I am living very near to Julia Gillard’s house. I will not disclose in this blog the name of the street I am living in as I strongly believe every person, including public figures, is entitled to his or her privacy. I am very glad from what I read from the mass media that the people in Altona are largely considerate folks who have left her alone to pursue her private life. She had expressed her happiness of living in Altona and she can walk around freely in Altona, without being harassed, talked about, treated differently or inviting excessive attention. I am aghast that many newspapers showed absolutely no regards for her privacy by having no qualms in widely publishing photographs of her house in Altona. One newspapers article even quoted in its headline, the name of the street she is living in, hoping this would capture the attention of curious readers.

What I know about Julia Gillard, like most other people, is from the mass media coverage. She is seldom at home. Even her next door neighbours do not get to see her most of the times. I saw her only a few times and smiled to her, when she was on her way out for business or on her way home, always accompanied by security officers.

Although I have no personal contact with her, I am still able to form an impression of her from what little knowledge I have of her through newspapers reports. Her house in Altona is a very modest brick veneer house built in the 60s. It does not even have a front fence. “Her security measures, as far as I know, involve her locking the front door and maybe the back one.” a visitor to her home told the Sydney Morning Herald in a news article.

My parents-in-law from China who visited us were very surprised by how modest and down-to-earth her house is, which would not befit the status equivalent to a Deputy Prime Minister back in China, where even low-ranking provincial officials would be living separate from the common folks in highly-guarded special residences. My parents-in-law managed to meet her a few times during their morning walks and she always smiles to them. A previous boarder (an Indian girl) who was staying with us was walking to the train station one morning. Julia Gillard happened to leave her house, went to shake hands with my friend and asked her where she was working and so on. My parents-in-law heaped praises on her and the political system in Australia for it would be unimaginable for common folks in China to have such close and easy contacts with politicians. They feel honoured to have met the most powerful person in Australia while here on a tourist visa, whereas they cannot even get close to a low-ranking official in their hometown throughout their lives.

Many highly-educated women have set a very high bar when choosing their ideal partners. Their criteria may include a successful career, high educational qualifications, good financial status, compatible family background, a minimum height requirement and many other desirable attributes. I think it is atypical and rare for a woman of her capabilities, qualities and achievements to choose as a partner, a hairdresser who had only completed an apprenticeship and who is a divorcee with three children. Unlike many people, the past and imperfections of her partner does not matter to her. Her attitudes to her own personal life speaks favourably of her as a person, showing that she is a very pragmatic person who does not hanker after material possessions and who values personal relationships highly.

I do believe that she has not secretly plotted against Kevin Rudd for the top post and she has not orchestrated the coup that leads to Kevin Rudd being desposed as a Prime Minister. She had accepted the persuasion from powerbrokers in the Labor factions of the need to challenge Kevin Rudd, due to opinion polls indicating the rapid decline of popular support for the Labor Party. Of course, she could flatly refuse the lobbyists’ requests to challenge Kevin Rudd. But we are having double standards here, in that many people had criticized Peter Costello for not having the courage to challenge John Howard and hence, losing his political future.

I think we should not read too much into her “Real Julia” election strategy, in doubting whether she has been a “fake” in the past. She was getting desperate at that point of the election campaign so she wanted to reach out more to the hearts of people by running a less stage-managed campaign and having less scripted speeches. Politicians all over the world have image consultants for packaging them optimally to engage their voters so we should not expect the situation in Australia to differ vastly.

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