Julia Gillard on friendship, purpose and the cone of silence

Andrew Leigh:

Australia's 27th Prime Minister, Julia Eileen Gillard was born in the Wilshire port town of Barry. When she was a child, her parents John and Laura were told that Julia's chronic lung problems would improve with warmer air. So to seek better jobs and to help the younger daughter's health, they became 10 pound poms and sailed to Australia when Julia was four years old, clutching a toy koala. She attended Unley High, Adelaide Uni and Melbourne Uni, before becoming a partner at Slater & Gordon at age 29. Pre-selected third on Labor's Victorian Senate ticket in 1996, the nation narrowly missed out on Senator Gillard, and Julia became the Member for Lalor in 1998.

In opposition, she held the immigration and health portfolios. When Labor won government in 2007, became Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Deputy Prime Minister. In 2010, she challenged Kevin Rudd for the Prime Ministership and served for three years and three days, before again losing the leadership to Kevin Rudd. Among her attainments are education reform, climate change and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Since leaving Parliament in 2013, Julie has served as a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Chair of Beyond Blue, and Chair of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, For a woman who wants to get a seat in Parliament, she now has no shortage of chairs. Julia's one of my great heroes, and not just because she appointed me as her Parliamentary Secretary in the final months of her Prime Ministership. And it is a true delight to have her on the Good Life Podcast today.

Julia Gillard:

Thank you Andrew. It's wonderful to be here.

Andrew Leigh:

Now, this is a no politics no policy podcast, so there's a huge amount we could discuss, and we won't discuss today. I want to start with an essay you wrote last year for the BBC, where you're asked about what makes us human? And you chose as your theme, Sia's song, What Makes Us Human? The Soundtrack to the Wonder Woman movie. And Sia's answer is that, "To be human is to love." What role does love play in your life and how you think about a good life of service to the community?

Julia Gillard:

Well, I did pick their track. I was very impressed by the Wonder Woman movie just because I felt it was time that young girls could see a female superhero. Obviously, I remember Wonder Woman from my young years but to see her now on the big screen, in quite as lavish a way as they do superhero movies these days is fantastic. For me, love is really about family, close connections, friends are the things that sustain and nurture you, away from the world of work and the hurly-burly of everyday life. Across my life, I've had this sense that from time to time, I've needed to retreat to recharge and re-energize, and I can only do that when I'm surrounded by the people I care about the most.

Julia Gillard:

So at an earlier stage of my life, obviously, my mother and my father, both of them have passed now so I don't get to spend time with them. My sister, my niece and nephew, they're now partners and my great niece and nephew of course Tim and so many friends who have been with me for so long.

Andrew Leigh:

Do find that you need those, particular when you're in politics, that you needed those non-political friendships? People for whom there was no question of contestation in order to recharge your batteries?

Julia Gillard:

Yes absolutely. And it's not only that the love and support is unconditional, it's that they're not in any way affected by your status. So, all of the people closest to me have never treated me differently from when I was a backbencher to when I was Prime Minister and now to this life beyond, there's not that sense of formality, even being overawed that can come into the relationships with others. For a lot of people, obviously, meeting a Prime Minister is kind of a stressful moment, even if you're trying to make it as non-stressful for them as possible, it's still he is. So it's great to be with people that for 20, 30, 40 years, all of your life have known you in a different context and aren't in any way reacting to the new status, the new title.

Andrew Leigh:

So that's love as a battery recharging option. There's also love I guess is something that propels you into making change. When I think about your reforms, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is perhaps the one that's most infused with love. I think of that lovely moment with a 12 year old girl Sophie who took your picture. Do you see love as being a powerful impetus either inside you to drive you to change or externally in advocating for change?

Julia Gillard:

I would tend to use a different word just because I think it is in many ways a different kind of emotion. It's an enthusiasm, a determination, a real drive to try and make things better for people, and so I haven't ever thought about that in the context of love. I wouldn't say that I was infused by love of people with disabilities, it's a different emotion in my head to what I feel for those closest to me. But it's still a very strong emotional driver. You don't select your causes just based on intellect in politics, you select them on heart and gut and then you bring your brain power to bear. And for me, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and making a real difference in the lives of so many millions of Australians was something of the heart and the guard and then with great colleagues like Jenny Macklin where you wove the intellectual labor on top of it.

