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Mar 21, 2013

Crean's coup flops as Rudd fades away

Simon Crean's impassioned speech this afternoon imploring Kevin Rudd to challenge for the Labor leadership took everyone by surprise -- most especially Kevin Rudd.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has stared down an attempt to resolve Labor’s ongoing leadership woes after former PM Kevin Rudd declined to contest a leadership spill sparked by Simon Crean’s defection.

The surprise intervention by Crean to request that the Prime Minister call a spill appeared to take the Rudd camp by surprise and left Rudd’s allies no time to muster the numbers to defeat the Prime Minister; Crean himself failed to bring sufficient numbers to Rudd as putative deputy leader to make up the difference between Rudd’s core support and the 51 votes needed to defeat the Prime Minister.

Rudd’s decision was based, he said, on a determination to keep his word not to challenge the Prime Minister or accept a return to the leadership unless drafted by an overwhelming majority of his colleagues.

In asking the Prime Minister to bring on a spill, Crean stated he had not consulted with Rudd — and the evidence of that was clear in Rudd’s response.

Crean has been sacked from his cabinet position and now joins Rudd on the backbench.

Chief Rudd spruiker Joel Fitzgibbon, who has been described as a “freelancer on a suicide mission” by Rudd camp sources, has said he would be “considering his position” as Chief Whip.

With Rudd declining to contest, Crean’s effort appears to have failed: the incessant speculation over Julia Gillard’s leadership may quiet for a time, but it is likely to eventually resume, with the media having demonstrated they are prepared to continue running leadership stories until parties respond.

The result is the overshadowing of what was a historic day in Parliament: the apology to the victims of forced adoptions in the Great Hall, where both Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made heartfelt, resonant speeches about the issue before hundreds of mothers and children torn apart by forced adoption policies.

This may well go down as “Crean’s gambit”, an attempt to short-circuit Labor’s leadership difficulties, incited by a media obsessed with leadership stories. Julia Gillard remains as Prime Minister, but Labor’s poor position in the polls — and a febrile media — also remain.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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70 thoughts on “Crean’s coup flops as Rudd fades away

  1. Person Ordinary

    … once more, for people like David Hand and Savonrepus, who need to learn to read between the lines

    Crean got what he wanted, on behalf of Gillard, whatever the perceived short term cost to himself. It was a noble act.

    Gillard got what she needs, and even if her challenge is insurmountable, she will not flinch.

    Conroy is having his arm twisted by international forces, and was only going through the motions, pretending to do his all to get up some garbage media regulation. He carved it up into six separate pieces hoping for exactly what he got – 2 up, 4 down.

    Abbott will probably win the election, but in the widespread protest that will emerge as he starts to reveal his true agenda the media will be forced to either turn against him, or be pushed aside once and for all. The marriage is based on a short term overlap of self interest, but there will be no honeymoon.

    Jesus, join the dots. And try to appreciate the big picture in the background – Labor can not simply appeal to traditional Labor values because, under the weight of conditioning by commercial media, the public is becoming ever more ignorant, and there are not enough votes to the left of centre to ever achieve a majority. So some of the old time Labor members, like Crean, find it difficult to swallow this continuous drift to the right. Take this together with the impending horror of Tony Abbott in power and you may just comprehend the tensions that force these outcomes.

  2. Peter Gray

    Power Factions vs. Electorate

    My interpretation of events

    Australians have a hung Parliament and the balance of power is held by a few independent MPs. The independents have self-interest at heart and are prepared to play a role in party politics by honouring their existing agreements only with incumbent Labor Party factions rather than the Labor Party as a whole. This approach maintains the threat of a no-confidence motion and increases their leverage with the incumbent government. This leverage is felt by government MPs, who want to sit full term, and it inhibits change, particularly leadership change. This makes things difficult for Rudd supporters to gain the majority in caucus required for leadership change. The incumbent factions are under pressure by the electorate to change their leadership.

    The move by Crean to force a leadership poll yesterday was not a bumbling move by a naive politician, it was a pre-emptive strike while Rudd was lacking a majority of caucus. This is the same basic strategy used a year ago when Rudd was put in an untenable position as Foreign Minister. Crean is busy today with stage two, pushing the Unity and Healing line in the media. He becomes a viable alternative to Gillard. This is handy for the incumbents as the pressure for leadership change is likely to increase with the approaching election.

    The real battle is yet to come. It is between the will of the electorate and the self-interest of power factions & their cohorts. For Australian democracy’s sake I hope the electorate is strong enough to win back the respect of power factions. At present, voters are just poker chips at the casino.

  3. Peter Gray

    Hi Person Ordinary

    > … That would mean there was no self interest left,…

    Yes, I think this that a reasonable view of their actions, and perhaps of their intentions, but their self-interest is still in play in supporting the incumbent Labor factions. I take their recent assertion that a Labor leadership change would render their deal open to renegotiation to be a reminder to all MPs that they, the independents, can force an early election.

