Australia's Love Affair With Our Acting Pm
Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday January 1, 2009
AMANDA TANGAS, 12, is one of many female supporters who has "bowled over" Julia Gillard since she first assumed the role of Acting Prime Minister a year ago.Flowers, cards and even jewellery such as brooches and necklaces continue to pour in to Ms Gillard's office from an army of devoted women admirers, ecstatic that at last one of their gender can occupy the top job, even if temporarily.Ms Gillard yesterday described as "huge" the response from women when she first acted as Prime Minister, in the absence of Kevin Rudd overseas.The attention women politicians get because of their gender may be passing, partly as a result of her position, Ms Gillard suggested yesterday.The response from Amanda Tangas has been one of the more touching episodes. The stepdaughter of a policeman recently posted to the Victorian country town of Ararat, she made the two-hour trip to Melbourne to meet her heroine after her stepfather, Brendan Van, wrote asking if Amanda could meet Ms Gillard.Amanda's mother, Victoria Van, said while she had voted Labor she was not really into politics. But Ms Gillard had entranced her daughter. "She is such a strong female role model. When Amanda got to meet her, she reacted like she was meeting the biggest pop star," Mrs Van told the Herald.Ms Gillard had been "just lovely" with Amanda, spending 30 minutes with her even though she was Acting Prime Minister at the time, in October. The meeting had lifted Amanda, who been "quite down" after leaving her friends in the move to Ararat.This week Ms Gillard was again acting as Prime Minister but performing like a veteran. Without a falter she stepped through a barrage of prickly media questions on issues including the Middle East conflict and the Haneef apology. She turned questions on trivia such as beach nudity and Paris Hilton's lavish spending in Melbourne into opportunities to promote positive messages.In a TV interview yesterday she said that while she realised the significance of standing in as Acting Prime Minister when she first did it after the 2007 election, "the reaction from women really bowled me over". "It was huge. I mean, women I didn't know sending me flowers and cards because they were just so delighted." The Herald has been told that women devotees have also sent modest pieces of jewellery and Ms Gillard likes to wear these in Parliament.Ms Gillard said that during the year it had "got more normal for me to be acting in this job and I think that is a good thing"." I would like to think that we are moving through that transition stage where people are just going to look at politics and think it is pretty normal for women to be in all the jobs."