Forgive the analogy but this is the first time I’ve covered an Australian leadership spill from South Africa while holding a vuvuzela. But if Julia Gillard succeeds in her 11th-hour leadership coup it wll be the most inspired last-minute substitution since Timmy Cahill came on in Kaiserslauten against Japan in the 2006 World Cup. Let’s watch those two goals again. Ahhhh.

There’s a consensus in politics that last-minute leadership changes reek of desperation. But this one confirms the cold reality that Labor probably cannot win under Kevin Rudd. It’s likely that the party has research which is deeper and richer than any of the published polls showing the situation is even bleaker than that - that Labor definitely cannot win under Kevin Rudd. This would explain the speed with which so many members of Caucus in key factions such as the NSW Right and Victorian Right have swung behind Gillard to form what looks like a mortal anti-Rudd bloc.

The two areas of greatest weakness for Kevin Rudd are the Julia Gillard’s two greatest strengths. They are communication and policy implementation - kind of crucial in politics, needless to say.

Rudd is a very poor communicator. He has admitted as much himself. Gillard in contrast is a terrific communicator. Her recent performance on The 7.30 Report, just two weeks after both Rudd and Abbott faltered on that program, showed why she is the most capable interviewee in the Parliament, and the strongest policy advocate. 

Rudd’s second chief weakness goes to over-promising and under-delivering. His mismanagement of the ETS, where it was laughably downgraded from the greatest moral challenge of all time to a side issue which might be looked at next term, was an unrecoverable cock-up. So too his handling of the mining tax, especially his abysmal defence of the use of $38 million in public money to fund an advertising campaign, the very practice he labelled a “cancer on democracy” when the conservatives were in power and spruiking WorkChoices.

Gillard has been one of the few ministers who has consistently delivered on policy. She has had her problems with the Building the Education Revolution school spending program but she has admitted those problems. And most voters are balanced enough to realise that they have only affected a minority of the projects. Her biggest success was to stare down the teaching unions to implement the MySchool website. Where Rudd’s record is one of abandonment and vacillation, not just on the ETS but on asylum-seekers, the 2020 Summit, childcare and so on, Gillard’s is one of delivery. 

The other thing Gillard has got going for her is that she comes across as genuine, wheras poor old Kev with his fair shakes of the sauce bottle and his faux-blokey “shitstorm” lines looks a bit confected and put-on. The public and the media feels a degree of warmth towards her which Rudd does not enjoy.

Rudd spoke strongly at his press conference just now and atempted to wrongfoot Gillard’s candidacy by claiming a popular mandate as PM. “I was elected Prime Minister by the people of Australia to do a job,” he said. “I intend to do that job.” The problem with Rudd’s assertion is that it presumes he is still popular, when all the polls show that, increasingly, he is not.

If Rudd goes it will be a stunning political humilation in an astonishingly short space of time. He’s faced an opposition which more often than not has looked like a rabble, with three leaders in as many years, and no major policies to show for it. Today they’re on the cusp of victory, due solely to the uselessness of Kevin Rudd. This from the guy who was almost the white man’s Obama in his Kevin07 incarnation, sweeping away 11 years of conservative rule, looking like he’d set himself up for a minimum two terms and possibly even three off the back of his solid 2007 win.

Labor was facing a shocking defeat. Julia’s last-minute substitution just might change everything. Anyway - I’m off to Mbombela Stadium. My tip - Australia 1, Serbia 0. And come on Germany!

Most commented


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    • Max says:

      10:49pm | 23/06/10

      How do you figure Policy is her strength? Education revolution is a worse failure than the insulation….

    • Phil says:

      11:28pm | 23/06/10

      Noo right.

      If the horse is dead. Dismount.

    • Luke says:

      10:56pm | 23/06/10

      Labor has been too reliant on media…
      This swing against Rudd being as hard and fast as it has been was inevitable…

    • Phil says:

      10:57pm | 23/06/10

      You are right it is desperation. Labor like wild animals will eat their own young. This is simply proof of this.

      I think Joolia will offer an alternative, but it makes the labor voters in the office look a bit stupid after sprouting Kev’s efforts to date.

