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Hand Wars And Other Gesturing.


Julia Gillard has a rather distinguishing feature when talking. For some odd reason she likes to use her hands. Kerry O’Brien obviously knew this.

I thought for a second that the prime minister could not see Kerry, but even Kerry made hand gestures so I’m thinking that she could.

Kerry began the proceedings by asking his first question. Mr O’Brien posed the question with a mild case of hand sweeping.



Julia Gillard, [hand gesture]starting with the WikiLeaks exposure of Kevin Rudd’s comments on China to Hillary Clinton [hand gesture] when he was Prime Minister, in particular his advice that the US should be prepared to use force against China if all else failed. [hand gesture] What is the risk that those comments will harm Australia’s relationship with China?

Julia responded with her own def con one reaction to Kerry.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: Kerry, I don’t want to disappoint you in what will be my[head gesture] last interview on your show, but I am [hand gesture] not going to comment on the details of leaked cables that are making an appearance on WikiLeaks. What of course I will talk about is our relationship with China, and [hand gesture] we have a strong relationship with China, [hand gesture] a constructive relationship, but also [hand gesture] a frank relationship where we can say things that are in our national interest, that express our views and opinions, [hand gesture] expressing our views and opinions. [hand gesture] Being frank doesn’t [hand gesture] hurt the relationship. [hand gesture] You can have a frank discussion. We have in the past and we will in the future in the [hand gesture] context of a strong and constructive relationship.

Take that Kazza!

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well of [hand gesture] course I wasn’t going to ask you to confirm what was in the cable, but we can all take our own judgments on that and all those [hand gesture] other cables that have been released and the various [hand gesture] political leaders’ reactions to them. But just on the reports and what has been exposed, it could hardly be helpful to the relationship for Chinese leaders to be reading that an alleged friend and important trading partner in the region was privately telling the world’s most powerful nation to be[hand gesture] ready to use force against them if necessary. Now,[hand gesture] how do you know that the Chinese won’t [head gesture] privately take offence at that, even if they don’t come to you and say, [head gesture] “You’ve hurt us”?

(The camera angle from the front disguises a lot of Kerry’s hand gestures but you can see his shoulders moving and you get the reverse shot every now and then. Still an amateur at hand gestures when compared to our Julia!)

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I’m not going [head gesture] to assume accuracy in the cables. We’re [hand gesture] [head gesture] not commenting on the contents of these cables.

KERRY O’BRIEN: No, [head gesture] no, I understand that.

JULIA GILLARD: What I can say about our relationship with China is [head gesture] I think everybody knew that WikiLeaks was gonna put a [head gesture] lot of information out there. Everybody’s been [head gesture] expecting that. I don’t anticipate [head gesture] these reports will make [head gesture] any difference at all in our relationship with China.

(ha! At you Kerry! You want head gestures! I can give you head gestures!)

KERRY O’BRIEN: But, nonetheless, there are realities and the term “brutal realism” was used about Kevin Rudd’s approach to Australia’s global diplomacy. Every nation has its national security, every nation has its armed forces, every nation has its security strategies. [head gesture] [hand gesture]You must be covering these issues in your discussions with various countries in the region, but particularly with the United States. [head gesture] [hand gesture] What is the circumstance in which force would be justified against China?

(Note: The camera spent a bit of time on the PM so I can only comment on the gestures made when it came back to Kerry.

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, our [head gesture] outlook on China is something that’s been in the public domain. We’ve had an opportunity to talk about it at [head gesture] length recently, partly[hand gesture] because I’ve been at important meetings like the [hand gesture] East Asia Summit; partly because when [hand gesture] Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates were here in Australia for the [hand gesture] annual Australia-US Strategic Dialogue, our [hand gesture] AUSMIN dialogue, [hand gesture] inevitably, the rise of China was something under discussion. [hand gesture] Our settings here, Kerry, are that a [head gesture] [hand gesture] prosperous China [hand gesture] engaged in regional institutions like [hand gesture] the East Asia Summit is an [head gesture] [hand gesture] important force for good. [hand gesture] We want to see a prosperous China. [hand gesture] We want to see China engaged in a rules-based system. [hand gesture] We want to see them engaged in regional architecture [hand gesture] like the East Asia Summit. [hand gesture] We also believe the US plays a [hand gesture] stabilising force in our region, [hand gesture]which is why we were [head gesture] [hand gesture] so pleased to see the US step forward and join the [head gesture] East Asia Summit. [head gesture] [hand gesture] We believe there will always be differences between countries. [head gesture] [hand gesture] We’ll have differences with China and [head gesture] [hand gesture] they are resolved through [head gesture] [hand gesture] diplomacy and dialogue. Of course, as a country, we make proper provision for our [head gesture] national interest, including our defence interest. [hand gesture] You’d expect a national government to do that [head gesture] and we do.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And when you talk about encouraging China to be a [head gesture] [hand gesture] part of regional and global forums that it [head gesture] [hand gesture] hasn’t previously been a part of, is that a part of a [hand gesture] process of ultimately containing China?

