Meet 'fighting Julia'. Is this the 'real Julia'?

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The normal calmness was there. The thoughtful, paced, deliberate speech. But there was something else. A steely look, a don't-mess-with-me attitude. Was this the real Julia? Who knows, but there's no doubt it's fighting Julia.

As staffers from South Australia's parliament peered down from sandstone windows, Prime Minister Julia Gillard fronted the media this morning with a clear message that only she had the ''personal fortitude'' to lead the country.

Casting herself as a person of strength in adversity, Ms Gillard's press conference in Adelaide was peppered with words like stoicism, courage and discipline. She spoke of how she ''found it within myself'' to put the 2010 election campaign back on track from those who sought to ''sabotage'' it.

That was one picture she painted, the other was a portrait of the government under her likely challenger, Kevin Rudd. This, she said, was chaos and paralysis. So much so that senior colleagues and bureaucrats came to her for help. She became, she said, a ''touchstone'', a person with ''some prospect of getting things done''.

At her press conference today, everything was going fine until a journalist from The Australian tested her patience. The newspaper's South Australian bureau chief Michael Owen questioned the Prime Minister about her role in the downfall of Mr Rudd and how she behaved ahead of the leadership coup 18 months ago.

Mr Owen irked Ms Gillard with a persistent line of questioning, insisting that Ms Gillard was setting herself up for the leadership towards the end of Mr Rudd's prime ministership.

''So you just fell into the leadership?'' he said, in one of a string of comments.

Ms Gillard objected to his "rudeness'' and tried to move on to another journallist, as Mr Owen persisted.

‘‘I’ll answer your question but, ah, just ... I’m not listening to this rudeness, I’ll answer your question and then I’ll give a question to your colleague, thank you very much," Ms Gillard said.

As the journalist ploughed on, Ms Gillard continued, without losing a beat: ‘‘I’m not going have you just speak to me like this. End of sentence. I’ll answer your question and I will take a question from your colleague."

The journalist kept on, and Ms Gillard responded: ‘‘Your question is internally inconsistent. Let me answer it . . . well, I’ll answer it thanks very much . . . If you stop talking then I’ll give you an answer, but I can’t give you an answer if you keep talking,’’ she said, leaning towards the reporter, coldly smiling, eyes narrowed.

The aggressive exchange surprised fellow journalists and staff travelling with Ms Gillard.

Her position was clear: she drew a line in the sand, no mucking about, she wasn't going to be passive when someone was being rude. Kevin, meet fighting Julia.

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