ALP leadership spill live blog: Gillard wins, Rudd addresses media
Crikey live blog: Labor Senator and sports minister Mark Arbib has just announced his resignation, saying it was due to his role in the 2010 coup and for personal reasons.
Feb 27, 2012
Crikey live blog: Labor Senator and sports minister Mark Arbib has just announced his resignation, saying it was due to his role in the 2010 coup and for personal reasons.
Roll up, roll up for the Canberra circus, where Labor MPs today re-elected Julia Gillard as ring leader in a 10am ballot. Gillard won the ballot easily, with 71 votes out of a possible 102 votes. Challenger Kevin Rudd achieved 31 votes. Is 31 enough votes to destabilise Gillard’s leadership? Or has the loss killed off Rudd’s leadership ambitions forever?
We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with the latest news and commentary, so keep checking back to watch the madness unfold.
4.50pm update Well. It’s been a hectic day. Let’s offer a quick little run down of all the main events today.
On that night, this is likely to be the last Crikey live blog update for today. Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for a look at how the rest of the media saw today unfold.
4.25pm update As if today wasn’t tumultuous enough, Labor Senator and sports minister Mark Arbib has just announced his resignation, saying it was for both his role in the 2010 coup and for personal reasons.
“I’m resigning because I want to give the party a chance to heal.
“The last few days only categorise the last 18 months.
“I don’t think it’s a secret, I have been a faction leader. I have made tough and difficult decisions.” Arbib added that he’d always been dedicated to the Labor Party and he was trying to ensure that the party was trying to get over the next week.
“Leadership ballots in all parties are difficult, complex and emotional events. They leave scars. These scars can fade over time.
He said he’d made some “tough decisions” over the last three years and believes the 2010 coup — of which he was a key player — against Rudd “saved the party from certain defeat. I stand by those decisions.”
But he says he told the Prime Minister of his decision tor resign today and spoke of how he hopes it “will help the party, rebuild, mending some of the turmoil of the last week” and gives a chance for party renewal.
“The decision is also a personal one,” said Arbib, noting that the “personal toll on family is great” for politicians.
Arbib spoke of his young daughter crying when telling her he had got a promotion and would be away more often.
“Most Australians think politicians spend half their life in Canberra and the other half on holidays. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Arbib also dismissed the concept of a “faceless man”, saying it was a mechanism by Tony Abbott at the last election. “Every time he says it, please laugh at him,” Arbib told journalists.
4.00pm update ABC journalist Latika Bourke has just tweeted that Labor Right powerbroker Mark Arbib (one of the infamous “faceless men”) is set to resign as a Minister and Senator. He will be holding a press conference at 4.10pm.
3.10pm update Here’s a look around at some of the commentary and news after this morning’s vote.
Andrew Leigh, a Gillard backer and the Member for Fraser, tweeted a photo of a blank ballot paper from this morning, noting it was one for the “history buffs”.
Age political editor Michelle Grattan notes that question time has finally calmed down:
In her post-ballot Age column, Grattan examines what Gillard has to do next:
“Gillard’s immediate test is to handle the reshuffle caused by Rudd’s departure to the backbench. She would be wise to keep it limited and inclusive. If there is any sign of retribution against Rudd-supporting ministers – especially Kim Carr and Robert McClelland, who are in the weakest position of the five who backed him – it will show that her people want to impose a bit more pain on their enemies.
The reshuffle could give Stephen Smith a chance to return to the Foreign Ministry that he had to give up for Rudd. The other frontrunner, if Gillard wants to keep Smith in the tough area of Defence, is Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who is well versed in foreign affairs and was one of the Gillard hard man in the assault on Rudd.
Beyond that, Gillard has to improve her own performance.”
For 20 minutes today all media outlets had the leadership vote wrong (and, yep, we’ll raise our hands). Nic Christensen and Amanda Meade at The Australian examine how it happpened:
“In the estimated 20 minutes between [Phillip] Coorey’s tweet and Chris Hayes’ declaration of the result, the “tweet result” of “73-29” went around the world like wildfire.
