Imagine if Australia had no Opposition Leader. It’s not such a stretch. The United States operates without one for almost all of any four-year presidential term.
The President’s opponent is only formally nominated in August of any election year, and has just four months until the November election of the same year to represent his or her party.
For the remaining three years and eight months, the opposition, whether Republican or Democrat, is not represented by one party leader. In some senses it is unsatisfactory that for long stretches—years, in fact—there is no single, cohesive American opposition voice.
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Rudd thinks Federal politics is “childish” and has become worse over the past decade.
Sorry - not that Rudd, who frankly we’re all sick of hearing about - but his brother Greg, who is now a business consultant.
Don’t expect him to provide any behind-the-scenes revelations from Camp Rudd over the past few weeks - he hasn’t actually spoken to Kevin since May last year, saying they “agree to disagree” in many areas. But he does have a background which qualifies him to speak with some authority on political machinations at the federal level.
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Everyone knows the result of the ALP leadership ballot but speculation has been rife as to what really went on inside the caucus room. Now, in yet another extraordinary exclusive, The Punch can reveal the full transcript of what took place…
JULIA: Well thanks for coming everybody. I trust you all know why you’re here?
TONY: Sussex Street.
PETER: Sussex Street.
MATT: To get me out of Sussex Street.
Kevin Rudd has found out the hard way that he is neither Cory Aquino nor Evita Peron. His People’s Power push to regain the prime ministership was tactically flawed from the get go. The numbers bore it out in dramatic style.
The vote Rudd received in Caucus was not a springboard for a second tilt at the leadership. It was, you would have to think, the end of his leadership tilt.
As former leader Mark Latham said on Sky yesterday, this wasn’t the Arab Spring. Urging a popular email uprising while also jumping out of bed to yuk it up with Mel and Kochie on Sunrise was never going to win Rudd a vote inside the Caucus. Quite the opposite.
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Welcome to The Punch team’s live blog of the Labor leadership showdown. All times are in AEDT. Refresh your browser for updates.
Head over to news.com.au for a blow-by-blow of the ballot, and check out The Punch’s Labor leadership coverage to date, then stick around here for all the blood, guts, glory and nerdy political chatter.
1.30pm: We’re signing off this blog. Will see you in our Question Time Live coverage from 2pm. Happy non-spill day…
1.13pm: Gillard is now being very nice about Kevin Rudd, saying his legacy as PM deserves to be honoured. If she’d done this a little while ago this whole debacle may not have become so nasty. Perhaps in the ugliness of the past few days Gillard realised the public doesn’t hate Kevin Rudd as much as she does. TMaguire
1.11pm: In a delightful piece of understatement Julia Gillard says “Australians have had a gut-full of seeing us focus on ourselves” and promises “that this political drama is over.”
12.59pm: Gillard has called a press conference for 1.10pm.
12.57pm: So Kevin Rudd has pledged to remain the Member for Griffith, both for now and after the next election. Anyone fearing he would quit his seat and blow-up the Government would be relieved, but as long as he’s sitting there on the back bench, he’ll be a thorn in the side of the Prime Minister. TMaguire
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The existential threat to Julia Gillard’s prime ministership has now passed but the price in political terms will be colossal.
To the extent that a path out of the woods exists at all, it will be narrow, precarious and often hard to discern.
For an error-prone minority government, that’s a big ask. The depth of the problem is exemplified by the dilemma of its chief attack-dog and most effective advocate, Labor’s favourite son, Anthony Albanese.
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Most of you political junkies might skip over this piece because it doesn’t involve a hard-edged analysis of who-hates-who in the ALP or speculation about where numbers will fall at 10am this morning. The reason I’m not writing that is because for me, it’s not the main game.
Despite the myths about the influence of unions on the Labor caucus, what really motivates me and my colleagues is representing Australia’s workers and improving their lives, regardless of who runs the government.
In the end the decision will be made by 103 elected Labor members of Parliament. I don’t envy their position. The level of internal anger, now spilling into the public arena, has made it harder for Labor to win the next election. The jibe “if you can’t govern yourselves, how can you govern the county?” is one of the hardest for any political party to shake. The 90 per cent of the population that is too busy to pay more than casual attention to politics sees the unholy mess the ALP is in and turns away.
