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Julia Gillard: the Prime Minister on dating, drugs and life with Tim

Photography by Grant Matthews. Styling by Judith Cook.
On the nightly news, she is cool and composed. Yet as Bryce Corbett discovers, you only have to put our new PM in stilettos and delve a little into her personal life to find the woman behind the politician.
Julia Gillard is running late. The Royal Australian Air Force jet that will be flying her from Sydney to Darwin this evening is sitting on the tarmac, its crew patiently waiting to receive their new prime minister. When, eventually, Australia’s most famous redhead bursts onto the plane and bustles her way into the main cabin, her entrance is preceded with a flurry of apologies.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry to have kept you all waiting!” she effuses to the uniformed crew, none of whom seem to know what to say to a prime minister begging their forgiveness.
She is dressed in a smart black pantsuit with an elegant string of pearls around her neck. The hair – that famous, voluminous mop – seems to want to break free of the styling to which it has been subjected for this day’s round of official engagements. Fresh from announcing a new asylum-seeker policy and only days after brokering a mining tax resolution, she has emissions trading, an election date announcement and a furious stint of campaigning looming on her to-do list.
“Let’s see. Right now, I’ve got an interview with you,” Julia says, officiously, pointing at me. “Then we’ve got some work to do,” she adds, nodding at her staff. “Let’s get this plane in the air.”
On her relationship…
People are always speculating about Tim, but I think it’s too much pressure for one man. It’s not that I have anything against the institution of marriage, it’s just the accumulation of a set of life choices that has led me to this point.”
And if Tim was to ask you to marry him? “I think that I would have to have that conversation with Tim first.”
So are you ruling out a wedding in The Lodge? “I’m not going to rule anything in or out, but I would say that any discussion about marriage would be about me and Tim, not about The Lodge, or being prime minister or elections or government, or any of those things.”
So would you live together in The Lodge as Australia’s first female, unmarried prime minister and her boyfriend? “Well, Tim and I are de-facto partners, so, yes, if I’m elected, then I would move to The Lodge and Tim would come with me. He lives in my home in Altona. So our home is together.”
And how do you think that would play in the electorate? “I really don’t think people would much care. I’m not preaching my life choices as a model for other people. It’s my life, I made my choices, I don’t regret my choices nor am I urging anybody to mimic them.”
Keen observers of “La Gillardine”, as ABC political commentator Annabel Crabb has dubbed her, will recognise the take-me-as-I-am persona that Julia has honed throughout her time in the political spotlight. She’s unapologetic about who she is, where she’s gotten to and the life experiences she’s had along the way.
“I have been asked before if I have tried marijuana and the answer to that is yes,” she says matter-of-factly. “In university, we would go out to the pub and perhaps drink more than we should have on occasions. But that would be the limit of it.”
What she thinks…
… on late-term abortion “It’s not the business of politicians to make sweeping statements on issues like these. People have to confront all sorts of different circumstances – profound disability, for example. For me, it’s about letting an individual make that decision with her family. It’s not my place to preach. I’m generally in favour of allowing women to make decisions and not having politicians make them for them.”
… on God
“I am not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel. For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine.”

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Read more of this story in the August issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

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