It was picked up not just by the Twittersphere but by major media outlets, including the commercial networks, ABCNews 24 and The Australian online. And while many journalists and producers added “unconfirmed” to their reports, others did not.
It’s unclear whether Coorey’s tweet was the source of all the reports, but even former Labor premier Peter Beattie was saying “73-29” was his information.”
2.05pm update Question Time is off and racing and the first question was — surprise, surprise — a leadership question. Tony Abbott asked Gillard how she can claim a mandate when one third of her colleagues and one quarter of her ministerial cabinet supported a change to Kevin Rudd.
Gillard said she gave Abbott “full marks for audacity” with his question, noting that Abbott won his own leadership ballot by just one vote. “No wonder he got some new suits [after the vote] … the rest of them were covered in blood,” declared Gillard.
2.00pm update A typical Albo tweet from Leader of the House Anthony Albanese, who gave a teary speech on the weekend outlining why he was supporting Rudd.
1.55 pm update Greens leader Bob Brown says he has sent a card of congratulations to Julia Gillard.
1.50pm update King of the Leaks and Nine Network political correspondent Laurie Oakes offered his assessment on today:
1.45pm update Opposition leader Tony Abbott says the Australian public will not forget Kevin Rudd’s critique that the government is run by “faceless men” and that it has lost the trust of the Australian people.
“The only ojective conclusion we can draw from today is one third of her parliamentary colleagues and one quarter of her cabinet don’t have confidence in their prime minister.”
He challenged Gillard to call an election for the sake of the nation: “I think the prime minster of this country should be chosen by the people of this country and not by the faceless men.
“We’re a great country that is being let down by a bad government. We can do better than this. Only the Coalition can give the stable government that Australia needs.”
Abbott spoke of the “destructive criticisms” of Labor colleagues in recent days. He formally requested the independents to state whether they have confidence in Gillard as prime minister after the “blood letting” of the last week.
1.40pm update Both Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Greens leader Bob Brown are giving duelling press conferences.
Abbott says Gillard has won “a stay of execution” and that her challenge is not just to win the ballot in a Labor caucus at the time of her choosing, but to let the Australian decide.
1.30pm update A journalist asked Gillard if she was planning to be more honest and open with the Australian public after her behaviour is recent days had been greeted positively be the public. “I intend to be a very forceful advocate of the government’s policies, so settle in,” quipped Gillard.
And an interesting tweet from Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly — yes, the bellwether seat — offered what it was like for MPs stuck in the middle of the leadership squabbles:
1.25pm update Julia Gillard just announced that she shook hands with Kevin Rudd after the leadership ballot but only spoke very briefly.
1.20pm update In her press conference today Julia Gillard admitted that she had spoken more openly about the 2010 coup in recent weeks and acknowledged she should have explained more at the time why her and her colleagues decided to take action against Rudd’s leadership.
But she said it was time to now move on. “I believe the discussions about 2010 should now be at an end, our focus is on 2012 and all the years that lie beyond for the Australian nation.
“Many Australians will have their doubts that Labor can pull together… we have come together before and we will do so now … We will move forward as a united team.”
Gillard noted that it was “difficult and disappointing day” for Kevin Rudd and his family and that she wanted to “honour his many achievements as prime minister” as both a nation and the Labor Party.
She also added that people often asked her in these circumstances how she was feeling, and she wanted to point out that she was feeling impatient to get on with the job.
Craig Emerson will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs for the time being, with a ministerial reshuffle to be announced at a later stage.
1.15pm update Julia Gillard has just begun speaking to the media about her win today, saying that she will take Labor to the next election but acknowledges she has learnt lessons in recent weeks.
“I have today received the overwhelming endorsement of my colleagues to continue as Labor leader and prime minister.
“At times it’s been ugly, I understand that … As a result of that, Australians have had a gutful of us being focused on ourselves.
“I want to say to Australians one and all: the leadership issue is now determined.
“You, the Australia people rightly expect the government to focus on you.
“I can assure you that this political drama is over and now you are back at centre stage where you should be properly be.”
1.05pm update Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott are expected to hold news conferences before question time today.
And in further news from the Kevin Rudd press conference that recently finished, Rudd said he quit the foreign ministry because “it was the right thing to do” and he challenged for the leadership because “it was the right thing to do.”
