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THE election of Julia Gillard as deputy leader of the Labor Party brought back unhappy memories.

I was giving evidence to a House of Representatives standing committee on employment, education and workplace relations of which she was a member.

It was 2000. The committee was examining the educational disadvantage experienced by boys and seeking recommendations.

Alan Barron, from the Institute of Men's Studies, and I were invited to make a presentation.

As a member of the Victorian Committee on Equal Opportunity in Schools (1975-77) the problems experienced by boys was a topic I had researched.

I demonstrated that males suffered disadvantage in all areas of life with the exception of earnings.

Male life expectancy was six years lower than that of females and male infant mortality was higher. Males are far more likely than females to be in prison and to be victims of homicide, suicide, road accidents and drug or alcohol addiction.

Male success rates at exams are substantially lower than the female success rate and boys outnumber girls four-to-one in requiring remedial or special education.

Alan Barron and I made some eminently reasonable recommendations, such as educators should acknowledge the biological and psychological differences between the sexes and not uncritically adopt a feminist vision of an androgynous society.

Also that schools could consider offering single-sex classes and that the recruitment of more male teachers should be encouraged.

To our astonishment, Julia Gillard adopted a hostile attitude to our evidence, almost as if we were the accused in the dock. I complained to committee chairman Dr Brendan Nelson, pointing out that members of the public giving information to a parliamentary inquiry were doing the nation a service and deserved to be treated with courtesy.

Gillard turned the discussion into a totally different inquiry about why there weren't more women orthopedic surgeons or members of Parliament.

This was no doubt one of her pet peeves.

I tried to explain that much of the discrepancy in male and female career outcomes and earnings were because of women's choices.

Also women have babies and take time off from jobs to raise children. While numbers of males and females in medical courses were similar, after graduation, many women chose to work part-time.

But Gillard would have none of this, nor my explanation that the differential in male and female incomes was not so significant when it was considered males shared their standard of living with their wives and partners and their children.

But the last straw was Gillard's facetious comment in the transcript of the proceedings. "Sorry about our banter. It started this morning when we had Babette Francis here and our behaviour has gone downhill ever since . . ."

Personally, as I wrote to Dr Nelson, I would not have thought it possible for Julia Gillard's behaviour to have gone further downhill.

THE sad irony is that I highlighted the serious disadvantages of boys in education in my minority report as a member of the Victorian Committee on Equal Opportunity in Schools back in 1977.

It took the Federal Government 23 years to catch up.

Even now any recommendations that might improve outcomes for boys will be lost in the stranglehold the feminist lobby has on state school systems -- as typified by Julia Gillard





BABETTE FRANCIS is co-ordinator of the Endeavour Forum, a counter- feminist, anti-abortion group



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN