Newspoll: Coalition Leads Rudd Labor, 51-49

NEWSPOLL — that political oracle the ALP has for so long lived and died by — has released its first poll with Kevin Rudd leading Labor for tomorrow’s issue of The Australian; it mirrors an earlier Galaxy finding of a 51-49 lead to the Coalition, and lays solid political pressure squarely on Rudd’s shoulders.

For the second time in two days, a major reputable polling outlet has found that in spite of its change of leaders this week, Labor would still lose an election to the Coalition, albeit by the relatively modest margin of just 10 seats.

Newspoll — to appear in The Australian tomorrow — finds the ALP primary vote up six percentage points from its survey last week, to 35%; it finds the Coalition at 43% (-5%), the Greens on 11% (+2%), and “Others” at 11% (-3%).

This translates into a 6% swing to Labor since last Sunday night’s poll, with Labor now sitting behind the Coalition, 49-51, after the allocation of preferences.

On the “preferred Prime Minister” measure, Rudd heads Abbott by a 49-35 margin; as I said earlier today in discussing the Galaxy results, this is by no means a disaster for Abbott as the “preferred PM” question overwhelmingly favours an incumbent for the simple fact they are already sitting in the chair — as a new Prime Minister or otherwise.

(Although it does illustrate just how poorly regarded Julia Gillard had become in the end).

Of far greater interest are Kevin Rudd’s personal approval numbers: of Newspoll’s respondents, 36% approved of the way he was performing as Prime Minister, whilst another 36% disapproved; 28% were undecided.

Abbott, on the other hand, sees his approval number fall by a point to 35%,and his disapproval number climbing three points to 56%, based on Newspoll’s findings a week ago.

The change in Tony Abbott’s personal approval numbers is within the margin of error of this poll, and — to the extent it can be attributed to the events of the past week — probably reflects the fact the Coalition generally has had to shift its attacks on Labor up a gear to accommodate the change of leadership, and it is Abbott who has done the bulk of the heavy lifting in this regard.

The Labor Party, however, faces a big problem if these first numbers for Rudd are indicative of the type of ratings he is to record moving forward.

Some may have thought that given the stratospheric figures Rudd has recorded for a couple of years now across all polls, whenever respondents were asked if they preferred him or Gillard to lead the ALP, his approval figures now would be far more impressive.

Instead, this result is an early hint that what I and many other commentators on politics have been saying incessantly — that such figures are absurd, as they merely reflect a hypothetical — is deadly accurate.

For Labor to be comfortable with Rudd’s first batch of figures, the split probably needed to be about 50-25 among those nominating an opinion.

36-36 — if perpetuated in similar proportions or worse after another two or three surveys — is disastrous.

And it shows that of what they have seen so far of Rudd in his “resumed” role of Prime Minister, they don’t like.

My initial read of the voting numbers is that this survey must have gone very close to a 52-48 result for the Coalition; for Labor to have recorded a 49% result on the back of a 35% primary vote, the split of preferences Newspoll has allocated from Greens and “Others” votes seems abnormally high.

As I said in my earlier article, I was expecting the bounce the ALP received from its leadership change to put it, for one survey at least, in an election-winning position.

Thus far, the results we have seen still have Labor losing — admittedly, by a lot less than would have been the case a week ago — but losing nonetheless.

Yet it is entirely fair to expect, given the appalling record the ALP must defend at the ballot box after six years of inept, inefficient, wasteful and unstable government, that the early polls will probably be among the better numbers Rudd can expect as his honeymoon with voters wears off in coming weeks.

The temptation for the Liberal Party will be to panic; it must not do so, and must lock in behind Abbott: any hint of leadership tension in the face of what has transpired in the ALP this week will quickly level the political playing field and give Labor a real chance to win.

Even so, and with Nielsen and Essential still to post surveys with Rudd returned as Prime Minister, I contend the pressure is piled onto Rudd by this result, rather than onto Abbott.

I ran into a (Liberal-inclined) mate of mine this evening who bluntly opined that in the past three days, Rudd has “carried on with all the same bullshit” as he did as Prime Minister the first time; an indelicate assessment perhaps, but not at all inaccurate.

