Friday, 2 September 2011

Australian Labor Party the end nigh for a once great institution

Julia Gillard says she'll continue as leader, but Labor MPs are discussing a return to Kevin Rudd
Julia Gillard at community cabinet
Julia Gillard with her ministers at last night's community cabinet meeting in Brisbane.
Picture: Tim Marsden Source: The Courier-Mail
THE Labor caucus is split over Julia Gillard's long term future as Prime Minister, with MPs admitting discussions are underway over the possible resurrection of Kevin Rudd as leader.
Several MPs have told The Australian Online that a return to Mr Rudd is being evaluated, though there is no imminent move to replace Ms Gillard in the top job. Others believe a leadership change would be untenable, bringing “five minutes of sunshine” before the party sank further into oblivion. Ms Gillard today hit back at speculation over her leadership, declaring: “I'm not going anywhere.”

Health Minister Nicola Roxon also said she could not envisage Mr Rudd returning to lead the party.

But one respected caucus figure said that while Ms Gillard was safe at this point, MPs were taking a second look at Mr Rudd, dumped by Labor for Ms Gillard in June last year and who is now recovering from heart surgery. “To look back on last year, we've moved from `no way' to his viability being considered,” the source said.

“I don't think there is an agreed position yet, that's why at this point she is safe. But that movement is significant.“Everything is different with Kevin. The normal rules don't apply to him. The public knows him. The indicators are they support him.

“That's why he has become viable. We should deal with what the electorate thinks, more than what caucus thinks." Another source said Mr Rudd was the only possible leadership option other than Ms Gillard, but the party wasn't ready for him yet.

The backbencher said Ms Gillard should be left to enact the carbon tax and formulate a new refugees policy before anyone considered flicking the leadership switch.“There is only one alternative, Rudd. But it's too frightening for some people to think about.“It could become more palatable over time but only if she gets a few things off the agenda.”

The source said the Gillard cabinet had a lot to answer for, with the government's problems “all self-inflicted”. Another caucus member said Mr Rudd wouldn't fix the fundamental problem facing the party, and getting out “the NSW leadership chocolate wheel” was a sure path to disaster.

“Our problem is not one of leadership. Our problem is one of policy,” the source said. The well-regarded backbencher said the government had to lay the foundation for its recovery by stopping refugee boats, bringing the budget back to surplus and getting a carbon price legislated.“Then, we've got to govern, and not do anything else.

“No more policy adventures. We've had enough of them. We need to move from reform to reassurance.” Another senior caucus figure rejected outright the idea of a return to Mr Rudd as leader, saying there was “no move at all” against Ms Gillard.

“He would be Lazarus for two weeks, but then what would he do?” the MP said. “Move to the left on asylum-seekers and let the boats keep coming?” The MP conceded Mr Rudd would be the “only credible person” to talk to the independents, and might convince Bob Katter to back him.

“But that's the point, he would have to negotiate with them,” he said.

One Liberal strategist told The Australian Online that even if Labor made the switch to Mr Rudd, the party would still have to contend with two politically toxic issues - the carbon tax and asylum-seekers.


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