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Australia divided over Julia's 'sexism' talk

AUSTRALIA appears to be split over Prime Minister Julia Gillard's judgment that her main political rival is sexist.

In a fiery speech to Parliament last month, Gillard branded opposition leader Tony Abbott a misogynist for a string of allegedly sexist comments.

Her commentary has been lauded by feminists around the world, but a poll today showed Australians are divided.


Abbott apologised last week for suggesting that Gillard's government was inexperienced in family policy -- a criticism some saw as a cheap shot at Gillard, who has no children.

The poll found that 45pc of respondents said Abbott had behaved in a sexist way toward Gillard recently and 39pc said he had not. There was no clear majority view, with 16pc of respondents undecided.

How Abbott was judged on the sexism charge closely correlated with how respondents intend to vote at general elections next year.

Of those who said Abbott is sexist, 66pc support Gillard's centre-left Labour Party. Of those who said he is not, 76pc back his conservative coalition.

Women were more likely than men to condemn Abbott for sexism. Of those who said he was sexist, 43pc were women and 35pc were men. Of those who responded that he was not sexist, 48pc were men and 41pc were women.

Despite the divide, Gillard's public stance against sexism has gained solid support.

Gillard has said she stands by every word of her blistering attack on Abbott and has vowed to speak out against sexism in the future whenever she sees it.

More than three in four respondents (78pc) said Gillard's response to the sexism issue had been "about right," including 83pc of women and 72pc of men.

Another 16pc accused her of overreacting (22pc of men and 12pc of women), while 5pc said she had underreacted (5pc of men and 4pc of women).

The poll was based on a random telephone survey of 1,218 voters nationwide at the weekend.