With ordinary polling numbers now beginning to accumulate at a time they should be sensational, Rudd is about to name a ministry in which many of his colleagues have refused to serve, and which many backbench MPs have reportedly refused to join.

The signs in Rudd’s demeanour and language are dangerous: even on the night of his return as Labor leader he turned up to his press conference an hour late, spent part of the speech directing coded jabs at his predecessors and the rest talking Rudd-esque gobbledygook, before announcing — at close to midnight — that he and “Albo” were unable to field questions as they had “other work” to attend to.

There are reports in the press, too, that Rudd had an altercation with a volunteer fundraiser on the hustings in rural NSW this afternoon, which isn’t a good look.

And there is certainly no indication he is being received anywhere as a messiah, or seen as the “natural” Prime Minister of this country he clearly believes himself to be.

I think there’s a good chance that the government will find a way to implode over the next month or so; that’s a judgement on Rudd, the way he operates, and its likely consequences.

But two polls in two days, still showing Labor losing an election, makes me think — as expected — that the surge in Labor support is illusory, will quickly fade, and leave Rudd and Labor in a position little better than that most recently presided over by Julia Gillard.

Dead Cat Bounce: Kev, Albo And Opinion Polls

DAY THREE of the brave new Kevin Rudd regime yesterday saw the first  poll since his “resumption” of the Prime Ministership showing an Abbott election win, 51-49; the significant spike in Labor’s numbers will be short-lived and, with “Kev” and “Albo” in charge, no more than a dead cat bounce for the ALP.

Prior and subsequent to Wednesday night’s leadership change over at the ALP I’ve taken numerous calls from Liberal voters, deeply worried that a switch to Kevin Rudd may allow Labor to steal an election win that by rights it has no entitlement to even contemplate.

What I have told anyone who has asked — and time will tell if I’m right — is that the first polls after the leadership change are likely to produce an immediate and significant bounce in support for the ALP, solid numbers for Rudd as PM, and possibly holding out the prospect of Labor in an election winning position.

However, such a bounce won’t last, and Liberal supporters and MPs need not panic.

And so it has come to pass, with the first of the major polls — Galaxy — yesterday showing Labor now trailing the Coalition by a narrow 49-51 margin after preferences.

The only surprise as far as I’m concerned is that it didn’t show Labor in front.

The 49-51 deficit Galaxy reports represents a swing to Labor of 4% on its previous survey taken a little over a fortnight ago, which showed that under Julia Gillard the ALP was on course for a 55-45 landslide loss.

This result is to some extent reflected in an automated ReachTel poll taken immediately after the leadership switch that showed Labor behind the Coalition by a slightly wider 48-52 margin under Rudd.

ReachTel typically overstates the size of the Labor vote, as we saw during the Queensland state election campaign last year. So it’s early days, but the portents for the government aren’t good, or at least certainly not as good as they might have hoped.

Galaxy finds primary vote support for the ALP up six percentage points to 38%; the Coalition down three points to 44%; the Greens down a point to 10%; and support for “Others” falling two points to 8%.

On the “preferred Prime Minister” measure, Galaxy finds Rudd heading Abbott by 17 points, 51-34; this compares to a 37-33 Abbott lead over Gillard in the previous survey.

This in itself isn’t a bad result for Abbott by historical norms; he will be disappointed to fall behind on the measure, but the “preferred PM” count is the one most heavily biased toward an incumbent, and one on which Abbott can be expected to retrieve ground as the novelty of Rudd’s return starts to wear off.

And that’s about as good as it gets, if you sit in the ALP tent and/or barrack for Rudd.

(Galaxy tables here, courtesy of Twitter colleague @GhostWhoVotes).

Galaxy asked its respondents whether they expected the ALP to unite behind Rudd or to continue to be divided; just 36% said they expected Rudd to bring Labor unity, as opposed to 53% who said they expect the divisions of the past three years to continue.

Unsurprisingly, this was split along party lines, with 68% of those identifying as Labor voters saying Rudd would unite the ALP compared to 22% suggesting the division would continue; of Coalition supporters, 79% expected Labor to remain divided with just 15% expecting it to unite behind Rudd.

