Rudd’s Political Obituary, And What Gillard Can Expect Moving Forward

After an interesting day in Canberra, things are clearer; we can write with confidence the political obituary of Kevin Rudd, and look at what faces Julia Gillard as she moves forward (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And we can state, with real confidence, that Gillard’s woes have only just begun.

But first of all, in keeping with the occasional trend here at The Red And The Blue, I have a very special YouTube clip for Kevin Rudd to reflect on. Indeed, this is the third time he has earned the YouTube honour here, and the second time in five days — thus far, a record.

In terms of Rudd’s political future — or, at the very minimum, of his prospects for advancing an inch beyond the post of Foreign Minister, which he threw away some days ago — I think the melancholic nostalgia, of things lost that can never be recovered, that oozes from the piece I have selected for this article fit Rudd’s circumstances perfectly.

I even felt a little sorry for him this afternoon: I have never liked or trusted Rudd, and have certainly never had any respect for the man. But the dose of humble pie he was forced to eat — apologising for this and that, ruling himself out of this and that, and pledging himself in explicit terms to the support of Gillard — was almost too excruciating to witness.

Yet as I have said previously, he has only himself to blame; passed over as a serious leadership contender in 2003 and 2005, he was endorsed by his colleagues out of  near-desperation in late 2006 to take the fight to then Prime Minister John Howard. Of course, Rudd beat Howard the following year in a modestly comfortable — but not runaway — election win.

Subsequently, his treatment of his ministerial colleagues, other MPs, many staffers, elements in the media and beyond virtually ensured his days as ALP leader and Prime Minister were numbered.

So it came to pass, on 23 June 2010, that his papers were stamped: faced with the prospect of Julia Gillard winning a minimum of 80 votes (out of what was then 110) in the following day’s ALP party meeting, Rudd declined to even stand.

Circumstantial and anecdotal evidence tends to prove the charge that ever since that day, Rudd (or those loyal to him) embarked on a systemic program of destabilisation designed to result in the destruction of Gillard’s leadership and his own, triumphant return as Labor leader and Prime Minister.

Today’s events have been the culmination of that endeavour; Rudd has been annihilated by a 40-vote margin, 71-31, in the Labor Party leadership ballot.

And this, my friends, spells the end of Kevin Rudd as a force in Australian politics.

He is finished and, on balance, good riddance.

The only question is whether — and for how long — he intends to remain in Parliament as the Member for Griffith.

He has said that it is his intention to stay, and to recontest the next election; but such declarations made in the present tense are as likely to be revised in the cold light of morning a day, a week, a month or a year down the track.

With one caveat — and I will get to that later — it appears to be a conclusive case of “Farewell Kevin…” and I don’t think he will be missed, remotely, when all has been said and done.

The one real surprise I had today (and I apologise to readers for an erroneous guess last night on this score) was that the margin of the vote wasn’t closer; I genuinely thought that given a secret ballot, some of the pledged support for Gillard would break off and transfer to Rudd.

In other words, the trouncing I expected him to receive ended up being more of a poleaxing — and I realise that not only had support against Rudd crystallised, it had calcified and fossilised.

To the point that the only votes that broke away from anywhere were chipped out of Rudd’s tally to further inflate Gillard’s.

And this brings me neatly to Gillard; to her victory today; and to what may now ensue.

Contrary to the valiant attempts at spin that have been played out by senior ALP figures in the media since this morning’s vote, the result is not an emphatic endorsement of the leadership of Julia Gillard: it is an emphatic rejection of Kevin Rudd.

It’s an important distinction.

Much has been made in the past week, by those in the ALP either bitterly opposed to Rudd or professing near-unbridled hatred of him, that most of the woes Gillard has faced as Prime Minister derive directly from the plotting and scheming Rudd has undertaken since he was dumped.

Certainly, this may have been a complicating factor for Gillard, but as I have been saying to people today, Julia Gillard doesn’t need Kevin Rudd to get herself into trouble — she is perfectly and monstrously capable of achieving that all by herself.

The riot one of her staffers attempted to incite on Australia Day, in a foolhardy and baseless attempt to damage opposition leader Tony Abbott, had nothing to do with Kevin Rudd.

The promise not to introduce a carbon tax prior to the 2010 election — subsequently broken, and the root source of so many of Gillard’s, and of Labor’s, political woes — also had nothing to do with Kevin Rudd.

The deal Gillard made with Andrew Wilkie, promising to legislate dubious but well-intentioned reforms on poker machines — which she subsequently reneged on — was something Kevin Rudd had absolutely nothing to do with.

The speech Gillard gave at the recent national conference of the ALP — the toe-curling and embarrassingly cringeworthy “We Are Us” speech — had nothing to do with Rudd (apart from the fact, in an attempted poke in the eye, Rudd was the only Labor Prime Minister Gillard did not name in her roll call of “Great Labor Prime Ministers”).

Let’s continue.

Kevin Rudd had no input into or involvement with Julia Gillard’s much-vaunted “solutions” on illegal asylum seekers; these were meant to be the issue, in her own words, that would define her government; instead, they have been an abject failure and — the truth be told — an abject source of international embarrassment to Australia.

The fact this country averted a recession four years ago is widely credited as an achievement by the Labor government; yet even now, sovereign debt in Australia continues to skyrocket at a time of moderate GDP growth.

