It’s not easy being a pioneer: Bligh

Article by AAP /
The Sydney Morning Herald /
June 23, 2010 /
Click here to view original /

It’s not easy being a pioneer, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says, and Julia Gillard’s about to find that out for herself.

The first woman to run Queensland says she’s looking forward to working with the first woman to run the country.

And she’s sure Ms Gillard is up to the task.

“It’s never easy being a pioneer,” Ms Bligh told reporters after Ms Gillard’s elevation to the nation’s top job.

“I know, as the first woman to lead Queensland, that these are tough issues, that people will be looking at her, will be making judgement.

“I think she’s up to it, I think she’ll surprise everybody …

“I congratulate Julia Gillard on being the first woman prime minister of Australia. It’s a great honour.”

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally also plans to speak with Australia’s new prime minister on Thursday to reaffirm the state’s “excellent relationship” with Julia Gillard.

Ms Keneally said she has a strong working relationship with Ms Gillard that has helped NSW achieve the nation’s highest levels of literacy and numeracy amongst school students and enjoy record investment in education.

“I’ve enjoyed a positive and cooperative relationship with the prime minister,” she told state parliament.

“In particular, continuing to implement the generational reform of our health and hospital system for the communities of NSW.”

“First off, my congratulations to Australia’s 27th prime minister and first female prime minister, Julia Gillard,” she said.

“There is of course an historic aspect to this prime minister, as she is Australia’s first woman to attain the office.

“We welcome that, but more to the point we welcome a prime minister who this government knows well and enjoys an excellent relationship with.”

Ms Gillard’s rise sees her join other Australian women in leadership roles, including Ms Keneally and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, NSW Governor Marie Bashir and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Meanwhile, Australia’s union movement has fallen in behind new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, saying they’ll fight tooth and nail to help her defeat Tony Abbott.

Mining workers have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s commitment to negotiating a new resources tax.

The mining division of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on Thursday welcomed her ongoing commitment to the resources super profits tax.

“We welcome today’s commitment by the new prime minister to push ahead with this sensible policy,” said CFMEU national president Tony Maher.

“Mining communities and workers support her on this issue. Opening negotiations is a good move.

“The whole industry, workers, local government, the churches all should have a seat at the table.”

Mr Maher said the CFMEU had suspended its advertising campaign in support of the tax to allow the government time to make an agreement and implement the policy.

“The mining billionaires must now stop their phony campaign and accept the governments offer to talk,” he said.

The NSW mining industry has also welcomed the opportunity for “genuine negotiation”.

“As it stands, this tax will dramatically change the rules mid-stream, costing investment, jobs and Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest,” said NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has pledged its support for the nation’s first woman prime minister, saying a return to a Coalition government and Work Choices is not an option.

Ms Gillard has said voters will go to the polls within months, after senior Labor figures urged her to capitalise on her honeymoon period as the nation’s new prime minister.

“We will stay focussed on preventing the Coalition from reintroducing Work Choices and attacking the rights of Australian workers,” ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said.

Mr Lawrence said the ACTU supported Labor’s economic, tax and social reform agenda, including its proposed tax on mining super profits.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said Ms Gillard would move quickly to “re-establish Labor’s credentials” among working people.

AWU secretary Bill Ludwig was instrumental in forcing out Mr Rudd, who he called “toxic”, saying Ms Gillard was the only option if Labor was to win the election.

“To keep our fair work laws for all Australians we need to get behind Julia Gillard – we cannot afford to see Tony Abbott in The Lodge.”

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU), with about 130,000 members, said Ms Gillard met last week with 70 cleaning representatives and reiterated the government’s support for the sector.

“LHMU members know this isn’t just the rhetoric of another politician,” national secretary Louise Tarrant said on Thursday in a statement.

Ms Gillard’s father, John, is a life member of the LHMU, the union said.

The Transport Workers Union said Mr Rudd’s “so-called colleagues and friends” had ratted on him. “But that’s politics,” Queensland branch secretary Hughie Williams said.

The Australian Nursing Federation said Ms Gillard’s priorities must be health reform and industrial relations.

The powerful right-wing lobby group Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said she must confirm Labor’s concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, and the social values that Mr Rudd held firm.

Academic Lauren Rosewarne, from the University of Melbourne, said Ms Gillard’s elevation was a fantastic day for women.

“It would be wonderful if we didn’t need to draw attention to the fact that Julia Gillard is a woman,” said Dr Rosewarne, who is an expert in feminist politics.

Green groups have called on Ms Gillard to put an emissions trading scheme back on Labor’s immediate political agenda.

“We believe the Labor party’s backflip on the emissions trading scheme and its associated decline in the polls is a key reason we now have a new leader,” WWF Australia’s chief executive Greg Bourne said.

Greenpeace said Ms Gillard should immediately introduce an interim carbon levy until an ETS could be implemented.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon told Sky News he expected Ms Gillard, who was elected to the Labor leadership unopposed on Thursday, to be more available than Mr Rudd, who stood down.

Outgoing Labor MP Belinda Neal said Mr Rudd “very bravely” stood down for Ms Gillard, whom she believed would bring new clarity to the government’s policies ahead of the election.

World Vision chief Tim Costello and brother of former Howard government treasurer Peter Costello said he was sad to see Kevin Rudd go, given his commitment to aid funding.

The powerful right-wing lobby group Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) congratulated Ms Gillard, saying it would be expecting to see Labor under Ms Gillard confirm its concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, as well as the values in society that had proved attractive to many Christians throughout Australia under Mr Rudd.

Family First senator Steve Fielding agreed that Ms Gillard would be more approachable than her predecessor, saying it was Mr Rudd’s poor approach to consultation that lost him the Labor leadership.

Ms Gillard previously worked as a staffer for now Victorian Premier John Brumby, who congratulated her on taking the leadership on Thursday.

“She’s someone who I believe will make a fantastic prime minister,” he said on Sky News.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott declared Mr Rudd a victim of the debate on climate change.

Academic Shakira Hussein, from the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, said the battle for female equality was not yet over.

East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta has paid tribute to Kevin Rudd, saying the former prime minister is “a great statesman, a great human being”.

Addressing an audience at Sydney University on Thursday, Dr Ramos-Horta said he held Mr Rudd in high esteem.

“I would like to say that I have great admiration, friendship and respect for former prime minister Kevin Rudd,” he said. “A great statesman, a great human being.”

Dr Ramos-Horta said he believed Mr Rudd would continue his service to “the great country of Australia” in roles such as secretary-general for the United Nations.

He said the smooth transition to a new prime minister in Julia Gillard demonstrated the strength of Australia’s democracy.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann is also looking forward to working with Julia Gillard as a prime minister who knows the state and its issues.

“Julia was raised in Adelaide, where her family still lives,” Mr Rann said in a statement on Thursday.