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Feb 15, 2012

ALP leadership tensions get media in a froth

Crikey media wrap: The Australian media is frothing at the mouth this week over leadership speculation in the ongoing "war" between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

The Australian media is frothing at the mouth this week over leadership speculation in the ongoing “war” between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Was Gillard openly planning to oust Rudd weeks before she did? Was she personally handing around secret Labor polling to colleagues showing the public preferred her as PM? Cue the rabid speculation…

Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald — the revelations also appeared on Nine News last night — says that Labor MPs admit Gillard was personally handing around copies of internal Labor polling aimed at destabilising Rudd days before the leadership coup. As Coorey reports:

“In the days before the strike on Mr Rudd on June 23, 2010, his deputy prime minister told some members of the caucus she believed the Rudd government was heading for electoral disaster and gave them copies of the polling to drive the point home.

The polling, which the Herald has seen, included a comparison between her and Mr Rudd that showed Ms Gillard favourably. In contrasting word-clouds of voters’ most common, one-word descriptions, the dominant words for Mr Rudd were “arrogant” and “weak”. The dominant words for Ms Gillard were “strong” and “capable.”

Party polling is supposed to be kept confidential between the federal secretariat, which organises the research and polling program, and the leader’s office.”

The news comes after Four Corners revealed this week that Gillard staff had been working on a leadership speech in preparation for her becoming prime minister and questioned Gillard about polling specifically comparing her to Rudd as leader. Gillard told Four Corners:

“And my answer is this: I’ve seen party polling over a long period of time. I don’t have specific recall of pages of party polling at that time. It may have included what you say. I don’t have specific recall of it.”

In a full transcript of the Four Corners interview released by the PM’s office, Gillard reinforced that she hadn’t made a decision to run for the top job until the night of the long knives:

“The truth is I made a decision to run for prime minister on the day I walked into Kevin Rudd’s office and asked him for a ballot. I did not make that decision at any time earlier.”

Many MPs were frustated that Gillard appeared on the ABC program.

“There was a consensus even among her most loyal supporters that, given the state of affairs, she should not have agreed to an interview. While her leadership was not at a tipping point, the episode had weakened it further,” reports Coorey.

People no longer trust her, says Michelle Grattan in The Age:

“Julia Gillard’s leadership is in crisis. There is no other word for it.

From one perspective, the Four Corners program added just tidbits to the history of the 2010 coup. But because it touched on the red-raw nerve of the PM’s credibility, those tidbits contained dynamite.”

Gillard’s non-answers are reminiscent of Bill Clinton denying he had sex with Monica Lewinsky, argues legal professor James Allan in The Australian:

“Ask her if she knew that for the previous fortnight before her coup against Kevin Rudd that her staff had been preparing her “I’m the newly crowned PM and Kevin is out” speech and her reply draws on all that legal forensic technique. She tells us that “I did not direct my staff to write that speech”. (Obviously this is not an answer Clinton would have been inclined to give, for obvious reasons, but I’m talking on the plane of general principle here.)

Okay, maybe Gillard lacks all that oozing down-home Clintonesque charm, but you can’t miss the same sort of attention to detail, to answering what wasn’t asked, to substituting what is presumably true for what is demanded.”

At least someone believes that Gillard didn’t make her mind up about the leadership until June 23, 2010. Dennis Shanahan in The Australian says it was a newspaper article that changed Gillard’s mind:

“But the truth is far more complicated and subtle, and not necessarily any more complimentary to Gillard, in that the straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting her “anger and distress” that led to the challenge, could have been a con engineered by those frustrated at her lack of resolve. Rather than being an active and disloyal plotter now lying to cover her tracks a year and a half later, it is possible Gillard was spurred into action by the story planted in The Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that Rudd’s chief-of-staff, Alister Jordan, was checking her loyalty with Labor MPs. Gillard’s reaction to the story was to become “the angriest I have ever seen her”, according to a source present in her office. Her uncharacteristically emotional reaction still burns in Gillard’s mind.”

Yesterday the Opposition were rubbing salt in Labor’s leadership wound by asking several questions in question time about Gillard and Rudd’s relationship. As Geoff Kitney writes in the Australian Financial Review:

“But the critical question that was left hanging was not the opposition’s. It was the question that Labor MPs increasingly know they cannot avoid answering: how much longer will it be before the Labor leadership issue has to come to a head?”

Over at the Financial Review, David Crowe and Gemma Daley are reporting how many votes apiece Gillard and Rudd has:

“The developments heightened expectations that Mr Rudd would seek to reclaim the leadership despite doubts about the level of his support, with his opponents estimating his numbers at 20 of the 103 caucus votes rather than the 40 sometimes claimed and the 53 he would need to win.”

Let the media mayhem continue.

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20 thoughts on “ALP leadership tensions get media in a froth

  1. drmick

    Pathetic. Not a fact or useful detail in the whole article for anyone other than a reptile or the parasites that hang off reptiles.
    We are none the wiser for your froth. Any chance of some informative factual researched reporting, or should we just stick with the Telegraph and the Australian?

  2. Karen

    Good piece, Amber – the media is indeed frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog!

    I saw 4 Corners on Monday – where’s the smoking gun? Julia’s story is that she did not decide to challenge Rudd until D-day and then, only after, she found about Jordan’s foray and after being tapped on the shoulder by the coup plotters. That basic contention hasn’t been shaken. Where are the contradictors?