But stripped down, this suggests almost a third of those intending to vote Labor either expect it to remain disunited or, at the minimum, aren’t confident the party will pull together, with almost two in three respondents overall being of the same opinion.

And when we step away from polling altogether, there are ominous signs for the ALP that its rough ride will continue apace under Rudd.

Stories suggesting Rudd is finding it difficult to field a full team of ministers are surfacing; apparently — and unbelievably — he has been begging Gillard loyalist and former Communications minister Stephen Conroy to reconsider his decision to refuse to serve.

It seems obvious that whatever team Rudd eventually puts up is going to be largely inexperienced; already there are names such as Fremantle MP Melissa Parkes and Ballarat MP Catherine King being bandied about — names that otherwise wouldn’t rate a mention in terms of ministerial office so close to a critical election campaign.

Rudd himself is showing no sign of being any different to the fractious, unruly Prime Minister he was between 2007 and 2010; his rhetoric that Coalition policy on turning asylum seeker boats back could start “a war” with Indonesia is — plainly put — mad, bad, and dangerous.

And with no pun intended, it seems that in new deputy PM Anthony Albanese, Rudd has an unexpected albatross around his neck; “Albo” might be a fine tactician and headkicker, but he is no salesman and is a PR disaster whose time in the open has come.

I watched “Albo” on Sky News this morning as he battled and stammered his way through murky half-sentences and barely articulated responses to questions (those he bothered to attempt to answer, that is) as he left viewers in little doubt that when it comes to clarity around the objectives of a Rudd government, he will not be the man to provide it.

Rightly or wrongly, the barely coherent “Albo” looks and sounds like a thug, and it’s a point that will take little time to register with voters as the level of his public exposure balloons.

Appearing with Rudd late on Wednesday night, he struggled to even complete his sentences; it may have been nerves in the euphoria of the moment, but his performances since then have been every bit as bad.

And with perception a potent killer of political careers, “Albo” is likely to prove a liability to Rudd in short order.

Of course, it’s early days yet, and there are other polls to come; we will discuss them as they present, and especially in the coming few weeks.

But my sense is that all of the major polls will record hefty surges in Labor support in the short-term; as I said at the outset, the only surprise in the Galaxy numbers is that they don’t show Labor in a winning position.

Australians love an underdog; we are unique in this country in that new governments and/or leaders get a “honeymoon” in opinion polling. Inevitably, however, it wears off.

I think what will happen is that within the next month, solid poll numbers for Rudd and Labor will fall away; Rudd has probably already made the terminal mistake of not showing up to his swearing-in ceremony at Government House with advice of a dissolution of Parliament in hand and an election date in early August to advise.

The longer it takes Rudd to herd voters into polling booths, the greater the margin of the inevitable defeat he will suffer.

The key thing at this stage is for the Liberal Party to hold its nerve and to stand firm behind Abbott; already there is a “Malcolm For Leader” putsch getting underway in social media circles, whose only beneficiary can be the ALP.

We’ve been over this before. Turnbull’s best poll result as leader translated to a 48-52 loss to Rudd; the average was about 44-56. Turnbull as Liberal leader is an electoral red herring fuelled by supporters of the Left as much as by whatever support it retains among voters on the Right.

Even so, with a liability as deputy, his penchant for making ridiculous and pompously grandiose pronouncements intact and a frontbench comprised largely of amateur hands soon to be confirmed, Rudd has a shallow well of political fortune from which to draw.

And this in turn means that any “bounce” he receives from these early polls will be no more than a dead cat bounce; even a cat rebounds to an extent if it falls far enough but — in the end — fall it does, until it hits the bottom of the pit.

The worst thing Liberals across Australia can do, right now, is to panic.

For Whom The Bell Tolls: ALP MPs Jump Ship

FOLLOWING this week’s replacement of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd, Labor MPs are dropping like flies; walkouts from the ministry are almost at double figures, with many opting to leave politics altogether. It is mostly childish, and exposes others to a charge of extreme gutlessness.

Over the next few days — as Kevin Rudd’s regurgitated government takes firmer shape — we will be speaking in greater detail about the direction Rudd seems to want to head in, and how he’s shaping up.

