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Australia's Gillard accused of playing gender card


Australia's opposition on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of playing the gender card amid continued speculation on her leadership ahead of the September federal election.

In a speech she gave at a Women for Gillard Labor Party fundraiser on Tuesday, the prime minister warned that women would "once again (be) banished from the center of Australia's political life" under a government led by opposition leader Tony Abbott.

"I invite you to imagine it. A prime minister, a man in a blue tie, who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie," she said.

Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop called on Gillard to apologize for "raising false and offensive claims."

"I find it offensive that she's raised it as a political issue and quite frankly she should apologize for raising false and offensive claims," Bishop told Australia's national broadcaster, Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"It's a very crude political ploy as I say, and it surprises me that the PM (prime minister) is playing to such base politics," she added.

Three years after ascending to Australia's top job, Gillard, Australia's first woman prime minister, has been dogged by accusations of playing the gender card to keep her leadership ambitions alive.

In October last year, she accused Abbott of a being a misogynist in Parliament, a speech which gained worldwide recognition and garnered over 2 million views on the video sharing site YouTube.

Since then both sides have used gender issues to take aim at each other and further their own party's political interests ahead of the Sept. 14 election.

With less than 100 days until the election, based on local reports and polling, Gillard's Labor Party is expected to suffer a massive defeat, with losses in areas considered safe seats in the party's traditional working class heartland.