Society: Media Asked Gladys Berejiklian about Her Childless Status

Gladys Berejiklian was asked by the media about her childless status in less than 15 minutes into her first press conference as the Premier of NSW, in what the Huffington Post described as “sexism in Australian politics”.

Berejiklian received the question about her childlessness in her first press conference as Premier.

Buzzfeed posted the full exchange:

Journalist: Julia Gillard was prime minister and she copped a lot of questions about her marriage status and her child status, many of them unfairly. How prepared are you for those sorts of questions?

Berejiklian: I have been in public life for a long time. I have been a senior minister for six years. I am ready for anything.

Journalist: So was Julia Gillard and she did get questions about it, and there will be questions about it. Are you prepared for those questions?

Berejiklian: Sure, ask me one.

Journalist: The obvious question is do you think this is a disadvantage politically, because people have kids and they have families and people identify with that like they did with Morris Iemma…

Berejiklian: Take me as you see me. [New deputy] Dominic Perrottet has made up for me, he has four kids. I am someone who has always been myself. Not all of us can plan how our life turns out. I am a very happy person. If you asked me 20 years ago, would my life look like this? It probably wouldn’t be how it looks like. But I am grateful for the opportunities I have had. I also want to say again, not because I have to but because I want to, the closest people in my life are my family. I am not going to judge anybody on their personal circumstances. I am here to govern for everybody and I hope that people judge me on my merits and what I can do.

Berejiklian assumed the premiership after being elected unopposed as the leader of NSW Liberal party. She was elected Member for Willoughby in 2003, and has previously served as Minister for Transport, Treasurer, and Minister for Industrial Relations for the state government.

Former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, who was the first woman to hold the office, wrote in the Guardian that she has “no advice for Gladys Berejiklian but I do have some for the media”.

“For the past 48 hours I’ve been inundated with interview requests seeking my advice for Gladys Berejiklian, the next New South Wales premier… I do understand that women leaders are still a rarity in Australian politics. As of writing, I can speak for 16% of all female premiers in Australian history,” wrote Keneally.

However, Keneally said she would not advise Berejiklian, because she was “confident [Berejiklian] knows exactly what it means to be a woman in the NSW bearpit”.

She then turned to advise media, “Resist the urge to write about – or read about – their shoes, hair, nail polish or jewellery. They will wear the same dress twice, just like male politicians wear the same suit over and over. Deal with it.

“Don’t fixate on or overemphasise the men in their lives – husbands, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, colleagues. Female politicians aren’t defined by these men any more than male politicians are by their female partners or colleagues…

“Really, it all boils down to this: judge all politicians – male or female – on performance. Are they ethical? Do they keep their commitments? Are they delivering consistent and well-considered policy? Are they responsive to the community? Do they have a vision for the future? Are they courageous and willing to fight for the people they represent?

“If these suggestions are unwelcome, well, next time there’s a male premier, make sure to call Mike Baird to ask him to offer the guy some advice on being a man in charge.”