mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Is Camp Hillary Watching the Rudd-Gillard Rivalry Down Under?


With the Australian government’s announcement that asylum seekers trying to settle in Australia will instead be sent to Papua New Guinea, newly-reinstalled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd continues to shift his government in a populist direction. Today he defended the controversial decision, which he conceded is “hard line”: his government will “make no apology for the decision we’ve taken.”

Rudd, who was Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, retook the top job from his rival and former deputy Julia Gillard about a month ago. The rivalry between the two is similar to that of the Obama and Clinton wings of the Democratic Party in the US. Gillard snatched the leadership position of the Labor Party at the last moment before elections in 2010, but she handed Rudd the post of Foreign Minister, at least for a little while. He stepped down from that position last year after an unsuccessful attempt to undermine Gillard and reclaim the leadership of their party.

The new post-Gillard Labor government of Australia is Clintonian rather than Obamian. It is as if Hillary had replaced Obama in the White House and shifted the tone and on some issues the policy toward the center, or even center right.

So far these moves seem broadly popular among Australian voters. Currently, parliament is divided almost evenly, with the opposition coalition holding a slim advantage over Labor. But with his first few actions in his most recent term as PM, Rudd has given his Labor party a real shot at a win in the fall.

Camp Clinton, one suspects, is watching.

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

Features Icon
show comments
  • Corlyss

    Rudd is just saying what he must to be re-elected next year. He’s about as sincere as a croc. The minute he has the office again, it will be back to the same idiotic policies they had under Gillard

  • ljgude

    While I agree with Corylss that Rudd is definitely tracking right in a desperate attempt to overcome the unpopularity of the Gillard government, I think WRM is right that he is more centrist than Gillard. So I don’t believe he will simply revert to the policies of the Gillard government.

    The problem for the Liberal (ie conservative) party is that their leader, Tony Abbott, is a Roman Catholic social conservative much like Rick Santorum in US terms. I’ve even heard they are in contact with each other, but that Abbott downplays the relationship. With only about 20% of the electorate religious and that percentage by no means all socially conservative, Abbott has an uphill battle. From what I see in the Australian press Rudd is not getting a free ride – so he has an uphill battle too. A more acceptable Liberal would have beaten Gillard in the last election and I think there is still a perception that Rudd was unfairly unseated by Gillard and so when it comes right down to election day, Rudd may well win. We have compulsory voting in Australia so enthusiasm plays much less of a critical role than in US elections where we saw Romney getting less votes than McCain. Beyond that I don’t think that the Australian election will have much real connection to the upcoming US presidential election.

    Right now I would put my money on Hillary simply because the economy has recovered enough to claim that Obama’s policies have worked. If by 2016 the overspending has come home to roost, then it it will be a different story. But as long as the US government keeps the balls in the air neither party is going to stop the music – to horribly mix metaphors. So it may well be Hillary for the status quo (read Blue model) win.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service