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn’t about to squip it. We Queenslanders are made of more tough stuff than that.”
He then continued to thank nearly every staff member, family member and public voter that had supported him. It provoked many in the Twitterverse to joke that Rudd had come from the Rob Oakeshott school of speeches and/or that it was time for the Oscars wind-down music to start playing.
12.50pm update Kevin Rudd has just faced the media, pledging his support to a Gillard prime ministership and thanking those who supported his challenge.
“I congratulate Julia on her strong win today.
“The caucus has spoken, I accept the caucus verdict without qualification and without rancour.”
He thanked his supporters and said thanks for the “friendship and civility” of Labor MPs who did not vote for him but who he has spoken with in recent days.
Rudd spoke of MPs who had been “a little more willing in their public character analysis” in recent days — i.e those who had slammed him personally. “I bear no grudges, I bear no one any malice and if I’ve done wrong to anyone on what I’ve said or done, I apologise. “
He spoke of the Labor Party coping with the leadership battle: “It’s time, in fact it’s well past time, that these wounds were healed.”
Rudd pledged his support to Gillard:”I accept fully the verdict of the cause and I dedicate myself to working fully for her re-election as the Prime Minister of Australia. I do so with my absolute ability dedicated to that task.”
12.25pm update Labor left convener and key Rudd supporter Doug Cameron just reiterated that he will be supporting Gillard all the way to the next election. He called on the prime minister to give no recriminations for those that voted for Rudd.
Meanwhile Kevin Rudd just announced a press conference for 12.30pm in the Labor caucus room.
12.20pm update Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon — a Gillard supporter — admitted the mood was very tense in the caucus meeting and that he was “very pleased it’s behind us.” Fitzgibbon noted that the 71-31 vote count was very decisive and that he was looking forward to selling Labor policies to the Australian public.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Jeff Lawrence spoke in support of Gillard remaining as leader, noting that now the government to focus on governing and implementing policies rather than leadership distractions. He called on Labor MPs to cease their internal debates and instead get out into electorates and explain their policies.
And with the Queensland election campaign under way, Labor Premier Anna Bligh has been a regular commentator on federal Labor issues. Bligh just congratulated the PM for her win, noting that the ballot result was a “very strong vote of support from her caucus”.
She noted that it had been “an emotional and difficult time” both for caucus members and Labor supporters. “I think the challenge now for Labor — both federally and as a party — is to heal that wound and come together as a united organisation,” said Bligh.
Bligh and Rudd are good buddies and Bligh acknowledged that “it’s never easy to watch your friends go through this” but that she welcomed any contribution he would make to her state campaign. She also said she expected Bruce Hawker would return to work on her election campaign.
12.00pm update Just to recap (apologies, we are having some technical difficulties): Julia Gillard easily won the Labor leadership ballot with 71 votes to Kevin Rudd’s 31.
Gillard walked out of the meeting flanked by Wayne Swan, both smiling.
Simon Crean was heard saying to journalists “we need to unify, it’s now time to move on”.
Kevin Rudd grinned as he left the caucus meeting, with close supporter Kim Carr walking behind him.
And in a show that many are willing to put the leadership battle behind them, Anthony Albanese — who came out in support of Rudd on the weekend — chatted with Gillard supporter Stephen Smith as they left the meeting.
The mood in the room was “reasonably tense” before the vote and then “a certain amount of relief” after the result, said Chris Hayes.
Rudd apparently told the caucus that “at the conclusion of this ballot, he’ll be working for a unified Labor team,” said Hayes.
Gillard supporter Graham Perrett, the first Labor MP to speak apart from the official announcement, said that result was “not a great surprise” and most camps knew the numbers from Friday night.
But he said that there was “a lot of good will” in the room, “as much harmony as you can have in a ballot.” He said that many were in a work mind frame about the vote, with the attitude “let’s get this done and then on with the job of selling the Labor message.”
Both Rudd and Swan apparently shook hands in the meeting after Rudd’s defeat.
An apology for my mistake earlier with first reporting that the count was 73-29, not the official result of 71-31. Seems everyone got that one wrong. Such is the trouble with always wanting to be first and up-to-date on these things!
