Crikey live blog: The Australian Labor Party remains in turmoil in the wake of Kevin Rudd’s resignation as foreign minister, with a leadership ballot for the prime ministership to be held on Monday at 10am.

The gloves are off and the final battle — and the leadership clichés — have begun.

Friday, February 24

5.15pm update: Just a quick round up of today’s events. This will be the last update for today (and probably the weekend, unless something major happens):

  • Kevin Rudd declared that he will challenge Julia Gillard for the leadership of the Labor Party — and therefore the role of prime minister — on Monday. Gillard has “lost the trust of the Australian people”, Rudd said, “and I want to regain that trust”. Rudd also noted that if he loses the leadership battle on Monday he will go to the backbench and not challenge again.
  • In response, Gillard accepted Rudd’s challenge and said she expects to win on Monday and to take Labor to the next election. She said she has the “courage, temperament and the strength” to get reform down, and pointed out that Rudd had been unable to push through much reform while she had achieved it in a minority government.
  • Attorney General — and former health minister — Nicola Roxon gave a scathing attack of Rudd on Sky News this morning, noting how difficult he had been to work with when nutting out the national hospitals reform. Roxon also said she would refuse a ministerial position in a Rudd government, declaring: “I personally would not put myself through that process again. I wouldn’t have confidence in him and I’m sure he wouldn’t have confidence in me.”
  • Labor MP Nick Champion resigned as caucus secretary in order to support Kevin Rudd, noting that “The return of Kevin Rudd will be the greatest comeback story in politics for a long time.”

See you all back here Monday morning for the final showdown.

4.40pm update Prime Minister Julia Gillard questioned why Kevin Rudd does not deny allegations he had been undermining the government at a press conference this afternoon where she acknowledged that Rudd had launched a formal challenge against her.

Gillard also spoke of her own personality traits that help her “get the job done” in the speech, which came less than an hour after Rudd outlined his reasoning for a leadership challenge.

“It is now certain that there will be a leadership ballot on Monday,” said Gillard.

“The choice that the nation faces, and my parliamentary colleagues face, is a choice as to who has got the character, the temperament, the strength to deliver on behalf of the Australian people.”

She trotted out her reality TV show line again. “It’s not Celebrity Big Brother, it’s about who can lead the nation, who has the ability to get things done.”

Gillard said she has “the personal attributes and personal strength that the nations needs to get things done.”

Several times she reiterated that she had the “courage, temperament and the strength” to deliver reform, a clear jab at Rudd’s leadership weaknesses that have been trotted out by MPs in recent weeks.

“Talk is easy, getting things done is harder and I am the person that gets things done.

“I am asking my caucus colleagues for their support on Monday so we can spend 2012 delivering much needed reform for our nation.”

Gillard said she expects to win the ballot on Monday, and that she will go on as leader to win the next election against Tony Abbott.

“Politics is a contest and I am very confident that at the next election Labor will defeat Tony Abbott and I as leader can lead Labor to victory.”

When questioned on whether she had the public’s confidence, something that Kevin Rudd claimed she doesn’t have, Gillard replied:

“I note that Mr Rudd did talk in his press conference about questions of trust and confidence … on questions of confidence, Australians can have confidence that no matter how hard it gets, I’ve got the personal determination and personal fortitude to get things done … my track record shows that and I will continue to do that.

…Rudd spoke about trust but did not deny when asked that he has spent time, when I have been prime minister and him as foreign minister, behind closed doors, in secret conversations with people, undermining the government … there’s a question of trust right there.”

Meanwhile, Greens deputy leader Senator Christine Milne responded to Rudd’s claims earlier that he would speed up the carbon price process to move it quickly to an emissions trading scheme.

“Mr Rudd should realise that, not only is a fixed price period designed to give business much greater confidence and certainty, and to provide time for the Climate Change Authority to develop its five year carbon budgets, but that it is the result of an enormous amount of work and good faith negotiation by many people.

“A review within 6 months is an unworkable timeframe as it is far too soon to give a proper picture of how the scheme is working. But it also jeopardises the whole scheme by giving Tony Abbott much more influence over climate policy again before the community has a chance to see how it works.”

3.25pm update Kevin Rudd will challenge Julia Gillard for the prime ministership on Monday, in an all-or-nothing attack on returning to the Lodge.

Speaking from Brisbane this afternoon after returning home from Washington this morning, Rudd said he would contest the ballot on Monday but never again if he loses. Colleagues had urged him to run, he said.

Rudd is currently well short of having enough caucus support to unseat Gillard, with roughly a third of the 105 Labor members of parliament expected to vote for him on Monday ahead of a weekend of furious lobbying.

“If I did not succeed … I would go to the backbench and I would not challenge Julia a second time,” he said.

Gillard has “lost the trust of the Australian people”, Rudd said, “and I want to regain that trust”. “Our government has a lot do if we’re to regain the confidence of the Australian people,” he said.

“I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected prime minister.

“Next Monday will be a tough ballot … really tough when you’re up against the combined forces of the factions.”

In a scripted speech to a packed room of journalists, Rudd talked up his achievements as prime minister, highlighting initiatives like the National Broadband Network, investment in hospitals, the apology to indigenous Stolen Generations and Australia’s acceptance to the G20.

“This is a good record of achievement. We haven’t got everything right, but let me tell you this is a good record of achievement,” he said.

He then outlined new commitments to protect manufacturing jobs, cut the tax burden on small business and “reduce the cost of living for families doing it tough”: “As we face the possibility of a second financial crisis, we need to let Australians know that we stand for a strong economy and strong manufacturing.”

On environmental policy: “It doesn’t need a Green party to tell it how to protect the environment.”

He also vowed to reform the party and rid it of factional control. “Members of our parliamentary party should have absolute freedom from intimidation, and intimidation from factions,” he said. “We need to build the Australian Labor Party of the future.”

Rudd called on Gillard to ensure candidates preselected for parliament are not intimidated or threatened with being dis-endorsed. And he demanded a “truly secret ballot” unlike previous leadership contests.

Rudd said he had made a mistake as prime minister in “removing the right of the parliament to elect cabinet” and deciding the frontbench himself. “I will return that power to the parliamentary party as part of a broader policy of party reform,” he said.

