Julia Gillard v Kevin Rudd | Part II
- From: The Australian
- February 23, 2012
The Gillard government faces days of uncertainty until Kevin Rudd declares whether he will challenge Julia Gillard for the Labor leadership, go to the parliamentary backbench or even resign from his Brisbane seat and force a by-election.As government sources last night revealed the Prime Minister would today call a special caucus meeting for a leadership ballot on Monday, NSW independent Tony Windsor warned it was "more than likely" a change of leader would trigger a return to the polls. And Wayne Swan launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Rudd, saying that "for too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop".
Mr Rudd's dramatic 1am resignation in Washington yesterday threw the parliamentary Labor Party into even more confusion and bitter recrimination as supporters of Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard blamed each other for the damaging events. Mr Rudd said he had no choice but to resign in the middle of a world diplomatic tour because he no longer had the confidence of Ms Gillard and had been accused of betrayal by Regional Affairs Minister Simon Crean. "The truth is I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers," Mr Rudd said."In recent days, Minister Crean and a number of other faceless men have publicly attacked my integrity and therefore my fitness to serve as a minister in government.
When challenged today on these attacks, Prime Minister Gillard chose not to repudiate them."I can only reluctantly conclude that she therefore shares these views. The simple truth is that I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I do not have Prime Minister Gillard's support."I therefore believe the only honourable thing and the only honourable course of action is for me to resign."
In his resignation letter to Ms Gillard, Mr Rudd wrote: "In the past two days, at least one senior cabinet minister has called for you to remove me from office. Reports today indicate that there is a number of ministers urging you to take such action. You have been asked repeatedly to confirm or deny whether you propose to do this. Your failure to do so casts the most serious doubts on your confidence in me as a minister. "This is the final wave in a crescendo of attacks on my position by members of your government over many months."
The Prime Minister last night declared she was "disappointed that the concerns Mr Rudd has publicly expressed this evening were never personally raised with me, nor did he contact me to discuss his resignation prior to his decision". It is understood Ms Gillard has appointed Trade Minister Craig Emerson as a stop-gap foreign minister. Mr Rudd's surprise resignation followed the disclosure on The Australian's and other News Limited websites at lunch time yesterday that Ms Gillard was prepared to sack Mr Rudd or demand a leadership ballot, which she expected to win, when he returned to Australia on Sunday.
The Australian reported online: "The Prime Minister's supporters are now so confident they will have the numbers to fend off a leadership challenge she is preparing to remove Mr Rudd from the ministry for 'disloyalty'." A few hours later, Mr Rudd said he would return to Australia immediately and, after consulting his family and Labor colleagues, he would make an announcement about his political future.
In a sign he would continue in parliament and would challenge for the leadership at some time, Mr Rudd added: "I deeply believe that, if the Australian Labor Party, a party of which I have been a proud member for more than 30 years, is to have the best future for our nation, then it must change fundamentally its culture and to end the power of faceless men."
Mr Rudd vowed he would never be party to a "stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people"."We all know what happened then was wrong and it must never happen again," Mr Rudd said. He added that one question his caucus colleagues should consider was: "Who is best placed to defeat Tony Abbott?"
Dr Emerson last night rejected Mr Rudd's claim that he would never attack a prime minister by stealth, saying Mr Rudd had been briefing journalists last year that there would be a leadership challenge. "For Kevin then to say this bickering and destabilisation must stop . . . well, he started it," Dr Emerson told ABC's Lateline.
Mr Swan said last night he and Ms Gillard had the support of the "overwhelming majority of our colleagues" and had been succeeding despite tremendous political obstacles. "For the sake of the labour movement, the government and the Australians which it represents, we have refrained from criticism to date," Mr Swan said. "However, for too long Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop."
Mr Rudd said in his resignation statement he believed the destabilisation of the federal Labor Party was hurting the electoral chances of Queensland Labor Premier Anna Bligh, who was a "good friend".
Former Labor leader Mark Latham accused Mr Rudd of "inventing alibis" to justify his decision to step down, and said the former prime minister was hoping his colleagues would eventually see the "new Rudd". "He's invented this alibi that, of all things, Gillard was disloyal to him; you'd have to believe in the Easter bunny to swallow that one," Mr Latham said on Sky News's Paul Murray Live. "And the Queensland election -- that's not a bad little alibi that he's doing this for his great mate Anna Bligh."He's just hoping one morning 30 people in the caucus will wake up and think that he is the new Rudd and a changed man and all that garbage."
Mr Rudd could likely now campaign for the leadership from the backbench, freed of cabinet solidarity and able to speak freely about the Gillard government. He will also be able to detail approaches to him from Labor MPs and ministers over the past few months as despair about Ms Gillard's prospects grew.
Soon after Mr Rudd's resignation, Tony Abbott said Mr Rudd had confirmed "that the faceless men are running the Labor Party and that the instability at the top of this government is damaging our country". "Kevin Rudd's statement tonight confirms that this government is unworthy to continue in office," the Opposition Leader said.
Environment Minister Tony Burke launched a scathing attack on Mr Rudd last night, saying his campaign to regain the prime ministership was the "worst-kept secret in Canberra". "Everybody has had enough of the stealth and undermining campaign that has been going on through the caucus and through the media for a very long time," he told the ABC's 7.30.
Labor Left faction leader Doug Cameron attacked Mr Crean over his calls this week for Mr Rudd to resign if he could not be part of the team. Senator Cameron told the ABC Ms Gillard had the support of caucus, but there was considerable sympathy for Mr Rudd over his treatment.
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