Rudd refuses to run for leadership, PM prevails
- Kevin Rudd's comments before caucus meeting
- Gillard's speech after the leadership spill
- The Pulse: how the day unfolded
- Analysis: Labor's political dysfunction reacher new heights
Julia Gillard has declared Labor’s leadership question settled, after she was elected unopposed as Prime Minister at a meeting of the Labor caucus.
Ms Gillard was the only nominee for the position with former Labor leader Kevin Rudd refusing to run for the leadership at the meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrives with her supporters for the caucus meeting. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Thursday's drama led to the swift departure of five Labor MPs from their government posts, including Regional Affairs Minister Simon Crean, who was dumped from the ministry after earlier calling for a spill of leadership positions and a switch back to Mr Rudd as prime minister.
Other key backers of Mr Rudd - parliamentary secretary Richard Marles, chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon and fellow whips Ed Husic and Janelle Saffin - will also vacate their posts.
On Thursday night, supporters and opponents of Julia Gillard declared that the idea of another Kevin Rudd prime ministership was now over. The developments came on the final parliamentary sitting day before the May budget and against a backdrop of Labor's continued poor showing in opinion polls ahead of the September 14 election.
Kevin Rudd arrives for the caucus meeting... "I take my word seriously." Photo: Andrew Meares
Addressing reporters in Canberra after the meeting called to decide on the leadership, Ms Gillard said: ‘‘The whole business is completely at an end, it has ended now.’’
She said she was grateful to her colleagues for their support, and she had accepted her re-election with ''a sense of deep humility and a sense of resolve''.
''I never sought office for its own sake. I have only sought office in the interests of our nation,'' she said on Thursday afternoon.
Independent MPs Andrew Wilkie, Craig Thomson, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor talk during the motion of no confidence during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
''We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ll continue to do it.''
Labor spokesman Chris Hayes said Ms Gillard was the only candidate for the leadership and Treasurer Wayne Swan was the only candidate for the deputy leadership when the positions were declared vacant. No vote was required.
''Both were duly elected unopposed and unanimously by the parliamentary caucus,'' he said.
Labor frontbencher Simon Crean announces he has asked Julia Gillard for a spill of the party leadership. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Mr Hayes said the incident had caused an ''emotional drain on members and senators'' and the clear outcome would allow the party to put aside the ''instability''.
Mr Swan described Ms Gillard as a ‘‘tough leader’’ and ‘‘a great champion for our country’’.
‘‘I think today’s result does end these matters, once and for all...from our perspective, it’s back to work.’’
Gillard survives dramatic day in Canberra
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan address the media following the announcement she will remain in the top job.. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Rudd refuses to run
About 10 minutes before the caucus meeting, Mr Rudd said he would honour his previous commitment not to challenge for the Labor leadership unless he was drafted to the role.
''Others treat such commitments lightly. I do not,'' he said.
Mr Rudd said he had previously made it clear that the only circumstance in which he would consider a return to the leadership would be if he was drafted by a significant majority and the position was vacant.
''I'm here to inform you that these circumstances do not exist and therefore in the absence of any such draft . . . I will be adhering absolutely to the commitment I gave to the Australian people and my parliamentary colleagues,'' he said.
Mr Rudd said it was a ''difficult'' day for the party, adding: ''I take my word seriously.''
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, a supporter of Mr Rudd, said on Thursday afternoon that the former prime minister had acted in the party's interest in honouring his word not to challenge.
''I have been pretty consistent in terms of my views. I re-state my view again that I will never support a spill motion against a sitting Labor prime minister,'' Mr Albanese told reporters.
'No regrets': Crean
Dumped frontbencher Simon Crean, who triggered the drama by calling for a spill of leadership positions, said on Thursday evening he did not regret his actions because he was acting in the party's interest.
Mr Crean said he was surprised Mr Rudd did not run for the leadership, saying despite all the agitation "the pretender" did not stand up.
"He should have run; there's no question about that because I think that itself could have been an important cleansing for the party," he told ABC TV.
But Mr Crean said the outcome gave Ms Gillard a "much stronger mandate" and everyone should now rally behind her.
Dismissing a potential future move by Mr Rudd, Mr Crean said: "I don't think Kevin can credibly mount the argument to anyone, including in the media; sell the dummy again that he's got the numbers."
Labor MP Richard Marles, who publicly called for a switch to Mr Rudd, quit as parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs and foreign affairs on Thursday evening.
"It really is now time to be standing right behind Julia Gillard," he told Sky News.
"The day didn't pan out as we thought the day would pan out.
"It wasn't to be. I think what's important now is we move on."
Mr Marles said he did not have any "hard feelings" over Mr Rudd's decision not to stand.
"The idea of a Rudd prime ministership is now over and I do think that this needed to be resolved so in that sense I think the party after a difficult day is in a better position at the end of the day than it was at the beginning."
Later, on ABC's Lateline program, Mr Marles said Mr Rudd had ‘‘not at any point said that he was about to stand for the leadership’’ and it was a matter of trying to persuade him to do so.