      Nov 07 was to quote Kev “A great day for the true believers” June 24 2010 will be a day for the True Deceivers.

      This is great election fodder for the Libs. Even the ALP didnt have faith in their leader. Was so popular then it all turned to mud.

      History in the making. The first PM to get the chop by his own party in his first term. Look out

    • Realist says:

      01:30pm | 24/06/10


      Do you not forget how many leadership changes have taken place in the Libral camp over the last 3 yrs. Thier only real hope Malcom Turnbull was ousted for the clown they’re putting forward now.

      I hated Rudd by Abbotts no better, maybe Julia will offer us someone we’d like to vote in.

    • Bretto says:

      10:58pm | 23/06/10

      Why cheer for Germany? It would be easier for Ghana to win so long as we win as well. Ghana wins means 6 Ghana, 4 Aus, 3 Ger, 3 Ser.  If Germany wins they need to win by a lot (and so do we) so that we would then overtake Ghana on goal difference. 6 Ger, 4 Gha, 4 Aus, 3 Ser.

      Where are you putting that Vuvuzela Penbo?

    • Simonious says:

      11:02pm | 23/06/10

      Sorry penbo but your attempt to make a silk puse out of a sows ear is lost on this voter. Jooolia is a will be our first bogan PM and I will cringe if when she represents our country on the world stage. After the game ask Tim Cahill if he wants to enter politics.

    • Anthony Sherratt says:

      11:17pm | 23/06/10

      No - we want Ghana to win not Germany. Then we only need to win. Oh and yeah the Gillard stuff is all true too but as much as I love politics I’m so over Mr Rudd it isn’t funny.

    • toady says:

      11:20pm | 23/06/10

      Women don’t like Julia Gillard, and not many men are keen on her either.  She’s got no future as a PM.  Labor deserve to be thrown out for sticking all their money on this fraudulent PM Rudd in the first place.  The whole party perpetrated a fraud on the Australian public.

    • Dale Colbeck says:

      12:09am | 24/06/10

      have you not seen the recent polls? Julia is by far the most popular leader amongst women, far, far ahead of both other leaders!

    • BobM says:

      09:35am | 24/06/10

      @ Dale - Julia is not the leader of the Labor party - the Unions are and Julia is their puppet. Our new leaders are the Unions and Mark Arbibe.

    • John Howard says:

      11:20pm | 23/06/10

      Come on Germany??? If you were supporting Australia it would be Come on Ghana. Surely we cannot score 3 goal difference against Serbia…

    • ChrisG says:

      11:27pm | 23/06/10

      penbo, I think the French world cup team is the best analogy for the Caucus at the moment - a rabble under pressure. The problem is finding a football analogy for the NSW Right: maybe the selectors for the NSW State of Origin team at the moment?

    • John says:

      11:30pm | 23/06/10

      Will Dusty Fleming be our First Lady

    • Vinny says:

      11:32pm | 23/06/10

      He;s still got a few hours left as PM, do you think he could throw a few bucks our way before he goes? i need to pay the ever increasing mortgage. Thanks Kev, just say the word and we can all get a cheque from your mate Swany.

    • Phil says:

      12:03am | 24/06/10

      What if Kev does the numbers, knows he cant win, so joins Abbott for a jog, calls into the GG’s place, doesnt tell everyone till the election is in 6 weeks?
      How funny would that be.

    • Robert says:

      12:10am | 24/06/10

      Tim Cahill or Steven Bradbury?

    • Gordo says:

      12:15am | 24/06/10

      I felt sorry for Rudd tonight.  There isn’t anything dignified with first term coups.  Smacks of a lot of desperation. 

      Surely as the deputy leader Gillard was privy to all the decisions of the Labor leadership.  If so, she is culpable, if not she is a lame duck…

      So, replacing one Labor leader with another is not going to stop the rot.  Kevin 24/7 was always going to burn out.

      Hopefully this won’t let Abbott in.  That would be a nightmare!