Andrew Leigh:

And the flip side to love I guess is anger and hate. You wrote in your autobiography that it made you burn with anger that your father didn't get the opportunities to which he was entitled as one of seven children who left school at age 14. But yet that anger doesn't seem for you to turn into hatred. In fact, you seem unusually good among people who have held the highest office in the land in not being a hater. How do you think about the ability to use righteous anger rather than the anger of retribution?

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, I think they're two very different things. I mean to be powered by a sense of injustice, as you term it righteous anger, is one thing. I think to obsess about moments in your past when you feel like you were unfairly treated is another. And I've always been very conscious that you've only got so many moments of your life's time. I'm not a religious person, I don't believe in a life beyond, I believe this is it and you've got choices about how you use it. And any time you spend kind of mentally grinding an ax about someone or something is wasted time. And I felt when I was a lawyer that I saw too many people for whom an injustice in their lives have become all of their lives.

Julia Gillard:

Working at a law firm that offers a first free consultation, you see a lot of people, and I saw people who in their employment, often something bad had happened they had been treated unfairly, but it would be 10 or 15 years ago, you would be the seventh or eighth or ninth lawyer they'd seen, really, there wasn't an effective legal remedy for them. And you felt like saying, "You know those lever arch files full of papers you're hoarding and turning the pages of, just go home, put them in the incinerator put it behind you and you'll have a better life." And so there have been moments in my life when I've had to think back to that space as a lawyer, and say, "Julia, it's time to take some of your own advice."

Andrew Leigh:

The Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum told me on the podcast that she thinks of retribution anger is being a dumb emotion. The idea that you get pleasure out of the suffering of an ex-partner or somebody who's wronged you in the workplace. Do you go so far as to say retribution is being dumb?

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, I do think it's a dumb emotion. At the end of the day, you're feeling it and it's corroding you rather than the person you're feeling it about. So why spend grim nights, 3:00 AMs pacing around in that mode, it's not going to do you any good, it's not going to make any difference and so it is absolutely futile and therefore dumb.

Andrew Leigh:

But how in practice did you do it? I mean I think about the time when the heat was on most strongly, the Ditch The Witch Campaign, you had those awful Larry Pickering cartoons, you had that disgusting menu at the liberal fundraiser, and you had just silly stuff like Ross Fitzgerald' suggestion that when you met with Queensland flood victims you didn't appear to care, whatever that means. How do you address that in practice when it's coming on the front pages of the newspapers which are, as you write, the first thing that you looked at in the morning?

Julia Gillard:

Yes, and looked at very early in the morning. I think my ability to just kind of keep going through all of that weaves together all of the things we've talked about so far. I mean first, I did get the rest of respite that came with having brief moments because you're so busy but brief moments with those I care about and who care about me. Second, I did have this dominant sense of purpose. We were there to get things done and so you could kind of push through even when things were quite distressing because you did want to make a real difference. And then, I have always had that sense that kind of grinding your teeth is not going to be the right answer. I've always been a very even tempered kind of person, I was an even tempered kid, I was an even tempered teenager. I've never been someone who's throwing crockery or screamed out loud or decided that the best way of treating your staff is by yelling at them because they'll work harder. I've never met anybody who works harder because they're being yelled at. I've always been quite an even tempered person and I think I combined that with this instinctive understanding that it would hurt me more to obsess on these things then the people who have done them.

Andrew Leigh:

But then you also quite, Jay Weatherill is telling you that you're kidding yourself if you think the nastiness doesn't hurt. Where did it go? How did you manage to, did you have to dig deeper to nurture your sense of self?

Julia Gillard:

Yes, I had to dig deeper. I think Jay Weatherill was very perceptive man on these things and I had a very revealing conversation with him post my time in politics and it did make me think how much of the misogyny speech was that suppressed anger bubbling over, and I do think it played that role for me in a way that I didn't quite see as clearly at the time as I see now. And then I think I left with some of that anger still in me but suppressed from being exhibited day to day, and it was the retreat and the rest and ultimately the cathartic process of writing the book that helped me get it out. So yes, there are iterations of the book where perhaps more of that spilled onto the page and then when I looked at it again I said, "Nope, we're deleting that, hit the select and shade all of those paragraphs and now hit delete, they're all going. But you get to confront your own emotions head on when you do something as intensive as write a book like that.