Gillard is expected to give a statement later today.11.20am update The ballot vote took a long time as it was secret ballot and each file member had to be marked off by scrutineers.
Kevin Rudd “seemed fine” after the ballot, said Hayes.
Neither speech took more than three minutes. There was no call for a second count.
11.15am update Chris Hayes and Dick Adams have just appeared to give the official ballot results.
Julia Gillard has won the ballot vote 71-31, different to previous reports.
There was no recount. Both Gillard and Rudd spoke to the party room.
11.10am update Sydney Morning Herald journalist Phillip Coorey (who has been first with all the news today) has just tweeted that there are “rumours there are a recount”.
Would be assumed that any recount would have been called by the Rudd side.
10.55am update We’re still waiting for the official confirmation by eturning officer Chris Hayes, who will do the ballot announcement any minute now. Instead it has been journalists being leaked news by MPs inside that have said that Gillard has retained the prime ministership with 73 votes, compared to Kevin Rudd’s 29 votes.
Mark Latham just told Sky News that it was a dismal result and that Rudd shouldn’t have run because he did not have the numbers. “This confirms that Julia Gillard can count and Kevin Rudd can’t.”
10.50am update Julia Gillard remains Prime Minister, after the Labor leadership vote re-elected her with a margin of 73 votes out of a possible 102 votes. Challenger Kevin Rudd achieved 29 votes, according to Phillip Coorey.
More news to come, with a full Crikey edition on the leadership spill due at lunchtime. Head here immediately if you’re not already a Crikey subscriber.
10.47am update Mark Latham has just spoken on Sky News, saying the last week has been like group therapy for Labor.
Meanwhile, Cheryl Kernot is being interviewed by ABC News 24 and is speaking about how John Faulkner is keeping quiet about the leadership battle. “There could well be, just a slight level of despair, of what the party is doing to itself,” says Kernot on Faulkner.
10.45am update ZDNet journalist discusses what’s happening on Sky News and ABC News 24 right now (and perhaps here at Crikey?) as news networks madly pad out coverage as we await the Labor leadership spill results.
10.40am update Author Nick Earls offers a nice take on events.
FYI, the Crikey office is wearing pants.
10.38am update A huge press pack — busily studying their mobile phones — are awaiting Chris Hayes, who will announce the official spill results. Gillard is expected to win and maintain the prime ministership with around 70 votes out of 102.
10.35am update As we wait to learn who is leader (any minute now!), let’s take a look at some of the top commentary this morning.
Daniel Flitton explains in The Age about when Rudd and Gillard first became closer, on a holiday in 2005:
“Every first date is awkward, and it was no different when Kevin met Julia. A political courtship rather than a romance, his proposition still left her uneasy — a get-away with him and wife Therese Rein on the Sunshine Coast, a chance for them all to get to know each other better.”
Why is Labor’s Newspoll results up today? Mumble’s Peter Brent at The Australian offers up a good reason:
“Try putting yourself in the shoes of the “average” “softly committed” or “swinging” voter. Without over-generalising or caricaturing, think of a couple in the suburbs, with 2.5 kids on a quarter-acre block. Perhaps a four wheel drive in the garage.
You don’t follow politics much (although you know something called a “carbon tax” can’t be good) but you are aware of a showdown between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her predecessor Kevin Rudd and have seen snippets of what they’re saying on the telly.
The phone rings and Newspoll asks if they can take a few minutes of your time.
The very first question is: “If a federal election for the House of Representatives were held today, which one of the following would you vote for?””
Michelle Grattan in The Age says Labor is doomed either way:
“They hope voters will stop blaming Gillard for the coup that started her problem with ”trust”.
More likely, however, voters’ takeaway message would be that this is a divided government that, at the appropriate time, they will put to death.”
10.24am update Another look at the press pack from Rhys Muldoon:
It’s likely that Kevin Rudd would be addressing the Labor caucus making the case for his leadership right now.