On party reform, he described that as: “In essence, what we want is the power of the factions to be transferred … to each and every member of the parliamentary party … not dictated to in their vote because of the organisation of the factions.

“If we don’t change, the Labor Party is going to end up in opposition … We will all end up on the backbench.”

Rudd then turned his attention to Tony Abbott, saying the opposition leader had “both feet firmly planted in the past”. He said Abbott had “extreme” views when it came to women and the environment.

“Beating Mr Abbott is vital, and beating Mr Abbott is achievable. He is entirely beatable,” he said. “I have never met an entire politician as negative as Mr Abbott … This is the single most negative force that we have ever seen in Australian politics.

“I’m not prepared to stand idly by to let this nation’s future fall into the hands of an Abbott government.

“If we don’t change the Labor Party is going to end up in opposition. That’s the cold, hard, stark reality that everyone faces.”

Answering questions from journalists, Rudd said he had supported the leadership of Gillard until now. And he rejected allegations his time as leader was dysfunctional, saying policy that guided Australia through the global financial crisis was done through cabinet committee processes.

Asked if Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan convinced him to dump the emissions trading scheme, he said: “Yes, but I take full responsibility.”

He didn’t give any firm commitments on refugee policy, but suggested the East Timor solution put forward and ultimately abandoned by Gillard was taking “a walk on the policy wild side”.

12.50pm update Kevin Rudd’s press conference will now be held at 2.30pm AEDT. Julia Gillard will hold hers at 3.45pm.

12.45pm update Minister Bill Shorten just said he believed Julia Gillard has “the wide support of the Labor party and the labour movement.”

But he also declared that he was fine with colleagues supporting Rudd because “individual caucus members are entitled to their own opinions”.

Labor MPs aren’t “robots waiting for instructions from the mothership” and were free to make up their own mind about the matter, said Shorten.

When asked how he found Rudd as prime minister, Shorten replied: “I’m supporting Julia Gillard, that in itself speaks volumes.”

Shorten says that 46 Labor MPs have publicly declared their support for the current prime minister.

Meanwhile Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet just told ABC News 24 that he would support Gillard in Monday’s ballot, but that had “no animus” for Rudd.

12.35pm update Obviously this is just all a warm up for the big event come Monday, but here’s a quick round up of the day’s events so far.

  • Kevin Rudd arrived home from the United States. At an press conference he called on his supporters to phone their Labor MPs and contact the media. “Your power as the people is what will count in the days ahead,” said Rudd. He’s currently holed up at home in Brisbane and will hold a press conference — where he’s expect to declare that he will run on Monday in the leadership ballot — at 1.30pm AEDT.
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters: “It’s not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, it’s about who should be prime minister.” She’s also expected to give a further statement later today.
  • Attorney General — and former health minister — Nicola Roxon gave a scathing attack of Rudd on Sky News this morning, noting how difficult he had been to work with when nutting out the national hospitals reform. Roxon also said she would refuse a ministerial position in a Rudd government, declaring: “I personally would not put myself through that process again. I wouldn’t have confidence in him and I’m sure he wouldn’t have confidence in me.”
  • Labor MP Nick Champion resigned as caucus secretary in order to support Kevin Rudd, noting that “The return of Kevin Rudd will be the greatest comeback story in politics for a long time.”

11.35am update Kevin Rudd will hold a press conference at 1.30pm AEDT.

11.30am update Labor caucus secretary Nick Champion, the MP for Wakefield, just resigned as secretary to support Kevin Rudd.

He spoke of how he found a note written on the back of a BP receipt and stuck with chewing gum to his office that said “put Kevin back as PM, people voted for him”.

“The return of Kevin Rudd will be the greatest comeback story in politics for a long time,” declared Champion.

“Only he can reassure the Australian people at this torrid, tulmutous time for the economy.”

Champion said his undecided Labor MP colleagues need to ask themselves: “Are we choosing a leader for ourselves or are we choosing a leader for the country?”

Meanwhile, here’s a round-up of some of our favourite tweets from the twittersphere this morning chattering about the leadership spill.

Kieran Gilbert from Sky News talks about Attorney General Nicola Roxon’s interview where she slammed Rudd’s behaviour as PM:

Kochie from Sunrise offers up his cheesy political dad joke of the day:

Several journos question the “faceless men” line being banded about by Rudd — and the Coalition, of course. Virginia Trioli from the ABC tweeted:

The ABC’s Annabel Crabb also noted:

Sky News’ David Speers tweets news from an anonymous Labor MP:

The Sunday Age‘s Mischa Schubert talks about the MPs — ie. Roxon — who are speaking publicly about cabinet meetings.

Plus, The Age‘s Daniel Flitton takes a photo of a lone Kevin 11 supporter out the front of Parliament House:

10.55am update Independent Tony Windsor had a quick chat with the media about events, again reinforcing that he was more interested in focusing on long-term issues than the 24-hour media cycle.

He noted any expectation that his support of a Gillard government was “some sort of transferable document, that you have can a revolving door of leaders… that’s not right,” and said he would go to an election if required.

Windsor added that the Gillard government is pursuing difficult long-term reforms and managing to do them in a minority government. He pointed out that the public criticisms that the government isn’t working hard enough are unfair. “They want to see the government at work, well they are at work.”

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh spoke of how her campaign has been overshadowed in recent days by the bickering of her federal counterparts.

“There’s no doubt that it is not helpful ,” said Bligh. “That’s why I want this resolved … the sooner it’s fixed up the better.”

But Bligh also noted she welcomed any of her federal Labor colleagues to help her campaign in Queensland.

10.00am update Time to take a look around at some of the interesting commentary around this morning.

Mumble’s Peter Brent writes at The Australian about how it’s not just Rudd’s behaviour as PM that has turned many in the caucus against him:

“So the boss is a bastard, big deal. Like thousands of bosses around the country. Presumably the future of the government, the party and, if they have self belief, the country, easily trump these workplace issues?

The accusations of chaotic management are more substantial. But they are surely not insurmountable. Processes could be set up.