Let’s not forget that the so-called GFC was nearly four years ago now; the excuse is wearing thin when it comes to the billions of dollars of additional debt being racked up each month.

The likelihood of this government ever delivering a budget surplus, short of doctoring the books or a massive assault on spending, is nil.

And Rudd isn’t — and wasn’t — a Treasury minister at all.

I could detail dozens more such examples; the simple fact is that whilst Rudd had and has giant flaws and faults, much of what he has been blamed for had nothing to do with him.

And I defend Rudd with clenched teeth, and seeking a blackboard to run fingernails down.

The point is that Rudd was correct about something: the Australian people have lost all trust in Julia Gillard.

If you doubt this, go and look at her approval ratings in yesterday’s Newspoll.

People don’t like her; they don’t trust her; they don’t believe anything she has to say; and they certainly don’t support her.

There has been a lot of rhetoric from Labor types today about the imperative to all come together; to “heal;” and to “unify.”

All of that is noble sentiment, but the problem remains: Rudd might have been a disloyal troublemaker, but ultimately the government’s problem is its leader.

And this is why I say that Gillard did not receive an emphatic endorsement today; she benefitted from an emphatic rejection of Kevin Rudd.

And some of the “unity” rhetoric is implausible, even if you accept Rudd’s attempt to be gracious in defeat at face value.

For instance, the resignation from the ministry and from the Senate of NSW Right Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib — supposedly as a gesture to help “heal” the party — loses the credibility of its presentation when it is revealed that his primary purpose was to spend more time with his kids.

As someone with a toddler I fully understand, but the grandiose, noble gesture isn’t quite so noble when the real motivation for it is uncovered.

The fact Rudd and arch-critic Wayne Swan shook hands after the ballot is, frankly, nothing.

And not one of the most trenchant critics of Rudd — Swan, Nicola Roxon, Simon Crean, Tony Burke — have uttered a syllable in public by way of reconciliation.

Instead, a new line of spin has become apparent: ALP members and ministers appear to be queuing up to compare their leader’s 40-vote party room win with the one-vote margin Tony Abbott achieved in his successful challenge to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009.

That’s the first point, right there: Abbott won as a challenger.

But secondly, there has only ever been three successful daylight assassinations of sitting Prime Ministers from within their own party since Federation: Billy McMahon over John Gorton in 1971, Paul Keating over Bob Hawke in 1991, and Gillard over Rudd in 2010.

Yet on opposition benches — and by both sides of politics — such leadership coups are monotonously regular.

Indeed, Labor did it three times in three years between 2003 and 2006.

And third, like him or not, Tony Abbott — with his one-vote win — has subsequently reinvigorated the Coalition’s political prospects; for the only time in the modern era, he erased a first-term government’s majority at an election; he has held the Coalition in a consistent election-winning position for 18 months; and he has the political and tactical smarts Gillard so obviously lacks.

Pull on a Liberal leadership ballot now and Abbott would win in a canter, and the Labor Party knows it.

It’s fair to say the ALP is terrified of Tony Abbott.

And it is fair to discount what they have to say about him on this measure.

I think that this government will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis; its penchant for self-inflicted mistakes to date is such that nobody could expect anything less.

I also think that when the polls return to the overwhelmingly negative position for Labor that they consistently recorded prior to any hint of Rudd’s return, that the mutterers in the ALP will again begin to mutter.

It is very clear that the Labor Party will never again embrace Rudd as its leader; hence the appropriate epitaph written for him at the outset of this article.

But it is equally clear, even now, that if things do not improve for Gillard in the next three to six months, and if she and her government continue on their gaffe-prone path, at some point she will find herself tapped on the shoulder, with most probably Stephen Smith lined up to take the leadership, and to attempt to salvage some dignity for his party at the election that even now is appearing as a bump on the horizon.

Provided an early election, by virtue of whatever of the various possible triggers exist, isn’t forced on the ALP in the meantime.

I could say more, but as lengthy as this article has been from the necessity to cover the ground, I think that will suffice.

But I will add one more point — the caveat I alluded to early in this article about the career of Kevin Rudd.

Margaret Thatcher once said (of the “wets” in her cabinet) that it was “better to have them with you, even though they try to drag you down…than to have them on the back benches, where they are free to make as much mischief as they like.”

If Julia Gillard and her colleagues really are serious about unity, reconciliation and the rest of the blather they have spouted this afternoon, then Gillard should as a matter of course offer Kevin Rudd his job back as minister for Foreign Affairs.

It would lock him in, given his undertakings today; it would give some substance to the rhetoric about unity and healing; and it would put a readily terminable Rudd on a very, very short leash indeed.

It won’t happen.

What do you think about today’s events?

 

…And Again On The ALP Fiasco: In Comes Newspoll, 53-47 To Coalition…

…So much for talking about something else tonight! Right at the death knock we have the full findings from Newspoll; these show the ALP improving two points after preferences to trail 47-53 against the Coalition. They also show a few other things.

Yes, it’s true; Newspoll’s midweek findings — which I briefly touched on last night — show, in their fuller results, an upswing in support for the ALP.

But they also show serious downturns in support for both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

On the primary vote measure, Newspoll now finds Labor at 35% (up 3%), with the Coalition at 45 % (down 1%).

The two-party figure, as indicated earlier, represents a movement of 2 per cent to Labor from the previous survey almost a fortnight ago.

