An Australian senator has caused a storm of protest for describing a female politician as "deliberately barren" and therefore unfit to govern.
Julia Gillard is deputy to Labor leader Kevin Rudd
Bill Heffernan said Labor Party deputy leader Julia Gillard did not understand the public because she had no children.
He has since apologised for the "inappropriate" comments, first made last year but repeated again this week.
Analysts say the incident will be an embarrassment for his close friend, Prime Minister John Howard.
Mr Howard has made it clear he does not support Mr Heffernan's comments.
"The question of whether people have children, whether they marry and have children, is entirely a matter for them and I do not think it should be a matter of public comment," Mr Howard told reporters.
Mr Heffernan first questioned Ms Gillard's childlessness last year, when he queried whether the deputy Labor leader could fully understand her voters because she did not have her own family.
In Wednesday's edition of The Bulletin magazine, he voiced similar remarks.
"If you're a leader, you've got to understand your community," the 64-year-old senator said.
"One of the great understandings in a community is family and the relationship between mum, dad and a bucket of nappies," he added.
Ms Gillard, 45, dismissed Mr Heffernan's views as old-fashioned.
"The reality is that modern women know all about modern women's choices. Mr Heffernan is a man stuck in the past," she told reporters.
What do you think about the senator's comments that a childless female politician is unfit to govern? Can a woman understand people better if she has children? Are children a help or a hindrance to success in a woman's life? Send us your comments.
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