The early portents are hardly promising; his insistence Tony Abbott’s policies would ignite a war with Indonesia being an irresponsible and petulant hint that despite his protestations to the contrary, he hasn’t learned anything in the three years since he was first deposed.

But tonight I want to take a look at those who deposed him, and — more importantly — things that were said about Rudd subsequently, particularly around the time of his failed leadership challenge of February 2012.

The one aspect of any return to the Prime Ministership by Rudd that was always going to be entertaining to watch was the kids in the sandpit packing up their bats and balls and going home, with some — petulantly — ensuring they could never return.

And so, as the days pass, it has increasingly proven.

In actions guaranteed to assist Tony Abbott to rip Rudd apart a second time as Prime Minister (and remember, had Abbott not taken him down in the first place, Rudd would never have been vulnerable to a coup in 2010), Labor MPs have expended a great deal of hot air talking about what a dreadful piece of work Rudd is.

He’s not a Labor man. He has no Labor values. He’s a maniac. He’s a psychopath. On and on it went, all gleefully stored in the Liberal Party vault for use in the runup to any election Rudd might subsequently lead Labor into.

Such an election is now approaching, and the first shot out of the locker has proven potent. For those who haven’t yet seen it, check this out.

With no irony intended, the chickens seem to be coming home to roost; and whilst not meaning to revisit the deliberately farcical effort from Liberal HQ earlier this year (OK, all right…you can view it here if you haven’t seen it) it seems clear that the queue at Labor’s exit hatch will take longer to clear, even now.

The latest departure is Climate Change minister Greg Combet; having resigned from the ministry immediately after Gillard’s loss of the leadership on Wednesday, he has added today that he will not contest his Newcastle-based seat of Charlton at the coming poll.

Combet’s retirement is said to have been coming for several months, although his support for Gillard was open and it is no secret he has little time for Rudd; even so, Combet himself admitted that the leadership change was “probably a catalyst” for his decision to quit.

I thought we would quickly run through who’s resigned from what thus far, and who — by omission — is glaringly obvious.

  • Julia Gillard — dumped as Prime Minister, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Conroy — resigned as ALP Senate leader and from the ministry
  • Craig Emerson — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Smith — serving as Defence minister until election, retiring from Parliament
  • Greg Combet — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Peter Garrett — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Wayne Swan — resigned from ministry, contesting parliamentary seat at election
  • Joe Ludwig — resigned from ministry, remaining in Senate
  • Nicola Roxon* — resigned earlier 2013 from ministry, retiring from Parliament

So far, names such as those of Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis – trenchant Rudd critics whose continued presence in any Labor ministry would appear grossly hypocritical at best — are mysteriously absent from the gaggle of MPs refusing to serve under Rudd.

Finance minister Penny Wong — a staunch Gillard supporter — is not only remaining in the ministry, but has accepted election as the ALP’s Senate leader, replacing Conroy; and Jenny Macklin, another Gillard supporter (and someone this column has a fair bit of time for) simply wishes to remain in Parliament and do her job as a minister.

Overall though — what a cesspool.

And as obsequious and contemptible as Rudd might be — and if anything, the free character assessments so freely offered by his colleagues collectively amount to a massive understatement — he is probably entitled to the clear air the stampede out of the ministry should give him.

Which is why those who were happy to engage in a character assassination of Rudd whilst he was on the backbench should probably now take their own places there as well.

Swan — a surefire loser in his own seat of Lilley under Gillard — has, curiously, announced his intention to stand again; to me this smacks of the lowest form of pusillanimity conceivable: Swan was to some extent the leader of the pack against Rudd, and now Labor has hope of stemming the anti-Labor tide, Swan is going to try his luck at the polls.

Another Queenslander, Graham Perrett in the highly marginal seat of Moreton, is another who has been flushed out as a fraud; his threat to immediately quit Parliament and cause a by-election were Rudd restored to the Labor leadership (seemingly to bring the government down) has amounted, predictably enough, to nothing.

And it warrants mentioning that of the 102 Labor MPs who voted on the leadership on Wednesday night, 45 voted for Gillard; by my reckoning — taking into account the nine who have left the ministry already, and including the odious Roxon, that leaves another 32 potential tantrum throwers to go.