Conversely, satisfaction with Gillard as Prime Minister has collapsed by 5%, to 26%, with her disapproval rating increasing by 7% to 64%; Abbott’s approval as opposition leader has similarly fallen 5% to 31%, with his disapproval increasing by the same degree to 57%.

And on the “preferred PM” measure, Gillard falls one point to 36%; Abbott falls two points to 38%.

This is interesting, because the figures Newspoll rush-released last night had Abbott at 43 to 34, in a stretch of his lead on this measure; I still don’t have all the facts around the methodology employed, but I would guess that these latest figures come after the completion of a full survey sample by Newspoll and supersede last night’s results.

Who will these figures help, and what do they mean?

I think they’re open to interpretation (and that both sides will be spinning them furiously overnight as the final proof that their candidate should win).

Gillard has looked like a trapped animal since the leadership crisis commenced, although in the past day or two — backed squarely against a wall — she has come out fighting and, unbelievably, actually sounded genuinely convincing for the first time in a very long time.

Tony Abbott, by contrast, has conducted himself with restraint and composure and, indeed, has seemed Prime Ministerial in light of the ructions that continue in the ALP.

In short, I find it hard to believe that both of them — that’s right, both of them — have taken a hit on their ratings, and not least as the ALP vote has gone up by enough to save 10 seats at an election.

The missing ingredient, of course, is Kevin Rudd.

I think these figures reflect, more likely than not, a lot of respondents to Newspoll — probably swinging voters — who think Rudd is going to rematerialise as Prime Minister from tomorrow morning’s Labor caucus meeting.

He won’t.

After an horrific month for the ALP and for Gillard, it is the only feasible explanation for the Labor vote to rise as Newspoll reports, and especially in the circumstances.

And it also explains the decline in Abbott’s ratings in this survey.

The problem is that this Newspoll is just one poll; and like the others that emerged yesterday, all reflecting a decline in Gillard’s standing, they are all based on a pure hypothetical: the imminent return of Kevin 747.

This isn’t going to happen, and when Gillard is re-elected as Labor leader tomorrow — and the reality of that sinks in to the type of people pollsters like Newspoll set out to canvass — I’d expect the Coalition numbers, and those of Tony Abbott, to rocket.

Who will Newspoll’s final findings help? On account of the rise recorded in the ALP primary and two-party votes, Gillard.

But those gains will evaporate like ice on the desert sand once people realise that, for now at the very least, they’re stuck with her.

I’ll be watching the coverage in the morning, like everyone else interested in this issue; my comment will likely come tomorrow night unless something startling emerges (I’m otherwise busy tomorrow, too) but I remind all readers of The Red And The Blue that no matter what happens tomorrow, it’s not the end of it: it will just be the beginning.

And in closing, I’m not going to make any wild predictions and call them kosher; but if I had to guess the outcome I would say Gillard 62, Rudd 40, and one MIA (the member for Greenway in NSW, Michelle Rowland — a Gillard supporter — will be absent and not voting on account of recently giving birth to a child).

But then again, we won’t know until it happens…

Talk to you all tomorrow; enjoy the circus that unfolds over at the federal ALP in the morning.

 

Speeches And Polls; Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

Writing on Saturday night, it seems we’re in a lull of sorts; at the halfway mark things are still happening, but the explosive events of the past two days are becalmed. Yet both parties to this joust do themselves no favours, and the requisite polls that have appeared provide no answers.

We heard yesterday what Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd had to say at their press conferences; viewed in isolation — and with no knowledge at all of what has been going on — one might say they both spoke very well.

But of course, to say such a thing would be moronic.

Rudd was adamant: Julia Gillard has lost the trust of the Australian people, and he is right.

Australians have watched her knife Rudd; make and break pivotally key election promises; shaft Andrew Wilkie and the deal she struck with him for his support; defend the grub Craig Thomson; and strike an accord with another grub, LNP Judas Peter Slipper, to take the Speakership of the House of Representatives and buy the ALP an additional vote on the floor of the chamber.

Yet Rudd can hardly campaign on trust.

It is true he was removed as Prime Minister in an ambush coup by his own colleagues; this is not a new concept in politics and — whilst rare in its occurrence in a governing party — is commonplace in Australian politics generally, and in the ALP in recent times specifically.

But this does not excuse or remove his culpability for the way in which he conducted himself as Prime Minister, nor the methods with which he discharged that office; not least in terms of his dealings with his senior ministerial colleagues, nor his fellow ALP parliamentarians generally.

And it doesn’t excuse activities that have been going on ever since 23 June 2010 which might set up this current attempt for Rudd to regain the leadership of his party.

Interestingly — and it isn’t significant, just interesting — Julia Gillard asked all journalists to absolve themselves of any constraints normally imposed by off-the-record conversations, background briefings and so forth, and implored those journalists to reveal anything she had said prior to the leadership coup on 23 June 2010 that would charge her with any disloyalty to Kevin Rudd as his deputy.

The goal, of course, was to paint herself as blameless; the objective was to force Rudd to do the same.

And naturally, at his press conference to announce his candidacy for the Labor Party leadership yesterday, he was asked to do precisely that.

Rudd’s response — to paraphrase, that if journalists were to reveal the details of private conversations in response to later developments, and that most parliamentarians talk to journalists privately on the assumption of confidentiality, then to breach that eventually nobody would speak to journalists at all — achieved two things.

First, it confirmed the Gillard charge that Rudd has been backgrounding against her.