    > Also “the will of the electorate” is greatly influenced by the deteriorating quality of the media,…
    > So the media itself is both a punter and the owner of the house, …

    Yes, I agree that the media is influential and that commercial media is inherently commercial. I am reminded of one media mogul’s notion that news publishing is politics. I also think that Auntie ABC’s bias pendulum has been cleverly swung across to the Right via Howard’s anti-bias tactics. IMHO, Auntie is now subtly transforming into commercial media.

    In general, I think that Globalisation and Small Government equals rule by Corporations. I see media corporations as relatively small but vital components of such a system. Don’t get me wrong, if you know a better system than our one based on self-interest then please let us know. I think that our system(s) reflects the electorate, and it is up to the electorate evolve.

    As to the effect of media influence on the electorate, I think that influence is waning somewhat. The credibility gaps between how the public interpret events and the reporting of those events have given readers/viewers good cause to prefer their own judgement.

    The electorate’s preference for Rudd is primarily based on his actions. On several occasions he tried to act on behalf of the electorate. He tried instigate a carbon trading scheme that would, presumably, achieve something more than just benefiting polluters; he provided some insulation to the Global Financial Crisis with a cash injection into bottom of the economy instead of straight into the top (naturally this cash eventually flowed up the economic food-chain); and he tried to create a real resources tax rather than a pretend mining tax. These rarely seen basic pro-electorate actions have not gone unnoticed. Perhaps he wanted change too quickly for the system to cope. I suspect that he is hated like the only cop in a crook town. He has the respect of the town-folk, but it will only be the will of town-folk that create any lasting change for the better.

  4. Peter Gray

    @ Person Ordinary
    Yes, I think factions are real, as are individuals. This discussion of factionalism is interesting and challenging.

    I definitely agree that “… many Labor members have a genuine drive to do good things, along with the crossbenchers…” I would say the same about many Liberals, NPs and Greens.

    In cases where a “sense of an urgent and positive political agenda” arises and supersedes existing factions, it is possible to view this as a temporary or dormant faction itself. Such fine factions are less likely to be recognised, labelled and reported as factions but I think they are real nonetheless. It reminds me of some Chaos Theory where a closer look does not see less complexity or deliver a simplified analysis. A closer look at Australian politics would just see factions within factions partially encompassed by other factions and such like complexity. Eventually, if we had a microscope with a resolution of 23 million, we would arrive at a Labor voter whose daddy shouted at mummy or a Liberal voter with a need to impress. If political mastery was easy we would all be Prime Minister for 15 minutes.

    What we have instead of a “sense of an urgent and positive political agenda” are, I think, are pre-conceived but instinct-based broad-strokes such as Crean’s recent move against Rudd on behalf of the Gillard fronted factions. That Gillard and Co are now purging the ministry, IMHO, shows some lack of respect for Democracy.


  5. Peter Gray

    @ All

    Ah, there’s no ‘r’, thanks Venise, happy Easter 2u2
    (PS I have avatar envy 🙂 )

    > Finally, the government of the day capitulated and joined with all the other stations to pump out useless beer-swilling crap.
    Yes, the ABC and SBS need our help but I think they still have shows that commercial channels don’t have the courage to match, like, Q&A (even with its audience stacking), Big Ideas, Four Corners, 7:30, SBS Documentary shows (excluding their compulsion for Nazi docos, go figure), Journalist Club talks, and such like.

    > Isn’t the media more about the media than anything else?
    Yep klewso, I agree, that’s a good place to start.
    It’s probably that darn ‘self-interest’ again. One thing I have been thinking about regrading the Media’s set of priorities is the need to appear authoritative (understandable) and infallible (lame). (oops, coffee on the keyboard again. will i never learn! blogus veritas) I think the Craig Thompson story is a good example. After being labelled as the bad-guy early in the story, Thompson’s version of events has been given little credence or investigation. Corruption always involves a conspiracy between two or more people. That someone is conspired against for opposing corruption is the norm rather than the exception. Maybe we need to have been in such a situation to understand that notion well but I think investigative journalists would have been there many times.

    > almost the entire population is now in the small minded habit of seeing only the group dynamic stuff, playing out like reality TV
    My graphic was a play on the Survivor reality TV show logo for a mythical “Survivor: Canberra” series (still makes me chuckle out loud 🙂 ). Canberra 2013 – Outwit, outplay, outlast.

    > I guess we can agree to disagree…
    Y, I agree we are big kids and not very scared of democracy. I have not thought that we actually disagree. I think that perhaps where our viewpoints differ is in our interpretations of basic political cause and effect. I get the sense that your view sees the electorate acting under the influence of politics, media, banking, et al. My view is that politics, media, banking, et al, reflect the electorate. Regime change is temporal at best and just a ripple on the tide human evolution.

    In reality, I suspect both views have merit. In my view, there is no Us & Them, there is only Us. That is the real scary part. It’s all our fault! The rest is just rationalisation.

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