Will Australian Labor Remain Principled and fall on its own
Gillard's Federal Labor Government looks like being totally
desecrated in the coming election, potentially leaving Labor with only a
small hand-full of seats in the new parliament with an Abbot Liberal
National Party Government. Such a situation could leave Labor in the
political wilderness for many years without much hope of regaining power
for a generation just like Labor was in opposition for 23 years until
Gough Whitlam gained power back in 1972 under a platform of change over
a tired Liberal National Party Government. Many Labor members of
Parliament have closely examined the latest polling and realize they
have almost no chance of retaining their seats under Prime Minister
Gillard leading the election campaign. Many pollsters believe that Ms.
Gillard's personal unpopularity maybe generally holding down the
potential Labor vote.
Meanwhile Kevin Rudd is wandering around outer suburban shopping malls
in marginal seats, being mobbed like a pop star and looking a winner on
television. This is in contrast to Ms. Gillard's appearances which make
her look cornered and on the defensive. Rudd has always been able to use
the media exceptionally well in contrast to Gillard who prefers the
parliament as a forum to her advantage.
At the same time Labor factions are in disarray and contemplating what
the political future would be like on the opposition benches under a
conservative Abbott Government, capable of becoming a Howard style
Government of union bashing. If Abbott down the track of any future
government he leads introduces workplace reforms, they might have the
potential to destroy the Australian Union Movement as Australians have
known it. This scenario has from the Labor perspective brought about
much thinking and discussion about how to remedy this oncoming disaster.
Labor senator Trish Crossin who was tipped off from her No. 1 position
on the senate ticket by Prime Minister Gillard's personal intervention,
has come out publicly stating that Rudd would be the better person to
lead Labor into the election. However as of today, Kevin Rudd has
indicated that he will not mount a challenge against Julia Gillard.
At a door-side press conference on Tuesday morning in Canberra Ms.
Gillard reiterated before any journalist had a chance to ask any
questions that she will lead Labor into the next election.
Trying to change the focus towards school reform, Ms. Gillard went on to
say that "a breath spent on that speculation or rumor mongering, is a
breath that is not spent on putting the case for improving our schools
for our kids".
The Australian media does not usually invent leadership stories, so
obliviously someone within the government is feeding the parliamentary
reporters with information as a leverage to try and persuade Ms.
Gillard to stand down as prime minister. The "Rudd" forces hope that
this move would terminally weaken Ms. Gillard's position and leave her
with little choice but to have a leadership spill once again. This is
putting enormous pressure on her with two weeks of parliament to go.
This leadership tension is exposing her poor creditability with the
Australian people, many who believe she wasn't ethical when taking the
leadership from Mr. Rudd in 2010.
Australian media reports confirm that a number of senior cabinet
ministers are now viewing Ms. Gillard's position as not sustainable and
considering a return to Mr. Rudd, who may provide the only chance for
labor to perform well in the coming election.
this point of time, the unions still support Ms. Gillard. However
Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
position vis a vis Ms. Gillard and Mr. Rudd will be crucial. As a
former Australian Workers Union leader, he is the powerbroker behind Ms.
Gillard's leadership and was instrumental in installing her as leader in
2010. Should Mr. Shorten change camps, Ms. Gillard's union support is
likely to evaporate, along with at least 1-15 votes in the party caucus
room. This would almost be enough to put Mr. Rudd back as prime
The problem won't go away and Mr. Shorten's support may be questionable.
So the labor Party leadership is now again subject to a standoff for the
third time in as many years.
On the surface, this choice looks an easy one with the Government facing
almost certain defeat at the coming election. Although popular among
many women, Ms. Gillard has a major credibility gap which she has not
been able to restore, even with the economy running reasonably well. Her
achievement of holding together a minority government for a full
parliamentary term holds no respect by anybody within the Australian
But Mr. Rudd is an enigma, who has been chipping away at Ms. Gillard's
position for the three years since he was disposed as Prime Minister.
Former Labor Leader of the Opposition and now media commentator Mark
Latham on Monday night of the popular Q&A program accused Kevin Rudd of
carrying out a "jihad of revenge against Gillard, going beyond normal
revenge but into the realm of evil".
Many former cabinet colleagues still harbor strong memories of Mr.
Rudd's domineering style of management, his anger, tantrums, some say
were bordering on Narcissism. Many stories of his cabinet room antics
still roam the parliamentary corridors, and should Mr. Rudd once again
get the top job, there will be no doubt some that would refuse to serve
him as ministers.
However this time the issue has come down to a matter of principle, or
survival. Should Mr. Rudd be rewarded for his continued undermining of
the Gillard premiership, or should Labor be pragmatic and try and win
this election with the only potential winner they have?
Mr. Rudd as a campaigner would potentially change the whole dynamics of
the election. He could distance himself from areas where labor's
performance will be criticized and campaign in a similar manner as to
how he did in 2007. It would be hoped from the Labor side, that the
Australian people after seeing a wrong righted, may return to Labor,
particularly the traditional voters. This is Labor's only chance of
holding onto power according to the polls.
Mr. Abbot knows how formidable Mr. Rudd would be as an adversary and may
forgo the short term victory of seeing Ms. Gillard fall on her sword, to
prevent his worst nightmare, a "face-off" with Mr. Rudd on the husting.
With Rudd, Australians would take more interest in the campaign,
increasing the uncertainty of an Abbot victory.
The omens for Ms. Gillard don't look too good, and her traditional
supporters from outside the parliament like former Labor Prime Minister
Paul Keating are so far silent. The Australian media is prepped up for a
good story and frankly speaking an Abbot-Rudd election campaign will be
The next week is not about whether Ms. Gillard or Mr. Rudd lead the
labor party into the election. It's about whether Labor survives
electorally as a party. The Labor party need to undergo massive reform
and rebuilding if it's going to be relevant in 21st century Australia.
The structure of the party is over 130 years old and is dominated by an
ever shrinking union movement. Labor's overall philosophy also requires
a review to make it stand out as electorally viable. As opposition
frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said on the same program as Mark Latham on
Monday night, these reforms are best made whilst in opposition.
This could be a very significant week for Labor. A week that will
definitely go down in the annals of Labor movement history, no matter
what the outcome.