Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is going American in a big way by setting the next national election seven months from now. The record length of the campaign is bad news for her opponent, Tony Abbott, and may be even worse for the nation’s 23 million people.
Here’s the plot: an unmarried, foreign-born, atheist woman whose partner is a male hairdresser wants to lead a major nation famous for manly men. Her opponent is the “Mad Monk” -- a Speedo-loving amateur boxer who once studied to be a priest.
Julia Gillard saw herself as equal to men years before becoming the first woman to lead Australia. As a teenager she forced her high school to abandon the practice of putting more girls than boys at work cleaning the school and demanded the job be shared equitably.
Julia Gillard staged a political coup in June 2010 to become Australia’s prime minister and clung to power two months later, assembling a one-seat majority after the closest election since 1940. Her biggest leadership test may come next week.
Looking out over aging warehouses in Unanderra, two hours' drive south of Sydney, 61-year-old Tom Folino-Gallo curses the strength of the Australian dollar as truck horns blare support for picketers at a nearby factory.
Christine Milne, whose Australian Greens party holds the balance of power in the nation’s Senate, grimaces as she recalls the day an opponent called her a “political slut” in Tasmania’s state parliament.