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I really wanted to write about My Kitchen Rules this week, but it turns out there’s even more distasteful backstabbing, strategy and deluded egomania to be had in federal politics.
After 18 months of reassurances that our Foreign Minister is a happy little vegemite in a united ALP team, it now seems clear that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been battling two formidable adversaries: TAbbs and KRudd.
I’ve got to admit, for months I thought the Labor leadership tussle was little more than Canberra commentators feeding off a limp carcass.
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Early last year, a former Rudd Government insider sat down to write about the experience. The resulting document - he called it “a reflection in all seriousness once the period of madness was over” - has never been published.
But in the current climate, where the way Kevin Rudd operated as prime minister has become the central issue in Labor’s bitter leadership contest, it makes fascinating reading.
The author, who operated in a key role and observed much of the discussion and decision making, says he would not bother to set down his recollections “except that they are such a powerful warning for future governments”.
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The Punch presents an exclusive peek at Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s first foray into writing for grownups, following her announcement she is excited about exploring “new territory”.
Harry peeled his head off the Formica tabletop, wincing as his brains audibly bounced against his aching skull. He fumbled then palmed his smeared glasses onto his face and scanned last night’s wreckage – a shattered bong on the carpet, ice crystals clagging up the bottom of a plastic baggie, cigarette butts floating in beer bottles.
Ron was clawing at the couch in his sleep, groaning. Last night’s vomit matted his hair, which glinted a sickly red in the mid-morning light.
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It’s really quite surprising that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s head has not yet exploded, spraying reform-flavoured bits of grey matter all over her minders.
Whether you’re a lover or a loather, you have to admire how she stands up to pressure – which is one of the things those close to her often comment on.
This morning in a little courtyard, flanked by the outdoor SA Parliament loos, pot-bound ficuses, baby bamboo, and the stench of over-excited journos, she gave quite an impressive performance - read all about it at news.com.au and check out the Punch blog here.
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The nation has been rocked this week by the shock revelation that politicians swear. A leaked video reveals that former (and future) prime minister Kevin Rudd used several expletives while attempting to read out a recorded message.
However in yet another extraordinary exclusive, sources close to Kevin Rudd have now released the full transcript of the video which shows it was very selectively edited. In fact all the seemingly angry and abusive things he said have a perfectly reasonable explanation…
Beachside, somewhere in Mexico
Hi Julia! Had a few minutes free so I just thought I’d Skype you to say hello _ or “hola!’’ as they say here in Mexico. Crazy guys. Lotta fun though.
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When a victorious Julia Gillard walked in to a packed press conference on the morning of June 24 2010, she faced a daunting task. Even before dashing to Yarralumla to be sworn in as the nation’s 27th prime minister, she needed to justify a radical midnight solution was necessary without ever properly quantifying what the problem was.
Worse, she had to do it in such a way that would preserve maximum confidence in a government about to face voters.
And as a final trick, all this had to be done without naming names or listing specific faults (ie: that Kevin Rudd was out of control, that Labor’s primary vote had tumbled, that many could not work with him a day longer; that the mining tax fight was terminal).
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There is a touch of Lleyton Hewitt about Julia Gillard. It is not merely that both are redheads or that they hail from South Australia. It is that both have a curious tendency to produce their best only when staring at defeat.
Hewitt fans are used to their man dropping a set or two before pulling out his A-game.
Ms Gillard too seems best when her back is against the wall. This was clear in the last election campaign following Cabinet leaks aimed at destroying her - she held a doorstop press conference and impressed with a purposeful denial stripped of all the lame scripting and woodiness of her usual approach.
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As key moments go, it ranked with Gough Whitlam’s dramatic dismissal speech branding Malcolm Fraser “Kerr’s cur’’ or the latter’s lip-quivering concession on election night, 1983.
It was June 24, 2010. Before a huge media throng, a teary Kevin Rudd, his composure failing, his bewildered family staring awkwardly forward, detailed his achievements one by one. Long silences exacerbated the tension.
