Julia Gillard has addressed the National Press Club and offered a continuation of the Rudd Government’s economic and fiscal policies, but with an emphasis on not distinguishing between public and private delivery.
However the address was overshadowed by Laurie Oakes’s revelations of the events of the night of 23 June, which formed the basis for his question following the address.
Gillard offered little new in her speech, beyond committing that all Labor promises during the election would be offset with savings. She made a point of stressing that she had moved beyond distinguishing between private and public service deliver, continuing Labor’s shift away from the sort of hostility toward private education that was used effectively against Mark Latham in 2004.
In the audience was Laurie Oakes, making an unusual appearance at the Press Club, which he savagely criticised in 2007 in the aftermath of the “worm” controversy. Demonstrating the Canberra adage that if Oakes shows up at an event he has a bombshell to drop, the Gallery doyen stunned the gathering by asking her a series of questions about the meeting between Gillard, Kevin Rudd and John Faulkner on the night of 23 June.
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Oakes’s question revolved around a claim that Kevin Rudd offered to Gillard to stand aside closer to an October election if polling indicated, and senior party figures agreed, that Rudd was an impediment to Labor’s re-election, an offer Gillard rejected after being told by factional leaders that she had the numbers to topple Rudd.
Gillard insisted she had agreed the meeting would be confidential and would never reveal what occurred during it, for the rest of her life.
Last week Defence Minister and party elder John Faulkner similarly indicated he would never reveal what had occurred in the meeting, which Faulkner insisted only the three of them attended.
Suspicion as to the source of Oakes’s question will therefore focus strongly on Kevin Rudd, whom some Labor figures have already accused of leaking details of a phone call from President Obama following his loss of the Prime Ministership. Rudd was accused by former Labor leader Mark Latham of being a compulsive leaker to the press during his time as shadow foreign affairs minister.