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Feb 26, 2012

Gillard's margin of victory is important for who will replace her

The most significant question in tomorrow's leadership ballot is the margin of Julia Gillard's expected victory. On that bears whether Kevin Rudd will be the next Prime Minister or a th

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The most significant question in tomorrow’s leadership ballot is the margin of Julia Gillard’s expected victory. On that bears whether Kevin Rudd will be the next Prime Minister or a third contender, later in the year.

A substantial showing for Kevin Rudd, in the high thirties for example, would leave him as the clear candidate for when Labor MPs, or perhaps her own backers, moved to force the Prime Minister out later in the year. Rudd can sit on the backbench, completely silent, doing nothing but writing letters to his constituents, and it will be an ever-greater contrast with the mess that is Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership.

A poor result for Rudd would humiliate him and leave him badly damaged — repudiated by his own party despite his insurgent-like appeal to the electorate. It would open the way for a third party contender — Stephen Smith, Bill Shorten or Simon Crean appear to be the most likely MPs — to become the sanctioned replacement for Gillard, who may well be tapped on the shoulder by the same powerbrokers that installed her. Rudd might contest again at that point, but he’ll be doing so with a poor base of support, while the Gillard camp and undecideds will lock in behind a Gillard successor.

A result in between will leave the situation more fluid, and much less clear for Labor, and more damaging. Labor needs a clear result either way. Every extra vote strengthens Rudd’s long-term hand as the replacement for Gillard. But the contest has come on too early for him; ideally, waiting until after the Queensland election, and further missteps from Gillard, would have accelerated the drift of MPs to him. The contest coming on in February is therefore a boon to the Gillard camp – not merely is she likely to easily defeat Rudd, but it gives party powerbrokers time to think about a long-term replacement of the “anyone but Kevin” variety.

The only guarantee is that Gillard won’t be Prime Minister by the end of the year. If it were merely a question of her poor polling as a result of hard decisions and, as Wayne Swan claims, constant destabilisation by Rudd, she would have plenty of time to turn things around against Tony Abbott. But that’s not Labor’s problem, or not its only problem. Gillard has lost the trust of voters, fail to convey to them what she really stands for, and has, along with her advisers, poor judgment. She has the time to turn it around, but not the skills or goodwill in the electorate.

Which means the only real question is, who will replace her later in the year — Kevin, or anyone-but-Kevin? That’s the important result tomorrow morning.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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67 thoughts on “Gillard’s margin of victory is important for who will replace her

  1. Atticus

    Many thanks to all posters for their insights here and, most of all, to Mr Keane for suggesting these potential alternatives for the leadership of the Labor government depending on the caucus ballot.

    The chief reason I reckon that the replacement of Ms Gillard by Mr Rudd or another minister is a plausible scenario is that our Murdoch/Rinehart/Stokes media oligarchy (the ABC’s News having morphed bizarrely into a mere echo chamber of its commercial counterparts) has finally attained the arsenal of suicidal public quotes from Labor ministers, which the media lusted to provoke since Mr Abbott became LOTO.

    No matter how competently PM Gillard governs from now on, the unnecessary vilifications of this past week have handed the media oligarchy the means to unleash barrages of propaganda purporting that this Labor government is permanently disunited and hopelessly dysfunctional.

    One only needs to recall the incessant media chorus of “voters waiting with baseball bats to belt the Labor Party” for two years prior to the last NSW election to know what’s coming. NSW Labor’s record justified most of the media’s condemnations, but it is sad that the solid achievements of the Rudd and Gillard governments can now be so easily rubbished or rubbed out.

    Accordingly, my view is that during the next 12 months Federal Labor members might believe they have no choice but to risk changing the PM in a last-ditch attempt to avert gifting an O’Farrell-esque landslide to Mr. Abbott and, worse yet for the country, a Senate majority such as Mr. Howard was gifted after Mr. Latham’s defeat. Whether this would have any better impact for Labor than Keneally’s premiership did, who knows? Perhaps Mr. Keane could uncover his crystal ball again and tell us what he sees in there.

