Politician profiling Australia
Former prime minister Julia Gillard (Image: AAP)

Lurking online is a neat demonstration of the profound misogyny of Australian politics, and the rank double standards of both the Coalition and much of the press gallery in Canberra.

A Sydney Morning Herald article from 2014 is accompanied by a screen grab from the proceedings of the trade union royal commission. There’s commissioner Dyson Heydon and former prime minister Julia Gillard, the latter being interrogated by counsel assisting.

Heydon was later found by a High Court investigation to have sexually harassed six associates, prompting Chief Justice Susan Kiefel to remark “we’re ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia”.

The trade union royal commission, which cost $46 million, led to a small number of convictions and civil penalties, most recently that of Kathy Jackson, originally lauded by News Corp and the Coalition as a “brave decent woman” (Tony Abbott) and a “lion of the labour movement” (Christopher Pyne). A number of prosecutions of union officials that followed the royal commission later collapsed.

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The trade union royal commission was intended to destroy Bill Shorten and wreck Julia Gillard’s reputation, as well as being a vehicle for the Coalition’s drive to weaken unions as much as possible. Now it’s fallen down a memory hole, along with the campaign of vilification against Julia Gillard when she was PM.

However, watching Julie Bishop last night win plaudits for agreeing there was a toxic culture in Parliament House, sexism in the Liberal Party, and that a coronial inquest into the death of the complainant against Christian Porter was needed, was to be reminded of her centre stage role in the smear campaign against Gillard… at least until Bishop stuffed it up so badly she was dropped from the political prosecution.

Perhaps Bishop, having had her own public experience of misogyny within the Liberal Party, has had a change of heart about attacks on Gillard, but in December 2012, Bishop thought a judicial inquiry was necessary to determine what role a younger Gillard had played in the AWU affair, centring on the embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars of union and corporate funds.

That was despite the saga having already been investigated by police in two states, with no action taken, and an internal Slater and Gordon inquiry that cleared Gillard. Victorian police fired up another investigation after bagman Ralph Blewitt re-emerged in 2012 promising new information, but that never led anywhere either.

Bishop wasn’t alone with the judicial inquiry line. Her leader Tony Abbott demanded one as well. There was no protestations about the “rule of law” despite police investigations having been closed. The then-shadow attorney-general George Brandis didn’t even need an inquiry, and used parliamentary privilege to call Gillard a “crook”.

All despite the failure of both the opposition and the media to identify a specific allegation of wrongdoing. Notoriously, Abbott claimed Gillard had “questions to answer” about the matter but when asked by Leigh Sales to specify what the questions were, couldn’t say.

Still, a judicial inquiry was apparently warranted even though police investigations were concluded and there was no specific allegation. All over a few hundred thousand in union graft.

If the double standard of the Coalition, which now insists the uninvestigated, and very specific, allegations against Christian Porter do not need an inquiry, is impressive, that of much of the media is equally staggering.

Journalists have apparently purged themselves of the memory of how hysterical the campaign against Gillard was — the incessant headlines, the acres of newsprint, the stories The Australian got wrong and had to retract, Gillard standing for hour-long press conferences dealing with questions until journalists gave up, exhausted. It wasn’t just News Corp — Fairfax and the ABC joined in, though like the Murdoch press none could actually put together a specific allegation of wrongdoing.

Now, of course, many in the media — many of the same journalists and commentators who hounded Gillard — lament the “trial by media” of Porter.

And if the press gallery was feral, online media was toxic. Failed journalists used blogs to push elaborate conspiracy theories and insist Gillard would be jailed. The vile fraudster and bigot Larry Pickering published disgusting cartoons of Gillard, including ones depicting her as a rapist. All to precisely zero outrage from the right. No complaints about the “sewer”.

They all got their inquiry, of course, after Tony Abbott became PM. But despite its best efforts, Dyson was subsequently also to clear Gillard. Gillard has never received an apology from anyone about it. It’s all gone down the memory hole.

Few journalists apparently remember any of this (Raf Epstein is one) — an extended campaign of smear, trial by media and unsubstantiated allegations run for weeks on end by the opposition and the media.

What happened to Gillard is now inconvenient when complaining about the treatment of Christian Porter and how it breaches the rule of law.

But one look at that photo of Gillard and Heydon tells you all you need to know about the double standards here.

Was there a double standard at play? Let us know your thoughts by writing to letters@crikey.com.au. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.