At the start of yesterday, Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan’s reiteration of his “deliberately barren” remarks to The Bulletin was running a distant second to the media’s questioning of Julia Gillard’s fitness to deal with IR issues.
By this morning, the Heff controversy had taken the lead, the heat was off Gillard and the Government’s IR attack on Labor had been blunted. No wonder the PM was upset.
With thanks to our friends at Media Monitors for helping us to keep up with the shifting sands of this story, we present: a very fertile timeline.
- 27 May 2006, “Hard Man on the Hill”, Good Weekend,When asked about the prospect of Julia Gillard as leader of the ALP, Bill Heffernan responds: “Na. Na. Na. I mean anyone who chooses to remain deliberately barren … they’ve got no idea what life’s about. We’ve got a few on our side as well. I’ve said this before, the most difficult job in the world is parenthood. Rudd’s got three kids. He knows what a bucket of nappies is all about.”
- Tuesday, 1 May 2007, The Bulletin (story picked up in The Australian)Asked if he stands by his “deliberately barren” comments of 2006 Heffernan responds: “I won’t walk away from that … So rude, crude and unattractive as it was … If you’re a leader, you’ve got to understand your community. One of the great understandings in a community is family, and the relationship between mum, dad and a bucket of nappies.” He also weighs in on priests and why they should be able to marry: “… Priests, like the rest of us,” he says, “wake up with a horn at four in the morning”.
- Yesterday, “Labor team turns on Gillard”, The Australian
In the first serious signs of division in Labor ranks since Kevin Rudd became leader five months ago, Opposition MPs are furious at Ms Gillard for alienating the business community, report Dennis Shanahan and Steve Lewis.
- Yesterday, “Julia falls flat”, front cover of The Daily Telegraph
- Yesterday, 6:01am, Ten NewsJulia Gillard is fighting stinging attacks from within, with claims her industrial vision has damaged links with business.
- Yesterday, 6:17am, Ten News
Heffernan has questioned Gillard’s credentials to lead the country because she doesn’t have children.
- Yesterday, 9:20am, ABC Radio Brisbane with Madonna KingIndustry Minister Ian Macfarlane says: “Bill is a very frank, forthright person, he is a … he is a bushy … he says what he thinks. Now, whether he wants to apologise to Julia for that comment which may have been made in the heat of the moment or whatever, that’s up to Bill. I mean, I don’t … I’m not Bill’s keeper.”
- Yesterday, 10:52am, Sky NewsJohn Howard responds to Heffernan’s comments: “Bill is a very good friend of mine and he remains a very dear friend of mine, but on something like this he’s not speaking for me or for the Government. This business of should (he apologise), I mean people say funny things all the time and the question of whether they apologise for them is a matter for them. If she wants to take that up with him, well look, she can. But look, I’m not telling people whether they should apologise or not, I’m just stating my own view. I do not think whether you have children or you don’t have children is something that should be an issue in a political debate.”
- Yesterday, 12:10pm, The World Today
Julia Gillard has emerged from the morning’s meeting with mining industry representatives over IR concerns saying it was constructive and that she and the mining industry have agreed to keep talking.
Of Heffernan’s comments, she says: “Oh, well, look, Mr Heffernan, bit like the Howard Government overall, is a man who’s stuck in the past. I’ll get on with my life, and Mr Heffernan can make whatever comments he likes, but the reality is modern women know all about modern women’s choices.”
- Yesterday, 4:46pm, ABC 702 SydneyDuring interview with Jennifer Byrne, The Daily Tele‘s Malcolm Farr notes that John Howard has contacted Bill Heffernan to express his displeasure about the remarks.
- Yesterday, late afternoon, BroomeHeffernan apologises. “I would like to sincerely apologise to Julia Gillard and anyone else who I’ve offended by some inappropriate and insensitive remarks in the recent past, and I apologise to all the people that’s offended. So there you go.”
- Yesterday, 5:33pm, Ten News
Paul Bongiorno says that Howard ordered Heffernan to apologise to Gillard.
- Yesterday, late afternoon, Tasmania
John Howard revises his earlier statement, telling reporters: “I don’t approve of those sort of remarks and I’ve made that very clear. Julia Gillard’s life is her business and she has a right to live it according to what she thinks is appropriate.”
- Yesterday, 5:37pm, 2UE DriveGillard says she hasn’t personally received an apology from Heffernan but says her mobile phone’s battery is flat and moreover, he may not have her number. “I’m not overly anxious about all of these things. You don’t want to spend too much of your lifetime worrying about Bill, do you? … I understand he’s apologised and there you go, that’s it.”
- Today, 6:00am, Ten NewsProgram preview: Heffernan has apologised to Julia Gillard
Today, 6:03am, Ten News
Federal Government headkicker Bill Heffernan has given a rather sheepish apology over his Gillard remarks.
Today, 7:35am, Radio National
Fran Kelly: It wasn’t much of an apology was it? … Almost disdainful I thought with that “so there you go” at the end.
Michelle Grattan: I think Bill Heffernan did what he was told and he was told by the Prime Minister to apologise after the affair was clearly spinning out of control during the day…
- Today, 10:00am
The Deputy Opposition Leader’s office tells Crikey that the apology came through the wires, not to Gillard directly or even to her office. Gillard has not yet received a copy of the apology.