Prime Minister plays abortion and sexist card while Opposition makes crude jokes at her expense.
Revelations that a Liberal fundraising dinner menu contained denigrating sexual references to Julia Gillard embarrassed the party yesterday, 24 hours after the Prime Minister re-ignited the "gender wars" by warning that a Coalition government might restrict abortion rights.
The menu, composed for a dinner in March to help Mal Brough's election fight in the Queensland seat of Fisher, featured a dish named "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box".
It was condemned by Liberal figures after it emerged on Twitter, apparently posted by a Brisbane chef who once worked at the restaurant where the fundraiser was held.
On Tuesday, Gillard - facing renewed leadership speculation and a highly visible Kevin Rudd campaigning in marginal seats - warned that abortion could once again become "the political plaything of men who think they know better".
Speaking at the launch of a new fundraising group, Women for Gillard, the Prime Minister also said that, at the election on September 14, Australians would be making "a big decision ...
about whether, once again, we will banish women's voices from our political life".
Her remarks were condemned not only by Coalition leaders but also by some of her own MPs, who questioned the wisdom of raising the abortion issue.
Ed Husic, the prominent Rudd supporter who resigned as Labor's chief whip following Rudd's refusal to challenge Gillard for the leadership in March, told Sky News: "We are not comfortable with that issue re-entering the political frame."
The dinner menu, which also featured "Rudd's a Goose Foie Gras", is reminiscent of the sexist cartoons and jokes targeting Gillard that have circulated since she ousted Rudd as Prime Minister three years ago.
Brough, a former John Howard Government minister who is standing in the Sunshine Coast seat vacated by the former Speaker Peter Slipper, apologised yesterday, saying the menu had been written by a non- Liberal Party member who thought it would be "humorous".
The Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, condemned it, although he appeared to have misunderstood one of the offending words. "I think we should all be bigger and better than that; whether it's a tacky, scatological menu out the front of a Liberal Party event, whether it's squalid jokes told at union conference dinners with ministers present."
That last was a reference to a union dinner, attended by Government ministers including the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, where a comedian told a crude joke about Peta Credlin, Abbott's chief of staff.
Abbott once called abortion "the easy way out", but recently said he accepted "that for any woman facing an unexpected pregnancy, the choices are tough". He has also pledged that the Coalition would not change abortion laws.
Yesterday Gillard raised the spectre of all senior Cabinet positions being filled by "men wearing a blue tie". Abbott, who was wearing one, noted that "quite a few members of Parliament are wearing blue ties today". Rudd, too, was sporting a blue tie while campaigning in Sydney.
What they said
"The real risk for Australia is if Mr Abbott is ever prime minister it would not be a question of what is on fundraising menus - we would see this lack of respect for women littered throughout all of his government policy documents."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard
"One of the problems with the current Prime Minister and the current Government is that with no record to run on they are now playing the politics of division and again I just think we should be better than that."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott