Labor pains? Up pops Rudd


Labor pains? Up pops Rudd

Date February 17, 2013 Category Opinion 176 reading now

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Paul Daley

is a Canberra-based writer and an award-winning political journalist

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Illustration: David Rowe

Labor supporters are rightly dismayed by the fortunes of the federal government.

The support base is rippling with white-hot anger at journalists for focusing on inane elements of what increasingly appears to be a leadership struggle of mutually assured destruction between the Prime Minister and her predecessor.

But hard-headed government supporters are also willing to apportion some responsibility to the Labor MPs who, fearing a lemming-like conga line over the electoral abyss on September 14, are venting more openly than ever about the bastardry of Labor dissidence, about Rudd’s alleged treachery, about Gillard’s manifold tactical mistakes and about what they now see as Wayne Swan’s incompetence and lacklustre salesmanship. Helpful. Not.

Witness the emailed thoughts of a Labor supporter – ”Mr Rudd, your disloyalty to your leader and party is shameful” – that were leaked in an attempt to damage Rudd last week.


There’s nothing remarkable about it. Indeed, it is similar to dozens of emails Labor MPs receive weekly from loyal ALP voters who are appalled at Labor’s penchant for self-harm, while Tony Abbott’s opposition avoids policy scrutiny and much in the way of electoral promise beyond not being Labor.

Gillard and Rudd continue to say the Labor leadership was dealt with decisively a year ago. There’s no denying the caucus vote for Gillard (71) over Rudd (31) was precedent-setting and telling about Labor sentiment towards the member for Griffith.

Today the charge of disloyalty against Rudd is as easy to level as it is for him to deny – which he seems to be called upon to do on a most distracting, almost weekly, sometimes daily, basis.

Some say he is driven by a desire for vindication far more than retribution. Perhaps they are the same, which is why the consistent line from his ”supporters” is that he will not re-challenge but would accept the party’s overture to be redrafted.

That might seem fanciful, even in light of the malaise and fear gripping the Gillard government as the clock ticks down to the election.

Simon Crean, who knows a thing or two about being politically undermined – and who went out with such force a year ago to consign Rudd to the political knackery – said it best the other week: ”I think he [Rudd] is an asset, and we should use him, but it has to be a disciplined asset. And, again, that’s a judgment not just for us to make, it has to be for Kevin to make.”

Rudd has certainly been notably more visible since Crean made this concession. But perhaps not always in the way Crean might have envisaged.

Sometimes Kevin is just there, to tell the media to chill when he makes himself all too available to be peskily asked (again, you rascals!) if he’s up for a challenge. Indeed, his mere presence has the impact of a mind-altering existential substance on some who seem to take the view that he is, therefore he’s running.

But all he says is: ”Give me a break, fellas, get off the grass, have a cold shower.”

Then he’ll re-emerge a day or two later just as the government is trying to spin its way out of the fact that the mining tax it redesigned as a sop to the billionaires has been a disastrous waste of time and energy that will raise sweet nothing to help fund its laudable policies such as disability insurance and education reforms and …

Then Kevin weighs in: ”Of course, after the government’s leadership changed, the Treasurer and the new Prime Minister elected to make some significant changes to the structure of the tax … given the fact that it has not collected any real revenue of any significance so far, that really is a matter for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to consider and I’ll leave it with them …”

Fancy that getting interpreted as Rudd criticising Gillard and Swan, and as evidence that he is a) being disloyal, b) ramping up pressure on Gillard and, c) preparing for another ”tilt” at the leadership!

And to think it ”coincided” with Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon describing parts of the tax under Gillard as ”untidy, inefficient and, I think, unsustainable”.

No big deal. Joel is, after all, only Julia Gillard’s Whip. It’s only his job to ensure parliamentary discipline – to knock on doors and kneecap the odd boofhead like Rudd (and himself) who criticises their government.

No. There’s nothing in this Labor leadership stuff.

Get off the grass. Take a cold shower. Go back to the beach.

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