeguards”.
Although nominally a member of the Victorian Left faction of the Labor Party,her election to Prime Minister occurred because of support from the Right factions of the party, with the hard Left planning to support Rudd in the Caucus vote had there actually been one.Analyses of Jacqueline Kent’s 2009 biography of Gillard suggest that her membership in the Left faction is “more organisational than ideological”.In July 2010, historian Ross Fitzgerald said, “… at least since last year Gillard has sought to reposition herself more towards the Labor Right.”
Poker machines and problem gambling
In 2010 Gillard agreed with Nick Xenophon, Andrew Wilkie and the Australian Greens to introduce poker machine reform legislation, to curb problem gambling, into the parliament by May 2012. After members of the cross bench advised that they would not support this bill in the House of Representatives, Gillard withdrew her support. Wilkie said that many Australians felt “very let down by the PM”, and fellow anti-gambling campaigner Xenophon accused the Prime Minister of “backstabbing the person who put her in office”.
Gillard supports Australia becoming a republic and has suggested that the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign would be “probably the appropriate point for a transition”.
Gillard does not support legalisation for same-sex marriage in Australia, saying that she believes “the Marriage Act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman” and that marriage being between a man and woman “has a special status”.The triennial Labor conference held in December 2011 saw Gillard successfully negotiate an amendment on same-sex marriage which will see the party introduce a conscience vote to parliament through a private members bill, rather than a binding vote.
Following the November 2010 release of secret United States diplomatic cables, high-profile people in various countries condemned the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks; some called for the founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, to be killed.Julia Gillard stated, “I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It’s a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do”.After an Australian Federal Police investigation failed to find WikiLeaks had broken any Australian laws by publishing the US diplomatic documents, Gillard maintained her stance that the release of the documents was “grossly irresponsible”
Gillard introduces United States President Barack Obama to Australian rules football
Gillard’s partner since 2006 is Tim Mathieson.She has had previous relationships with union officials Michael O’Connor and Bruce Wilson and fellow Federal Labor MP Craig Emerson.She has never married and has no children.
She owns a home in the south-western Melbourne suburb of Altona which she occupied prior to The Lodge and is a public supporter of the Western Bulldogs AFL club.As for the NRL, she is a supporter of the Melbourne Storm.
Gillard was brought up in the Baptist tradition, but is not religious. In a 2010 interview when asked if she believed in God, Gillard stated: “No I don’t … I’m not a religious person … [I’m] a great respecter of religious beliefs but they’re not my beliefs.”
Gillard has been questioned many times during her career about a romantic relationship she had with a union official connected with an alleged fraud. Gillard has always denied any wrongdoing.