    • The Dawg says:

      12:21am | 24/06/10

      David - I seem to remember you writing an editorial at the last election advocating voting for Ruddy over John Howard.
      Do you and the others who jumped on the flake’s bandwagon now wish you could have those words back?
      Imagine what a better state the country would be in now if Costello were PM… How he must be regretting resigning from parliament…

    • Phil says:

      07:09am | 24/06/10

      My money is in fact on the Libs trying to bring him back. Imagine that. Rudd back to Foreign affairs, Costello as PM

    • guy says:

      12:23am | 24/06/10

      Mr. Penberthy, this is a well considered and well written article.  Excellent.

    • Syd Walker says:

      12:47am | 24/06/10

      Always interesting to get an African perspective.

    • MdB says:

      09:09am | 24/06/10

      you muppet, it was ghana we wanted to win, not germany. Impossible for us to qualify unless both germany and us managed to win by large margins (which obviously did not happen). Ghana win + our win = socceroos through (despite the abysmal goal difference)

    • watty says:

      09:15am | 24/06/10

      Wasn’t Cahill recently “red” carded,ordered off and suspended Penbo?

      By the way ,have you forgotten your decision to support Rudd on the front page of the Daily Telegraph at election time 2007

      Sorry .I forgot.That was a committee decision by Telegraph employees.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      10:13am | 24/06/10

      The Federal Parliamentary Party of the ALP is solely dependent upon Newspoll results. It must never be forgotten that for years Prime Minister-elect St Julia Gillard, along with John Faulkner,Wayne Swan, Lindsay Tanner, has been swearing allegiance to Kevin Rudd. They would never supoort a challenge blah,blah,blah.
      St Julia was, along with Rudd, Swan & Tanner, a member of Kevin Rudd’s sub-government of Australia known as “The Gang of Four” It was they, and they alone, who without telling any of their fellow ALP MPs, including the ministers involved, they were going to cancel or shelve, call it what you will they were stopped, the ETS/CPRS, the Green Loans Scheme,the death-dealing Home Insulation Scheme. It was St Julia who was solely responsible for the schools buildings programme being allowed to become the biggest rort of all the rorts this ALP government has permitted to exist.
      How can any of us possibly even think of trusting Gillard? She has shown nothing but contempt for the principles of Loyalty & Honesty in her dealings with Kevin Rudd. I am delighted Rudd has gone. I will be just as delighted when St Julia has to eat humble pie in the still likely event that she leads the ALP back onto the Opposition Benches. If she leads the ALP into a second term then, if you believe in on, God Save Australia & Democracy as we know it.

    • Sherekahn says:

      11:21am | 24/06/10

      Penbo, you say:
      “Rudd’s second chief weakness goes to over-promising and under-delivering. His mismanagement of the ETS, where it was laughably downgraded from the greatest moral challenge of all time to a side issue.”
      Could it not be said that Kevin overestimated the talents of his officers to carry out his orders?
      As for the ETS being “the greatest moral challenge of all time,” could it not be argued that Kevin was talking of the world meeting in Copenhagen?
      Of course, he was thinking too big, as if Australia’s voice would carry on the world stage!
      It could also be argued that Kevin has, “seen the light,” insomuch that OUR Carbon Footprint can be managed by Limiting Migration to this country by bringing in a Mining Resources Profit Tax, to reduce the call for mass migration to feed the expansions of the mines!  Thus keeping a Stable Population for Australia to manage its own Pollution!

      Penbo you haven’t help Australia achieve much in South Africa either have you?  You’ve been blowing your vuvulas too much lately just like Kerry O’Brien!

    • Jasmine says:

      12:38pm | 24/06/10

      Go go go, Julia! And move Barry Hall out to centre half forward. wink

    • Holly says:

      01:18pm | 24/06/10

      Thank you Kevin Rudd.  You brought back compassion and fairness to political decisions, which benefited most ordinary Australians. You made me proud to be Australian once more after the desolation of the Howard years.