    As they say in the classics, I’ve got to zip. 🙂

  2. Paul Defreitas

    i like hearing how this is all the medias fault, all crazy kevins fault, all the greens fault, its anybodys fault but julias!

    The polls have been clear and consistent for the entire period of her reign -the people do NOT want her. They will even vote for Abbott rather than a Gillard led government.
    Last time she failed to win a majority, thinking this time she could somehow magically do better after all this is delusional.

    Julia challenged a very popular sitting Prime Minister (because he could sometimes be difficult and demanding!? Still havent seen a single one of those poisonous Ministers co me up with a specific example that occured with themselves, just general vague accusations. Sad!).

    Julia brought in the new asylum seeker “solutions”.
    Epic Fail.

    Julia may have gotten support in the parliament for a carbon tax (easy since the greens had their numbers boosted in the senate) but she has failed to explain or sell it to the people -that Abbott ever got ahead on this issue is just incredible. Besides, she promised she would never introduce one while she was leader, just before the election. She lied.

    Julia opposed the pension increase. Wouldnt own it and say “yes i did and heres why” though.

    Julia had the very average set piece speach at the labor conference, which should have been inspiring and explaining of what labor had done and plans to do, but no.

    So called left wing, atheist, former socialist, defacto partnered, feminist Julia decides “no, I dont like it” to the very labor idea of extending the definition of marriage to gay couples. She buckled to De bruen and the ACL. .

    Julia failed to tell Crean to stop with the vitriol towards her predecessor.

    They may not adore Rudd, but they have a chance of retaining government with him.
    With Julia they will head to certain defeat.

  3. Karen

    BK – JG may have her problems thanks to that white anter and the press nitpicking on the most petty issues that have nothing to do with JG’s legislative achievements to date.

    And its not a question of selling it, JG and her ministers put it all out there but the press don’t carry it – eg. JG gave a summary of her legislative achievements at Cessnock this weekend, that bit was not excerpted in the MSM. 269 pieces of legislation in 12 months under JG’s stewardship; who’s done that.

    If the press did carry it and stopped painting her as some cold, flinty, “wooden”, Lady Macbeth. When you see her out and about with people, she projects the exact opposite image. And if she’s like what she’s portrayed to be, then why are people in her govt saying that she’s good to work with, for. She actually lets her ministers get on with their job and doesn’t place stupid or unreasonable demands on them.

    You guys also have not addressed how Rudd is a totally unworkable proposition – he has lost the support of the cabinet – read, they won’t work with him. You’re worried about dysfunction, wait and see what happens if he comes in. He’ll start demanding stuff to be done at a certain time, other ministers through their staff won’t deliver – it will be akin to Little Britain’s ‘computer says no’. He’ll go completely mad within 6 months, and then those fantastic polls will start sliding again.

    And if that’s not bad enough, Rudd who hates the Greens, won’t do business with them, so there will be complete legislative grid-lock. For example, Rudd is already talking about a floating price for CO2 emission. Greens have already said no.

    In fact, any future leader for the ALP prior to the next election will face the same problem.

    I know the Canberra press corp say she’s unelectable, however, she’s the PM for the time, in dealing with a difficult parliament. She has a stable personality, works her guts out, works with everyone in govt, negotiates with everyone outside of it, and gets the leg. through.

    She deserves more credit. The line the press run, its all JG’s fault no matter what, is laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.

  4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I even stood as a candidate for them.

    As an engineer I don’t see anything delusional about moving to clean energy. Wind, sun, geothermal, hydro, bio-energy etc. All these technologies will develop over time, and though the current technologies cannot do the whole job now, by the time we get what is technologically feasible to do now implemented the improved technologies will be able to carry us forward.

    Of course energy efficiency and major changes to some things we do now are also needed. And yet we pretty much have not started.

    Again giving an example close to me. The Monash freeway in the SE of Melbourne was recently upgraded from three lanes to four in each direction. In the peak two hours this extra lane was shown to carry about 1,800 cars. Apart from the peak two hours, the extra lane is not needed.