Andrew Leigh:

I have the unexpurgated version has been logged for the National Archive for future [inaudible 00:13:55] to read one day. I mean, I feel this sort of overriding sense of guilt as somebody who was in the Labor team at the time for not speaking up more about the gendered attacks. What was going through my head at the time was that if you weren't naming them as having a gendered focus that it would be a distraction for other members of your team to be doing so. But then I had Anne Summers give the Fraser Lecture and she brought out some of the material that was later in her book where she basically said, "This is just a case of workplace bullying in which co-workers failed to speak out." Do you think there's lessons for blokes in this sort of environment observing senior women being targeted based on gender and how they should they should respond? I'm less about getting microtharsis, it's more about the sort of broader lessons that we learned in that.

Julia Gillard:

I think there are lessons to be learned and we should reflect on how much has changed. I mean, when I was in office, the sort of dominant media narrative was that nothing about how I was being treated could be explained by gender, nothing, it was irrelevant. I mean journalists actually wrote that. And now here we are these years later and sexism in politics, are women being treated differently is a very lively debate now, it's predominantly a debate that's been spurred by a series of incidents in the Liberal Party, but I don't think that anybody sitting in the camp or press gallery now would be saying to themselves as they put their fingertips on the keypad, "Sexism is got nothing to do with anything here," I think they thinking it through.

Julia Gillard:

Second, the social media environment was comparatively new then. Twitter started 2006 for example. We were campaigning in 2010. And I think we understand a lot more about how gendered that environment is now than we did then. And then third, I think we all made a bit of a collective error, I certainly made it, and once I'd made it then inevitably I think members of the team would follow me in that lead, which is what you're referring to. I made the error that I thought the maximum reaction to me being the first woman Prime Minister would be in the early days of my Prime Ministership and then it would wash itself out of the system, equalize over time. Whereas, as we recall now, actually the gendered insult became more and more common the longer the government governed and the more political heat there was around and the more measures to contest particularly carbon pricing.

Julia Gillard:

And so I think with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if all of us had named and shamed it earlier, but that's a lesson learned only through having lived through it. What it now means, I think, is absolutely we shouldn't wait. Co-workers, people beyond the political life should immediately shine a spotlight on any unequal treatment of women in political life and we should all be campaigning to make the online environment a safe space for women.

Andrew Leigh:

What about the environment, very male dominated environments, where you're the only woman in the room. I mean, you often have said as Prime Minister, found yourself being the only woman in a room full of blokes. Presumably, you didn't have the experience of being mistaken from other catering staff unless they were particularly politically naive. But certainly women will frequently find themselves in that position. Do you have any advice for handle handling that? Should that just be shrugged off for is that, do you think...

Julia Gillard:

It's tough. I think one of the lessons we've got to learn is that whilst women can call it out and an individual woman can call it out for something that's happening to her, often the most powerful calling out is what happens by others. Because inevitably, if someone says, "I am being treated unfairly," people will look at that and there's an element of self interest and consequently doubt. "Is she saying that because she's really feeling it? Is she saying it because it's really happening? Or is there some other motivation her saying it?" Unfortunately, people will second guess when individual women call out sexism.

Julia Gillard:

Now I don't say that to dissuade women from doing it, I think women still should. But we should recognize the power of third parties calling it out and the most powerful thing in that room, one woman and a whole lot of blokes, would be for one of the blokes to say like, "Steady on mate, it's not the right way to behave, let's get back to talking about this." It doesn't have to be an angry exchange that breaks the discussion up and people pound out of the room, there are I think plenty of more subtle ways of just marking the moment, getting everybody to kind of nod their heads, yes that was wrong, and then move to the next stage. So my advice to the woman would be, if she can, she should call it out. If she can't, and she's going to be in those environments a lot out try and reach out to the best of the male colleagues and encourage them to do it.

Andrew Leigh:

It's a different area but sort of similar approach. One of my friends who's a partner in a big city law firm now says that the male partners have decided on a strategy when they doing some childcare duties, like going to pick up a kid, making what they call the noisy exit. So rather than slinging out leaving the jacket on the back of the chair is what have happened 20 years ago, you say loudly, "I'm off to pick up the kids, you all know, in the diary, you can contact me on the phone if you need me." With the notion that if the male partners are doing that, that creates more of a space for a family friendly culture in the firm.

Julia Gillard:

And that's a great thing. And the research shows and we do look at these things at the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, that if there are family friendly policies in a workplace, and they are disproportionately used by women, then there is a career penalty to be paid, a sort of mommy track which is the second track, and the women using those flexibilities will get less promotions and advancement. Whereas, if the taking of those flexibilities is pretty equally shared between men and women in the business, no one pays a career penalty for having taken them. So that modeling effect of men use these flexibilities too is really important.