    • DD Ball says:

      02:58pm | 24/06/10

      Tim Cahill is an accomplished player. Gillard is a notable failure in every one of her previous portfolios. The one that I find most compelling is her failure to address IR laws fairly in the new administration. A schoolboy died in ‘02 and a whistleblower (my self) told the story behind it appropriately. For my troubles, I was abused at my equal opportunity workplace. I challenged Gillard to address my plight which I could have addressed through Workchoices, but not through NSW IR legislation. She invited my comment from Sunrise when in election mode, but never addressed it. She isn’t made of teflon, she is simply being groomed by those who used to patronize Rudd.

    • Luke says:

      05:48pm | 24/06/10

      Will she also get a red card?

    • Simon says:

      08:44pm | 24/06/10

      I grew up during Howards time in government.

      Australia used to be a good place to live.  Wont be for long if there fools continue to pretend to govern.

      Labor think we had an issue with Kevin Rudd.  Not ture.  He is a far classier human being the Gillard.  Policy is what will be labor’s downfall.

      Stupid internet filter and the NBN which will still leave us YEARS behind other coutries and at what cost?

      I cant be bothered going into detail.  I can only hope Liberal return order to Australia, and maybe LISTEN to the Australian people.  Instead of forcing your self upon us with communist policy like labor is trying to do.

    • Erin says:

      10:32pm | 24/06/10

      Simon I also grew up in the Howard years, and I thank God that he was ousted when he was or this country would be up the creek without a paddle.
      I am disapointed with Kevin’s removal from office, I think he had good intentions and did some wonderful things, but he was a poor commicator and poor articulator of policy. If he could have spoken all year the way he did today, he might still have the job.
      I believe Julia has stepped up and that she will do a good job.  Her handling of the situation with the mining industry shows her ability to handle these tough spots. She hasn’t answered the quesion of the future of the super tax but she is taking it otu of the media which is a win for a labor govt.
      good luck to her.
      (And i’ll vote for bob brown before i let the mad monk anywhere near my ballot paper)

    • Frank Samsonite says:

      12:37am | 25/06/10

      Cahill’s goals still make the spine tingle

    • shirley says:

      03:58pm | 25/06/10

      we love pm kevin rudd he’s a greatest leader forever.  JGillard bad atittude no respect to pm k rudd

    • masealake says:

      09:50am | 10/09/10

      Will Julia Gillard’s re-elected Labor Party government fixed voters voices, pains and crying?

      The historical hung parliament demonstrated deep in voter’s heart a fixed must to carry on in vision and action immediately:

      Voters’ voices do not hear?
      Voters’ pains do not ease?
      Voters’ cries do not care?

      1.  Poverty will not be phase out if no fairer resources to share;
      2.  Illness will not be reducing if no preventive measurement in real action;
      3.  Agriculture will not be revitalize if urbanization continuing its path;
      4.  Housing affordability will not be reach for young generation if government continues cashing from young generation debt by eating out the whole cake of education export revenue without plough back;
      5.  Manufacture industry will shrink smaller and smaller if no new elements there to power up to survive;
      6.  Employability will not in the sustainable mode for so long as manufacture and agriculture not going to boost.

      Ma kee wai
      (Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

    • masealake says:

      04:00pm | 24/09/10

      What democratic societies should learn lessen from Australia election 2010:
      1.  What creative vision of Gillard Labor government’s nation-building agenda without support to Australian Inventors?
      The Australia historical hung parliament demonstrated the big gap in 70 years of inequality society between the small educated elite groups who get highest pay by talk feast used mouth work controlling live essential resources of the country in every social platforms against the biggest less educated groups who get lowest pay by hands work squeezed by discriminative policies that sucking live blood from individual poor/less wealth off?

      Voters’ voices do not hear?
      Voters’ pains do not ease?
      Voters’ cries do not care?

      1.  Poverty will not be phase out if no fairer resources to share;
      2.  Illness will not be reducing if no preventive measurement in real action;
      3.  Agriculture will not be revitalize if urbanization continuing its path;
      4.  Housing affordability will not be reach for young generation if government continues cashing from young generation debt by eating out the whole cake of education export revenue without plough back;
      5.  Manufacture industry will shrink smaller and smaller if no new elements there to power up to survive;
      6.  Employability will not in the sustainable mode for so long as manufacture and agriculture not going to boost.

      Ma kee wai
      (Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

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