10.22am update As we anxiously await the results of the Labor leadership spill, here’s an odd thought from the 3AW rumour file this morning:
“Caller ‘independent throat’ says Kevin will slip one past Julia today. He says when the Labor Party votes, Kevin will declare no support for the party and become an independent”
Seems unlikely but may be an option ….
10.20am update On Sky News journalist Ashleigh Gillon says journalists are madly studying their mobile phones, hoping for a “cheeky message” from an MP inside the meeting revealing the winner.
10.15am update It’s not just Kevin Rudd who carefully planned how his supporters would look as they walked into the caucus office, says Sunday Age‘s Misha Schubert:
10.10am update Channel Seven journo Alex Hart offers another look at the press pack crammed into Parliament House this morning.
10.08am update Thérèse Rein, wife of Rudd, thanks the public for their support:
10.07am update Interesting observation by Sunday Age political reporter Misha Schubert:
10.05am update Julia Gillard is now arriving at the caucus meeting, flanked by her deputy Wayne Swan and other supporters (Tanya Plibersek, David Bradbury, Chris Emerson, Nicola Roxon). She made no comment to the media.
10.00am update Kevin Rudd has arrived at the caucus meeting, with his supporters in tow with him.
9.50am update In ten minutes the Labor caucus meeting will begin in the government party room. The first politicians are just beginning to file in.
There will be 102 MPs voting — it would be 103, but Minister for Disability Reform Michelle Rowland gave birth to her first child just a few days ago. Current figures stand at around 30 votes expected for Rudd and around 70 votes expected for Gillard. While Rudd’s numbers are lower, that includes four ministers – Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen, Rob McClelland and Martin Ferguson.
Both leadership nominees are expected to give speeches before the secret ballot begins, before Chris Hayes emerges to announce the winner.
For a look at how crazy this is in Canberra right now, take a look at the media scrum in the corridors of parliament right now, tweeted by MP Steve Ciobo:
9.40am update A look at the latest news from the Twitterverse this morning:
Labor MP Michelle Rowland won’t vote today as she gave birth last week. But MP Joel Fitzgibbon revealed who she was backing:
Liberal National Party MP Andrew Laming notes the irony today:
The Coalition MPs are getting much attention today though, notes ABC reporter Latika Bourke:
Former Rudd adviser Lachlan Harris compared today to the US Primaries.
Rudd “confidant” and Play School host Rhys Muldoon spotted Gillard near parliament today.
The Australian journalist Matthew Franklin asked Muldoon if she waved.
Meanwhile, government rolls on. Greens MP Adam Bandt:
Many Gillard supporters — including Gillard herself — have openly blamed Rudd in recent days for “sabotaging” the 2010 election with a series of harmful leaks. But on Sunrise this morning David Koch questioned Rudd about the leaks and Rudd denied that he was the leaker.
9.15am update Interesting rival op-eds in News Limited newspaper this morning. MP Richard Marles outlines why he’ll support Gillard:
“Many have observed that Julia Gillard has never been known to raise her voice with her staff.
Operating under a fraction of her pressure, I only wish I could make this claim about myself.
When the heat is on, it is Julia who keeps calm. When the rest of us are tired and ratty, it is Julia whose humour remains intact.
These attributes are fundamental and they are astounding.
Yet while it is good to know that our Prime Minister is nice, what Australians need to know is that she is also tough and smart and she is working for you.
Julia is the smartest person in the room to whom we all instinctively turn.”
The federal member for Holt, Anthony Byrne, explains why Rudd has his vote:
“As the Labor Party has convulsed this week, the voices of many Australians have shouted in frustration.
Most people in my electorate are clear what they want, from the parents at a local school who chatted to me last week to the business people, tradies, shop-owners and young people who approach me every day.
They have spoken loud and clear. They want Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister.
These same people are closely watching events occurring in Europe, nervous that it portends another global financial crisis. They have seen job losses in manufacturing and financial services here in Australia. Many small businesses in my electorate of Holt are reporting recession-like conditions.
Today the Labor Caucus has the opportunity to give the people what they want — the reinstatement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and refocusing onto the Labor vision of a stronger, fairer, more united Australia.”