Andrew Leigh:

And what really struck me listening to you speak about gender is the extent to which in the new institute you've been focused on those 20 issues of sexual harassment and childcare which seemed be play such a massive role in gender gaps. What's your ambition for the center?

Julia Gillard:

My ambition is that we become a globally recognized go to place for the best of evidence, the newest tools, the most impactful ways of making a difference so that women in all walks of life can come through for leadership. And when they get there, that the leadership is fairly evaluated not through the prism of gender. And so we are looking at all stages of a woman's life and work journey, we're not just interested in, how does the Deputy CEO get to the CEO or the Deputy Prime Minister to get to be Prime Minister or whatever, we're interested in, from the first day you slip into a workplace, what are all of the points when a woman is treated differently from a man and what can we do to clear away any of those barriers that are preventing her getting an equal go of coming through?

Andrew Leigh:

I want to step into how you work, because you've obviously worked in the most demanding job in Australian politics and you wrote after you left that you wished you'd spent more time on what you call the cone of silence and then quipping I think that every good Prime Minister needs Maxwell Smart chamber to step into. How did you manage to sift the important from the urgent and what lessons do you think there are for others going into those intense demanding roles?

Julia Gillard:

Well, I think this struggle of sorting through the important from the urgent is harder now than it's ever been in human history and it's getting harder every year because the way the technology follows us everywhere, and it's beeping and pinging at you and even if you're on a really intensive task, unless you very disciplined, your eyes will stray and you will look at that email or you will click the alert that's come up on your screen, I think it takes more discipline as a result. And in writing about my time as Prime Minister, I think I found some of that discipline but I do wish I'd found more of it. The diary is very crowded, demands of people to see you and get you to do things are very legitimate, clearing space feels almost a little bit indulgent, but it's not, it's probably the most important thing that you can do.

Julia Gillard:

And I do sort of try and preach that a bit as I move around the world now to people who are in all sorts of occupations and walks of life, and I think everybody's really struggling with it but there is a time to set the devices aside and just quietly think or do that with the best of your colleagues, other thinkers, people you can learn things from. This life that we tend to live now of frantic activity, I don't think is our best state.

Andrew Leigh:

How long were you able to carve out as Prime Minister? How many hours a week or minutes a week?

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, even on parliamentary days, I would carve out a bit of time in the afternoons, an hour here or there, in non parliamentary weeks more, but looking back now, it wasn't enough.

Andrew Leigh:

Yeah. You have a sort of stoic character to me and the sort of Greek philosophical way. Do you think of yourself as a stoic? You have that sort of strong emotional keel, you talk about purpose and perseverance and hard work a great deal, and you seem surprisingly unruffled by how others regard you.

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, I think I am a stoic person but I know the word stoic with it carries the implication of kind of grim, stoic in the face of adversity, and I wouldn't want to give people an impression that that's my life or that it's ever been my life. I mean, even in the most topsy-turvy times of politics are there was plenty of laughter perhaps, some of it was gallows humor, but there was plenty of laughter and fun and friendship involved too. So I've always wanted to have the opportunity to feel the joy and get to do things in my life that give me pleasure. But for me, that hasn't been an endless array of timeouts or frivolous things. I'm not someone who feels best lying on a beach reading a book. Every so often, yep, I like to do that, but really I feel best when I'm getting something done that I really care about and I'm really passionate about. So I have to be careful that I don't let work completely consumed me. And once again, the people that you love and care about are very good at helping you find that balance.

Andrew Leigh:

I think you said your motto was "Purpose, perseverance and people." And I should say, you're extraordinary on the people side. The story I often tell people is when I had my 40th birthday party in Parliament House and it was the day of my birthday party and I was walking down the blue carpet you happen to come out of your office surrounded by flanks of advisors and smile broadly and burst into singing Happy Birthday spontaneously. I looked back in the newspapers, just before this interview, you just met the athletes returning from London, you're being attacked for as a backflip over asylum seeker policy, and yet you have this ability in this instance, to see the world through the eyes of the person who is approaching you rather than through all the problems in your head. How do you manage to do that as Prime Minister to keep on radiating that sense of warmth to others rather than just letting these seriously big problems overwhelm you?