But second, it laid bare another example of Gillard’s political naivety to expect that a one-off exception in journalistic ethics and standards would be made for her personally, just to prove a point.

It’s fairly clear that Gillard continues toward a big win in Monday’s ballot; the numbers I had on advice two days ago that she would win 70-33 have tightened by four or five votes today, but win she still will.

Of course, the priority here is to win as heavily as possible; anything resembling a close vote — and frankly, any fewer than 65-70 votes for Gillard — will expose her to the very real prospect of Rudd and his forces having another go in two, three, six months’ time.

Gillard’s pitch seems to be that she is the one “who gets things done.”

Well, quite.

What has she “got done?”

The introduction of a carbon tax, which she explicitly promised she would not do?

The shafting of Andrew Wilkie and his poker machine reforms, which she explicitly promised she would?

The litany of failed policies, either devised by her as a minister and/or implemented on her watch as Prime Minister (Cash for Clunkers, Pink Batts, the histrionically-named “Building the Education Revolution”, to name a few)?

The shafting of Kevin Rudd?

Make no mistake, the claims to trustworthiness or honourability of either candidate are specious at best.

And of course, out came the hastily commissioned polls today; so predictable that I’m not going to detail them at length.

Suffice to say, those that measured and published voting intention figures found the Coalition remaining in landslide territory over Labor.

All found a massive deterioration in support for Julia Gillard as preferred Labor leader amongst Labor voters.

Those that measured the “preferred PM” question found Tony Abbott pulling away in his lead over Gillard on this score.

Yet the one poll that asked the only relevant question — Newspoll — found that even if Kevin Rudd were leader, Labor would still lose.

Newspoll found the Coalition under Abbott would still beat Labor under Rudd by a 51-49 margin after preferences; a much narrower win, but still enough for the Abbott Liberals to win 80 of the 150 House of Representatives seats and — with them — government.

My comment would be that the Labor vote under a hypothetically restored Rudd leadership would be at its peak the day — perhaps the week — Rudd resumed in office.

He would not be a new leader, but a tarnished one; and the gloss would come off him at lightning speed once his old bad habits resurfaced.

If you doubt this, re-watch his press conference from yesterday, and note the obvious nastiness behind the smile as he puts journalists in their place as they ask their questions.

In other words, even the polls — which Rudd has largely based his campaign of entitlement to the leadership of his party on — don’t even support the fallacious premise of “Rudd the Winner.”

Much of the Rudd rhetoric was based on hyperbole: for example, the promise that he would “never engage in tearing down a Prime Minister who had been popularly elected.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And of course Gillard wasn’t popularly elected; she technically lost the 2010 election.

Yet we stand in this situation for the same reason what happened in 2010 happened: Rudd mistreated his colleagues, to put it mildly; the imbecile behaved like a complete arsehole (which is what he is) to anyone who disagreed with him, questioned him, dared to cross him or interfered with him.

Those of us who know what he’s actually like — whether from first-hand exposure, or anecdotally — understand very well why his colleagues refuse to return him to the leadership.

Rudd, simply summarised, is what my late grandmother used to call my late grandfather: a street angel, but a house devil.

And the involvement of ALP strategist Bruce Hawker — and his admission that his activities for Rudd might ruin his professional reputation — is a red herring.

His virtual demand that Gillard not even contest the ballot — despite having the numbers, and on account of Rudd being “the people’s choice” as Prime Minister — is doggerel, and surprising evidence of an utter political naivety on Hawker’s part that nobody would have foreseen.

A rare glimpse of class emerged from a surprising quarter today: Anthony Albanese might be a thug, and his stated commitment to “(liking) to hunt Tories” might grate with me personally, but nobody could deny his integrity to his beliefs or his commitment to the cause of his party.

For this reason, I make no critical comment of his emotional press conference today, announcing his decision to back Rudd.

I’m sure he has wrestled with his standards — and his natural inclination to serve his leader, whoever that is — and found himself required by his own conscience to vote against her.

Some of his colleagues, if I were truly impartial in my political outlook, would do well to follow the Albanese example.

I don’t need to name the names — we all know who I’m talking about.

For all that, and by way of summary to this point, I believe Gillard to remain on track to win on Monday; perhaps not so overwhelmingly as was the case 36 hours ago, but to win nonetheless.

I reiterate my view that all Rudd and Gillard are fighting over, however, is the right to lead the ALP to defeat against Tony Abbott; the only questions there are a) when and b) by how much.

Indeed, on 3AW yesterday, Bruce Hawker virtually admitted that if an election had been held today, Labor would have lost 30 seats to the Coalition.

All in all, between the various speeches and the various agendas being pushed; in and among the coded messages the participants are sending, and the actual ones the polls are reporting, this Labor contest boils down thus far to one simple truth.

The brutal, ugly scrap that is tearing Labor apart could be seen as one of lies, damned lies, and statistics; as so typical of the modern ALP, and more than anything else, this is being conducted on the same sloganistic, spin-infected basis as everything else that party does.

It’s a problem with the ALP that surfaces with monotonous regularity with the ALP these days; however, Monday’s ballot won’t resolve that — far from it.

So we will see what happens on Monday morning, and talk anew; I will post on this subject tomorrow night if need be, but I would like to look at other issues if the air is otherwise clear enough to do so.

