A Silent Speech by Julia Gillard

A new poem by Clive James.

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High dungeon was a feeling I knew well
When mockery from men weighed on my soul.
As your Prime Minister I went through hell,
If I can say so without hyperbowl.

Triumphant now in power, the men of hate
Who howled that I was unfit for command
Make prejudice a tenant of the state.
Don’t speak to me about the Taliband:

The true misogynists are here in Oz.
Some were my colleagues. Of their treachery
I shall say nothing at this time, because
They were the same men who appointed me.

When I announced no government I led
Would institute a carbon tax, I meant
At that precise time roughly what I said.
And look, there was a surplus to be spent.

Eventually we got rid of it all,
A fact in which my party can take pride.
I know Australia longs for my recall.
I shall return, my consort by my side.

I faced the fuselage. I kept your trust.
The sea at Noosa is my new front yard,
But when the ocean rises, as it must,
I shall be back in Canberra, working hard

On your behalves. Once more unto the breach
Dear friends! As Joan of Arc proclaimed when she
Faced the machine guns on that lonely beach –
Our cause is just. The rest is history.

 

Linguistic footnote During Julia Gillard’s time as prime minister of Australia, her political vocabulary was a rich source of neologism. “High dungeon” and “Taliband” were both of her coinage. “Tenant” for “tenet” was also one of hers. She was not the first to discover the usefully suggestive pronunciation “hyperbowl” for “hyperbole”, but she was among the first to use it in parliament, and certainly the very first ever to deploy it while occupying the office of prime minister – a demeaning position into which she was forced by the typically Australian misogynistic males of the Labor Party caucus. The use of “fuselage” for “fusillade” was a contribution from Kevin Rudd, but I have given it to Gillard on the assumption that she would have thought of it eventually. “Behalves” is my own discovery and might prove useful: through barbarisms, our language is often changed for the better.

Clive James (1939-2019) was an Australian author, critic, broadcaster and poet, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, his chat shows on British television and his prolific journalism. He contributed several original poems to the New Statesman

This article appears in the 27 November 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of the insurgents

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