Politics is politics, and what has transpired this week is mild compared to some of the things that this country has seen over the years.

But the ones who were all talk and no action when it really came to it are symptomatic of a culture that, in the end, stands for very little.

And the continuing torrent of resignations — and be assured, there are more to come — will simply feed the perception that far from taking steps to get its house in order, Labor remains little more than a directionless rabble at the mercy of competing whims and egos.

*Nicola Roxon included on account of her vociferous and vehement anti-Rudd outbursts despite the fact her resignation from Parliament was announced earlier this year.

Detailed Breakdown Of The Victorian State Redistribution

AS PER NSW recently, this is for readers into in all things psephological; the latest redistribution is in Victoria, and I’m again sharing information from ABC election supremo Antony Green, who has analysed the draft boundaries published by the Victorian Electoral Commission for the 2014 election.

You can access a link to Antony’s page here. (I suggest you refresh this page over the weekend, as it’s clear Antony is still updating some sections of it).

A few observations on key points, as I see them:

The number of lower house seats is unchanged at 88, although 12 seats on the old boundaries have been abolished and replaced, or substantially modified and renamed.

Two seats have been abolished altogether: the uber-safe National Party seat of Rodney, in the state’s north, and the safe Liberal seat of Doncaster (held by Health minister Mary Wooldridge) in Melbourne’s outer north-east.

Labor notionally picks up an additional seat in its western suburbs heartland (Werribee, at the centre of Julia Gillard’s federal electorate of Lalor), whilst a new, notionally safe Liberal seat appears in Eildon, just south of Seymour.

Seymour — speaking of central Victoria — switches on paper from a Liberal Party seat to a National Party seat, and becomes much safer for the Coalition overall.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews’ traditionally safe Labor electorate of Mulgrave becomes quite marginal as a result of this redivision, and now sits on a notional margin of 2.5% (as opposed to 8.5% at the 2010 state election).

The effect of these draft boundary changes is to notionally alter the state of the parties, thus: Liberal Party 37 seats (+2); National Party 9 (-1); ALP 42 (-1).

The result of this redraw of the boundaries is that the Coalition now controls, on paper, a notional 46 of the 88 lower house seats, and I have to say that this tally seems more in line with the 51.6% result recorded at the 2010 election, when former Premier Ted Baillieu led the Coalition back to office on a swing of some 6.1%.

I have long suspected the state boundaries in Victoria contain an inherent bias towards the ALP, largely on account of the swathe of electorates it holds (and almost always holds) in Melbourne’s north and west, where most of the highest population growth in Victoria also happens to occur.

And to prove it — and I’m not talking about anything sinister — based on these revised boundaries, a 3.2% swing to the ALP in 2014 (which would produce the same 51.6% result for the winner as occurred in 2010) would see Labor win seven seats on paper from the Liberals for a total of 49: three more than these draft electorates currently show for the Coalition.

So whilst this redistribution (and it isn’t final as yet) does redress that bias to an extent, adding one paper seat to the tally the Coalition recorded in 2010, it doesn’t eliminate it either.

Anyhow, for those who like to crunch the numbers and pore over the minutiae — enjoy!

The Commission will gazette finalised boundaries toward the end of 2013.

Rudd, The “Yarralumla Prospect,” And Peter Slipper

KEVIN RUDD has been re-elected to the leadership of the Labor Party; the result raises more questions than answers, and will do nothing to avert the electoral rout the ALP seems destined to suffer. Indeed, Labor’s chaos — if it continues in office — seems set only to intensify.

If we go back to November 2011, I posted an article entitled “Here You Come Again;” it dealt — not for the first time — with ruminations emanating from the ALP about a possible leadership challenge and return as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd.

Yesterday, that event materialised.

And in the occasional spirit of YouTube entertainment for the benefit of readers, I post the same clip as I did then, which will at least provide something to listen to whilst reading.

But the return of Rudd will provide no solution to the woes of the ALP, nor provide it the prospect of scoring the unlikeliest of election wins.

It is too often overlooked that from the minute he became Liberal leader in late 2009, Tony Abbott began to eat into Rudd’s stellar opinion poll numbers; it was this — coupled with his own truly shocking record in government — that provided the circumstances under which Julia Gillard and her cohorts were able to overthrow him.

