If only people weren’t so sexist they’d have seen how pretty Julia Gillard was, says former Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell.

Think we’re verbaling Mitchell? Here are his views on Julia Gillard, according to an extract of his memoir published in The Daily Telegraph on Sunday:

“Apart from her obvious intelligence and easy manner, I found her engaging and pleasant company. After she became prime minister many Gillard critics did make dreadfully sexist remarks about her, but I found her an honest and thoughtful leader of opposition business in the House at that time. She also seemed to me to be overtly attractive and feminine in person.”

Surely Gillard will be thrilled to have her femininity so defended.

Mitchell’s book comes out on Thursday and has already been the subject of numerous extracts and articles in the News Corp press over the past week. A review from Saturday described it as a “rollicking read”. Though that’s not to suggest all the News Corp coverage has been complimentary. Andrew Bolt for one has already objected to Mitchell’s description of a dinner where Abbott allegedly invited senior News Corp opinion makers (plus then-Fairfax writer Paul Sheehan) to Kirribilli to touch base post-election. Mitchell wrote:

“One of my first contacts with Abbott’s office after his election win in September 2013 came in his first fortnight in the job. Tony wanted to host a Saturday night dinner at Kirribilli House for ­people he regarded as important to his victory and his prospects. I declined as soon as I saw the guest list, a Who’s Who of conservative print columnists and radio hosts.

“I told The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, that I feared Tony now thought he could govern Australia through the offices of his dinner guests, who included journalists Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Paul Sheehan, Alan Jones and Miranda Devine. To me this was an early amber flashing light.”

But Bolt says if anything, Abbott didn’t listen to him enough. He insists he wasn’t at the dinner, “which I, too, found inappropriate”. And Abbott “ignored my own pleas” on a number of policy issues, such as the parental leave scheme and reforming the Racial Discrimination Act. Bolt writes:

“In fact, it is extremely difficult to see how Abbott could be said to ‘govern Australia’ through me, at least, although it’s much easier to see Abbott responding at first to Mitchell’s agenda.”

— Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

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