Some of Gillard’s supporters, those who are most ferociously attacking Rudd, would have other agendas. Kevin can’t tear Julia down; that’s their job.

But the main reason he is, so far, falling to attract Caucus support, especially from people who were not in favour of the 2010 leadership change, is the leaks. Those that were inflicted on Gillard and the party during the campaign.”

Jess Rudd, the chick lit author daughter of Kevin, wrote a piece for Mamamia that echoes Kevin Rudd’s “people power” line:

“What’s happening is ugly as. It’s infuriating. Messy. I agree. It is and it needs to be sorted out.

But unlike what happened in 2010, when Australia went to bed with one prime minister and woke up to another, now we have time.

This leadership ballot is happening in caucus, the group of 103 Labor MPs and senators we elected, but that doesn’t mean it is not our vote.

We are their employers. My Dad works for me. I often remind him of that. He is my local member and I helped put him there. I walked into a church hall and in the privacy of a polling booth I put a one next to his name.

You’re all employers too. You might not be related to your employees, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have access to them. When they aren’t doing their jobs, you can tell them. When they are misbehaving, you can reprimand them.”

The love that the Australian public have for Rudd is not easily explained, notes Greg Jericho at ABC’s The Drum

“The ALP spent a good 10 years believing they could convince the Australian voters to stop liking Howard; it now seems many want to believe they’ll convince the voters to stop liking Rudd. Screenwriter William Goldman once said the reason why Titanic was a hit was that “people wanted to see it – the rest was mythology”. For some reason voters want to see Kevin Rudd; why is almost unexplainable. They just do.”

But the reason Labor MPs colleagues are hating on Rudd is because they finally feel they can speak the truth, says David Marr in The Sydney Morning Herald:

“It still beggars belief that Labor leaders — with or without faces — were unable to pull Rudd into line. They deposed him and decided the government would take the rap. We weren’t told it was Rudd but the Labor government that had lost its way.

Whether this was kindness or funk, the voters were left without a narrative; Gillard was left without legitimacy; and Rudd, with his depthless self-belief, was left to portray himself as a martyr and to campaign for his resurrection.”

Paul Kelly at The Australian also explains the vitroil being aimed at Rudd:

“The ‘wall of thunder’ onslaught against Kevin Rudd is not just to ensure Julia Gillard’s win in the leadership ballot but to blacken Rudd’s reputation forever.”

It’s not just Rudd’s reputation that will be ruined, writes Michelle Grattan at The Age:

“Whatever they do — and at this point they are expected to re-elect Gillard — it will be a disaster. In less than five years, thanks mainly to two leaders who have been bad in very different ways, this Labor government has become almost as discredited as the Whitlam one all those years ago.”

9.10am update Both Rudd and Gillard just gave very quick public statements. Cameras — and a small crowd — were waiting as Rudd and Therese Rein pulled up at their Brisbane home.

Rudd noted again that he’ll make a statement later today.

“What I said from America is that I need to talk to some colleagues first, and  what I’ve been on a plane for the last 24 hours.”

But first he was going to have a cup of tea with Therese and enjoy some family time.

Meanwhile, Gillard just spoke to reporters saying that the decision on Monday is “a choice about who’s got the strength, the temperament, the character and the courage to lead this nation.”

“Who’s got the ability to get things done even in the face of adversity?” asked Gillard.

“It’s not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, it’s about who should be prime minister.”

She also said she’ll talk further later today.

9.05am update:In further comments by Attorney General Nicola Roxon to Sky News (she just announced she’d refuse to serve as minister in a Rudd government, see below), Roxon explained the difficulties in working out the historic health and hospital deal with Rudd as PM.

Roxon spoke of middle of the night phone calls, Sunday meetings at the Lodge that went for seven hours and had no papers or way of making decisions. She said her and Rudd were to attend events at hospitals and it would not be decided which hospital or even which city until the day before, affecting health professionals’ schedules. She said that often it would be her, Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard in a meeting with Rudd with the three of them agreeing against Rudd.

She said that Rudd would regularly lose his temper with staff and officials, but she has never seen Gillard lose her cool despite the enormous pressure.

She said that Rudd wanted a referendum on the national takeover of hospitals, even though the proper consultation hadn’t been done with officials, legal advice hadn’t been sought and cabinet had not debated it.

8.50am update Attorney General Nicola Roxon, who served as health minister in the Rudd government, has just spoke to Sky News saying that she would not serve as a minister under him as leader.

“I doubt I’d be asked, but I absolutely wouldn’t accept if I was.”

“I personally would not put myself through that process again. I wouldn’t have confidence in him and I’m sure he wouldn’t have confidence in me.”

More Roxon comments to come.

8.35am update Within 30 minutes of returning to Australia, Kevin Rudd gave a press conference in the Brisbane airport with wife Therese Rein standing next to him. Rudd didn’t directly announce that he will stand in the leadership ballot — he said he is still talking to colleagues and will make a statement later today — he urged the Australian public to contact their local Labor MPs and declare their support for him.

“These are important days for the country. It’s important we have some plain speaking about our county’s future,” said Rudd.

“What’s our vision?” asked Rudd. He said his hadn’t “changed one bit in all the years” he’s been in public life and that it is “never throw a fair go out the back door.

“That’s not Mr Abbott’s view for the future … the implementation of WorkChoices was the biggest assault on that Australian ‘fair go’ our country has ever seen.”

Rudd said the core question for the Australian public and his parliamentary colleagues is: “who is best quipped to defeat Mr Abbott at the upcoming election but more importantly to prevent him from inflicting his prescription on Australia’s future?”

While not directly naming Julia Gillard, Rudd said “trust and confidence is everything in politics… it’s critical whoever leads our country has the trust and confidence of the Australian people.”

Another “core question” for the public and his Labor colleagues according to Rudd is “whether they believe the Prime Minister continues to have the trust and confidence of the Australian people?”

“If you don’t have that [trust and confidence] you can’t do anything else. You can’t do anything else,” said Rudd.

He said the prime ministership was not about personality: “it’s about vision, policy and the trust and confidence in which all that is constructed.”

