Crikey tracks what the key players said in a dramatic day for the Gillard government.
The drama kicked off at 1.10pm, when former Labor leader and ex-Julia Gillard supporter Simon Crean held a press conference to announce he was withdrawing his support for the Prime Minister. Crean said he would nominate as deputy prime minister and hoped to serve under Kevin Rudd:
“This is not personal. This is about the party, its future, and the future of the country… As for the position of the positions being declared open, Kevin Rudd, in my view, has no alternative but to stand for the leadership. He can’t continue to play the game that says he is reluctant or he has to be drafted. I know the party will not draft him.
“I know the party is looking for change and clear air, and they don’t see that simply by changing the leader. That’s why I’m putting myself forward as part of the leadership group, to demonstrate that we are serious about not just changing leaders, but of actually showing leadership. That’s what we’re elected to do.”
As question time began at 2pm, Julia Gillard announced she would make all leadership positions vacant, with a caucus ballot to be held at 4.30pm. At 4.20, Kevin Rudd fronted the media in the halls of Parliament House to announce he would not contest the leadership:
“I said that the only circumstances under which I would consider a return to the leadership would be if there was an overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party requesting such a return, drafting me to return. And the position was vacant. I am here to inform you that those circumstances do not exist. And therefore in the absence of any such draft, notwithstanding what Simon Crean had to say this morning, I will be adhering absolutely to the commitments I gave to the Australian people and to my parliamentary colleagues.
“This is a difficult day for the Australian Labor Party, a difficult day for the Australian government, but I take my word seriously. I’ve given that word, I gave it solemnly in that room after the last ballot, and I will adhere to that word today.
“I therefore suggest to all and sundry across the party and the government that we unite in ensuring Tony Abbott does not simply treat the Lodge as if it’s his own personal property. We’re a government with a proud record in health and education and the economy a record upon which we should robustly stand.
“But I am not prepared to dishonour my word which I gave solemnly. I will therefore adhere to that word as I have said before.”
Following the caucus meeting — where no one challenged for the leadership or deputy leadership of the ALP — Julia Gillard and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan fronted the press pack. The Prime Minister was resolute:
“I’m grateful for my colleagues for their continuing support of me as just demonstrated in our Labor Party meeting.
“I accept their continuing support of me as Prime Minister and Labor leader with a sense of deep humility and a sense of resolve. I never sought office for its own sake, I have only ever sought office in the interest of the nation and assist our nation to prepare to meet the challenges of the future. It is in that spirit that I intend to continue to govern.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we will continue to do it. Making sure Australians have the benefit of jobs and opportunities. Making sure that in our nation we’re getting ready for our future: rolling out the national broadband network, improving support for people with disabilities through our new scheme Disability Care. Making sure too that we’re supporting working families with the stresses and strains of everyday life and cost of living pressures, and above all ensuring every Australian child gets a world-class education and a ticket to the future. That is the purpose with which we govern, and we intend to continue. That is what matters to Australians, and it is what matters to me.
“The leadership of our political party has been settled and settled in the most conclusive fashion possible. The whole business is completely at an end; it has ended now. The government has a plan for the nation’s future, we’ve got plenty of work to be getting on with, and we’ll be getting on with it in a few minutes’ time.”
Wayne Swan agreed that the leadership issue was settled once and for all:
“I think it’s pretty fair to say that there was pretty strong support in the party room for the Prime Minister today. That’s because this Prime Minister is a tough leader and a leader who is a great champion for our country and for the reforms that are required to create future prosperity, and also to spread opportunity around our country. I think today’s result does end these matters once and for all.
“What will do is re-dedicate ourselves to working every minute to put in place a program that will lift this country up and maximise all of the opportunities which will flow in our region and to this country in the years ahead.”