Prime Minister to make guest appearance at Woodford

JULIA GILLARD is expected to become a last-minute headliner of the Woodford Folk Festival on Sunday.

The Prime Minister's office did not return calls seeking confirmation on Saturday but the former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke told Fairfax Media he would participate in a discussion with Ms Gillard, taking questions from festival director and Woodford identity Bill Hauritz.

''I certainly suggested to Julia that it would make a lot of sense for her to come,'' Mr Hawke said, adding it ''said a lot about Woodford'' that Ms Gillard had treated the invitation seriously.

''It's a very good gathering of people, they have different political views. I think there will be a lot of people of the green persuasion but all shades of political opinion are present, but they are very tolerant. They like to listen and learn.''

It will be the first time a serving prime minister has attended the festival in its 27-year history.

Mr Hawke has already given a talk at the festival, as has high-profile federal opposition MP Malcolm Turnbull. Kevin Rudd was a guest during the 2010-11 festival.

But Sunday will be the first time a sitting prime minister has attended the popular event. A ''humbled'' Mr Hauritz said he was looking forward to Ms Gillard's visit.

''We are honoured with a former prime minister and for the first time, we have been honoured by a visit by a sitting prime minister. It's a special moment, irrespective of what party they are from,'' he said.

''We have had speakers from all political persuasions here … and to have this, which will be confirmed absolutely tomorrow [Sunday] is a great honour.''

Mr Hawke, who is on his fifth visit to the festival (''I absolutely love it'') said he expected the discussion to cover more than Labor Party ideals.

''It should be interesting,'' he said. ''It depends on a large extent on the questions, but Bill is an intelligent bloke and he'll ask a range of questions, which won't be just of interest to him, but of interest to the audience.''

While the festival is not actively political, patrons are encouraged to listen to a wide range of views and opinions and the organisers operate on an ''all are welcome'' philosophy when it comes to choosing speakers.

''It's certainly been a place for social commentary of the day,'' general manager Amanda Jackes said.

''We've had a speakers program in place since back in the Maleny days. It's always been a real gauge of what's happening in the community and what people are speaking about. And you can't avoid political debate.''

In some quarters, Woodford may still have a reputation as a ''hippie festival'' but as the event has grown and matured over the past three decades, so has the appeal.

Woodford now attracts more than 110,000 people across the six days from all aspects of the community and across the political spectrum.

''But I come here to enjoy myself, I don't come here as a political activist,'' Mr Hawke said.

This story Prime Minister to make guest appearance at Woodford first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.