The Battle To Tear The Labor Party Apart

At the end of day one of the ALP leadership war — in which Kevin Rudd remains undeclared, but the battle begun in earnest — it is clear that whatever happens the Labor Party will be damaged by it, perhaps irretrievably. But this unsightly brawl will have merely been the start.

In case I was too subtle last night, I believe Julia Gillard will win Monday’s leadership ballot, and win it quite convincingly. What she will have won is a rather dubious consideration.

In what I consider to be a grotesquely crass measure, The Australian‘s online portal has a banner proclaiming “the numbers” to be Gillard 65, Rudd 31, Undecided 7. This went live at 2.56pm today (23 Feb) and — at time of posting (roughly midnight) has gone unchanged.

Whilst I believe that breakdown to be more or less accurate, it a) seems preclusive of movement that inevitably occurs in these matters; and b) seems an extraordinary intrusion by The Australian into an internal issue of a major political party.

One wonders if the deliberate and static projection of the votes is designed to reinforce perceptions of Rudd as the underdog…but of course, it couldn’t be that.

More seriously, the communications of both camps today suggest that this fight won’t simply be rancorous, it will be ongoing.

Whether through naivety, self-interest, or a genuine wish to resolve the leadership question once and for all — or a combination — Julia Gillard has stated that should she lose on Monday, she will go to the backbench and relinquish all future claim on the ALP leadership.

She has asked Kevin Rudd to agree to the same guarantee.

Of course, Rudd is currently 40,000 feet over Honolulu having his beverage service, but only an idiot could expect such a guarantee from Rudd, and only an idiot — politically speaking — would agree to it.

It’s well-known what I think of Kevin Rudd, and it’s well-known that I don’t believe he will or should ever be Prime Minister again. But to ask an ambitious (if deeply flawed)  man to unconditionally sign away forever his goals in the name of a truce, in light of everything that has happened?

One of the major metropolitan newspapers today opined that were Rudd to win, he would be free to appoint key backers to senior ministries to fill the vacancies caused by the resignations of those who refused to serve under him.

This is true, but it seems glaringly obvious that Julia Gillard will be in the same situation — so long as she refuses to sack those of her ministers who have declared against her and who subsequently refuse to resign.

Martin Ferguson, Kim Carr and Robert McClelland have already broken ranks; surely others will follow them into the Rudd camp.

If Gillard wins, Rudd — as I have said before — will simply keep coming; my view is that for his own good, as much as anything else, he ought to quit Parliament altogether.

But he won’t.

And if Rudd wins, the likelihood of resignations of Labor MPs from Parliament will virtually guarantee an early election, and sooner rather than later.

For now — with Rudd not even back on Australian soil — the rhetoric on both sides is becoming increasingly poisonous.

On the one hand, parties to the midnight coup that rolled Rudd as PM in 2010 now see fit — after nearly two years of silence — to take Australians into their confidence and to finally begin to explain why the removal of the Prime Minister 52.7% of them elected was necessary.

It’s heartwarming, this new degree of honesty.

And on the other, Rudd — or for now at least, the people around him — are playing the poor, hard done by martyr card; how dare they remove an elected Prime Minister from office, and how dare they question the right of the poor martyr to resume his rightful place on the throne?

It’s called politics, Kevin; the fact you’re almost as bad at it as Gillard is is the reason you were able to be killed off in the first place.

It takes two to tango; just as Rudd has been undermining and backgrounding against Gillard ever since he was dumped, it bears remembering that Gillard herself is the initiating combatant in this blood feud: whatever the justification for doing so, she did beat up on the leader she was deputy to.

All I am saying — with no preference either way — is that they’re equally responsible and, in this context at least, as bad as each other.

At the end of the first day of this openly being a leadership fight, I think it’s clear that both sides are so deeply dug in that neither will yield — irrespective of the result.

Gillard has promised peace and stability if she loses because she thinks, probably correctly, that she will never have to honour that promise.

(As an aside, if she does find herself in that position, we will see…and time will tell…)

Rudd’s people have made it very clear, almost in so many words, that they are so aggrieved that they will not stop until Gillard has been dumped, and Rudd reinstalled as Prime Minister.

In the meantime, I would make two points.

One: this is a fight over who will lead the ALP to defeat at the next election; contrary to the protestations of either of them, neither Rudd nor Gillard will ever lead Labor to an election victory.

Two: my prediction thus far is that Gillard will win, but will be gone as Prime Minister within months; either by virtue of the engineering of an early election by the opposition, or by a switch in the Labor leadership to someone who is not Rudd — the “third candidate” option, if you will.

As ever, we will watch developments on this very closely; but in closing for the night, here’s a thought for you all.

If Kevin Rudd does win on Monday, he will need a new Treasurer — assuming, that is, Wayne Swan’s fit of pique on the day doesn’t result in a by-election loss in Lilley that leads to the fresh election I mention.

Should this need for a new Treasurer materialise, perhaps Rudd could check the availability of Dobell MP Craig Thomson.

After all, he doesn’t have so many friends at the moment, and as everyone knows, he is adept at the handling of money…

Seriously, folks, if this first day is anything to go by, the ALP is prepared to absolutely tear itself apart over this.

And should that occur, whilst it would be good for the electoral prospects of the conservative parties, it would be very bad for governance in this country, for democracy, and for Australia generally.

At the end of day one, however, it seems “scorched Labor” will be the ultimate result of this process.

And as a conservative, I actually find that prospective development highly disturbing.

