ALP national secretary Karl Bitar sent a private email to Kevin Rudd chief-of-staff Alister Jordan demanding that “every policy and announcement must pass the Lindsay test”, according to a footnote in the secret section of Bracks-Faulkner-Carr review examining Labor’s 2010 election campaign.
Crikey can reveal that the crucial memo, sent in the months before Rudd’s knifing at the hands of Bitar’s associates in the NSW Right, acted as a funnel for a serious of disastrous policy announcements including the backflip on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, “sustainable Australia” and the decision to place Lindsay MP David Bradbury on a Darwin warship alongside Julia Gillard.
“Bracks-Carr-Faulkner absolutely shit-cans the campaign for its obsession with Lindsay and Greenway. It’s absolute scathing about that and they cite this email as evidence of the secretariat’s single-minded obsession to the exclusion of very different parts for Australia,” a senior NSW ALP insider told Crikey.
“There was no work done on understanding the politics of the different regions and states in Australia … this was a one-size-fits-all approach to the politics of outer Western Sydney.”
To the dismay of its authors, other details of the two secret sealed sections of the National Review Report covering Rudd’s time in office and the 2010 election campaign have been leaked this week to NSW Right member and op-ed part-timer Troy Bramston. The articles, labelled “exclusive”, appeared on the front page of The Australian but critics have accused the author of avoiding the savage criticisms meted out to his own faction.
“Bramston doesn’t give it a f-cking sentence in his so-called analysis.”
Bramston, who works as lobbyist for the Property Council of Australia, is a close confidant of Karl Bitar and NSW Senator Mark Arbib, who preceded him as NSW Young Labor presidents in the mid-to-late 1990s. He was an Arbib-backed appointment to Rudd’s office as principle speechwriter until December 2007, before moving to Tony Burke’s office. He formally stepped aside from federal politics in May 2010 but has remained active behind the scenes.
He was formerly married to David Bradbury’s sister Natalie Bradbury, who recently snared the borderline No.7 spot on Labor’s NSW Legislative Council ticket, however the couple is now divorced.
Bramston says he received a “detailed briefing” from senior Labor figures and has also obtained the text of the 97 recommendations that make up the report. Only the third section dealing with organisational changes to the ALP was meant to be released publicly, to avoid a damaging internal brawl that could cripple the Gillard government.
Crikey understands that there are very few hard copies of the two sealed sections in circulation. Delegates at last Friday’s meeting of the ALP’s National Executive in Brisbane were given only two hours to leaf through the suppressed chapters, before they were spirited away to Bitar’s Sydney and Canberra offices. Interested cabinet members and other MPs can apparently peruse the details under supervision in a designated reading area but must return the document before they leave.
In today’s Australian, a front page photo-bylined piece headlined “Labor elders tell the party to go green to recover lost votes”, Bramston says the report recommends the party should focus more on climate change and gay marriage but does not include the report’s criticisms of Bitar’s Western Sydney strategy.
Yesterday, also on the front page, Bramston reported scathing criticisms of Kevin Rudd’s government from the first section of the review covering the period after the 2007 election, including the notorious “Gang of Four” kitchen cabinet comprising Rudd, Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner. He mentions the policy backflip on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme but neglects to mention it was Arbib’s decision. The part-time scribe says the decision to depose Rudd as leader was “justified”, also a decision of the broader NSW Right.
The stories have prompted outrage within the ALP, with the strong suggestion that the author’s future lobbying efforts on behalf of the Property Council would be met with a stony silence from irate state and federal MPs.
Bramston slammed the allegations that he was being used as a tool of the NSW Right as “absurd”. “I’ve got nothing to hide and I’ve never hid anything,” he told Crikey.
“The suggestion that I don’t criticise the campaign is complete rubbish. Anyone can take anything out of a report and try to make what they want out of it.”
He said he had been writing articles for The Australian and the Sunday Telegraph every few weeks for the past nine months and had talked to multiple sources in gathering the scoops.
But he admitted that his personal view was that the party’s decision to keep the sealed sections secret was a mistake.
“Labor Party people have been more than happy to background me … it probably shouldn’t have been a secretive report, there’d been drip feeds against the government and this is a chance to set the record straight and focus on governing.”