JULIA GILLARD: The rise of China of course has got [hand gesture] everybody thinking, [hand gesture] “How does this new [hand gesture] giant fit in with [hand gesture] regional stability, with [hand gesture] global stability, with [hand gesture] diplomatic architecture, [hand gesture] with security dialogue, [hand gesture] with trade dialogue?” [hand gesture] Of course everybody has been talking about the rise of China. [hand gesture] But we are very clear on how [hand gesture] we are going to [hand gesture] work [hand gesture] bilaterally through our [hand gesture] strong, [hand gesture] constructive, [hand gesture] frank relationship with China, through [hand gesture] regional …

KERRY O’BRIEN: But does the [hand gesture] word containment feature in your vocabulary?

JULIA GILLARD: [hand gesture] Engagement is the word in [head gesture] my vocabulary, Kerry. [hand gesture] Engagement in[hand gesture] regional forums like the [hand gesture] East Asia Summit where [hand gesture] we do have now [hand gesture] around the table [hand gesture] China, [hand gesture] the US, [hand gesture] countries of our region, [hand gesture] engaged in a dialogue across the [hand gesture] economic, the [hand gesture] strategic, [hand gesture] security matters. [hand gesture] These are good things and that’s [hand gesture] what we want to see as China [hand gesture] increases to be a [hand gesture] force in our region and in our world.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Can we talk now about what could be a make-or-break year for you next year, in the context of what has been a horror year for Labor in 2010. Firstly, do you agree with me that there is a real hunger in the community for inspired leadership and a sense that they’re not getting it yet from you?

JULIA GILLARD: I think our community wants to [head gesture] see the vision of the future. They want leaders to put that before them and they want to know that you’re [head gesture] working towards it, and Kerry, as Prime Minister I am [head gesture] doing that and I’ll continue to do it. I think people have underestimated the sheer [head gesture] size and scope of our reform agenda. [hand gesture] We are drawing on our heritage as a Labor Party. The [hand gesture] threads through Hawke and Keating, our [hand gesture] reformist tradition. Kerry, [hand gesture] some of the things that they did were [hand gesture] nation-changing. [hand gesture] But they could only be done once. You can only [hand gesture] float the dollar once, for example. We are now [hand gesture] getting on with the [hand gesture] reform work that is necessary for [hand gesture] parts of our economy which are [hand gesture] important to people’s day-to-day lives, [hand gesture] but haven’t had transformative reforms for, you know, [hand gesture] [head gesture] over a generation. I’m talking about [hand gesture] health, I’m talking about [hand gesture] education, about [hand gesture] water, and of course, [hand gesture] the newer challenge of pricing carbon. We’re bringing our market-based tools to this change.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But we have been hearing … But we have been hearing that [hand gesture] framework of policy challenge [hand gesture] since before you came to power in 2007. When you talked about people being surprised or not fully understanding the scope of the reform agenda, [hand gesture] do you think [hand gesture] you yourselves did not understand what you were taking on, coming in in 2007, that perhaps you took on too much with what you were promising?

JULIA GILLARD: We [hand gesture] came to government in 2007 with a [hand gesture] wave of enthusiasm for change, a [head gesture] long-term government was being replaced. [hand gesture] I said on election night, sitting with you, Kerry, that I thought people still had a sense of connection and respect for Prime Minister Howard. [hand gesture] But they did want change and [hand gesture] our government set about delivering change. I think we did a lot of things very quickly and there were  [hand gesture] times that we didn’t [hand gesture] explain the [hand gesture] full importance of our reforms to the Australian people. And then on [hand gesture] top of what was a very [hand gesture] broad reform agenda, we had to [hand gesture] handle the Global Financial Crisis. And, Kerry, [hand gesture] I’m proud of our response to the Global Financial Crisis.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But I’m going to ask you..