    Besides this freeway is the Glen Waverley train line. Three extra trains during the two hour peak would easily carry the over 2000 people. Yet the Glen Waverley train line is still crowded at peak times.

    The car count was done by a cycling lobby group, and they pointed out for a fraction of the price of the extra lane a purpose built commuting bike path could be built. Maybe this would not carry 1000 cyclist an hour, but it would be incredibly cheaper per person trip to the city than the extra freeway lane.

    Labor and Liberal, both state and federal, are all still locked in to business as usual – cars instead of public transport and cycling, more coal power plants instead of a real push towards energy efficiency and renewable energy.

    The ‘religious’ thinking that I see comes from either the climate change deniers – who ignore the evidences because they believe it is not true, or the Labor supporters who believe that Labor cares and is taking action despite all the evidence to the contrary.

  5. shepherdmarilyn

    I am not a labor fan boy, wouldn’t vote labor or liberal if my life depended on it.

    Seems now Roxon’s only “complaint” about Rudd is that she couldn’t whinge to him, even though they were together day in and day out. What a twit.

    All I demand of anyone is natural justice be applied to everyone. The media and some of the ALP drones have denied Rudd any natural justice while they spew out the most vicious poison based on nothing at all.

    Try and think back to the British doco. of the killing fields of Sri Lanka and then think about this statement in Gillard’s Lowy speech.

    “Last night, the UNHCR published its revised eligibility guidelines on Sri Lanka. The guidelines are just one source of information which has helped to inform the Government about the changing situation in Sri Lanka.
    The UNHCR report confirmed the improved human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka and that displaced people continue to return to their homes. Instead of automatically presuming that particular groups in Sri Lanka are refugees, the UNCHR states that all asylum claims must now be considered on a case by case basis, noting that some groups may still be at risk.
    With the new information, acceptance rates are likely to fall.
    Today, in light of these circumstances, I am announcing the Government has decided to lift immediately the suspension on processing claims for Sri Lankan. Those currently in detention will have their claims processed against a range of country information including the revised UNHCR report I have described.
    So I have a message for people in Sri Lanka who might be considering attempting the journey to Australia. Do not pay a people smuggler, do not risk your life, only to arrive in Australian waters and find that far, far more likely than not you will be quickly sent home by plane.”

    The reality is that only 14 Sri Lankans have gone home since she made that absurd statement and ASIO have managed to find three children such a risk to our national security that they must be imprisoned for life.

    Then Gillard came up with the even more vile “if you pay a smuggler you will lose everything and be sent to Malaysia to back of the queue’.

    But the thing is the Sri Lankans sailed themselves here, that is perfectly legal by the way.

    And we now have the chief justice of the courts mocking the entire notion of people smuggling and courts refusing to find INdonesian crews guilty.

    All this viciousness that makes Ruddock look kind, has ended up with 6 suicides of innocent people, Gillard letting loose the AFP to shoot at refugees and staff on Christmas Island three times and then gloating about what a great job they did.

    And then putting a crime into the ALP policy platform months after she was told by our courts that pushing refugees away is illegal.

    We had 12 years of the racist Howard, do we need the racist Gillard as well.

  6. shepherdmarilyn

    Maxine McKew has made it very plain today that Rudd was not doing the “things’ the prattling lazy ninnies are suggesting.

    The media have whipped themselves into such hysteria anyone would think there were tanks in the streets with Rudd riding on top to stage a bloody coup.

    Talk of all out war, blah, blah, blah.

    Gillard’s very first major speech in the job was racist. There is no polite way to describe the excrutiatlingly awful and nauseating “Moving Forward” drivel at the Lowy Institute.

    Her demeanour is racist, elitist and crude. Ever seen or heard of Gillard out feeding the homeless or sleeping in the streets to raise awareness, or opening a campaign for organ transplanation, or an asbestos cancer clinic, Gillard didn’t want the pension rises as we know – that was Rudd.

