After having gotten used to watching everything non-political on Australian TV, I woke up to some excitement with an SMS that read Julia Gillard has become the new female prime minister of the country. I switched on the idiot box and found even the popular morning entertainment shows had switched to all things political. There were running commentaries, expert comments, and follow of the day's political shake up. I was reminded of budget and election time in India when TV channels overloaded us with information. I was hooked.
I saw a tearful Kevin Rudd giving a tearful speech as he handed over power to his deputy. Rudd did not finish his three-year term after leading the Labour party to a historic win to Parliament two and a half years ago. And now just short of his three-year term (unline India where a government lasts five years), he has been unceremoniously removed from office. Surrounded by his millionaire wife and three children, he vowed to contest election again and continue his work as a politician.
I watched Rudd and did not understand why he was given the boot. To me, he looks so much the quintessential PM outshining in debates against right wing Opposition leader Tony Abbot. Abbot the maverick politician, did offer his commiseration, post the political drama, calling Rudd's removal a political assassination. The Labour Party, he said, had only changed its salesman but not the product.
A strong opposition did Rudd down, of course. Criticised for his insulation programme and other policies, Rudd's popularity ratings dipped in the earlier months. Experts say he was autocratic and only listened to his close group of advisors.
But my attention was diverted to the new Prime Minister. Australia hailed her as the new woman prime minister, though, clearly she is not the choice of the electorate. As I watched her take oath and sign as new PM all in 10 minutes, which was shorter than opening a bank account, I realise 24 hours is a long time in politics. But Julia reminded me of Martina Navratilova, the tennis great. For all her red hair and dressy self, I just couldnt help thinking how similar they look at a glance with Julia the petite version of Martina. They both wear a tough look.
Now an interesting fact about Julia are all the talks surrounding her. I was looking out for her husband, children around her - maybe an Indian habit to check if the family is there celebrating with her but all I saw was a man occassionally holding her hand. I found out that was her partner (not married and not a must in socities here) who is a hairdresser. Others suspect she is a lesbian and the man a gay, but they stay together for her to project a normal 'image' in public. And later again on TV, her mother declared she is not the marrying types. How cool, I thought. Her parents, were of course, jubilant that their daughter has become a PM from being a deputy PM just yesterday.
The lawyer-turned-politician stays in a modest house in the western suburbs of Melbourne. I watched her speech and found her morose but the moment I heard her take on the question/answer session with the press and in Parliament soon after, I didn't bother about her personal life anymore. I thought she had the confidence, the poise and the calibre to head a country that is as colourful as its people.