By chance I was at a breakfast for 300 women in Canberra yesterday. It was part of the ‘one million women’ campaign, which seeks that number in Australia to unite in personal and political action to combat climate change.
Penny Wong spoke, then dashed off to caucus at Parliament House. Greens Senator Milne also spoke, along with the ACT Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Maxine Cooper. All these women, supported by many more, all committed to getting real results and real reductions on emissions. Wendy McCarthy reminded us of how basic activism can be, how local and effective.
Of course we were all waiting to hear the news at 9, and soon enough it was clear that Australia’s first female Prime Minister had arrived via a bloodless change. You couldn’t call it a coup, and what a refreshing change from the months of speculation and media chatter that accompanied, for example, the night when Keating finally overthrew Hawke. My Canberra memories go back that far, because that night I was part of a staff performance at the annual Christmas Party for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was at the Ainslie Olim Hotel, and we didn’t know who was going to walk through the door. In the end, neither Hawke nor Keating showed up, and our cheerful performances, including my rendition of Rap Song of the Eco-fems was recorded on video for the victor. Wish I had a copy, it was a hoot.
So Julia has a chance now to bypass rancor and be what we all want her to be: a fine and courageous leader. She has dealt with the same career challenges that the women in that huge room at the Hyatt have faced. She could never have expected this to happen as it has, and she gives every impression of being both smart enough to run with it, and humble enough to listen and learn.
We all know that one of the main reasons Rudd was deposed was his inaction on climate change. Along with many others, I sent her a congratulatory email, and asked her to act decisively on climate. The room full of climate changing women were encouraged to do this, and we all wish her well. She was part of those decisions, and she can now get it right. We’ll be holding her accountable.
Afterthought: On Radio National this morning Julia is being compared with NZ’s Helen Clark, also an open atheist. She didn’t swear on a Bible, she affirmed. More importantly for Australia, this isn’t a media or public beat-up. Try that in the USA.