    Lachlan Harris have both hit the nail on the head.

    If Rudd was so “bad”, and to date no crimes have been named, there were 120 other ALP members, are they such timid trolls that they couldn’t tell him so.

    He is not a dictator after all.

    And pray tell why is it that the media thought Howard’s work ethic of reading the papers at dawn was good, selecting his own bench was good, and being really very brutal with his own party, starting two illegal wars and so on was good but don’t dare have a labor party PM working their guts out.

    I think Maxine stripped the paint off this morning rather well, and who could accuse Maxine of having no integrity.

    Yes Gillard will win tomorrow but who will care?

    No-one likes her now and it is not about her gender as Anne Summers keeps bleating.

    She is just cold and harsh.

  7. geomac

    Good to see you acknowledge Rudd has been undermining his leader and party for a very long time . Naturally you cite likely odds which seems to be your want as a means of pushing your bias . You would be what I think they used to call an emu at the racetrack , picking through discarded tickets hoping to find a winner .
    Julie Bishop is childless but so what she claims to be christian . I was raised catholic , went to catholic schools but at the last census ticked no religion . Maybe I,m more honest than Bishop then again maybe we both are telling the truth . Thing is though I live what is called a christian lifestyle without the observance of being a christian or any other faith . I don,t judge anyone by their religion either except when a person professes a belief then acts exactly opposite to that creed . Love thy neighbour comes to mind or thou shalt not kill which goes against refugee vilification and invading a country on sham and illegal grounds . Communism as a basic tenet is a christian tenet but like christianity falls down in implementation and interpretation .
    Keane may or may not be right in his thoughts and predictions but only time will tell . I don,t see any sense for Labor to do anything after Monday other than continue to govern under difficult conditions , minority government . Let the electorate decide in 2013 when the fear campaign has been seen for the hollow sham it always has been . One vote or a fair majority on Monday should shelve any disunity from all and if they have their party at heart concentrate on promoting their achievements . Anything else is futile . Thats not my prediction , betting odds or bias but plain common sense .

  8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I find it ‘interesting’ how the Labor supporters think that the changes (I hate the word reforms) made by Gillard will settle in and then all will be well.

    How will things get better for Gillard when the carbon tax comes in?

    Firstly, as Gillard does not believe in taking action about climate change (the tax is only in place because that was the price the Greens charged for their support in parliament) the public’s apathy towards climate change action will continue.

    Labor will never try to sell the need for action on climate change because then it wold become clear that the carbon tax is far too little, and the last thing they want to do is give people the idea that they want further action on climate change. And once the carbon tax is in, surely it becomes easier for the opposition to claim that every new bout of sackings is due to the tax.

    The NBN is another disaster in waiting. Because the debate is just between Labor fans (the NBN is good) and Liberal (it is bad) there has been next to no real discussion about doing things in a better way.

    In my case I know that one day the government will pay for the Telstra copper pair (which currently provides my iiNet ADSL 2 service) as well as the Telstra and Optus cables that pass my house to be retired.

    When I get the NBN the price for my current speed and downloads is going to be about the same, and instead of looking forward to cheaper prices in the future (which will happen in most places in the world) those running the NBN tell us that prices will remain the same for a while before they start to go up. Faster speeds will be available, but at much greater cost.

    In many other areas Labor remains a looney right-wing government (treatment of asylum seekers, support of US wars, US troops in Australia, internet censorship, keeping Australia a low tax country (compared to the OECD average) and thus less money spent on health and education, ending universal health care by forcing the rich to have private health insurance, and of course gay marriage).

    But though people don’t yet say that Labor is a right-wing government they are starting to feel that the Labor spin does not match the reality.

    The public is still fed the message that Labor is the progressive major party (shows such as Q&A and The Insiders are all about supporting the idea of the ‘two sides of politics’). Even the progressive side of the media, such as The Age, ignore the Greens and promote the idea of the public having to decide between the two major parties.

    As a result, whatever happens to the Labor leadership in the next 18 months, it is looking very likely that Abbott will win the next election.

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