Australian PM Gillard 'let women down'
Julia Gillard (right), Australia's first female prime minister, has been accused of using her gender as a "shield" and setting back the cause of women after describing opposition leader Tony Abbott (far right) as a sexist and misogynist.
Ms Gillard has won international acclaim for her 15-minute attack on Mr Abbott but the speech only added to an increasingly heated debate about sexism in Australian politics.
The opposition's most senior woman, Julie Bishop, the deputy Liberal party leader, said Ms Gillard was using gender to protect her from attacks on her performance as prime minister.
"She's using the charge of sexism and misogyny as a weapon against her critics," she said. "Instead of being remembered as Australia's first female prime minister, she'll be remembered as the prime minister who let down the women of Australia."
Ms Gillard's blistering speech went viral on the internet after weeks of debate over Mr Abbott's attitude towards women. 'The New Yorker' suggested Barack Obama could learn from her ability to "cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent".
However, an opposition frontbencher, Christopher Pyne, said: "Her defence of the Speaker yesterday was insipid and pathetic and un-prime ministerial."
Ms Gillard's speech followed an attempt by the opposition to sack the Speaker, Peter Slipper, who eventually resigned over a series of sexist text messages.