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Gillard's 'shy girl' plea for understanding

JULIA Gillard has made an emotional appeal for the Australian public to understand her, declaring she was "the shy girl" at school and finds it hard to show her feelings when she makes big decisions.

JULIA Gillard has made an emotional appeal for the Australian public to understand her, declaring she was "the shy girl" at school and finds it hard to show her feelings when she makes big decisions.

Appearing at the National Press Club to defend her carbon plan Ms Gillard, looking close to tears, effectively admitted the problem she has been having to get her message across and win people's trust.

She also urged the media to be more discerning in its reporting of the carbon debate. "Don't write crap. Can't be that hard," she said. "And when you have written complete crap, then I think you should correct it."

Last night, she won the support of former prime minister Paul Keating, who compared the carbon tax with some of the biggest reforms of the Hawke-Keating era: floating the dollar, reducing tariffs and compulsory superannuation. "It's part of the Labor tradition of change," he told the ABC's Lateline.

He said if Tony Abbott's opposition to a carbon tax were successful, it would leave Australia with "an economy with a brown, fat underbelly". Mr Abbott was operating on the principle of "if you don't give me the job, I'll wreck the place", Mr Keating said.

Ms Gillard said Australians wanted to know more about her what kind of person she was. "I'm a decision-maker by nature and I have tended to let the decisions speak for themselves.

"It doesn't come easy to me to expose my feelings as I make these decisions. I was the shy girl who studied and worked hard, and it took time and effort but I got from Unley High to the law and as far as . . . standing where I am today.

"I've brought a sense of personal reserve to this, the most public of professions. And the rigours of politics have reinforced my innate style of holding a fair bit back, to hang pretty tough. If that means people's image of me is steely determination, I understand why."

One thing she had learnt in her year-long "journey" of being Prime Minister "is it's better to explain to people what's driving you as you make the important changes for the country's future, and I'll be seeking to do that".

Ms Gillard said she had learnt through her life that "nothing hard ever gets easier by putting it off to later. And because of that, in the moment I truly believed I was going to be Prime Minister I told myself, don't ever put a hard call off, because it will only get harder every day."

Referring to her pre-election pledge not to introduce a carbon tax, she told her audience: "I said what I said before the election which has been the subject of much commentary, understandably and I can't unsay it."

But after the election when it became clear the only way forward on climate change was to introduce a temporary carbon tax, moving to an emissions trading scheme, her choice was to either stick exactly to what she had said and get no action, or find a way "to do right for the country and to deal with the consequences".

She knew "if you don't do what is right for the nation, then you shouldn't be prime minister".

The reform road had many obstacles, potholes and hard hills, Ms Gillard said. "But I've got my walking shoes on."

Quizzed on whether she was feeling the pressure of being labelled a liar on a daily basis, Ms Gillard said: "I don't say I feel a burden from that personally no, I don't.

"I've never shied away from a red hot go in a political contest that's not in my nature either. So, I'm not someone who lies awake at night pondering poor news coverage or the use of harsh words. I don't worry about those kinds of things. I do worry to the extent that it may make it more difficult for us to achieve what we need to get done."

On the media's responsibility, Ms Gillard said: "I'd like to see as many column inches and minutes on the TV news reporting that the future of the coal industry is bright and strong, as verified by a huge coal company like Peabody's, as I saw coverage of Tony Abbott standing in a Peabody mine saying the coal industry was going to close down."

It was not the media's job to change minds about a government policy but "some of the crazier claims we've seen in this debate need to be put to one side and the accurate facts get out there". Asked when she would go to the Latrobe Valley to talk about the carbon plan, she said she would be happy to go there but didn't say when.

Mr Abbott yesterday had to fend off questions about frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull who backs emissions trading making it clear this week he backed the opposition's carbon policy because he was a member of the shadow cabinet and loyal, rather than believing in it.

Mr Abbott said Mr Turnbull "unequivocally supports the shadow cabinet position".

At a public forum in Brisbane, the Opposition Leader left open the way to revise his carbon line if the global scene transformed. "If the whole world changes, obviously we change too. But the fact is there is no serious likelihood, none, that this is going to happen."

Asked whether, if China's growth continued, the carbon tax would kill off the coal industry, Mr Abbott said if Australia added to costs here, that put our industry at a disadvantage. "The logic of the carbon tax means that the coal industry must diminish, otherwise the emitting continues. The authors of the carbon tax think that coal is not the foundation of a modern economy but a threat to the survival of the planet."

An IT consultant challenged Mr Abbott over bagging climate scientists and economists, asking: "Who would you listen to out of the experts?"

"The public," Mr Abbott said. "In a democracy in the end the people are sovereign."

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet seized on the South Korean cabinet's approval of a plan to cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent below expected levels by 2020, with emissions trading to start in July 2015, as evidence of other nations' action. With ADAM MORTON


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