It was excruciating.
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Typically, leadership contests have that nagging chicken-or-egg feel about them.
They usually involve a period of intense public speculation with various insiders anonymously cited as backing this option or that.
It is a process which can leave voters suspicious of motives if only because change, division, and conflict, make great news copy.
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Much has been made this week of the leaked excerpts from the ALP’s election post mortem by Bob Carr, Steve Bracks and John Faulkner.
The excerpts leaked were highly critical of Kevin Rudd but the authors now say that there is even more material that has not been released that paints a very different picture.
Now, in yet another extraordinary exclusive, an explosive second extract has been leaked to the Joe Hildebrand column. Of course some people say these excerpts have also been selectively edited but I see no evidence of that…
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It is called the killing season in Canberra for a reason - a curiously fractious time of year when weakened leaders hit the fence - Simon Crean, Kim Beazley and Malcolm Turnbull spring to mind.
They are among others, usually in opposition, who have fallen in the dying days of the parliamentary year when earlier optimism among colleagues gives way to disappointment and thoughts turn to another year in the wilderness.
All were victims of the poisonous concatenation of the two necessary pre-conditions for a change: the threat of a challenger and the opportunity while all are in Canberra to bring it about.
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“Always forgive your enemies,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “nothing annoys them so much”. And no advice could be more prescient for Kevin Rudd, who must be feeling positively Churchillian at the prospect of being drafted back in to the Labor leadership.
The former ALP headkicker Graham Richardson, who is by his own admission more of an outsider these days than an insider, has claimed that Victorian backbencher Alan Griffin and West Australian senator Mark Bishop are running the numbers for Mr Rudd.
Commenting on the suggestion, the former PM mixed requisite denial with a rather heavy dose of aggression, attacking “factional bullies” and taking every opportunity to put the focus back on Tony Abbott. He is, quite literally, on the campaign trail – but the electorate is only an afterthought here. The voters that matter are in caucus.
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It’s not compulsory, but it is usual practice that when gathering gossip on a possible leadership change one concentrates on the rumours coming from the party whose leader might be about to change the embossed title on their business cards.
This increases the possibility that the scuttlebutt will have at least a pebble of fact at its base, and that the carriers of loose talk will have to explain their personal stakes in removal or retention.
Not so, says Tony Abbott, rewriting the books on political intrigue.
A quarter of a century after Neville Wran showed how it could be done with elegance, the Labor Party still hasn’t settled on a leadership succession process that doesn’t involve embarrassing conflict.
The strange events following the move-on order given to South Australian Premier Mike Rann by his Caucus last Friday shows the ALP is, in fact, capable of coming up with fresh ways to humiliate itself in the eyes of voters.
Leadership change is never easy, but might be considered again by the ALP should Prime Minister Julia Gillard lose internal support by the end of the year.
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In April a school group from the NSW central coast was in Paris on the way back from an emotional visit to Australian war graves on France’s Western Front.
Maybe it was the excitement of a wonderful overseas trip, maybe it was homesickness that explains what happened in Paris. But the point is, it wasn’t unusual.
The pupils had stopped to take in Notre Dame Cathedral when they came across another tourist attraction usually not seen back home at Brisbane Water and Tuggerah Lakes.
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The last letter Kevin Rudd signed as Prime Minister the night before he was rolled by Julia Gillard was a plea for compassion from the Australian people.
At just after 6 pm on Wednesday night a delegation representing a new Charter of Compassion, set to be presented in Parliament on Thursday, was led down to the Prime Minister’s office.
The group was to have Kevin Rudd sign a letter supporting the charter, an initiative of ethical foundation Ted.com, which was set to be read out at the next day’s launch.
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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.
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We gave Malcolm a lend of the Party, but the members want it back.
This is the clear message I have received from Liberal Party members by way of 7,500 emails (and rising) and hundreds of phone calls – not to mention close encounters of the personal kind.
The claim that the Coalition Party Room agreed to support the Labor Party’s amended C.P.R.S. legislation imposing an E.T.S. Tax is not true. The Party Room rejected it.
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