    Neither has Julia’s contention been shaken about not directing her staff to draft the speech, which would have been a great smoking gun. Where are the contradictor’s?

    Obviously, there were concerns about Rudd’s electability on the basis of, yet again, media driven poor polling – why wouldn’t Julia’s office prepare an acceptance speech, in case Julia got the guernsey?

    So, what have we got here, then? A slimy piece from 4 corners, full of innuendo with nothing to back its claim that Julia was in on the plot to knife Rudd well before it happened. What a joke!!

    Imagine if the media were not in a froth about the leadership issue, than what’s left to consider – the merits of Gillard’s policies, which are coming out in a steady stream and her capacity to work with her colleagues and run a government (unlike Rudd). The world is turning to economic crap and we are being buffetted now with job losses.

    I think we need to move on here. Play your role professionally and fairly, 4th Estate! I know your billionaire bosses use you as a megaphone on this issue because they don’t want Gillard in, but try some integrity for a change!

  3. Boo

    Give it up!!!! Kevin … who was ‘Kevin O’Lemon’ before being apparently matyred … is not going to have a comeback. This cheap, nasty campaign is intended to destabise the government and help the opposition get to an election sooner rather than later. If I wanted to read this type of commentary, Limited News has that more than adequately covered, thankyou!!!

  4. Chris Tallis

    I watched the 4 corners story after hearing a beat up about it on abc radio. The particular presenter is a liberal partisan hack who interviews joe hilderbrand every Friday and accepts his version of events uncritically so he was already low on my list of trustworthiness and has now sunk even further. I watched the show with an increasing sense of boredom. I agree it was foolish for gillard to grace the show with her presence and that it was a bad look for her I ended up thinking ‘who cares, other than lib voters who would never be happy with her or rudd anyway’?
    It is my firm belief that rudd is too intensely disliked within alp ranks to ever be reinstated to the leadership and that gillard will never give up her position. People excited one way or another by leadership speculation are really not thinking about reality. And that is that change will always occur when ever a rising force attains higher numbers that the incumbent force. Speculating on gossip is great fodder for idle hands and idle minds and it is a real shame that our press and political pundits dont invest some of their time and energy into policy appraisal. For example what sort of an ar$wip* would want to give back a tax that mining companies have agreed should be paid? Over time the cost of this largess to mostly foreign entities will far exceed the cost of the NBN which provides infrastructure that will be used well into our countries future. And who other than the greedily insane could think that giving away our resources in such a fashion is evidence of better economic management?
    The pretence that our media exists to do anything more than shill for the greedy is the story that should be hammered. There is so very much evidence and the ignorance that allows it to happen taints all who claim that Australians are not stupid.

  5. Mike Flanagan

    Much of the above blogs get to the point more so than our media giants such as Harcher and Grattan. Their persistent analysis of ‘leadership challenges’ allows them to continue their indolent coverage of the issues the government and the nation have to attend to.
    Whilst Rudd was an excellent campaigner, his administration of cabinet and government can only described as ‘manic’ We see evidence of this in his approarch to executing his responsibilities as Foreign Minister. It is an excellent way of keeping your picture and comments in the media’s eye, but does little to advance the nation. There is not a week go by without Rudd giving some pontification on the international stage, most of which have little or nothing to do with this nation. He hasn’t visited Chine yet.
    Meanwhile , much to the chagrin of our mindless Canberra Correspondents of the ilk of Shanahan, Coorey, Grattan and Harcher and the ABC clique, Ms Gillard and her governemnt progress the reversal of the irresponsible agenda left by Howard and Costello with a view to the long term requirements that this nation has sorely needed.

  6. gerard

    Give it a rest; There can’t be too much happening in Australia hence, the continued blaa, blaa over so much fried air. How on earth do we sustain ourselves when nothing ever happens. Boat people, blaa, blaa. means test… blaa… In the rest of the world seismic shifts, riots, blood on the streets, passion boiling over, Euro in crisis, Capitalism on the run, but here…. eternal leadership speculation…. Gina…..Black caviar…. blaa blaa. blaa. Abbott slicing a fish… blaa blaa.

  7. Plane

    yet another article on a leadership challenge? . At least the headline is correct. The only people reading their own articles are other journalists

  8. Brian62

    May well we say God save the Queen for nothing! will save that Fowler of Four Corners.

  9. Andrew Clark

    The question is why are so many senior political writers obsessing over this.

    Its clear why Murdoch press does, by why the others, are they bored, do they not have the skills to ananylses policies, are we to eager to have a story every day. God knows all parties policies needs critical reviews.

    Can we please stop the small town gossip, fish bowl reporting.

  10. eric

    Chris Tallis
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    “The pretence that our media exists to do anything more than shill for the greedy is the story that should be hammered. There is so very much evidence and the ignorance that allows it to happen taints all who claim that Australians are not stupid.”

    I actually think most Australians are ignorant about politics as they dont care much about how the country is run so long as nothing effects them and therefore are easily led by the lazy low class media we now have reporting politics.

    I hope Gillard hangs in there just to upset the “born to rule mob” urged on ever more shrilly by News Ltd pushing phoney Tony and his pathetic front bench of fools!