Julia Gillard:

I think you've been very generous to me with that story because if you were going to complete it, you would have said, "Sung incredibly off key, Happy Birthday," I don't have a very good singing voice so I'm not sure that would have been the most pleasurable moment of your day.

Andrew Leigh:

It was.

Julia Gillard:

Family upbringing, all of that, really reinforced in me that how you are interacting with others, whether you're making them feel comfortable or uncomfortable really tells people a lot about who you are. My father in particular was someone who judged people very keenly not on how they would necessarily relate to him or how they would relate to people of status that they viewed as even more advanced than their own, but how would they would relate to the person serving them in the shop, the waitress who was putting a cup of coffee in front of them, And he was always very quick to point out to us when people were dismissive, not even as far as unkind, but just the dismissive to those they viewed as of lower status. And having grown up as a village boy in a coal mining small town in South Wales, I mean, he knew what it was like to be the person that people viewed as the sort of bottom of the social order.

Julia Gillard:

And so I've had that with me all of my life that I want to judge myself not on how I relate to President Obama when I'm Prime Minister and he's here as President, but how I relate to all of my colleagues, everybody in my world, and particularly, and this obviously doesn't apply to you as a colleague, but particularly people who others would look at and say, "They're down the pecking order." And have I've been treated that every moment of my life? No, of course not, but I aim to be as truthful as possible.

Andrew Leigh:

And to extend that point, you did ensure that when President Obama visited to Parliament House that he got to shake the hands of the women that cleaned your office.

Julia Gillard:

Yes, and he was very generous about that and they were completely overwhelmed and it was a fantastic moment to watch. I mean out of all of the highlights in the time that President Obama came, that one really stays with me.

Andrew Leigh:

I want to ask you about an issue that you haven't said very much about it. There was an Australian Story Episode done on you in 2006 in which your mum recalled you saying at age 18, "I don't want children, I never want children." We don't often talk about the decision not to have children. Can you tell us a little more about yours?

Julia Gillard:

Yeah. I mean, this is a decision that's made sort of moment by moment. I don't feel like I made it all in one hurried moment as an 18 year old, though I did have that conversation with mom, I do remember that. I was never the sort of plucky girl growing up, I was never the girl who wanted to rush and grab someone's baby or volunteer to babysit. I always liked kids but I was not like that. Many of my girlfriends and people from high school were, but I wasn't. So I think that probably feed into my grand announcement at the age of 18 to mom. And then across my life, you in some ways make a set of small decisions that end up leading you to a big decision. So absolutely wanting children was never a driver in my life. Absolutely saying, "I'm not going to have children," was not the driver, but you end up organizing your life, your relationships in a way that piece by piece ends up making the decision for you.

Julia Gillard:

If I'd felt a huge drive to have kids, then I would have had them. If I'd been in a relationship where my partner had felt a huge drive to have kids then we would have found ways of working that through and I may well have had children. But the life that I've lived is landed me here and I'm very comfortable with the decision. I don't have a sense of regret, I don't have a sense of wistfulness about it. I know many women my age who don't have children may live with that. I mean it's a big lifetime choice, so everybody should try and make it right for them, but I don't have a sense of regret. And I do have the privilege, the joy, of sharing in the lives of currently my great niece and great nephew and before that my niece and nephew. So because my sister had children, I always had the sense of connection with the next generation and the next generation. If neither of us had had kids, I think maybe that sense of wistfulness might have been with me, but it's not now.

Andrew Leigh:

You've got some you're gonna borrow and give back at the end of the day.

Julia Gillard:

That's right and they're full of mischief and good fun, absolutely good fun.

Andrew Leigh:

But do you think there is a sense in which society treats those who choose not to have children now a bit like we treated atheists a generation ago?

Julia Gillard:

I don't think it's discriminatory sense. Though, when you're in politics, obviously I've had some moments of that, Bill Heffernan calling me deliberately barren and suggesting how out of touch I was. It's part of this conundrum for women in politics that there's really no right answer to the question, "Do you have children?" If you don't, then gee, you don't know anything about ordinary life and if you do who's looking after them? Tanya Plibersek and Nicola Roxon and others would have had that question asked of them many, many times because they had their families during their political careers. So I think there's that, but I don't think there's a big day to day discrimination. I think sometimes there's an absence in the public conversation, the public policy conversation, inevitably focuses on families and families with kids. And so I can imagine that there are many without kids who think, "Well, actually, is anybody talking about us?" But for me as an individual, I haven't felt that strongly.

