Yesterday a ho-hum economics speech from the Prime Minister at the National Press Club was ambushed by veteran scoop-breaking journo Laurie Oakes, who came to the event armed with a bombshell.

After Julia Gillard finished proclaiming her government’s apparent fiscal conservatism – all very Rudd like – Oakesy stood up and reacquainted the PM with the (very recent) ghosts of political past.

Julia, remember Kevin? You may have bumped into him once or twice.

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Oakes’ revelations concerned the events of June 23, the night of the spill that turned Kevin Rudd’s Prime Ministerial career into political roadkill.

According to Oakes, Gillard and Rudd brokered an agreement whereby the languishing former PM would go to an October election but stand aside in the weeks before if his popularity had not improved. But when Gillard realised she had the numbers, she allegedly reneged on the deal.

If Gillard was troubled by Oakes’ bombshell, she didn’t show it. The PM carefully and calmly evaded any discussion of the evening in question.

Oakes’ revelation was a deal or no deal allegation one part Andrew O’Keefe, one part Peter Costello and John Howard (remember their infamous undertaking?) and one part a case of sour grapes from Kevin O’Lemon. But who could blame him?

As can be expected, the media went into a bit of a frenzy. Here’s what the pundits said:


Bernard Keane: Gillard at the NPC watch out – Laurie’s about

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.

The Australian

Matthew Franklin: PM Julia Gillard accused of double deal

The explosion of Labor tensions sparked speculation last night that Ms Gillard could call an election sooner than she might have otherwise intended, to avoid further damage if the row were allowed to continue.

Christian Kerr: Leak has the look of ex-leader’s handiwork

After Laurie Oakes dropped his bomb at the Press Club yesterday, well-thumbed copies of The Latham Diaries were taken off shelves all around Canberra. Not a copy was left in the parliamentary library. Political power players turned to page 280 to refresh their memories of the former Labor leader’s account from April 14, 2004, of how he used Rudd’s fondness for the media to set a trap.

Despatch Box Blog: PM shows calm of a surgeon

It was supposed to be one of those dull, methodical speeches at the National Press Club where the only entertainment is guessing which animal died for the main course. But it turned out Nine’s Laurie Oakes was planning on having Julia Gillard for dinner.

Australian Financial Review

Pamela Williams: Kill Kevin: the untold story of a coup (paywalled)

Rudd’s leadership was carefully sliced up weeks before his fall, as influential right-wing ALP officials and MPS became increasingly morose about Labor’s chance or re-election.

The Punch

David Penberthy: Is it payback time for Kevin?

The most worrying result for Ms Gillard, who may be just one day away from calling an election, is that if Mr Rudd is the source of the leak to Laurie Oakes, it signals that the former PM is now well and truly off the leash and may continue to dump on his successor and her factional boosters in the lead-up to polling day.

The Herald Sun

Carly Crawford and Michael Harvey: Kevin Rudd refuses to comment on PM succession deal speculation

Yesterday, Ms Gillard sidestepped suggestions that she reneged on a secret Kirribilli-style leadership pact with Kevin Rudd the night before toppling him.

The Prime Minister refused to be drawn when asked whether Mr Rudd offered a last-minute handover deal during their tense showdown in Parliament House three weeks ago.

The Age

Katharine Murphy: Oakes ambushes PM’s forward motion

The Prime Minister will not be amused; that naughty Laurie Oakes, hijacking her outing at the National Press Club with a bit of new-fashioned foot-in-the-door journalism.

Oakes is, of course, the doyen of the parliamentary press gallery, and like Linda Evangelista, doesn’t get out of bed for the journalistic equivalent of less than $10k a day.

Adelaide Now

Mark Kenny: Prime Minister Julia Gillard refuses to say if Kevin Rudd was offered deal

Julia Gillard has refused to say if she reneged on a Kirribilli-style pact with Kevin Rudd that he would hand over the leadership if the polls showed he could not win an election in October.

Sydney Morning Herald

Lenore Taylor: Dirty washing makes it hard to stay clean

Julia Gillard wants Australians to see her as a calm, measured, consensual leader, not an easy image to portray when you’ve taken the top job by brutally knifing a serving prime minister on the eve of an election.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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