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Sweet Revenge: Kevin Rudd Retakes Labor Leadership in Australia


Australia’s Kevin Rudd is evidently a believer in that old Klingon proverb about revenge being a dish best served cold. It is very cold in Australia, and Rudd is once again the head of the Australian Labor Party at the expense of Julia Gillard, his former protege who ousted him in 2010. Facing the prospects of a drubbing at the polls in September, Gillard’s leadership had come under sustained attack in recent months. She just barely beat back a challenge from Rudd’s supporters earlier this year in March and finally succumbed after calling a surprise party vote today.

A detail most of the major American news sources don’t seem to have noted is that the vote may have ended Gillard’s career in politics completely. Australia’s ABC News:

As she called the ballot this evening, Ms Gillard set the stunning condition that the defeated candidate must quit politics.

“Anybody who enters the ballot tonight should do it on the following conditions: that if you win you’re Labor leader; that if you lose you retire from politics,” she said.

If Rudd can regain the Prime Ministership (it’s not clear yet that he will, according to ABC News), his party still faces a tough fight ahead of it in September. Opposition coalition leader Tony Abbot immediately pointed to the Rudd-Gillard leadership squabble as evidence that Labor is unfit to lead Australia. The next few months should be very interesting for political junkies down under.

[When they were friends: Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in 2006, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]

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  • ljgude

    Given the non stop din about it in the Australian press it comes as no surprise, but it is surprising in a way because Rudd was dumped by his party for exactly the same reason – the party feared defeat at the polls. When Rudd was dumped it was seen as a stab in the back at the end of Rudd’s first term as PM. I have been amazed at the animus against Gillard because she was seen as breaking a taboo. I have never heard her attacked for her gender – it is all about becoming PM dishonorably. I suppose it is a bit like like running against a sitting president from within the presidents own party. We remember Bobby Kennedy doing that.

    In any case the conservative leader Tony Abbot is not a certainty at all and will have an opponent who does not have to run on Gillard’s record and who enjoys a lot of sympathy among the electorate because he is perceived as having been unfairly done by. Abbot himself is a bit of a socon – aka the mad monk. He is rumored to have close ties to Rick Santorum. I know he greatly annoyed me when, as minister for health in the Howard government, he made a great Roman Catholic agony over whether to approve the ‘morning after’ pill. It seemed plain to me that if his conscience forbad him approving it his as a member of the government his clear course was to resign his portfolio which was responsible for the health of all Australians 80% of whom are secular. Gillard for example has been in a long term de facto relationship right through her tenure as PM and that has not seemed to have been an issue any more than her gender has. As an American long resident in Australia I can’t help but notice how much hullabaloo would be made of both Gillard’s gender and her personal life in US politics. As to her notion that a defeated party leader should retire from politics, in so far as I know, her own idea. John Howard tried and failed and even left politics for a while before becoming Australia’s longest serving PM.

  • stcrowe

    Things change so quickly in Australian politics. Rudd was a rock star in his first year as PM. I only follow casually, so I was stunned when he was toppled by Gillard. Now, only three years later, this reversal. Her standing in the polls makes this justifiable, but the Labor Party sounds absolutely dysfunctional.

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