Andrew Leigh:

We spoke before about your stoicism and the role that played in your notion of leadership. I was curious in your views on a thesis by Nassir Ghaemi published a book called A First-Rate Madness in which he argued that in times in which the world is in tumult, mentally ill leaders function best. And then he talks about Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, and Kennedy. And his point is not to reify their experiences of depression in particular, but to say that sometimes a normal sane approach can lead us astray. I'm curious as to what you think about that, both in terms of politics and political leadership in a time of crisis, but also as chair of Beyond Blue, the extent to which there's a normalizing of one way of approaching the world, as distinct from recognizing there's a diverse set of approaches to the world?

Julia Gillard:

I haven't read the book so I'm always careful of critiquing the views of others when I don't understand them at depth, but I'd be a little anxious about that analysis in this sense that it sort of points to people with a mental illness as if they are notably different from the rest. So leaders at a time of crisis, Churchill and his black dog notably different from the rest. And actually I think leaders who struggle with mental health conditions are less noticeably different from everybody else because if we're truthful, the prevalence of depression, anxiety, suicide, suicidal thoughts, if we look at the statistics in Australia, we know that struggling with these things is not a hugely atypical experience, millions of Australians, every year, every day, have exactly those emotions.

Julia Gillard:

I prefer in some ways to look at examples like Churchill, John Curtin, and say, "Look at what people can achieve." Even when, in today's language, we would talk about Churchill having a depressive condition. He used his own language with reference to the black dog. In today's language, we will be commenting on John Curtin's battles with alcohol and addiction and addictive personality problems. Look what they achieved. I mean, the world in which we sit, we owe so much to them for the decisions that they made. And so I prefer that view, that prism, than the one in which you're putting based on the book.

Andrew Leigh:

Do you think different moments of history demand a certain different kinds of leadership?

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, I think I have visions of leadership changing over time, absolutely. I think across the general sweep of human history, we would say we have moved ever further away from command and control styles of leadership, to wanting, enabling leaders, leaders that give us a sense of inspiration, that offers us the opportunity to thrive to be at our best. I think in workplaces, in politics, people are looking for leaders that do that rather than the ones who across history have kind of said, "My way or the highway." It doesn't mean that there aren't still crisis moments where the skills of command and control leadership need to come to the fore. I think the judgment is working out which moment is calling for which skill, and it's very easy for leaders to get that wrong.

Andrew Leigh:

When I was studying at the Kennedy School, Ronald Heifetz's model of adaptive leadership was one that was heavily taught there, that notion that leadership is about providing a crucible in which community can make a difficult decision and it struck me that there's pretty strong gender component to this as well, that that command and control approach is more commonly employed by men and that the notion of a leader is an enabler of society is more commonly employed by women. Would you would you see some sort of gender component to that?

Julia Gillard:

I'd certainly see a gendered component now. I don't think the gendered component is inherent, I've never been a believer that somehow men's brains and women's brains are wired so differently that one will lead one way and one will lead another. And there is some fantastic academic research around about this. Cordelia Fine at the University of Melbourne writes powerfully, her book Delusions of Gender takes you through all of that.

Andrew Leigh:

I like the left handed, right handed example she gives.

Julia Gillard:

Yes exactly. But I do think in today's world with socialization of men and women continues to be so different, where the young boy is encouraged for showing leadership tendencies and the young girl is told not to be bossy. I think that does mean that women tend to have more of the soft skills and I think if they move to the more command and control style, the penalty they pay for that is a strong one. Whereas a man who's got a command and control style, particularly if he's got that charismatic personality to go with it, will just be hailed as a great leader.

Andrew Leigh:

Just to wrap up Julia, what advice would you give to your teenage self?

Julia Gillard:

Oh eat more vegetables or something like that. Always good advice, eat more vegetables. I'm happy enough with my life journey to say, go with it. I wouldn't say to my teenage self, you've got to definitely avoid this so definitely do that. I would probably say, make sure you're not so restless for the next thing that you don't take some time to reflect on the journey to date. And it's really only my life post-politics, the writing of the book, some of the things I do now, Beyond Blue, looking at women's leadership, that I've given myself the time and space to be as reflective about my own journey and perhaps I should have done that at the earliest stage in my life.

Andrew Leigh:

Do you feel you didn't enjoy the moment enough from those three years of Prime Ministership?