Rudd — and this is an old story — is viscerally detested in the ALP; his colleagues loathe him with an unbridled passion that is difficult even for some old political hands to fathom.

Yet many of them have voted to restore him as their leader in the forlorn and frankly pitiful hope he will save their seats, whilst others are busily stomping out of cabinet, or Parliament, or both.

It remains to be seen whether the three MPs who threatened to immediately resign from Parliament if Rudd ever returned deliver on their threats.

To do so their resignations would need to be effective by about noon today to have any practical effect, as after that time Parliament is unlikely to sit again prior to the election; such kamikaze tactics would be pointless if they did not facilitate the fall of the Rudd government on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Yet fall the government still might.

The Red And The Blue understands that Governor-General Quentin Bryce will this morning commission Rudd as Prime Minister on the condition he demonstrates that he commands a majority in the House; even now, the role of Independents (and maverick Labor MPs) will be critical.

At this stage, Labor commands 70 of the 149 MPs on the floor of the House*; it also has pledges of support for Rudd from Greens MP Adam Bandt as well as Craig Thomson and Andrew Wilkie.

The position of Bob Katter Jr is less clear; last night it was initially reported that he had pledged support for Rudd in a confidence ballot too.

But subsequent reports showed Katter had said on Twitter that whilst he supports Rudd as Labor leader, his position on confidence in the government has not changed and that he would support a motion of no-confidence in the government.

Fellow Independent Tony Windsor has suggested he may do likewise, and indications from Rob Oakeshott — whilst insisting he has not decided — tell a similar story.

Were all three to support a no-confidence motion, the Coalition would win any vote, 75-74; as such a motion requires an absolute majority of MPs to vote to suspend standing orders before it can be moved, however, the critical vote is probably that of grub, former Speaker and LNP turncoat Peter Slipper.

It is a sad indictment that yet another conservative rat may hold the outcome of years of internecine Labor infighting in his hands, but as things stand, it’s that simple; Rudd’s fate as PM may hinge on what Slipper chooses to do in his final act as a Parliamentarian.

It brings the “Yarralumla Prospect” we have spoken about back into play; that is, Bryce may yet find herself with the proverbial “role to play”: if a no-confidence vote in Rudd succeeds, there is every possibility it will be Abbott who sees the week out as Prime Minister, not Rudd.

Ironically, such an outcome would be in the best political interests of Kevin Rudd.

By being forced to campaign as opposition leader, Rudd would be permitted to perpetuate the unspoken victim complex that has permeated Australian politics for the past three years; restored as leader but not to office, the ALP election campaign would be based solely on the supposed popularity of Rudd in a sickening populist onslaught.

Yet whether it comes to that or not, Rudd is unlikely to lead Labor to an election win.

As I have said in this column previously, the problem is the Labor Party itself, not necessarily its leader; indeed, today’s leadership change — Labor’s fifth in ten years, and the third since 2006 — is a telling reminder of the divided, conflict-racked beast the once-great ALP has become.

My sense is that the initial opinion polls after today’s events will indeed see Labor in a winning position; such is the nature of the honeymoon effect in Australian politics.

It will be important for the Liberal Party to hold its nerve in the next few weeks.

But the Rudd glow will quickly dissipate, as voters soon remember all the reasons he was already falling from public favour when he was replaced, and as Tony Abbott — who has found the way to pull Rudd down once before — sets about doing so again.

The parade of ministerial resignations, whilst honourable for their adherence to individual pledges to do so if Rudd were restored, add nothing to the image of the ALP as a party fit to govern, nor display any interest in either the good of the country or the obligations of the MPs in question to represent their electorates to the best of their abilities.

To the contrary, it is further evidence — were any required — that Labor’s only interest is an obsession with personal political agendas even if those agendas sit in complete contempt of the electorate and the national interest.

To enact such a change this close to an election shows a cavalier disregard for the intelligence of voters insofar as Labor now seeks an election win — almost out of sympathy for Rudd — which would be underpinned by the near certainty that were the ALP to win it would discard Rudd again as soon as the votes were tallied.