JULIA GILLARD: I’m proud of how the country responded. [hand gesture] Because we responded that way, [hand gesture] since 2007 to now, we can talk about [hand gesture] 650,000 jobs being created. [hand gesture] Australians in work, [hand gesture] with pay packets, [hand gesture] with dignity, [hand gesture] with self-worth as a result of those policies. [hand gesture] But we do keep – [hand gesture] I do need to keep explaining the vision of the future and [head gesture] I’m gonna do that [head gesture] now [head gesture] and in 2011.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But when you talk about the [head gesture] vision for the future, so much of your agenda for next year – and I’ve [hand gesture] read very carefully through your various outlines of that, and there have been a few – and so much of that agenda seems to be coming from a defensive base, digging your way out of the mess that the new mining tax became, [hand gesture] trying to recover credibility on climate change, [hand gesture] trying to take the heat out of the asylum seeker issue. Even on the economy, everything’s framed by your overall imperative to climb out of deficit. This is [hand gesture] not an inspirational agenda on the face of it, is it?

JULIA GILLARD: [nasty smile] Kerry, I’m going to disagree with you. [head gesture] I think we do have an agenda to inspire. I was inspired to become involved in [head gesture] public life in politics because I had a vision, a care, a concern about the circumstances of every child getting a great education. [hand gesture] That’s part of what we’re doing in 2011, [hand gesture] taking more steps to [hand gesture] making that dream come true – [hand gesture] every child a [hand gesture] great education. And [hand gesture] then when I look at health – [hand gesture] nothing more important to Australians when [hand gesture] they or their families are under pressure than knowing that they can [hand gesture] see a doctor, [hand gesture] they can see a nurse, [hand gesture] they can get a hospital bed. [hand gesture] Well we will be [hand gesture] making our [hand gesture] health [hand gesture] reforms [hand gesture] real next year and we’ll be [hand gesture] transforming our health system [hand gesture] for the decades to come.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But let me just stop you right there. [hand gesture] Health reform – so [hand gesture] people will be able to do these things next year. This reform agenda is gonna [hand gesture] kick in next year. [hand gesture] So by the end of next [hand gesture] year, [hand gesture] you will be able or the public will be able to [hand gesture] look at [hand gesture] very [hand gesture] real [hand gesture] outcomes on your [hand gesture] health reform agenda. They will – and [hand gesture] I’m not just talking about [hand gesture] pockets here and there. You’re saying that by the end of year ’11, [hand gesture] we will be able to see broadly across this country [hand gesture] evidence of where [hand gesture] your health reform policies have bitten?

JULIA GILLARD: [hand gesture] Change is happening now, Kerry, and people will see [hand gesture] more change in 2011. To take just [hand gesture] some examples of the change: we’ve [hand gesture] driven [hand gesture] thousands [hand gesture] more [hand gesture] elective [hand gesture] surgeries through our hospitals, and [hand gesture] just last week I was in Queensland announcing some good news with some [hand gesture] more money for [hand gesture] more elective surgery. Now, for [hand gesture] Australians that have [hand gesture] been on waiting lists, this is [hand gesture] incredibly important – [hand gesture] part of our health reforms. [hand gesture] More doctors, [hand gesture] more nurses – [hand gesture] part of our health reforms. [hand gesture] Local hospital networks. [hand gesture] You’ll be able to see their boundaries – part of our health reforms. [hand gesture] Medicare locals, bringing together the [hand gesture] important primary care services that [hand gesture] help people when they [hand gesture] first become unwell or to [hand gesture] manage a chronic condition in the community, [hand gesture] people will be able to see those taking shape. [hand gesture] Kerry, health reform and [hand gesture] its delivery is [hand gesture] going to take some time. [hand gesture] Making a new doctor or a nurse [hand gesture] takes some time.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Yes, but this is the point …

JULIA GILLARD: I’m not gonna resile from that.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But that’s point I’m making …

JULIA GILLARD: [hand gesture] But delivering, [hand gesture] piece by piece, [hand gesture] transformative change is necessary for our health system. Kerry, [hand gesture] we come off …