Rudd continued to slam the “faceless men” of the Labor Party, saying the ALP shouldn’t be “a creation of factions and power and faceless men but a party that responds to the people.

“This ultimately is a question of people power.

“You’re not powerless in this, you’re very powerful,” said Rudd, as he asked citizens to call their MPs, talk to the media, get their voice heard.

“Though I’ve just returned to Australia and haven’t seen all the shenangains … what I see from the faceless men is the same shock and awe tactics being deployed during the leadership coup of June 2010.

“I don’t think that’s the Australian way.”

Labor MP Kate Ellis, Minister for Employment, tweeted in response:

Rudd spoke of some of the personal attack on him in recent days, saying that it appeared from reports that “Rudd is the anti-chirst incorporated, if not the son of Satan than the grandson of Satan.” He called on the public to realise that vested interests were in play in these stories.

He asked Gillard to make a public guarantee that any sitting member of the House of Representatives or the Senate would have their pre-selection guaranteed, after rumours that pre-selection was being used as a bargaining chip in deciding what leader they would support.

Rudd said he would make a statement on Gillard’s call for whoever lost the leadership ballot to go to the backbench and renounce all hopes of leadership this afternoon and also would address the issues of how he’d work with ministers and MPs who have spoken publicly against him and his leadership style if he was chosen.

“I’m not saying I’m captain perfect,” said Rudd. He noted that he, like his other Labor PM predecessors had a few flaws. But he warned the public to “be careful of the spin machine” being conducted by the “faceless men”.

“I am however pretty disappointed by the level of intense negativity and the shock and awe characteristics, which we’ve seen before.

Rudd spoke of the June 2010 coup saying that Gillard came and spoke to him that night about some of the leadership issues and that they agreed to work through them and re-evaluate the leadership issue in a few months. Ten minutes later Gillard walked into his office and said “all bets are off, that agreement doesn’t hold, I’m challenging,” said Rudd.

Rudd’s final plea to his colleagues:

“What I’m saying to you loud and clear is given the factional firepower of the faceless men and the shock and awe tactics and negative assault… sit back, take a deep breath, have a think about it.”

8.10am update Kevin Rudd: “Don’t get bamboozled. Kevin Rudd is not the son of Satan, or at least the grandson of Satan…”

8.05am update Kevin Rudd is in the midst of a press conference at Brisbane airport, updates coming.

Thursday February 25

4.00pm update Here’s a round up of the day’s events in this very hectic media day. Unless something major happens tonight, I expect this to be the last update in today’s live blog.

  • There’ll be a leadership ballot on Monday morning at 10am for the position of Labor leader — and therefore prime minister. Kevin Rudd is expected to stand but hasn’t yet made an official announcement.
  • Both Julia Gillard and Rudd made a pitch for the top job in press conferences today, with Rudd outlining the five policy areas he would focus on as leader and Gillard speaking publicly about how difficult it was to govern when Rudd was prime minister back in 2010.
  • A number of cabinet ministers and high profile Labor MPs have come forward now saying they will support Rudd — though all have been suspected for weeks as Ruddites in the case of a leadership spill. Minister for Housing Robert McClelland, Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson and former minister Kim Carr have all publicly pledged their allegiance to Rudd in the ballot vote. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen hasn’t openly declared he would support Rudd in the vote but said he was “encouraging him to run.”
  • Gillard supporters — including Attorney General Nicola Roxon, Minister Stephen Conroy, Minister Stephen Smith, Minister Bill Shorten and Treasurer Wayne Swan have all loudly backed Gillard staying as prime minister.
  • Rudd is due to arrive home from the United States tomorrow.

For more analysis, check out Bernard Keane in Crikey today. He writes about the criticisms of Rudd by his former colleagues today:

“It’s an odd claim to make, that Rudd has been driving the government’s vote down. The key issue that drove the government’s vote down was Gillard’s decision to embrace a carbon price early last year. What’s kept it down has been a succession of misjudgments by the Prime Minister that cancelled out any momentum she ever gained. It wasn’t Rudd who bungled a reshuffle, or performed poorly at the national conference, or who alienated Andrew Wilkie. Rudd didn’t elevate asylum seekers as a totemic issue and then fail to deliver. It wasn’t Rudd who failed to nail Tony Abbott, the biggest policy flake to lead a major party since Alexander Downer, over economic management.

Labor’s problem isn’t Rudd. It’s Gillard and, when it comes to selling the government’s excellent economic record, Swan and Penny Wong. Those problems will remain beyond Monday if Gillard wins.”

3.45pm update Another cabinet minister has come out in support of Kevin Rudd as Labor leader. Robert McClelland, Minister for Housing and Emergency Management, announced that Rudd would be getting his vote in the leadership ballot on Monday.

“I’ll be supporting Kevin again on the basis that he’s our best prospect to win the next federal election.

Kevin is the only Labor leader to win in his own right in 17 years.

In circumstances where the party’s primary vote has been flatlining for 12 months, we have an obligation to put forward our best leader to the voters.”

Senator Kim Carr, a former Gillard minister who was demoted during a cabinet reshuffle last December, also spoke out in support of Rudd and criticised the “campaign of vilification” by the Gillard camp to ABC radio today.

“I’m not going to be intimidated,” said Carr. “There’s been all sorts of threats made, all sorts of suggestions as to what will happen to people that take a different view.

“I’ve got scar tissue on my back a foot thick.

“We’re in the party games part of the campaign now. I expect that people will make all sorts of claims and counter-claims.”

“It’s my opinion that the man has a great breadth of vision and a commitment to the future of this country that stands us in good stead.

“We saw in 2007 just how effective a campaigner he is, and we know that he has the capabilities to lead a strong government.”

Attorney General Nicola Roxon spoke to 2GB this afternoon reaffirming that she supported Gillard as prime minister, particularly because of the prime minister’s leadership style.

“I’ve been very clear that I will support the Prime Minister,” said Roxon. “I think Julia has done a remarkable job in the circumstances. I just wish, and I’m sure the public do, we could be proud of what the Labor government is delivering …”

She noted that it had been a “difficult decision” to roll Rudd as PM in 2010 but that Labor needed to tough it out and “show the community we can stick up for decision that we’ve made”.

Bill Shorten, one of the key players in the 2010 coup, tweeted today: “Top performance by the PM this morning, never been more proud of our leader. Looking forward to Monday.”

3.15pm update Immigration Minister Chris Bowen hasn’t exactly shown his hand on who he backs, but he was extremely supportive of Rudd’s achievements as prime minister in an ABC News 24 interview today.

“The first point I want to make is that if Kevin Rudd runs the Labor Party will have the choice between two very good candidates who deserve to be treated with respect, and we deserve to have a mature conversation about the merits of each candidate,” said Bowen.

“Well what I’m not going to do is provide a running commentary on what other people say, including Cabinet colleagues and good friends. Everybody will make their own statements and they’ll need to defend their own statements. What I will say is this: Kevin Rudd led the Labor Party to victory in 2007 in very difficult circumstances, he is a former party leader and he deserves to have his legacy respected and he deserves to be able to put his case for the future leadership of the Labor Party with respect.

“I’m encouraging him to run, I think that would be the best thing for the Labor Party, for Kevin to put his name forward so we can resolve this issue. I do think Kevin Rudd has a lot to continue to offer the Labor Party, but he should put his name forward and then the Caucus can make its choice, and then we can move on.”

When asked what it was like having Rudd as leader — when many of his colleagues are so critical of his leadership style, Bowen replied: “When I needed a decision made by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister it was made in an orderly and efficient way. If I needed to see Prime Minister Rudd, I got to see him and to put my case to him for whatever policy decision needed to be dealt with. That was my experience; others can speak for their own experiences.”

And he may be somewhere above to Pacific on his flight back to Australia, but Kevin Rudd still managed to tweet a link to a transcript of his press conference this morning.

@KRuddMP: Spent time today outlining 5 big policy priorities for the future. Have a read, tell me what you think http://bit.ly/x1AHZ7 KRudd

3.00pm update The journalist who persistently questioned Gillard this morning about her role in Kevin Rudd’s government until the PM snapped has apologised for his behaviour.

During Gillard’s press conference this morning, Michael Owen, a journalist from The Australian, harangued Gillard for so long that she fought back against his “rudeness”.

“I’m not listening to this rudeness,” declared Gillard.

“I’m not going to have you speak to me like this, end of sentence. Now it is your colleague’s turn [to ask a question], don’t be rude to him.”

Owen contacted the PM’s office to apologise afterwards and regrets his actions, reports The Australian.

2.45pm update The first senior cabinet minister has just come out in support of Rudd as leader.

Martin Ferguson, Minister for Tourism and Resources, just declared to a media contingent: “in my opinion, Kevin Rudd is best placed to take on Tony Abbott and is in the best position for us to win the next election.

“Both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have done an outstanding job for Australia, but our responsibility is to assess who can beat Tony Abbott.”

Ferguson did not confirm that Rudd will run in the leadership ballot .

He also said that he had “no intention to get into a sparring match” with colleagues and warned his colleagues that they were simply providing fodder for the Opposition to use in the next election.

When asked what would happen to his ministerial role if Rudd lost the ballot, Ferguson replied “once it’s over we all pull together and get on with the job,

1.20pm update “This is a great country. Please don’t let the spectacle of cabinet persuade you that there is anything wrong with Australia,” declared Opposition leader Tony Abbott in a press conference just a few minutes ago.

“It’s a great country that’s been let down by a bad government.”

Instead Abbott said the Coalition was a viable alternative: ” …the Coalition is a stable and united team and we stand ready to give Australia the good government that it needs.”

Abbott talked up the need for a stronger economy and to increase productivity. He slammed the carbon tax plan saying Australia doesn’t need “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”

He also asked for Australians to “not lose heart” in the current debacle enveloping the government. “We can have a better government. We are a people better than this. What the Australian people yearn for right now is a prime minister who they choose … whatever happens next Monday it will be the faceless men pulling the strings.”

He spoke repeatedly of the “faceless men” of the Labor Party, noting that they were responsible for political “dodgy backdoor deals, deals done in the dark”. Abbott noted that while he didn’t support Rudd and thought he was a bad prime minister, at least he was given a mandate to lead by the Australian people in 2007

“I have had no confidence in this government from the beginning. The Australian people have no confidence in this government, as the [popularity] indicator increasingly shows.”

“I am very happy to fight an election against whoever the faceless men put up in the Labor Party.”

12.30pm update How is the rest of the world reporting Australia’s leadership squabble? In The New York Times, Matt Siegel — an Australia based freelancer for the paper — reported on Rudd’s resignation:

“Mr. Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat who led his party back into power in 2007, is widely derided within the Labor leadership for what has often been described as an autocratic leadership style.

But his stunning removal as prime minister in 2010 angered many, and the Australian public continues to display a deep ambivalence toward Ms. Gillard, despite significant legislative successes and strong economic growth under her stewardship.

It remains unclear how much support Mr. Rudd actually has within the party, however, which is one possible reason his supporters have not yet pushed for a ballot.”

It was a top story on the BBC and The Wall Street Journal websites last night.

Duncan Kennedy at the BBC offered some analysis of the situation:

“The speculation about Kevin Rudd’s future has been the political story of Australia’s summer and about as stormy. The “will-he-or-won’t-he-go” brigade have been filling radio and television studios with their theories for months.

There is no one reason why he is going, despite his claim that it is all about “faceless” government ministers attacking his integrity. There do not appear to be any major policy differences between himself and PM Julia Gillard.

That is why many believe this is about unfinished business. It is most likely he still feels bitter at being elbowed out of the PM’s job by Ms Gillard in June 2010.

But will that mean he will try to get his old job back by mounting a challenge? No one really knows. If he goes for it, does he have the numbers and if he wins what will that mean for party unity? If he loses, what then?

Either way, it is a risky strategy for the now-former foreign minister known on Twitter as K Rudd, especially with an election due in 2013 and the opposition very much in front.”

But it seems the UK’s Independent newspaper was a little more unsure of the political situation here in Oz.

“Six years ago, Kevin Rudd was ousted as Australian Prime Minister by former ally Julia Gillard. Is he about to get his revenge? Kathy Marks reports on a poisonous feud”

Six years ago? How time flies. To be fair, the rest of Marks’ story is quite illuminating:

“This bizarre political crisis is unwinding in a country whose economy has comfortably withstood the global turmoil and is forecast to get stronger.

And not a single policy issue divides Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd; the battle is about popularity, polls and who can win the next election, due by late 2013. For Mr Rudd it is also about rage, bitterness, unfinished business and a comeback.

It evokes the power struggle of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. “

Crikey is just about to hit publish the edition is packed full of quality commentary, news and analysis of all of today’s and last night events. Plus, of course, examining what will happen next …

12.00pm update

A little recap of everything so far:

  • A 10am leadership ballot will be held on Monday to determine who is leader of the Labor Party and therefore prime minister of the country. Both Gillard and Rudd are expected to stand
  • In a press conference in Washington DC this morning Rudd said: “I’m very pleased and encouraged by positive support and encouragement of me to contest the leadership. The overall argument to me is that they regard me as the best prospect to lead the Labor Party to the next election and save the Labor Party at the election and save the Australian public from an Abbott government.” An official announcement about his leadership challenge will be made once he’s back on Aussie soil.
  • Shortly afterwards Gillard announced Monday’s leadership ballot and said “I will renominate for the Labor leadership and I expect to receive the support of my colleagues.” She also noted the issues that tainted Rudd’s prime ministership, noting that a Gillard government had been able to achieve reform that a Rudd government only dreamed of. Government is about more than electioneering,” said Gillard. “Government is about having the courage to get the big reforms done. Government is about each and every day you have the discipline and the method necessary to get the huge amount of work done. Government is about personal strength in adversity to ensure you stay focused and get your work done. I believe I have displayed those attributes as prime minister.”
  • Rudd’s wife Thérèse Rein gave a press conference where she encouraged Rudd fans to call their Labor MPs and pass on their support. “…what people tell me is that they trust Kevin. They respect him,” said Rein.

The most interesting tweets from journos and MPs from this morning:

Kevin Rudd: Heading back home to Brissie. Not exactly the visit I had planned to Washington! A big thank you for all the support. KRudd
Latika Bourke from ABC: Cabinet Sources tell me Kevin Rudd did not raise a single one of the issues in Cabinet which he named in his presser just then. #respill
National MP Barnaby Joyce: All Labor needs is 2 cases of beer and a belly dancer and it will be the wildest show in town, actually don’t worry about the belly dancer
The Age columnist Michelle Grattan: Qld ALP president says hardly knows Kevin! It’s a big state up there.
Paul Bongiorno from Ten News: Reality check: Kevin Rudd was rolled before the 2010 election, Julia Gillard then won the vote 2pp just over 50% and won the negotiation.
Amanda Meade from The Australian: One member of press pack run over by car. Another one by the PM. #ruddvenge
Ben Packham from The Australian: Kevin Rudd has rolled out Therese. Where’s Tim when you need him?

Meanwhile, Greens leader Bob Brown said that Rudd attempted to contact him after just hours after resigning as foreign minister last night, but Brown was on a flight and unable to answer.

In an interesting development, Rudd political strategist Bruce Hawker stepped aside from the Queensland campaign for Anna Bligh’s re-election this morning. “I have taken leave from the Bligh campaign,” said Hawker. “Given the events of the last 24 hours it wasn’t possible to contribute effectively to Anna’s campaign”

11.15am update Thérèse Rein, wife of Kevin Rudd, spoke to the press this morning outside her home and encouraged Rudd supporters to contact their local Labor MPs and Senators.

“Sometimes I feel like there are the two kinds of Australia. There’s what happens inside the halls of Parliament House. And then there’s what happens in the street,” said Rein. “And what people tell me is that they trust Kevin. They respect him. They know how hard he worked during the election in 2007. They know how hard he worked as prime minister. They know he’s committed. They know he’s worked hard as foreign minister.”

When asked how she and Rudd reacted to the personal attacks against him in recent days and weeks, Rein responded: “I try not to take hurt inside and other people’s anger or embarassment into me because that doesnt help.”

When asked what advice Rein would offer Rudd this weekend, she replied: “I’ll tell him to follow his heart and stay true to himself, as he always has.”

She was, as always, charming and remains a powerful asset for Rudd.

11.00am update The Labor Party will have a leadership ballot on 10am Monday, announced Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a press conference in Adelaide this morning. Gillard says she expects to win the ballot and hopes that after the Monday ballot, all leadership speculation in Labor will end. Gillard also spoke about the issues of the Rudd government

“I have decided that at 10am on Monday a ballot for the leadership will be conducted. Following Kevin Rudd’s resignation yesterday I have formed this view that we need a leadership battle to settle this question once and for all.

“I will renominate for the Labor leadership and I expect to receive the support of my colleagues.”

For far too long we’ve seen squabbling within the Labor Party which has obscured the government’s achievements,” said Gillard. “In recent days, I believe, this has moved to a distraction from governing itself.”

Gillard noted that the Australian public wanted an answer of who was leader.

“Australians are rightly sick of this and they want it brought to an end.

“Labor can only provide it if we resolve this issue once and for all and proceed with unity.

Gillard said that if against her expectations she loses the leadership ballot “then I will go to the backbench and will renounce any further ambition for the leaderhip.” She notes asked Kevin Rudd to give the same undertaking.

“If he doesn’t succeed, he will go to the back bench, renounce any further claims to the leadership and acts in the best interests of the party and our nation.

Gillard spoke of the reforms that she has been able to deliver even under a minority government. She noted the issues that Rudd had had as prime minister in pushing for climate change reform and a minerals resources tax, both reforms which she has been able to get support for.

She also pointed out other reforms that a Gillard government has achieved — a national health agreement, the separation of Telstra, means testing of private health insurance, keeping the economy strong.

But Gillard also admitted some faults. “Now, no government is perfect and I have made mistakes in the last 18 months, I acknowledge that. Ultimately the measure of a government is what the government achieves for the Australian future.”

Gillard also added that a “measure of a government is not by opinion polls and daily headlines in newspapers.”

“Ultimately under my leadership I believe we have been securing the big reforms that make us stronger and fairer. But we’ve got so much work to do building on those reforms.”

Gillard also said that she believes she can beat Tony Abbott in the next election.

But Rudd’s behaviour as prime minister was also a topic that Gillard discussed at length.

“Government is about more than electioneering,” said Gillard. “Government is about having the courage to get the big reforms done. Government is about each and every day you have the discipline and the method necessary to get the huge amount of work done. Government is about personal strength in adversity to ensure you stay focused and get your work done. I believe I have displayed those attributes as prime minister.”

Gillard also noted that as deputy prime minister she took on roles outside of her portfolio to try and help save the Rudd government before she confronted Rudd and took over the leadership. She also noted that the 2010 election had been “sabotaged” by leaks.

Gillard noted that no other nominee apart from Kevin Rudd and herself was expected to nominate in the leadership ballot.

“There is a challenge here for Labor to have the leadership ballot on Monday and then unite after Monday.

“Australians are rightly sick of it and that’s why I determined the battle will be settled.

“Overwhelming, my view is about the nation and the need for certainty. I don’t believe it’s fair for Anna Bligh and our colleagues in Queensland for this to drift on day after day with no end in sight.

The talk by Rudd of “faceless men” in the Labor Party was not appreciated by Gillard.

“I think this chatter about faceless men is profoundly insulting to my Labor colleagues,” said Gillard

“They are people who went into public life because they believe in something, they believe in a Labor vision for the future…  they are people of their own mind and own resources and they make up their own mind. Any suggestion otherwise is deeply and personally insulting to each and every one of them.”

10.11 update Gillard speaks at press conference in Adelaide, updates soon.

10am update Standing by for Gillard’s press conference, which seems to have been delayed after Rudd’s earlier one (see below for all the latest from the Rudd presser).

Here’s a look at the front pages of Australia’s newspapers today:

9.30am update Kevin Rudd has just given a press conference from Washington, before flying back to Australia. Rudd indicated that he was likely to launch a leadership challenge, but said he would make an official statement on any possible challenge when back in Australia.

“Overnight I’ve had many conversations with caucus and ministerial colleagues. I’m very pleased and encouraged by positive support and encouragement of me to contest the leadership.

“The overall argument to me is that they regard me as the best prospect to lead the Labor Party to the next election and save the Labor Party at the election and save the Australian public from an Abbott government.

“I’m shocked and disappointed from the tone and content of the intensely personal attacks which have been lodged against me overnight in Australia. Whatever our differences in politics, I don’t believe these vicious personal attacks have a place in political life. ”

These personal attacks affect the “fabric of decency in our national institutions,” said Rudd.

“I urge my own supporters not to retaliate, not to engage in personal attacks. I don’t believe it has a proper place in Australian politics.

“People are sick and tired of the politics of division, the politics of division within our political party and the politics of division within Australian politics overall. As we know, Tony Abbott is the master of the politics of division and dividing our nation.

“It’s important we begin to cultivate a new sense of unity in our country.

“Bottom line, this question of the future of the leadership … is not about personality. It’s about trust, it’s about policy and vision.

Rudd outlined that he had been proud of many of achievements of the Labor government, particularly when he was prime minister during the Global Financial Crisis and Australia emerged relatively unscathed, without a recession and mass unemployment.

He outlined that his major policy areas that he thought deserved importance — though of course, didn’t admit a leadership challenge. His main policy areas were

  • Business — restoring business confidence and supporting small business.
  • Education — encouraging science and maths studies in high school, cutting HECs fees for those studying science and maths and the encouragement of learning Asian languages
  • Health — fulfilling national health reform
  • Manufacturing — said he supported his view said years ago that he wanted to be prime minister of a country that “makes things” and wanted to continue to support manufacturing.

Rudd also spoke of ALP reform. “Beyond policy, there is a big question of the reform of the Labor Party itself,” said Rudd. He again noted the role of Labor’s “faceless men” –“that means a party in the future that is not governed by the faceless men.”

The Labor Party is “not about the power of factions, it’s about people power,” said Rudd.

Rudd questioned whether Gillard can succeed in the next election, though noted he would make a leadership statement after consulting with colleagues back in Australia. “I do not believe Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election. It’s a deep belief and one I believe is shared across the Australian community.”

He ended with a true Rudd line: “as they say in the classics, I’ve got to zip”.

9.00am update While we wait for Gillard’s press conference, check out the best commentary from the newspapers this morning on the Rudd v Gillard debacle. Word is that Rudd will shortly speak from his Washington hotel.

Rudd will be appealing to the public love of him, but his colleague’s memories remain clear. Regardless, the Labor government has destroyed itself, notes Michelle Grattan in The Age:

“This government has turned itself into a shambles. A party that overthrows a PM in his first term, and then returns to consider its choice a couple of years later, has forfeited its credibility. However these events turn out, the chance of the government appearing convincing to a majority of Australians seem nil — it’s about the size of the loss. Labor and its leaders have squandered the mandate Australians gave them in 2007.”

There’s faceless men on both Rudd and Gillard’s side, notes Peter van Onselen in The Australian:

“Despite Kevin Rudd’s attempt to label Julia Gillard as a product of the scheming of faceless men, both camps are led by their fair share of powerbrokers. Rudd is relying on Kim Carr and Martin Ferguson, out of the Victorian Left – ironic, given that they hail from the factional grouping the Prime Minister is a part of.

Added to this pair are senior right-wing ministers from NSW, such as Chris Bowen and Robert McClelland, not to mention NSW left-wing powerbroker Doug Cameron, who has poured scorn on Simon Crean for his attacks on Rudd.

However, for the most part, the Rudd camp is a bottom-up movement.”

Gillard needs to make a case for herself, says Lenore Taylor in The Sydney Morning Herald:

“She could also explain to caucus members how and when she believes she can turn their electoral situation around, if the leadership issue does finally go away.

She could show her backbench some more of the old Julia, the sharp-tongued Julia, the no-nonsense Julia, that to some extent the polished lines and prime ministerial demands have hidden away.

She could try to restore their resolve and confidence.”

And interesting news from Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun — which a Rudd spokesperson has already dismissed as false:

If true (and it’s denied), Kevin Rudd is finished. Clubs Australia last night issued this statement claiming Kevin Rudd advised it on which Labor MPs to target in fighting Julia Gillard’s pokies plan:

Clubs Australia did meet with an MP close to Kevin Rudd in late November which was specifically to discuss the issue of mandatory pre-commitment,” Clubs Australia spokesman Jeremy Bath said.

It was made clear at that meeting that Kevin Rudd was sympathetic to the concerns of clubs and as Prime Minister he would kill mandatory pre-commitment.

Government ministers are lining up to dump on Rudd in this morning’s media.

Minister for Broadband Stephen Conroy told Sky News that “Kevin Rudd had contempt for the cabinet, contempt for the caucus, contempt for the parliament.”

Attorney General Nicola Roxon said “he’s not the messiah and Kevin can’t win us the election”.

8.30am update

At a 1am press conference held in a Washington DC hotel, Rudd announced his resignation as foreign minister, saying that without the support of the Prime Minister he was unable to continue in this position:

“It is with great sadness that I announce that I will resign as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am sad because I love this job. I’m totally dedicated to the work that we’re doing in Australia’s name around the world and we’ve achieved many good results and I’m proud of them.

“But while I am sad to leave this office I am sadder still that it has come to this. The last time I resigned from a position in public office was as a prime minister of Australia and regrettably there have been some similar factors at play today.

“It’s time for some plain speaking. I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Gillard and senior ministers. Minister Cean and other faceless men have publicly attacked my integrity and therefore my fitness to server as a minister in the government.

“I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I don’t have Prime Minister Gillard’s support. Therefore the only honourable thing and honourable course of action is to resign. I do so with a genuinely heavy heart and after much personal reflection.

Rudd also slammed the “faceless men” within Labor Party and hinted at a possible leadership challenge. He is due to arrive back in Australia on Friday.

“The Australian Labor Party … must change fundamentally its culture and to end the power of faceless men.

“Australia ought to be governed by the people, not by the factions.

“I can promise you this, there is no way, no way that I will ever be party to a stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people.

“It must never happen again.”

“Truth is the Australian people regard the whole affair as little better than a soap opera and they are right. And under current circumstances, I won’t be part of it.

“Over the days ahead I will be consulting openly and honestly with family, the community and parliamentary colleagues, taking their counsel on what I should do and what my next step will be.

“Mr [Tony] Abbott doesn’t have the temperament or the experience to hold the high office of the prime minister of Australia but at present, and for a long time now, he’s been on track to do just that.”

Within minutes of Rudd’s resignation, opposition leader Tony Abbott released a statement:

“Kevin Rudd has confirmed two things — that the faceless men are running the Labor Party and that the instability at the top of this government is damaging our country,” said Abbott. “Kevin Rudd’s statement tonight confirms that this government is unworthy to continue in office.”

Shortly afterwards, the prime minister released her own statement on Rudd’s resignation:

“Today Kevin Rudd has tendered his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“Mr Rudd was a strong and effective advocate for Australia’s interests overseas.

“During his period of service as Foreign Minister there were many achievements. He strongly pursued Australia’s interests in the world.

“I am disappointed that the concerns Mr Rudd has publicly expressed this evening were never personally raised with me, nor did he contact me to discuss his resignation prior to his decision.

“I plan to hold a press conference tomorrow to make a further statement.”

As Bernard Keane noted in Crikey last night: “Note that Gillard refers to Rudd’s failure to consult ‘prior to his decision’ but not his announcement.”

The Gillard press conference is due at 9.30am AEST this morning.

Environment minister Tony Burke spoke on ABC’s 7.30 last night about the leadership struggle engulfing the Labor Party (it’s a fascinating interview, and worth reading the whole transcript).

“I’m glad that it’s now being resolved and I think that’s the most important thing. Everybody has had enough of the stealth and undermining campaign that has been going on through the caucus and through the media for a very long time,” Burke told 7.30 host Chris Uhlmann. “And, you know, the fact that Kevin’s been openly campaigning for the leadership has been the worst kept secret in Canberra.”

Uhlmann questioned Burke on what the major difference between Rudd and Gillard was, asking if there was nothing in this leadership debate but politics.

“TONY BURKE: Oh, no, no, no, there is a very substantial difference, Chris, …

CHRIS UHLMANN: And it is?

TONY BURKE: … in the way the government is run. And the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And again, when those stories were told, ministers like yourself, who was actually at the receiving end of some of this, denied it.

TONY BURKE: And as I’ve said, there was a lot of loyalty that was shown under the previous government as we tried to fix these issues. These issues, in actually being able to govern in the best possible way, were fixed with the Prime Minister that we have.”

Stories of Rudd’s prime ministership troubles with his colleagues also appeared in a scathing press release by Treasurer Wayne Swan:

“Prime Minister Gillard and I and the overwhelming majority of our colleagues have been applying our Labor values to the policy challenges in front of us and we’re succeeding despite tremendous political obstacles.

“For the sake of the labour movement, the government and the Australians which it represents, we have refrained from criticism to date.

“However for too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop.

“The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues. He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership, and now he undermines the government at every turn.

“He was the Party’s biggest beneficiary then its biggest critic; but never a loyal or selfless example of its values and objectives.

“For the interests of the labour movement and of working people, there is too much at stake in our economy and in the political debate for the interests of the labour movement and working people to be damaged by somebody who does not hold any Labor values.

“Julia has the overwhelming support of our colleagues. She is tough, determined, forward-looking, and has a good Labor heart. She has a consultative, respectful relationship with caucus while Kevin Rudd demeaned them. She’s cleaned up a lot of the mess he left her and has established a good, Labor agenda. She’s delivering major reforms, and getting things done that her predecessor could not. Colleagues are sick of Kevin Rudd driving the vote down by sabotaging policy announcements and undermining our substantial economic successes.

“The Labor Party is not about a person, it’s about a purpose. That’s something Prime Minister Gillard has always known in her heart but something Kevin Rudd has never understood.”