Pulling the wool over our eyes



As an editor drafting page one, there’s little better than being handed a brand new crisply-shot portrait of a prominent politician trying their luck at Irony.

Julia Gillard and her PR team delivered here, with our only ever female PM spinning a yarn, posing in an arm chair and knitting a toy kangaroo for Will and Kate’s forthcoming baby in a spread for the Australian Women’s Weekly.

Her adorable pooch Reuben, the nation’s First Cavoodle, sits Corgi-like at her feet. I’ve been trying to read the expression in his eyes. See here for details on the interview with the magazine’s associate editor Caroline Overington

Call me a non-believer but I’d like to see a follow-up photo call of her bubble-wrapping the completed wool/nylon-mix roo, stuffing it into an Australia Post envelope (registered post naturally to make sure it gets there) and addressing it to the Duke and Duchess c/o Buckingham Palace London SW1A 1AA . Well, that’s actually the Queen’s address but I’m quietly confident that, as a soon-to-be Great Grandmother, Her Majesty would pass on the handmade trinket.

Julia says the photo shoot was an opportunity to show a different side to herself but what side, exactly? Clearly it was done to appeal to a larger female population.

That would be the same female population who has not exactly jumped onboard the Julia Express since her explosive misogynistic rant against PM-in-waiting Tony Abbott last October. A reminder here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOPsxpMzYw4

Julia’s ‘I’m for the women’ broadsides have only given her a very slight lead over Tony with female voters. And unlike other commentators, I am not criticising her for enjoying a woolly handicraft — obviously she can knit one, purl one because a scarf she click clacked up raised $4050 in a charity auction last month. If it were me, I’d be dropping stitches all over the place.

As an ex-magazine editor, I find it more intriguing that it was her office and her chief spinner John McTernan who suggested the nation’s leader stitch up our national emblem.

A friend in New York messaged me two weeks ago to ask what Aussies thought of Tony Abbott. I told Michael that Tony is now the favourite to move into The Lodge yet no one really knows what he will be like as PM.

And why? This campaign has been all about Obama-style blue ties, Tony Botox – yes or no, men v women and red boxes/huge thighs on disgusting restaurant menus.

I am loving this wall to wall sexist coverage. Said no voter in Australia ever. Policy anyone?

Julia and her team have poured huge effort into depicting Tony and the Coalition as a threat to women and they’ve been aided by …. Tony who has dropped some woeful sexist clangers himself in the past.

When I heard a Julia profile was in the offing, I was hoping for some relief from the he said/she said mudslinging dominating this September 14 election campaign.

In the AWW photos, her face looks soft and elegant. The make up is flawless as too the lighting. Her forensically-examined hairstyle delivers too, her fringe curling with a flattering uptwist as the studio wind machine softly blows. When quizzed, I told a senior News Ltd exec that it is probably the best photo I have ever seen of her.

But should Julia have talked about leadership, being a role model or – gasp – policy? No. A feature like this is begging for a quirky news spin. Given the (wo)man hours typically spent by mag staff cooking up elaborate shoot ideas ‘to offer something different’, the team at AWW must have sent up a silent prayer of thanks when offered this on a plate.

So it’s bucketloads of free PR for the mag and a styled diversion from the Labour party as it collapses like a pavlova taken out of the oven too early (mind you, that never happens to an AWW pav).

Sure, there has also been a revival in recent months for homespun entertainment so a big tick for being on trend there.

But as Julia tweaks her image, it won’t increase the number of women voting for her on election day. This photo will be seen by many women – and indeed by a very switched on girlfriend I have have spoken to about it today – as Julia trying to be something she is most certainly not.

I guess we should be glad her office didn’t suggest posing in a bikini. Must be a strategy on file there to leave swimsuit shots to Tony and his early morning bike rides. Tick.



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