KERRY O’BRIEN: Sorry, [hand gesture] that is the point I’m making: [hand gesture] that in so many of these things, [hand gesture] these are very slow building blocks. As I say, people are hungry to get a sense, a real sense of your leadership, but this agenda is still Kevin Rudd’s agenda, isn’t it? I look at your agenda outline for 2011 and I still see Kevin Rudd’s agenda. When can we begin to define the substance of Julia Gillard’s leadership to see the stamp that says “Gillard” on this government?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry,  [hand gesture] on the day I became Prime Minister, I said to the Australian people I’d believed [hand gesture] all of my life in some [hand gesture] basic principles that had guided me. I said [hand gesture] I believed in the [hand gesture] benefits and [hand gesture] dignity of work, and I have [hand gesture] signalled that in [hand gesture] 2011, you will see changes. What we [hand gesture] will call, in the language of politicians and policy-makers, [hand gesture] participation changes, [hand gesture] but changes to make sure that more Australians enjoy the [hand gesture] benefits and dignity of work, [hand gesture] having a job. I was [hand gesture] driven into public life by my belief in the [hand gesture] transformative power of education. [hand gesture] It changed my life. [hand gesture] I wouldn’t be sitting here being interviewed by [hand gesture] Kerry O’Brien if it [hand gesture] wasn’t for the [hand gesture] transformative power of education. We will continue to drive that agenda – something that [hand gesture] quintessentially, Kerry, I’ve stood for every day I’ve been in Parliament. [hand gesture] And I believe …

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] I’ve heard you – [hand gesture] I have heard you outline these [hand gesture] things many times, many times …

JULIA GILLARD: Well, you’ve [hand gesture] asked me for my agenda, Kerry, and I’m outlining it for you. [hand gesture] And of course …

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] Well, you’re outlining a vision that you [hand gesture] first outlined quite a long time ago, but the bottom line is people, it [hand gesture] seems, are [hand gesture] still struggling [hand gesture] to be convinced about your leadership. That jury would still seem to be out, and I would think you’d agree with that.

But you’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what went wrong for Labor in the last term, particularly the raising of expectations, that [hand gesture] probably you as a government, Kevin Rudd as leader, were never going to be able to meet in the time, certainly not within one term, with or without a global crisis. What part do you think that the Government’s media strategy played in what became a nightmare third year – and you’ve [hand gesture] touched on this briefly in the past. [hand gesture] I’m just [hand gesture] interested to hear about what [hand gesture] you regard as the [hand gesture] challenges of a [hand gesture] new media environment for [hand gesture] government today?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, [hand gesture] Kerry, I’m happy to talk about that and in part I think our last exchange may [hand gesture] exhibit a little bit of it to people. I was [hand gesture] talking to you about the things I first said on the day that I became Prime Minister, [hand gesture] about the dignity of work, [hand gesture] about education, [hand gesture] about my confidence in the future of this country and [hand gesture] our ability to deal with so many [hand gesture] difficult issues, like [hand gesture] pricing carbon, like [hand gesture] reforming health, like [hand gesture] rolling out the infrastructure of the future, the National Broadband Network. Now, I talked about my passion, my vision about those things in June. Here we sit in December, and Kerry, [hand gesture] you [hand gesture] don’t [hand gesture] make [hand gesture] that [hand gesture] kind [hand gesture] of  [hand gesture] change [hand gesture] in [hand gesture] six [hand gesture] months. You can [hand gesture] start it, you can deliver [hand gesture] bits of it, but you need to [hand gesture] methodically [hand gesture] keep [hand gesture] delivering. And that’s what I will be doing in 2011.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But in that context – [hand gesture] yeah, go on.

JULIA GILLARD: [hand gesture] In the media environment, we constantly are under pressure to say, well, [hand gesture] what’s new? [hand gesture] What’s different? [hand gesture] As if the [hand gesture] journey in health reform or [hand gesture] the journey in pricing carbon or [hand gesture] the journey in making sure every child gets a great education or [hand gesture] more Australians have the benefits and dignity of work, that that journey is somehow [hand gesture] over the first day that a [hand gesture] reporter types up what I’ve said in the [hand gesture] first press conference. Of course real reform isn’t made that way.