 

Nowhere To Hide: Rudd Quits, But It’s Not Over Yet

Today’s contradictory events see Kevin Rudd resign as Foreign Minister, in apparent anticipation of his sacking from Cabinet next week; the game is over for Kevin Rudd, and yet this story still has some way to go before it is concluded.

Before we get into it, though — here’s a clip that is most suitable, given this afternoon’s events. If you can’t click it, paste it into your browser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_2VRDkudyA

There’s no need to outline the background to the leadership ructions that have been underway in the ALP for the past year or so; everyone knows that.

But forces close to Julia Gillard determined to bring these matters to a head; today it was circulated that next Tuesday she would call a leadership ballot, and that if Rudd failed to stand, or if he stood and lost, he would be sacked from the ministry.

Today, at 5.30pm Melbourne time — and at 1.30am in Washington, which is where he is — Rudd resigned as Foreign minister, and from the Gillard government.

As someone who has been critical of Kevin Rudd ever since rumours began emanating from the Queensland public service in the early 1990s, which Rudd ran at the time, I can only say with some satisfaction that I believe this to be the end of the malodorous and noxious political career of an imbecile so self-obsessed as to have displayed a complete and utter contempt for his colleagues, his party, and for the Australian public.

In his press conference this afternoon — again, Melbourne time — Rudd sought to take the moral high ground; that he did not enjoy the support of his leader and that consequently “attacks on his character” had gone unrefuted, and that as a result he saw “no honourable course” other than to resign.

If only it were so simple.

It is common knowledge that Rudd and/or those close to him have, since the precise date of his deposal as Prime Minister, have undermined, backgrounded against, frustrated and thwarted Gillard at every available opportunity.

And the simple fact is that despite having led the ALP out of the wilderness in 2007 after 12 lean years in Opposition, he systematically and completely alienated so many of his fellow MPs that they now find a crushing election loss preferable to allowing him to resume the leadership of their party.

That’s the nub of the matter but again, it’s not really so straightforward.

It’s inarguable that on the present trajectory, the ALP is headed to a cataclysmic defeat at the hands of Tony Abbott — whenever the next election occurs.

It is also inarguable that Julia Gillard is electoral dead meat; a Prime Minister so reviled and distrusted by the Australian electorate that she could tell the people that the sky is blue, and they wouldn’t believe it.

So here we are. What happens?

I am reliably told that in a hypothetical leadership ballot against Rudd, Gillard has a minimum of 70 of the 103 caucus votes in the bag.

Little wonder Rudd resigned today.

It has further been reported in the press this evening that — just for the look of it — Gillard plans to declare her position vacant when the caucus reconvenes next week, and to invite nominations.

My strong advice to Rudd is not to bother.

I understand his hurt at losing the Prime Ministership, and I understand his grievance at the way in which that event occurred.

I also further reiterate that he probably only had himself to blame for it, based on the method with which he executed his approach to that office.

But the party that turned to him in 2006 and dumped him in 2010 refuses to embrace him; to stand would be a humiliation; and to attempt to make a second stand some months hence would almost be the act of a masochist.

Again, what happens?

Rudd may stand against Gillard; he would be humiliated, but the fact a contested ballot had occurred would ensure the instability in the ALP continued.

Rudd might opt not to stand; even then, forces loyal to him (and again, understandably outraged at his fate) would likely keep chipping away at Gillard, and the crisis would ensue.

It is one of those things that Gillard is unelectable, and will lead Labor to certain decimation if she ever fights another election as Prime Minister, but Rudd must realise that this is no longer his battle to fight.

And even if — some months down the track — a Smith or a Crean assumes the leadership and Prime Ministership in a bloodless leadership transfer, the agenda will be the minimising of electoral losses, not the winning of an election.

And for the record: Kevin Rudd is as unlikely to lead the ALP to election victory in present circumstances as any other candidate, current or prospective.

This must burn at Rudd; it is the hard cold fact of the loss of his life’s dream.

Yet he must move on.

Some might say that what I think should happen is self-serving, given my conservative political outlook, membership of the Liberal Party, and sometime political ambitions of my own.

But the best thing Kevin Rudd could do is to go the step further, and resign from Parliament; he is never going to be Prime Minister, and he is unlikely to ever hold ministerial commission again. It is logical for him to depart.

And should he do so, he should go in the knowledge that whilst the loss of his seat in a by-election might bring down the government, so too may so many other factors in relatively short order — not least, the mysteriously-delayed FWA report into Craig Thomson, and criminal charges which may arise from it.

Today’s events will make no difference at all to the tenure or prospects of the federal government; despite Gillard being a complete incompetent, and even when the egomaniacal Rudd was in charge, the problems were and have only ever really been about policy.

And on policy, the ALP is culpable.

Best for Rudd to slink off quietly into the night, and leave the remaining MPs in his party to get on with what they are doing.

(And to console himself with the knowledge that in 18 months, there won’t be too many of them left).

In the meantime, he can be satisfied that he — Kevin Rudd — did it “His Way.”

Thoughts?

Repositioning? “Maybe It’s Time The People Had A Go At It”: Windsor

Pursuant to comments yesterday that “all bets would be off” if the minority ALP government made a leadership switch back to Kevin Rudd, federal independent MP Tony Windsor today gave his strongest indication yet that he would support forcing an election should such a change occur.