I saw Rudd speak late last night; typically late, he showed up to a press conference nearly an hour behind schedule and said next to nothing of substance.

Certainly, he was gracious to an extent to Gillard and to Wayne Swan; to an extent, he could afford to be.

But — dangerously for the ALP, I thought — he immediately began to play Wayne Swan’s cracked record on Labor’s alleged stewardship during the GFC: an event now five years in the past.

And his remarks omitted any reference to the litany of policy disasters either committed or commenced on his first watch as Prime Minister: the mining tax, the mess over climate change that became the carbon tax, the pink batts fiasco, green loans, the defective school building program…

There is also the small matter of Rudd’s triumphant abolition of the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution,” his proud boast there would be no “lurch to the right” under any government he led on the issue — and the torrent of unauthorised boat arrivals that promptly commenced, numbering in hundreds of boats carrying thousands of people.

With many people literally drowning at sea as a direct consequence.

All of these things provide a potent arsenal for an opposition that is hungry to win and ready to govern, and the Liberals will use them.

Gillard’s record and Rudd’s record are effectively the same record, and it will be fascinating to see how Rudd attempts to neutralise what has been appalling political mismanagement over six years in government.

Clearly — with the issue of a confidence proceeding in Parliament today the next item in the saga — this story has some way to go as it plays out.

But an electorate that has grown increasingly sophisticated and politically literate as a direct result of the past three years of Labor in power is entitled to be sceptical.

Voters should not be hoodwinked by any of yesterday’s shenanigans in the ALP. The poor record that generated abysmal opinion polling and ultimately felled Julia Gillard is as much Rudd’s legacy in government as it is hers.

Properly executed, a Liberal Party campaign will destroy the myth of “Rudd the Leader” or any pretension that somehow, Labor will now change.

And this column stands by its call that Australia needs a change of government if its standard of governance is to improve, and that an election should now be held on the earliest constitutionally allowable date. That means 3 August.

What has already been a long week in politics grows a little longer again later today.


*Labor’s 71st MP, Anna Burke, is Speaker, and votes only if parliamentary votes are tied.


BREAKING: Kevin Rudd Wins Labor Leadership, 57-45

KEVIN RUDD has been re-elected the the leadership of the Labor Party, by a 57-45 margin in a ballot over Julia Gillard; the result raises more questions than answers, and will do nothing to avert the electoral rout the ALP seems destined to suffer.

I’ll update this link with key news items as they come through, and will post a “proper” article late tonight (or early in the AM).

But thus far:

It has also been confirmed — as expected — that deputy PM Wayne Swan has resigned from both the deputy leadership of the ALP and as Treasurer.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy — as well as AWU-aligned figure Joe Ludwig and Gillard arch-loyalist Craig Emerson — have also resigned.

Emerson has also released a statement to the effect that in addition to resigning from the ministry, he will also not contest his Queensland seat of Rankin at the looming election.

Peter Garrett has confirmed he is following suit, and will neither serve under Rudd nor stand at the election.

And at 9pm the exodus continues, with climate change minister Greg Combet faxing written confirmation of his resignation from the front bench to media outlets.

Penny Wong has replaced Stephen Conroy in a ballot for the Labor leadership in the Senate; this result was unanimous.

The low-profile Senator, Jacinta Collins — probably a surprise choice to many observers — has been elected as Wong’s deputy in the Senate.

Simon Crean and Anthony Albanese have contested a vote for the overall deputy Labor leadership to replace Swan; Albanese won, 61-38, and with three informal votes.

Key Independent Andrew Wilkie has provided Rudd with a written commitment to guarantee him support on confidence and supply issues in Parliament; this is in addition to Bob Katter, Craig Thomson and an indication Green MP Adam Bandt will do the same.

It makes the vote of LNP turncoat Peter Slipper pivotal to Rudd’s capacity to win any confidence vote, with Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott implying earlier in the day they would side with the opposition in any such contest.

On the assumption Gillard now holds good to her promise to leave Parliament at the election, a potential candidate for ALP preselection in her safe seat of Lalor, ACTU head Ged Kearney — viewed as the frontrunner in Labor circles — has already ruled herself out of the running.