‘‘He was there to be convinced and he had not been convinced,’’ Mr Marles said.
‘‘He was not sitting at the apex of a challenge. He was someone who needed to be convinced to run.’’
Mr Marles said Mr Rudd had chosen not to run not only because the numbers were not there to support him but also because ‘‘he did not want to put the party through a divisive contest of that kind’’.
In a call for unity now that Ms Gillard had been re-endorsed, Mr Marles said: ‘‘We simply cannot survive with the lead of division in our saddle.’’
Ms Gillard's office said the Prime Minister thanked Mr Marles for his contribution and acknowledged his "behaviour in offering his resignation is honourable".
Rudd supporter Joel Fitzgibbon will also leave his position of chief government whip.
"Kevin Rudd didn't do anything. He was urged by members of caucus including me to have a crack," Mr Fitzgibbon said after the caucus meeting.
"We weren't able to do so. He was good on his pledge right to the end."
Mr Fitzgibbon, who on Wednesday stoked tensions by publicly declaring it would be silly to deny leadership talk was occurring, insisted on Thursday Ms Gillard could win the next election.
"I think it's time for healing. It's just so critical with an election not so far away."
Rudd's 'credibility problem'
Victorian Labor senator David Feeney, who was instrumental in the push to elevate Ms Gillard in June 2010, said the ‘‘decisive’’ victory marked the third time Ms Gillard had secured caucus support.
Senator Feeney conceded this week’s ‘‘remarkable events’’ had distracted from the other work of government but insisted Ms Gillard and Mr Swan went straight back to work after the ballot.
‘‘I don’t think anybody on our side of politics is imagining everything’s tickety-boo,’’ he told Lateline.
Senator Feeney sought to downplay Labor’s electoral woes in the lead up to the election, saying: ‘‘It’s not our job to worry about polls or star signs.’’
‘‘The challenge for this government is to make sure it’s absolutely focused on its task,’’ he said.
Senator Feeney said Mr Rudd would have a ‘‘credibility problem’’ in pursuing any ambition in the future.
‘‘I think the point is he knew he didn’t have the support to become leader and he didn’t run.’’
On Sky News, former Labor leader Mark Latham described Mr Rudd’s key backers as ‘‘the amateurs of the modern Labor party’’.
He said Mr Rudd had a history of faking his numbers and also of ‘‘late scratchings’’ in leadership contests.
‘‘You need a bull whip to get him into the starting gates,’’ Mr Latham said.
'Civil war goes on'
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the ballot had resolved nothing.
''The civil war goes on. The civil war will continue as long as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are in the Parliament,’’ he told reporters.
Mr Abbott said the minority government had failed and Australia could not wait until September 14 for an election.
‘‘I want to say to the Australian people that you deserve a government that’s focused on you, not on itself. You deserve a government which is focused on the national interest, not on its own survival,’’ he said.
"If the Prime Minister was concerned about the party, if she was concerned about the country, if she was less concerned about herself and her own survival, there would be an election now.’’
Greens leader Christine Milne criticised Labor for allowing internal divisions to overshadow Parliament's historic apology to victims of forced adoption earlier on Thursday.
"Today the Labor factions gave Tony Abbott a major leg-up, threatening the future of progressive reforms and undermining the dignity and overshadowing the importance of the national apology to those impacted by forced adoptions."
PM calls leadership spill
Earlier on Thursday, just before question time, Ms Gillard heeded Mr Crean's call for a spill of the Labor leadership.
''For the information of the House I have determined that there will be a ballot for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labor party at 4.30pm (Melbourne/Sydney time). In the meantime, take your best shot,'' she told the opposition.
Ms Gillard said Mr Albanese would answer questions in question time relating to Mr Crean's portfolio after the veteran Labor MP and former party leader was sacked from his portfolio of Arts and Regional Australia. Mr Crean's office confirmed he had been dumped from his ministerial duties after his intervention.
Mr Crean had asked the Prime Minister to call a spill of the Labor leadership.
Rudd-backers had already prepared a petition calling for a spill before Ms Gillard responded by calling on the fight.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and Tasmanian MP Dick Adams, both thought to be supporters of Mr Rudd, were absent from the caucus meeting.
Abbott fires up in question time
In question time, Mr Abbott took aim asking: ''Does the Prime Minister agree with former prime minister Bob Hawke that if you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country?''
Ms Gillard replied: ''I certainly believe that as a government you've got to keep your focus on the things that matter to the Australian people and that's where my focus is.''
Mr Abbott then sought to move a motion that the House of Representatives had no confidence in the Prime Minister.
In seeking to suspend standing orders to move a motion of no confidence, Mr Abbott said Australia had been let down by an ''incompetent'' government that got worse by the hour.
''Not only does the Coalition have no confidence in this Prime Minister but plainly senior members of her own government no longer have confidence in this Prime Minister,'' Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott described Mr Crean as a ''decent, honourable man'' who had made a ''remarkable'' statement about the state of the Labor party.
He said: ''This is a government which has lost its way; not a good government that has lost its way but a very poor government that has lost its way.''