Nonetheless, Windsor seems determined to keep a foot on either side of the fence; and in the next three paragraphs, I quote contemporaneously from The Australian:

“I’d have to not only look at Kevin Rudd as a potential leader but as to whether it was time for the people to actually have their say, seeing we’ve had our go at determining who could lead for the three years,” Mr Windsor told ABC Radio.

Mr Windsor said if a spill was to occur voters should ultimately be the ones to decide who becomes Prime Minister.

“…maybe it’s time the people had a go of it.”

So what are we to make of that?

It is clear that this wily old political bird — whose career commenced in 1991, when passed over for National Party endorsement for the NSW state seat of Tamworth, which he nevertheless won as an independent — has survived for many years against the odds, with no party structure or organisational backing to lean on.

And it has also seemed quite clear, since the 2010 federal election, that his papers were finally stamped: his support of a Labor/Greens government, as the holder of the highly conservative electorate of New England, had been a betrayal of the very folk who had supported him for two decades and a sellout of their values.

Yet the self-proclaimed “conservative” who essentially backed an old-style socialist government into power appears to be contemplating one final, and colossal, attempt to survive as a parliamentarian.

I’ve no doubt Windsor long ago “sniffed the wind” to use an old political phrase, and realised that he detected the bouquet of effluent headed his way.

How to get out of the political shit-storm he created for himself? What better pretext than a change in the Labor Party leadership.

Mind you, as I said, Windsor appears determined to hedge his bets, keeping one foot on either side of the fence; on the one hand he says that a change of Labor leader would be “a breach…by the Labor Party as to the agreement (for his support);” on the other, he adds, “I quite like Kevin.”

He also reiterated yesterday’s remark that were Gillard to be dumped as PM, then “all bets would be off.”

What we are witnessing in Australian politics at the moment is unprecedented; at the minimum, it is unprecedented since the Gorton/McMahon rivalry of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Malcolm Fraser was lobbing hand grenades at his leader, Gorton, and the country was laughing at Gorton’s replacement, the treacherous, ridiculous Billy McMahon.

Yet the situation is fluid, and moving fast: it may very well be that Windsor has assessed that Kevin Rudd is unlikely to find the numbers with which to topple Gillard and reclaim the Prime Ministership, and is simply making noises to appease the conservative core of his electorate.

Either way, it seems a fair indication that Windsor is giving serious consideration to recontesting his seat at the rapidly approaching election due in a tick over 17 months.

Certainly, were Rudd to return as Labor leader, the withdrawal of Windsor’s support from the government would be crucial in engineering the fresh election ALP types are so fearful of, and which a growing majority of Australians increasingly want.

Yet there is a very big danger for Windsor, and it is this: by trying to play both sides of the game, the result may well be that he ends up pleasing and convincing no-one, but ends up being — to use a current phrase in the vernacular — the biggest loser.

Or, as another wily old political bird, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, once said: “You can’t walk with one foot on either side of a barbed wire fence; it’s uncomfortable.”

As if to reinforce the point, old Joh added: “This is not a bread and butter issue.”

Bread and butter it might not be, but Tony Windsor is clearly dancing with the prospect of political life and death.

Given he has invested every shred of political capital he possesses into trying to make the current arrangements of governance work, would Windsor pull the pin on Labor?

Who knows for sure.

But this, again, is another sign that not only is the endgame underway on the question of the ALP leadership, so too is it likely approaching in terms of the survival of the current Parliament.

I think if push came to shove, Windsor would ignore the influence of his brother-in-law, ALP strategist Bruce Hawker, and support a vote of no-confidence in the government in an attempt to engineer an election — and to attempt to save his seat in the process.

But then again, it isn’t me with one foot on either side of a barbed wire fence.

What do you think?

 

Disintegrating Government: It’s Time To Put The Mangy Labor Dog Down

In the past few days, a few things have become clear: it’s likely there will be an ALP leadership showdown; whether or not there is, it will change little. And even if there isn’t, the chaos and instability and crisis will continue. It isn’t time for a new Labor leader. It is time for an election.

The issue of the Labor leadership has been repeatedly canvassed in this column; I will again lay out some familiar arguments, but these are tempered by an emergent reality that nothing — nothing — can now provide the ALP with an impetus to behave or operate like a viable government.

Indeed, the ALP is preoccupied with itself — only a few terms in opposition will shake them out of it.

And even then, the Labor Party might not pull itself together.

The final catalyst to guarantee something — anything — will happen is the leaking over the weekend of an expletive-laden montage of out-takes from a session in which Kevin Rudd was filming a message in Mandarin a couple of years ago.

You can view it here.

It’s obvious someone close to the Prime Minister leaked it: Rudd would never let something like that hit the public domain.

The leaking of the clip was a clear attempt to show the voting public what Kevin Rudd has assiduously sought to hide: what he’s really like.

Let’s be clear — Joe Public thinks far more highly of Rudd than his colleagues do. But those Labor MPs, along with a coterie of public servants, journalists and insiders all know that he is a noxious, offensive imbecile as a human being.

And this genuinely surprises people.

Gillard, for her part, denies any knowledge of the leak; perhaps she really didn’t do it or doesn’t know who did.

The problem she has is that the same defence was trotted out after one of her advisors attempted to incite a riot on Australia Day to damage the opposition leader, Tony Abbott.

Gillard’s denials, whether true or not, are actually worthless in the court of public opinion.

And to go on Four Corners last week — and to give the slippery, evasive, and downright unbelievable performance she did — achieved no more than to further damage her credibility in the eyes of the public, and to further enrage Kevin Rudd on account of his perception of the treatment he had received at her hands.

Nobody denies that Rudd has indulged in mischief-making since he was deposed; even Rudd himself can’t bring himself to give a straight answer to most questions surrounding the issue of the Labor leadership.

The problem is that this has now grown into an issue that transcends any policy considerations, and it even transcends the personalities involved.

The government is disintegrating, and the Labor Party is a cancer unto itself.

Today we have had Simon Crean deliver a scathing critique of Rudd; that he isn’t a team player; that he must commit to Gillard and cease his background activities or resign; and that failing that, his sacking is “certainly an option open (to the Prime Minister).”

In the past couple of days we have seen Victorian ALP MP Darren Cheeseman publicly — and correctly — state that Gillard is finished, and that should she lead Labor to an election, the party would face oblivion.

We have also seen another Victorian MP — the member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons — state that Rudd is “a psychopath” whose ego prevents him from recognising the comprehensive nature of his rejection by his party not two years ago.

Obviously, and understandably, the tensions inside the ALP have reached explosion point.

There is talk of “a leadership challenge” in the Labor caucus next Monday — one week from today.

But a challenge by whom, and to whom? And will it even happen?

And if it does, what will change?

In a Rudd-Gillard clash, if Gillard were to win — and I now don’t think it matters whether she wins by 1 vote or 60 votes in the 103-strong party room — Rudd will keep coming.

If forced to the backbench, he will be free to plot, to scheme, to campaign, to recruit, and to destabilise on an unrestrained basis.

As the loser in this scenario, were he to quit his seat in Parliament, it would result in a by-election in the Queensland seat of Griffith the ALP would be certain to lose.

And if the ALP ever expelled him from the party, such a by-election would be equally forthcoming.

Were Rudd to win such an encounter, it would be by a margin so narrow — given the residual and enduring loathing from many of his colleagues — that he’d almost be finished before he started.

The Labor Party would be riven with dissent; the temptation for the Gillard/Crean forces to play the same payback game that Rudd has played for the past 20 months would be irresistible.

And the proof of that lies in the Australia Day stunt and the YouTube posting we have discussed.

There would be a further complicating factor in that at least three ALP backbenchers (and possibly as many as six) have threatened to, and likely would, resign from Parliament out of spite, thereby commencing the probable fall of the government and of Labor’s return to long-term Opposition.

Certainly, the member for Moreton in Queensland — Graham Perrett — has declared his intention to do so in the event of a return by Rudd to the Prime Ministership one time too many for him not to do so; the likelihood of others following suit ought not be discounted.

And the third option…I have tried to be objective here over many months, pointing out that both Stephen Smith and Simon Crean would both make a better fist of it as Prime Minister than either Rudd or Gillard.

Indeed, whilst I would continue to disagree with their politics, I would expect either man to make quite a competent Prime Minister — in the circumstances.

Yet I am now convinced, given the antics of the past few weeks, that were either to be elected (and neither is aligned to Rudd in any way, shape or form), that Rudd would remain in Parliament and simply undermine them as he has done to Gillard.

As an aside, Tony Windsor intimated he is not happy with where all of this is headed today; “all bets (would be) off” was his comment on any change in the Labor leadership.

Which would offset any move by Katter to support Rudd, given Wilkie would likely do so. God knows what Oakeshott would do…then again, even God wouldn’t know that.

It has moved beyond a discussion of the political and moral rights and wrongs of Gillard’s coup against Rudd in 2010.

In a way, it doesn’t even matter now who knew what back then and when, or who did what to whom.

And, in the big scheme of Australian politics — viewed against the backdrop of what is happening inside the Labor Party — even the government’s, and the Prime Ministers’ records (both of them), become moot points.

The simple fact is this: the government is disintegrating; it is a sick mutt, and it needs to be put out of its misery.

Even Michelle Grattan, in The Age today, acknowledged that Tony Abbott’s calls for an election “sound more compelling by the day” — and that is from a highly respected, but naturally cautious, veteran journalist who over the decades has always avoided any hint of publicly coming down on one side over the other.

It doesn’t matter if Gillard retains “the overwhelming support of Caucus.”

It doesn’t matter that Kevin Rudd “would do things differently this time around.”

It doesn’t matter, any longer, that a third candidate might provide a way out of this mess.

They couldn’t, and they can’t.

And it certainly doesn’t matter which of Rudd, Gillard, or any of their acolytes rule anything in or out, or make any definitive declarations — they change nought.

The simple fact is that for as long as the Labor Party remains in government — and, in likelihood, for several years thereafter — it will continue to tear itself to pieces.

It is compromising the governance of Australia, and jeopardising this country’s tradition of political stability.

Whilst an early election now for the House of Representatives would need to be followed by another no later than early June 2014 to avoid throwing the cycles for the House and the Senate out of kilter, I believe we are at the point where Australians will stomach two elections in a bit over two years as a way to end the current malaise, the current circus, the current farce that is Labor Party and its conduct in government.

An election is the only way to resolve questions of leadership, and questions of governance, at a stroke.

The alternative is another 18 months of the same shenanigans Australians have witnessed, and grimaced over, for the past 18 months.

It’s time to put the mangy Labor dog down: and irrespective of what the dog does in its death throes, it is time for a fresh federal election in Australia.