JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Honourable election loss for Gillard better than a Rudd return

Date

Nick Dyrenfurth

It's not a ramshackle government and there's no need for the PM to fall on her sword.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

I won't stop campaigning, says Rudd

Kevin Rudd will not be winding back his frequent public appearances, saying he has a role to play in helping his Labor colleagues campaign to retain their seats.

PT0M0S 620 349

This past week has seen an outbreak of the ''relevance deprivation syndrome'' among the political class. Witness Christine Milne, the Greens' stocks having plummeted since Bob Brown's retirement, performing a Clayton's ending of her party's alliance with the Labor government. See, too, the phalanx of commentators calling on Julia Gillard to fall on her prime ministerial sword.

Perhaps the most spectacular case of the syndrome involves Kevin Rudd, our self-styled prime minister-in-exile. Undeterred by his own party's thunderous rejection of his ambition to seize back the prime ministership 12 months ago, the humble Queensland backbencher is once more omnipresent.

Whether it is his daily television appearances uttering folksy denials of a leadership challenge, or lodging a freedom of information request into his own correspondence with the Australian Federal Police, Rudd is one happy little Vegemite. The party he joined at the age of 15 in 1972, not so much.

It wasn't enough that he sabotaged Labor's 2010 election campaign. Rudd's resignation as foreign minister in 2012 and subsequent challenge was a far superior exercise in self-destructive vanity. Now Rudd seeks to inflict further pain, even if his behaviour increasingly condemns him to the status of a Labor ''rat''.

Demagogic narcissists who treat the party as a personal plaything usually get their just desserts. It is perplexing then to witness commentators and even some Labor MPs urging that Rudd be rewarded for his disloyalty.

Instead, Gillard must remain as PM in the name of what this paper's Mark Baker terms the ''greater good''. First, the demise of our first female PM would be a devastating blow to our political culture. It would reward the bilious campaign waged by misogynist nut-jobs, Tea Party-style activists and the policy-free zone that is Tony Abbott's Liberal Party.

Removing a second-straight PM without reference to electors, based upon poor but not irreversible polling numbers, would seriously damage the public's trust in our democracy. The now-exuberant Liberals would not be immune. Celebrity politicians who think Sunrise is more important than Parliament would be here to stay.

Second, this is not a ''dysfunctional'' government. It has produced a raft of nation-building reforms: a carbon price, the national broadband network, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, paid parental leave, and the first serious attempt to formulate an industry policy in decades. The mining tax is a work in progress. This is a welcome departure from Howard-era style ''reform'': workplace laws which treated human beings as mere commodities.

As such, is it disappointing to see David Day, one of our finest historians, assert on this page on Tuesday that Gillard ''has turned out to be less of a Labor leader than her predecessor . . . And on some limited measures . . . even less of a Labor leader than . . . John Howard.'' Day adduced little evidence to support this proposition. And Rudd may be in ''a sweet place'', but at the potential cost of wiping out an entire Labor generation.

Granted, Gillard's leadership is not without fault. I profoundly disagree with her stances on gay marriage and refugees (neither of which Rudd fundamentally opposes). Gillard has made tactical mistakes, such as her whatever-it-takes commitment to achieving a budget surplus and rejection of reviving the republic issue before the current monarch's passing. Her government has struggled to communicate the economy's rude health.

It is in Labor's long-term interests for Gillard to prevail. Like the best Labor leaders - Andrew Fisher, John Curtin and Bob Hawke to name but a few - Gillard ''gets'' the labour movement. It would be far better that she led her party to an honourable loss than the party have to deal with the apocalyptic effects of a Rudd redux: ministers resigning en masse, unions disaffiliating or withholding campaign funds, the ultimate triumph of the revolving door leadership model, and several years of bitter recriminations.

Commenting on the long-lived Queensland Labor government's 1929 defeat, the Labor Call newspaper suggested: ''Labor with power in its hands, finds the struggle forward impeded in many new and more subtle ways . . . What keeps up the strength of the anti-Labor party is its solidarity. It never scabs on its mates.'' Right-wing bullies and conservative politicians are scarcely known for rousing renditions of Solidarity Forever. Yet they appear more adept at practising the labour movement's famous creed.

For its part Labor should focus on the bigger picture. Electoral recovery is not out of the question. Moreover, if it is to retain a modicum of self-respect in the eyes of voters and its membership, it must - and almost certainly will - ignore Rudd's siren song. Perhaps, too, Australia's happiest little Vegemite might care to mull over his place in Labor's illustrious 122-year history.

