Julia Gillard has weighed into Donald Trump’s odd Twitter behaviour, acknowledging there will be questions about his mental health.
The new chair of beyondblue and the former Australian Labor prime minister cautioned against throwing around the charge of being mentally ill as an insult but acknowledged some had a genuine concern for the president.
“I know that some people in the US, some commentators are not proffering that analysis by way of insult, they’re actually saying it because they are genuinely concerned,” Gillard told ABC’s Lateline.
“From the outside I think it is very difficult to judge someone else’s mental health … so I think there’s some need for caution here.
“But I do think if President Trump continues with some of the tweeting etcetera that we’ve seen, that this will be in the dialogue.”
Gillard acknowledged she had her own moments of anxiety as prime minister and had to consider her mental health when faced with negative headlines and attacks on social media. Gillard came under extraordinary pressure as the first woman prime minister, enduring commentary that questioned her relationship with her partner Tim Mathieson and events such as a Liberal party fundraiser that served up Julia Gillard quail with “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”.
“As I looked at very negative media headlines – dreadful things on social media – and I did consciously think, I’ve got some choices to make now about how much I let of this into my head,” Gillard said.
“How much of this poison gets in my head and stays with me? I’ve got some choices about how much I brood, or whether I go to bed and sleep soundly. I made some very deliberate choices, so I wouldn’t let it get in my head, I would sleep soundly at night.”
Gillard said the rapid media cycle combined with social media had disrupted the rhythm of politics and the perception of politicians.
Gillard implemented a number of big reforms during a minority government, including the carbon trading scheme (since repealed by the Abbott government), the first Gonski school funding system, a mining tax (also repealed) and plain packaging for tobacco. She said serious and deep reforms were harder because the media and therefore the public were unable to sustain focused attention.
“The media caravan wants to very quickly move on and I saw that when I was prime minister,” Gillard said.
“You would literally announce a multibillion-dollar, huge new policy in a blue room press conference mid-morning, and by midday journalists from the press gallery would be ringing my press secretary saying, ‘have you got a story for us?’”
Although Gillard has rarely entered contemporary political debates since she left the prime ministership, she warned if the Coalition government’s marriage plebiscite ever occurred, the debate would need to be conducted respectfully so that the LGBTI community was not stigmatised.
“Should we ever have such a plebiscite, then I think there would be a lot of weight on everyone, including all political participants from all political parties, to make sure that the debate was respected,” she said.
“I would be concerned that that kind of debate could have within it some very jarring voices which would compound this problem of stigma.”
Gillard said since she had begun working with beyondblue she understood that just because she had withstood strong pressure in the past without a period of mental illness, does not mean she would ever be immune.
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