KERRY O’BRIEN: [hand gesture] But isn’t it also true that the Rudd Government [hand gesture] set itself up for this because [hand gesture] almost daily, it was like there [hand gesture] had to be a new headline, [hand gesture] there had to be a new policy announcement? [hand gesture] Even if there wasn’t a new policy to announce, there was [hand gesture] old policy dressed up as [hand gesture] new. It was as [hand gesture] if there had to be a [hand gesture] regular feeding of the media beast because if [hand gesture] you didn’t, somebody else [hand gesture] would. Now I know that’s something that you’ve become concerned about. I just wonder [hand gesture] how you are going to change this [hand gesture] government’s approach to its relations with media while still [head gesture]hopefully being open?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ll certainly be open, Kerry, and [hand gesture] I accept the responsibility as [hand gesture] Prime Minister to say to the [hand gesture] nation where I want us to [hand gesture] head to, [hand gesture] what the vision is and how we’re gonna do it. [hand gesture] That’s my responsibility. The [hand gesture] new media environment, I think, puts some [hand gesture] new challenges [hand gesture] in my way in [hand gesture] acquitting that responsibility, but [hand gesture] ultimately I’m going to keep [hand gesture] persisting. And, Kerry, what it is about is it’s about saying, as [hand gesture] I did to the press gallery when they gathered with me for a Christmas drink at the end of the parliamentary year – you can [hand gesture] really think about this like Australians think about a Christmas stocking: there are a [hand gesture] few things that people will give each other this Christmas that are [hand gesture] meant to last and have [hand gesture] meaning for a lifetime. That [hand gesture] first watch you give your child, the [hand gesture] first locket you give your daughter, that you want [hand gesture] them to have for [hand gesture] 20 or 30 years. And [hand gesture] there are the things that are stocking fillers that you [hand gesture] know will be broken in 24 hours’ time, or [hand gesture] lost, or [hand gesture] fully consumed in 24 hours’ time. In the [hand gesture] public policy area, [hand gesture] I’m more interested in the things like [hand gesture] that watch or [hand gesture] that locket that will still have [hand gesture] meaning in [hand gesture] 20 years than the [hand gesture] things that are forgotten about tomorrow. That is gonna require me to [hand gesture] keep having that conversation with [hand gesture] journalists, with our Australian media, but I’m gonna keep doing that. [hand gesture] And Kerry, if, in 12 months’ time, whoever is sitting in your chair says to me, [hand gesture] “Don’t tell me you’re still going on about education; [hand gesture] don’t tell me you’re still going on about everybody having the benefits and dignity of work; [hand gesture] don’t tell me you’re still going on about tackling climate change,” [hand gesture] I’ll count that as a success.

KERRY O’BRIEN: I think they’ll probably be asking – they’ll probably be asking you about the realities.

JULIA GILLARD: Because it means that for 12 months we would’ve been talking about those [hand gesture] deep reforms.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Julia Gillard, thanks very much for talking with us. Thankyou.

JULIA GILLARD: And if I’m allowed a moment of [head gesture]nostalgia, Kerry, fantastic to be able to be here for your [head gesture] last week and I’m sad to see you go. I’m sure [head gesture] there will be moments that I won’t miss a [head gesture] tough Kerry O’Brien interview, but you’ve made a fantastic contribution to the [head gesture] Australian national debate and our [head gesture] sense of ourselves.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Thankyou for that. Goodnight.

JULIA GILLARD: [head gesture] Thankyou.

(I more than likely have missed heaps of other points of gestures but you get my point)

Talking hands talking to the hand

Scary huh? Politicians seem to think a hand gesture adds to what it is they are saying. Sorry Julia. That only works if you have music in the background.

A. Ghebranious       2010            All Rights Reserved

  1. Pip permalink

    Julia is obviously the only politician or other talking head to do annoying little things for others to pick on, huh????
    Uum, aah, tsk, guess who does that ALL the time ??

    • I’m a big fan of Julia. Just not hand gestures that seem to be disconnected from what it is she is trying to say. I reckon if she cuts down on hand gestures as much as I cut down on smoking, we will both live long lives.

  2. Jennifer Baratta permalink

    Well many politians do it. She is not the only one and was demenstrated on DS9 with Jadisa meeting past hostes.

  3. Catching up permalink

    I suspect that PM Gillard is going OK if this topic merits the article above. What, nothing PM Gillard said is worth repeating or analysing.

  4. Julia gillard is a lawyer. If you spent much time in courtrooms you would know that a lawyer who is summing up would be deaf and dumb with his or her hands tied behind back. It is done for emphasis.

    • Yeah I know. But she went out of her way for a bit to give Rudd like hand gestures. When she finally allowed herself to be herself (misogyny speech) the hands were not an issue

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