9.00am update Independent Senator Nick Xenophon referenced today’s Oscar ceremony in his door stop interview, holding up DVDs and asking whether today’s leadership battle was more of a war (Apocalypse Now), a horror story (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or a romantic drama (Titanic). He finally settled on The Never Ending Story Part 2. Cue a lot of journalist giggling.
The ridiculous political lines continue with Simon Crean, who just said Rudd has been acting like he’s in “PM Idol“, but “really it’s Our Caucus Rules“. It seems reality TV comparisons — think of Gillard’s “This is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, this is about who should be prime minister” last week — are popular with Gillard supporters this week. Crean also notes that despite what many think, the public vote for a party, not a prime minister.
8.30am update MPs are being door stopped as they arrive at Parliament House this morning, declaring their hand before they vote today.
Gillard supporter Laurie Ferguson spoke about the leader “I think she’s been like the Pakistani cricket captain. Certain people are not playing in the team in the last five years.”
Labor MP Kelvin Thompson, who many had put in the undecided column, declared he was also voting for Gillard.
Independent Rob Oakeshott just told ABC News 24 that he was expecting the Labor Party to maintain Gillard as PM and uphold the agreement he made with Gillard during the hung parliament. He said if the Labor leadership changed, then he saw that as “effectively them tearing up the agreement reached” with him for his support. He added that Kevin Rudd Tony Abbott wouldn’t automatically get his support
Here’s a look at the newspaper front pages this morning:
8.00am update Today is a crucial day for the Labor Party, but it’s highly expected that Prime Minister Gillard will easily win the ballot. Her supporters claim she has secured the support of around two-thirds of members of parliament. In comparison, numbers put Kevin Rudd at around 30 votes, with 102 Labor MPs voting today.
But even if the winner is clear, it was still an eventful political weekend. The biggest story was an emotional Anthony Albanese, Leader of the House and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, who cried as he spoke of his faith in the Australian Labor Party and announced he would support Rudd today.
Albo declared the June 2010 coup against Rudd as “not fair” and noted that it was a key consideration in his support of Rudd. “Monday’s ballot is the only opportunity to show my dissent with the actions of that night and I do so with a heavy heart,” said Albanese, “I also believe our future prospects would be stronger with Kevin Rudd as leader.
“We’ve only had three leaders lead us from opposition into government since World War II. Kevin Rudd, Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam. Each of those three gentlemen deserve our respect.”
The Labor stalwart added that he “despaired in recent days as I have watched Labor’s legacy in government devalued.” Albo offered his resignation as Leader of the House and minister to Gillard, who refused to accept it.
Meanwhile, Minister for Education Peter Garrett joined fellow ministers Tony Burke and Nicola Roxon in declaring that he would refuse to serve as a minister in a Rudd government if Rudd was elected. “If Mr Rudd were to prevail, I wouldn’t seek to serve in his ministry, even if he chose to ask me,” said Garrett.
The margin of her victory still matters — even if it’s just to realise who’ll come after her, noted Bernard Keane at Crikey‘s The Stump:
“A substantial showing for Kevin Rudd, in the high thirties for example, would leave him as the clear candidate for when Labor MPs, or perhaps her own backers, moved to force the Prime Minister out later in the year. Rudd can sit on the backbench, completely silent, doing nothing but writing letters to his constituents, and it will be an ever-greater contrast with the mess that is Julia Gillard’s prime ministership.
A poor result for Rudd would humiliate him and leave him badly damaged — repudiated by his own party despite his insurgent-like appeal to the electorate. It would open the way for a third party contender — Stephen Smith, Bill Shorten or Simon Crean appear to be the most likely MPs — to become the sanctioned replacement for Gillard, who may well be tapped on the shoulder by the same powerbrokers that installed her. Rudd might contest again at that point, but he’ll be doing so with a poor base of support, while the Gillard camp and undecideds will lock in behind a Gillard successor.”
In an interesting turn of events, today’s Newspoll was relatively good news for Labor. Labor’s primary vote is up three to 35%, with the Coalition’s two party preferred vote narrowing from 55-45 to 53-47. However, Gillard’s personal approval rating plunged six points to 26%, while her disapproval rating jumped seven to sit at 64%.
It’ll be an interesting day.