Australia's "gender wars" have reignited with a vengeance, with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, warning that politics will be dominated by "men in blue ties" if her Labor government loses power, and the opposition Liberal Party embarrassed by revelations about a fundraising dinner menu containing crude references to Ms Gillard's physique.
The menu, prepared for a Liberal fundraising event in March, featured a dish called "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box". Although senior Liberals distanced themselves from it yesterday, it was a setback for a party whose leader, Tony Abbott, has been forced to rebut allegations of misogyny.
Details of the menu emerged after Ms Gillard - whose party is facing a crushing defeat at an election in September, according to opinion polls - warned that if Australians elected the conservative Liberals, it would have the effect of "once again, banish[ing] women's voices from our political life".
Speaking at the launch of a new fundraising group, Women For Gillard, she also suggested that abortion would become "the political plaything of men who think they know better". This was a clear reference to Mr Abbott, a strong Catholic, who once called abortion "the easy way out" but recently said he accepted that "for any woman facing an unexpected pregnancy, the choices are tough".
Ms Gillard's warnings about an Australia run by Mr Abbott were criticised by her opponents as an attempt to distract attention from her current woes, which include mutiny within her own ranks, with Labor MPs seeking to have her replaced by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd. The polls show Labor would fare much better under Mr Rudd, whom Ms Gillard ousted three years ago.
Mr Rudd, who has been conducting a high-visibility campaign in marginal seats, described the menu - which also featured a dish named "Rudd's a Goose Foie Gras" - as "snide, dirty and sexist". It came to light after a staff member at the Brisbane restaurant where the fundraising dinner took place posted it on his Facebook page.
The owner of the restaurant, Joe Richards, said last night that he had created the menu as "an in-house joke between myself and my son", and it was not distributed to guests.
Ms Gillard was applauded by women worldwide last year after YouTube footage of her telling Mr Abbott she would not be lectured by him on sexism and misogyny went viral.