Nick Dyrenfurth is the author or editor of several books on Australian political history, including Heroes and Villains: the Rise and Fall of the Early Australian Labor Party.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

214 comments

  • Good call Nick, damn the torpedoes, Full Steam Ahead!

    This is the sort of 'no room for wimps' courage that put Custer out in front of the 7th Cavalry.

    Survival is greatly over rated anyway.

    Commenter
    SteveH.
    Date and time
    February 21, 2013, 6:55AM
    • The question that should be asked is how does "SteveH." and "hac ka" always get first place in the "Comments".

      "Slick" Abbott should bestow a knighthood on both.

      Could be called "The Private Health Fund Rebate" ..... or did "Slick" Abbott dump that yesterday ?

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 8:57AM
    • Don't fret J. Fraser, as one of the very few who will connect to the NBN when (and if) it becomes available to you, I am sure you will be able to post your incoherent babble first

      Commenter
      Jimc
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:22AM
    • SteveH might be encouraging Labor to ditch Gillard and bring back Rudd at the moment, but I guarantee that, the moment they did, he would be blasting them for it. That's because he opposes the ALP on principle - just as I oppose the Liberals on principle. I never, though, advise the Libs on who to elect as leader, because that would be hypocrisy.

      Regardless of who leads Labor, I would prefer them to the Libs. I am severely annoyed, however, by Kevin Rudd's behaviour since he lost the PM's job. I had tried to interpret it more generously than the press, because I know their capitalist bias (i.e. even when they favour Labor, they support it adopting Right win policies), but his latest antics make generosity impossible to reconcile with honest logic.

      Kevin Rudd should leave Parliament at the next election. Then he can engage in contests with Mark Latham about who was the greatest, most brilliant and grievously wronged Labor leader.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:24AM
    • Frase,

      Good to see that you read the article and sucessfully comprehended it. You are indeed one of the world's great thinkers.

      Commenter
      The Duck
      Location
      The Pond
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:31AM
    • Because we get out of bed earlier, actually, no thats not the reason, the truth is once
      again its all part of the Great Big MSM Conspiracy (GBMC) against Labor.

      You know we're secretly monitoring you, don't you JF.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:33AM
    • Gregg, its irrelevant to me who leads the Party, people only keep mentioning Rudd
      as the popular alternative because they know how much it annoys the 'true believers'.

      Geez, I would thought you'd have already have worked that one out.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Thank god that has been explained ... for a moment there I thought it was going to be a NO Show (Abbott).

      The boat you are always talking about appears to be taking a long time to sink, and now "SteveH." is throwing (ha) torpedoes at it.

      Is this a regression into childhood "SteveH." ... whatever happened to the dolls ?

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:57AM
    • Dang it SteveH - You've blown our surveillance operation. We'll now have to direct LNP operatives from our surveillance op' on Think Big to cover the subject.Hold on - subject is now on the move from keyboard, heading outside to adjust Gillard corflutes on front lawn....

      Commenter
      Smack
      Location
      City of the Fallen
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 9:57AM
    • Smack, putting them in bin is probably the smartest 'adjustment' Labor can make.
      Frankly this 'election' is turning into a real hoot, I was wrong to criticise its length.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      February 21, 2013, 10:15AM

More comments

Comments are now closed

Related Coverage

I won't stop campaigning, says Rudd (Thumbnail) I won't stop campaigning, says Rudd

Kevin Rudd will not be winding back his frequent public appearances, saying he has a role to play in helping his Labor colleagues campaign to retain their seats.

Greens grandstanding? (Thumbnail) Greens grandstanding?

Greens call time on their agreement with the Labor party, but what does it mean? Joel Fitzgibbon and Josh Frydenberg discuss. Also: joint strike fighter and leadership challenge.

Fix mining tax or lose $1b for jobs, Gillard told

The Gillard government is facing another $1 billion budget shortfall and an embarrassing parliamentary defeat, with the Greens and the Coalition set to block cuts to research and development funding.

Changing captains will not save this side from a proper walloping

Julia Gillard should stay where she is. The Labor Party has run out of party tricks. The federal government's perceived unpopularity is a collective effort, an effort that began with Kevin Rudd, who as prime minister was so dysfunctional in his leadership and his megalomania that his own colleagues revolted against him.

Gillard buys health peace for $107m

Federal government forced to reverse a decision to cut $107 million from Victorian hospitals.

Original mining tax 'would cost billions'

Collapsing commodity prices have hit BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto so badly that if the government had stuck with the original version of its mining tax, it would be up for billions.

No peace in sight for Labor caucus

Critics slam PM's suggestions their preference for Kevin Rudd was driven by resentment.

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo