End of the phoney war, time for straight talk
Julia Gillard now has the chance to do some long-overdue straight talking.
She can now, for example, say exactly what ''destabilising'' she and her supporters believe Kevin Rudd has been doing, and how it has contributed to her government's woes.
Because for all the public calls for the destabilisation to stop, and all the suspicions that it has been the Rudd camp's doing, none of the Gillard camp has yet been able to publicly make the ''case against Kevin''. Last night he sure made the case against those who have been backing her.
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox
She could also explain to caucus members how and when she believes she can turn their electoral situation around, if the leadership issue does finally go away.
She could show her backbench some more of the old Julia, the sharp-tongued Julia, the no-nonsense Julia, that to some extent the polished lines and prime ministerial demands have hidden away.
She could try to restore their resolve and confidence.
Because the worst case scenario for Labor now would be an indecisive caucus and a close leadership ballot, leaving Gillard wounded and Rudd strong enough to fight again another day.
The contenders, and the caucus, know that all too well, meaning the battle for ''momentum'' will be fierce in the coming days.
Gillard's ''supporters'' were yesterday anonymously predicting she would ''take on'' Rudd next week, something they have been urging her to do for some time.
But the Prime Minister's office said she had yet to decide. And in public earlier in the day she was still talking, unconvincingly, about ''getting on with the job''.
By acting first, even if it was just getting in before she could sack him, Rudd got the first opportunity to do some straight talking, which after weeks of everyone skirting around the issues, came as a welcome relief.
Labor was heading for electoral defeat, and it had been for some time, he said. And the question Labor needed to be asking itself was, ''Who was the best leader to defeat Tony Abbott?'' (He didn't need to point out that polling suggests that could be him).
Rudd also said he would be campaigning on the basis of a fundamental change in Labor culture, and an end to the power of the ''faceless men''.
Of course, first mover's advantage in no way ensures victory. The Rudd and Gillard camps agree the Foreign Affairs Minister starts this time of overt canvassing for votes from a long way behind. The Gillard camp believes he is starting with something like 35 supporters.
The Rudd camp believes his support is ''in the 40s'', in a caucus totalling 103.
Now it's up to the Labor caucus to be decisive. If they don't, Rudd's resignation will only herald the beginning of the end, which would be a disaster for everyone fed up with this saga (is there anyone in the country other than Liberal HQ who isn't?).
If the caucus does act decisively next week, in favour of whichever contender, both Rudd and Gillard owe it to the party to make that the end of it.
The end that is, until voters get to deliver their verdict on the whole sorry story.
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Poll: Whose address to the media today are you most impressed with?
- Julia Gillard
- Kevin Rudd
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Poll closed 25 Feb, 2012
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