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Rudd is Labor's last chance

Date

Mark Baker

This dysfunctional government should face the harsh reality. For the greater good, Gillard must go, Rudd should be reinstated and an election called immediately.

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Abbott: 'I don't do these sorts of deals'

Speaking with 3AW's Neil Mitchell, Tony Abbott says he won't be making deals with the Greens or independents in the upcoming election.

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It's time, Labor. Time to end the delusion that Julia Gillard and her battle-scarred camp followers have any chance of political resurrection. Kevin Rudd might well be a very naughty boy, but Labor has no choice but to test whether he still has the makings of a messiah.

It is the only card this discredited, demoralised and dysfunctional government has left to play.

The caucus and union hatchet men who toppled Rudd in June 2010 need to polish their knuckledusters and head back to the prime ministerial suite. Gillard needs to be told that her time is up and she must resign the leadership for the greater good. Rudd needs to be reinstated by unanimous accord and his first act back on the throne must be to call an immediate election.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson.

Of course, many voters would view this as being yet another seedy episode in the march of seediness that has been Labor in power over the past couple of years - and the Coalition would be quick to remind them of the poisonous things all those colleagues said about Rudd when he had the temerity to challenge Gillard early last year.

But the harnessing of Rudd's remarkably persistent popularity is the only obvious action that can turn electoral annihilation into salvageable defeat for Labor - the difference between a chance of winning back power after three years and the certainty of at least two parliamentary terms in the exile of opposition. Every Labor MP on a margin of 7 per cent or less - even those who loathe Rudd - now lives this truth.

And should Labor act to stop this unstoppable rot then maybe, just maybe, sufficient voters would be so elated at being spared the unimaginable sufferings of a seven-month campaign to a September 14 poll, that they would let Kevin13 steal a miraculous win.

This week's Age/Nielsen poll was not just another bad poll for Gillard. It was the poll that demolished what faint hope remained among her supporters that she might have what it takes to rebuild her fortunes and those of the government.

It proved the lift in the Prime Minister's ratings late last year - fuelled by her stirring stand against the rising tide of misogyny (aka Tony Abbott) - was no more than a wistful blip on the radar of her persistent unpopularity. She has never as prime minister achieved the levels of electoral support needed to sustain a leader in a Western democracy and the hard-learnt lessons of political history shout that she never will.

The poll showed a slump in Labor's primary vote, leaving the party trailing the Coalition by a disastrous 44 to 56 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. It showed Abbott now leading Gillard as preferred prime minister for the first time in seven months. And it showed that almost twice as many Labor voters want Rudd as their leader as want Gillard.

In a way, perhaps the only surprising thing is that the numbers were not worse.

This is surely Gillard's annus horribilis - and it's hardly started. Already we've had the bizarre decision to call the election eight months out, the still puzzling resignations of two senior cabinet ministers, the charging of Craig Thomson, the scandalous soap opera of the corruption hearings involving the former New South Wales Labor government, and the confirmation that the mining tax is a bad joke that is doing nothing to help our beleaguered budget bottom line. The only tricks Labor can take, it seems, are those allegedly procured by Mr Thomson on his union-funded credit card.

In the midst of this turmoil, the Prime Minister and her Treasurer are spending quality time at the Australian Workers Union national conference on the Gold Coast, cuddling up with national secretary Paul Howes and doing high-fives with union elder statesman Bill Ludwig. Of course it was Howes - along with his predecessor as AWU boss, Workplace Minister Bill Shorten - who played a central role replacing Rudd with Gillard and whose inordinate influence over the internal processes of the ALP is pivotal to her remaining in the job.

One might have thought Gillard would be wiser to keep her distance from anything involving the initials AWU as the Victorian police fraud squad continues its intensive investigation into the hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from an AWU slush fund she helped to incorporate as a young lawyer by her former boyfriend and AWU official Bruce Wilson, once the golden-haired protege of Bill Ludwig.

Meanwhile, Kevin Rudd has been busy getting himself back on breakfast television and hawking himself around every media outlet in the country not nimble enough to avoid his dance of the seven veils - and his endless protestations that he's a man cured of ambition and driven solely by the obligations of team play.

But it is a tad rich for Gillard's supporters to decry Rudd's antics and blame him for the government's woes.

The harsh reality for Gillard is that Rudd would have no traction if she were not so persistently accident-prone, so often inclined to taking rash decisions without fully consulting her colleagues - as in the Nova Peris shambles - and so incapable of winning over the Australian electorate.