Gillard, at 9.25pm, has just faced the media briefly, and — speaking better, I must say, than she has done in public for most of her Prime Minister — made gracious remarks about her colleagues and her staff. One one occasion, however, she referred to Kevin Rudd, simply, as “Rudd,” which perhaps provides a glimpse of the boiling anger and animosity she and those close to her continue to harbour.

Reader Jim has commented (and regular reader Rich has posted a comment with the tweet) to say that contrary to earlier reports, Independent Bob Katter Jr has clarified that whilst he supports Kevin Rudd as ALP leader, he intends to side with the Coalition as he did after the last election if opposition leader Tony Abbott moves a no-confidence motion in  a Rudd government. So the “Yarralumla Prospect,” even now, is well and truly alive.

We’ve now seen Rudd, Albanese and Tony Abbott speak; I will post again in the coming few hours. For those not following this blog, please either do so or follow at Twitter @theredandblue to keep up to date with further postings.

ALP Leadership Ballot Irrelevant; Labor Unfit To Govern

THE BALLOT tonight for the ALP leadership reflects a party riven with petty personal animosities, and utterly dysfunctional as a party of government. Self-interest and bickering — to say nothing of egos — will remain whoever wins, in an exercise focused on power and not on effective governance.

The leadership ballot that will shortly occur in the Labor Party is an indictment on six years of misspent opportunity.

Rather than seek to take the people with it in building a stronger country with broad support, this government has spent its two terms in office fighting internally over personalities, and in an environment in which retribution and back-slapping in equal measure have been prioritised over the proper job of governing Australia.

And — to the extent policy has been a focus — it has been to pursue measures aimed at fomenting class-based unrest such as the mining tax, or ideologically-driven measures such as the carbon tax that have been the price of retaining power in a hung Parliament.

Indeed, the retention of power has been the sole aim of this government, viewed from whichever perspective you care to measure.

It has been the consistent position of this column that the present Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is the worst occupant of that high office since Federation, 112 years ago.

An instrument and symbol of the trade unions which continue to wield disproportionate influence over the ALP, Gillard has failed on every conceivable measure that matters to a majority of Australians: on policy, on politics, and on leading a government in which they can place their confidence.

Indeed, hers has been a mean-spirited administration insofar as it has actively sought out victims to punish in the name of so-called fairness.

And — for the record — the issue of her gender, to be frank, is only an issue because the Prime Minister herself made it one as she sought desperately to find a weapon with which to detract from her abysmal performance.

Not that the apparent alternative — Kevin Rudd — would be much better, if at all.

By his own colleagues’ words, Rudd is not a Labor man; and damned by those words as a narcissist, a bully, an egomaniac and a megalomaniac, ordinary Australians have been given a brutal assessment of their past and perhaps next leader that is as devastating in its bastardry as it is accurate.

Rudd led a shambolic and fractious government; incapable of effective decision making, and more adept at grand gestures to build credentials for a future job at the United Nations than dealing with bread-and-butter issues.

And despite his protestations that he has “learnt his lessons” during three years out of The Lodge, there is no tangible evidence to believe this.

The leadership vote tonight will determine the leadership of the ALP for the time being, that much is true.

But it may not even determine the Prime Ministership, with key Independents threatening to support a no-confidence vote in the government should Rudd prevail.

To this end, I will be commenting again later.

But I make the point this is all totally irrelevant; the same government will be in place tomorrow (for part of the day at least), even if rather more battered and bruised.

The problem to a large extent isn’t the figurehead, but the party itself, and a change of leader will do nothing to resolve the basic reality that in its present incarnation, the ALP is quite simply unfit to govern.

And — despite the opinions of some — it is also probably pointless, as it is inconceivable that either Mr Rudd or Ms Gillard is capable of leading Labor to an election win.

This is a quick post for now, as I have been tied up for most of the day on other matters, and I will as I say post once again later tonight.

But for now at least, Julia Gillard has one thing right — whoever loses tonight’s ballot should instantly resign from federal Parliament.

We agree; the ALP is in a disparate state as it is, and the recriminations and turmoil that will ensue will be bad enough without both the protagonists — who have held their party and the country to ransom for six years of enmity — remaining in the party together.

Back later. Enjoy the coverage.