BRISBANE, Australia — It's since been labeled a joke, but Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard did not find a menu drawn up for a recent political fundraiser the least bit funny.
The menu — which offered diners "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box" — was reportedly offered during a dinner hosted by Gillard's political opposition.
While the owner of the restaurant where the $1000-a-head Liberal Party function was held, Joe Richards, has since claimed the menu was "a light-hearted joke" that somehow found its way onto Facebook and Twitter, the controversy shows little sign of dying down here.
The dinner was hosted by Mal Brough, a former minister under the conservative Liberal prime minister John Howard and a candidate in the upcoming federal elections in September.
However, Gillard, who leads Australia's ruling Labor Party, blasted the crude references to her body as "grossly sexist and offensive."
Her Labor Party said the incident followed a "pattern of behaviour" from the opposition party, led by former trainee priest and Rhodes scholar Tony Abbott.
Labor has been on the offensive in recent days over what they claim to be sexism run rife in the conservative Opposition ranks, with Gillard even warning voters ahead of a September general election that Coalition politicians "wearing blue ties" would banish women from political leadership.
And Gillard told reporters in Perth late Wednesday to "join the dots":
"Let’s go through the pattern of behaviour. Mr Abbott personally has gone and stood next to signs that described me in a sexist way. We’ve had the Young Liberals hosting a function where jokes were cracked about the death of my father. And now, we have Mr Brough and Mr Hockey at a function with this grossly sexist and offensive menu on display."
The Australian Associated Press cited Gillard's Finance Minister, Penny Wong, as saying that it was "odd and convenient" that a restaurant owner was taking the fall for the menu.
She said that regardless, it was extraordinary that such an offensive and vulgar suggestions could be made about a woman and a person holding the office of prime minister, and questioned the Liberal party's culture.
"What sort of political culture says this is an acceptable way to make fun of someone? We have an Abbott Liberal party that seems to have this sort of thing happen a bit too often. I mean, this is a party led by a bloke who stands in front of signs saying the prime minister is a bitch and witch, and I don't think it's a good thing for political culture."
Gillard called for Abbott to disendorse Brough, however Abbott — while condemning the use of the menu card — said it should "absolutely not" cast doubt on the candidate's ability to hold office.
Meantime, Fairfax media cited Australia's second-most powerful female politician, Julie Bishop, accusing Gillard of creating a distraction to save her job in the face of almost certain electoral defeat in the polls.