And in the vacuum created by her failings of leadership, Rudd has as much right as anyone else to again stake his claim to the top job - as she and her associates did when he stumbled three years ago.

A consensus decision to reinstate Rudd is now the only clear way out of Labor's mess. There are no obvious alternatives. Shorten, the man most often mentioned, is tarred by his role in the Rudd coup and there is little evidence that the public shares his conviction about his leadership credentials.

A snap election would give Labor a potential edge by catching the Coalition when it still has unresolved policy and leadership issues of its own. It would also mean voters who still think Kevin is the best, or the best of a bad lot, will have little time to change their mind about a man whose period in the wilderness appears to have done nothing to moderate his ego or his enduring sense of entitlement.

Mark Baker is editor-at-large.

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582 comments

  • I cannot understand why the ALP has not realised that Gillard has been a very disappointing PM and should be asked politely to step down for the greater good of the country.

    Her supporters - and Rudd haters - have been absolutely disgraceful towards Mr Rudd and blaming him for their party's dismal poll numbers is a joke.

    Mr Rudd could easily have done a Peter Costello and taken his bat and ball and gone home ages ago but has stayed on for the good of the party and for the good of the entire country.

    The biggest Rudd haters Nicola Roxon made it very clear she would rather be in opposition rather than work under Rudd. Well now that she is leaving - on a tax free income of $200K++ for life - she can no longer have any influence on the ALP leadership.

    Ms Gillard has been disappointing but the thought of Tony Abbott as PM will be a disaster.

    Workchoices, health and education slashed, climate change is crap and of course Howard's ultra racist immigration policies that shamed this nation once before.

    Ms Gillard - step down for the good of the ALP and the country PLEASE.

    I can't sleep at night knowing Tony and his mob will be ruling our country in September.

    Commenter
    Bette Streep
    Date and time
    February 20, 2013, 6:25AM
    • And the polls are often wrong.

      For Kevin 2007 they said it was too close to call and then he won by a landslide.

      Guys, you're seeing bunnies in the clouds. You can't rely on polls.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:01AM
    • I take umbrage at Nicola Roxon getting the credit for being the "biggest hater of Rudd".

      Thankfully Tony "Slick" Abbott is still as popular as he ever was with the ladies.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:02AM
    • Looks like you're in for an unpleasant decade Bette.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:08AM
    • I don't think Julia realize people have tuned out long ago. It's not a matter of her vs. Tony Abbott or Kevin Rudd, it's a matter of no one likes her policies, throwing any more policies at us is not going to make any good.

      Abbott is not perfect, but I'm ready to see what he can do as a prime minister.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:18AM
    • Seeing the appalling "Solidarity Forever etc ... " union songmeisters at the AWU conference belting out this cold war nonsense - must have been gut wrenching for the 25% of voters still supporting Gillard

      Commenter
      gc
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:18AM
    • You're not wrong Fraaaase......Abbott is SMASHING Gillard in every opinion poll you care to mention, so he's obviously popular with the ladies as well. I'll give you an A for effort, but an F for content....again......

      Keep trying to convince everyone that you're right with your 'sermon on the mound' Spambot diatribe, but by constantly playing the man and not the ball on these forums, is it little wonder that you have actually dropped the ball?

      Commenter
      MTK
      Location
      Port Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:19AM
    • We must be getting close to a vote of no confidence when parliament returns in a few weeks time.

      Commenter
      Hacka
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:20AM
    • Perhaps, you may care to read Michael Gawenda's article 'Rudd's red-hot payback plan' for more insight.

      Commenter
      Julia
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:23AM
    • “Workchoices, health and education slashed, climate change is crap and of course Howard's ultra racist immigration policies that shamed this nation once before”. Let’s review the current state of play. Fair Work Australia is an ineffective pro-union white elephant designed to curb productivity and business flexibility – but it may redeem itself if it finally finds Craig Thompson has been loose with the truth. Surgery waiting times remain unacceptable despite KRudds grandiose hollow promises of reform. Education standards languish by international standards despite the billions wasted by Gillard on shade shelters and unsupportable computers. And finally, talk about immigration policy – Gillard has gone further than Howard with regard to offshore processing, but still the people smugglers know Labor is a hopeless soft-touch and illegal economic boat arrivals continue. Please bring the election date forward Ms Gillard, the Australian people deserve their chance to show you how unhappy they are!

      Commenter
      Labor's Record??
      Date and time
      February 20, 2013, 8:24AM

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