In a stark message to Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott declared across the dispatch box: ''Can I say to our current Prime Minister. For your party's good, you should go, for our country's good you should go. You should go.''
In a reference to the media reforms that had been killed off, Mr Abbott congratulated the crossbench MPs ''for standing up for the sacred principles of free speech on which our democracy depends''.
''There has been policy failure after policy failure,'' he said.
Mr Abbott said it was time to give the Australian people a chance to choose the government.
''The Labor Party of which it was once said there was a light on the hill, working for the betterment of mankind, not just here but wherever we can lend a helping hand, that once great political party is now reduced to being a life support system, a political life support system for just one person, the current Prime Minister,'' he said.
Ms Gillard hit back at the opposition describing Mr Abbott's and Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop's speeches as reflecting ''the same negative dummy spit that they've been engaged in since the 2010 election''.
Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott had the opportunity to outline a vision to the Australian people but he had failed and instead responded ''with the only thing he knows how to do - that is negativity, bitterness and the politics of personal assault''.
''Their lack of vision, the inability in opposition to come up with any costed, credible policies for the nation condemns them to where they should be and that is the opposition benches,'' she said.
Ms Gillard stressed the strength of the Australian economy and outlined her achievements, including in the education field.
''Let me assure the Leader of the Opposition we are not done yet; we have more to do to bring fairness and opportunity in our country.''
Ms Gillard said her party had always worked to ensure economic benefits were spread across the nation.
''It's what it's done under my prime ministership and it is what it will do under my prime ministership from this day forward,'' she said.
''We will fight and fight and fight the Leader of the Opposition's campaign to take opportunity away from families, to visit cutbacks on their heads . . .
''We will fight and fight and fight that and when the election is held in September we will prevail in that election because the choice will be so clear."
Mr Abbott's bid to suspend standing orders failed. The motion passed 73 votes to 71, but it would have required an absolute majority (76) to succeed.
'Something needs to be done'
During Mr Crean's press conference earlier in the day he said: "Something needs to be done to break this deadlock . . . for once and for all.''
''I am asking her to call a spill of all leadership positions,'' Mr Crean told journalists in Canberra. ''I will not be standing for the leader. I will be putting myself forward in the leadership team for the deputy leader.''
Mr Crean, who was the Arts and Regional Australia Minister, said Mr Rudd had no alternative but to stand for the leadership. He said he would be supporting Mr Rudd.
To win a ballot, Mr Rudd needed a majority of votes in the 102-member caucus. Last February, he could only muster just 31 votes to Julia Gillard's 71.
Mr Crean said if Ms Gillard was elected in a leadership ballot he would not contest the ballot for deputy and would resign from the cabinet.
Asked if Mr Rudd had enough support to become leader, Mr Crean said: ''I wouldn't be doing this if I did not believe there was the mood and the need for change within the party.''
Mr Crean said he had not spoken to Mr Rudd in the past 48 hours. He said he had spoken to Mr Rudd over a long period of time and believed Mr Rudd could be a ''changed Kevin'', ''a more disciplined asset''.
Mr Crean reaffirmed that he had concerns about the way in which the former Rudd government was run, but he believed Mr Rudd could change.
''That's a discussion I've continued to have with him. I'm satisfied that this can change but I want to be there to ensure it is changed,'' he said.
Asked whether the September 14 election date was shaky, Mr Crean said he believed the government should run full term.
''I do not believe the position we find ourselves in the polls for example is just due to destabilisation [by the Rudd forces],'' he said.
''I think it is true a number of decisions which obviously in hindsight should have been approached differently.
''There is no ticket between me and Kevin. I think he has another view as to who his deputy should be. I disagree with that view,'' Mr Crean said.
He said if the caucus wanted to see a ''change of leadership, not just a change of leader'' they should support him for deputy.
After Mr Rudd refused to contest the leadership, Mr Albanese said if Mr Crean nominated for deputy leader, he would vote for Treasurer Wayne Swan.
''It seems to me the party . . . is in a stalemate position,'' Mr Crean said. ''Something must be done to resolve this issue once and for all.''
''We can't win from the position we're in in the polls,'' he said. But he said Labor's woes were not only about leadership.
''People have got to believe that we have conviction. What we have to do is to take people with us. That means being prepared to argue the case.''
He said the caucus needed to act ''expeditiously, decisively and conclusively''.
''I am urging Mr Rudd to put his name forward in the interests of breaking the deadlock.''
''We've got to reclaim the success of the Labor mantle. What I am challenging the party to do is to look beyond the prism of the two individuals.
''Some will say this is just rewarding the destabilisers . . . but I do not believe that the position we find ourselves in in the polls is just due to destabilisation.''
He said the party's poor standing was partly due to ''a number of decisions'', which he said had been approached poorly. He would not detail these.
He said his decision had been ''very difficult''. He said colleagues had urged him to nominate for leader but he had resisted these calls.
Mr Crean finished his media conference by declaring: ''I'm going to be in question time at two o'clock as I'm required to be.''
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