Julia Gillard:

I think all of us probably didn't enjoy some of the high moments enough. I think me as an individual but the whole team. And I think Labor is very wired for this. We're like, "Okay, tick, job done, next. We know that being in government's a privilege. The Labor Party is a privilege that doesn't come often, and so when we're there, we're just very keen to make the most of every minute. The Paul Keating, not a day to waste, I think we all live with that. So, I hope that for Labor politicians of the future, whilst they continue with that energy and ambition for the nation, maybe there are some moments where they get to just stop and say, "We did that," and really just feel it, let themselves feel it.

Andrew Leigh:

Which is good advice for people outside politics too I think. What something used to believe but no longer do?

Julia Gillard:

Oh gee, that's a hard question. I used to believe but no longer do. I'm really not sure. It does mean I been very rigid in my beliefs across my life. I think one thing I certainly used to believe when I was young when I first came to grips with any understanding of feminism, I used to look and think, "This is on its way to fixing itself, it's inevitable." And then I was exposed to things like Joan Kirner being Premier and so many women having great portfolios, government, Caroline Hogg in health, for example. Yeah, this is on its way to fixing itself. By the time I'm kind of in my '30s or my '40s, everything will be equally shared. Yeah, that belief's left me. We still got a lot more to do.

Andrew Leigh:

I mean, one out of five Australian women call themselves a feminist only one out of 10 Australian men call themselves feminists. I find it as befuddling as you do.

Julia Gillard:

Yeah, it's one of those words that some ended up picking up a lot of baggage and weight over the years. But for me, in essence, it means that you genuinely believe that the sexes are equal that merit is equally distributed and you're prepared to look at any institution that's ended up predominantly male and say something is blocked those women coming through, let's get that blockage out of the way.

Andrew Leigh:

When are you most happy?

Julia Gillard:

I'm probably most happy when I'm at home in Adelaide. I am most happy because I've normally been off traveling and having many adventures and then there's that wonderful sense of decompressing as you sort the suitcase out get all of the laundry washed and just that, "Hah, I'm back home."

Andrew Leigh:

What's the most important thing you do to stay mentally and physically healthy?

Julia Gillard:

I really try and think about the balance in life. So I'm never aspired to be run a marathon kind of athlete, I was never the sporty kid, but I do genuinely believe that, exercise, fresh air, getting out, making sure that there's more in your day than being hunched over a computer or endlessly in meetings really makes a difference. And I certainly like to spend some time drifting away into other worlds predominantly through reading books, I'm a big reader and very much enjoyed giving myself the time and space to do that.

Andrew Leigh:

Do you still do a yoga?

Julia Gillard:

I still do do yoga. And I've been known to like a yoga mat to various locations. Fortunately in today's world, many of the hotels in which you stay will have a yoga mat that they can provide to you. I've also been an investor in those mobile YogaPaws so you don't take the whole mat but you've got the little gloves and feet coverings that can give you some grip and let you do some yoga wherever you are.

Andrew Leigh:

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Julia Gillard:

Oh look an occasional glass of red wine is a damn good thing. And if you're partnering it with a little bit of chocolate, Haigh's in particular, that's a damn good thing too.

Andrew Leigh:

And finally Julia, which person or which experience is most shaped your view of living an ethical life?

Julia Gillard:

Which person I would say, my father. Which experience, I would really say all of the tests that politics putting in my way.

Andrew Leigh:

Which tests in particular?

Julia Gillard:

Oh, every day you're making hard decisions where you've got to bring your values to the fore and that does require you to think about your own ethics and to apply them. There's lots of moments when there is a shoddier route in front of you and it does take thought to get you to think what's the better route. Now, I don't think that there's a politician in human history that's always made the right decisions faced with those choices but I'd like to think that I and the government I led we were aware of the nature of those choices and tried to get them right.

Andrew Leigh:

That's fascinating. So you've written that resilience is a muscle but this is a notion of ethical decision making also being a muscle, that you get better at making ethical decisions the more you make of them?

Julia Gillard:

I think that's true, and I think it's one thing to have your ethics defined in your head as a theory, it's another thing to test their application in hard contexts and environments.

Andrew Leigh:

Julia Gillard, thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom on The Good Life Podcast today.

Julia Gillard:

Thank you, a pleasure.

Andrew Leigh:

Thanks for listening to this week's episode of The Good Life. We love getting feedback so please leave us a rating or a comment on Apple Podcasts, formerly known as iTunes. Next week, I'll be back with another inspiring guest to discuss living a happier, healthier, and more ethical life.

 


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.