The Labor leadership spill:

Brian Mitchell, ALP member, writes: Re. “And the winner is … Smith, Shorten or Crean” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane is committing the age-old sin of having formed an opinion and then reporting only the facts that go to support it, while ignoring those that inconveniently get in the way of his world view.

Indeed, it seems that every time I read Crikey these days, its journalists copy more and more of the style of The Australian‘s Gillard-haters, (a peculiar and noxious mixture of news, hubris and misogyny).

Keane has a visceral dislike for Gillard, that’s clear. That’s his right. But as a professional member of the Crikey reporting team surely he has a responsibility to report facts without injecting his bile into them?

His analysis of the post-spill wash-up is simply abysmal: I’d have expected a university intern to have done a better job.

No mention that a 71-31 vote is a massive vote of confidence in Gillard by her colleagues — many of whom are in marginal seats, and who would on the face of it have been safer voting for Rudd. This fact alone tells us the Caucus put the national interest first and electoral self-interest second, a view of Labor that would be counter-intuitive to most.

Instead, Keane casts this crushing win of historic proportions as a victory for Crean, Smith or Shorten, three Gillard supporters whom Keane has unilaterally decided will emerge as leadership rivals, despite their denials.

So no sooner is one leadership poltergeist exorcised than Keane seeks to create another, out of nothing other than his own fevered imagination.

He doesn’t even have the humility to cast his sandwich-board-of-doom style of fortune-telling in the realm of the possible: Smith, Shorten or Crean “will” emerge to replace Gillard he says. Not “might” but “will”. Based on what evidence? Nothing.

Keane also repeats the erroneous claim that Gillard Labor is in disaster territory, when published polls have the 2PP around 47.5%, well within striking distance of victory. Denis Shanahan is shedding a tear of prideful joy at Keane’s alchemic ability to transmogrify polling gold into lead.

Both Keating and Howard had similar polls just weeks out from elections they both subsequently won and we are EIGHTEEN MONTHS from an election. It’s a lifetime.

Gillard’s personal polling is low but so was Howard’s, who went on to Methuselah-like longevity. In Britain, Thatcher was despised but her governments were returned time and again.

Lastly, this challenge will be nothing but a dim memory for voters by the next election. They’ll care about the stuff that journalists hate writing about: The economy, jobs, industry, education – and could care less that some bloke called Kevin whom they once sort of liked (for a politician) lost his job.

By then, Gillard will have firmly cemented her indisputable authority as party leader and Prime Minister (we saw signs of her renewed confidence today with her firm handling of the press squawkers).

Alan Kennedy writes: Bernard Keane likes to style himself as a dyspeptic Canberra outsider. He writes from lofty heights and tweets from the stratosphere grumbling about perceived errors by his gallery colleagues. But his piece yesterday revealed he is firmly seated on the group think chariot.

First off, he appears to have a visceral dislike of Gillard and will give her nothing. He cites her stumbles and errors and gives no credit or even understanding of the extraordinary job she did in building the minority government and then passing difficult and complex legislation through the hung parliament. That she was in that position can probably be put down to the damaging leaks during the election campaign. For those we can line up the usual suspect.

Keane seems to think Gillard has achieved nothing while in office. The record indicates otherwise. She has battled almost constant static that it is now clear came from the Rudd camp. Now he suddenly picks up the Bruce Hawker line of a third candidate. Of course it is clear journalists in the gallery, who have a limited ability to understand complex issues, will push the third man theme complete with zithers because it is lazy journalism in which your best lines come from anonymous sources.

Gillard won yesterday in a canter. Abbott won by one vote. His popularity is less than Gillard’s. On that basis maybe we should be looking at him. Keane talks about the next stuff up but fails to acknowledge most of the  kindling for the media narrative on these stuff ups came from Rudd. Some big names in gallery should be called up and asked about their roles.

Finally, in pushing the Rudd the only answer meme, he fails to ask “if it was that simple why did caucus members vote for their own annihilation?” The story the gallery has been sitting on since 2010, while at same time writing Gillard had never really told public why Rudd was dumped, is that he had become impossible and government had ground to a halt. So an act he and others happily pedalled as disloyal and treacherous, was, some may think, an act of loyalty to the Australian people. The loyalty went on when they refused to expose what an empty suit Rudd is and was until last week they unloaded.

For what it’s worth I think Gillard will scramble back enough to knock the stuffing out of the Libs and there will be a third candidate but it will be Turnbull taking over from Abbott.  So Bernard get off the group think express and do some of that independent thinking you are happy to chastise your gallery mates for not doing.

David Edmunds writes: Bernard Keane drew a particularly gloomy picture for Labor yesterday. However, on the weekend we found out through the Insiders program that Labor is sitting on a two-party preferred vote of 47%, and that no government has lost an election going into the campaign with 49%

This seems to be a glass-half-full situation for Labor.

The following scenario seems more than likely: Labor will bring down a surplus budget a bit in excess of forecasts, blowing away most of the attacks the opposition has mounted on its fiscal competency. In the absence of any other problems and with the economy ticking along, the Labor two-party preferred vote rises to 48%,that is, to within 1% of a clear election win.

At this point the blowtorch is firmly back on the Libs. They have relied on a born-to-rule philosophy, and their policies are therefore a complete mess. Tony Abbott has refused to consider the best ministerial team they might have and his own personal approval rate is abysmal. The Libs are not very tolerant of losers as opposition leaders, so the glass will look very half-empty, to an opposition leader who is only there courtesy of his own vote.

These things feed on themselves. If this very likely scenario pans out, then Julia Gillard will look like a resolute, competent and resilient leader with a much stronger team and a pretty fair policy agenda.  It would be interesting to know whether she has actually made more errors than the Howard Government. I doubt it.

Tony Abbott only has the measure of Julia Gillard, as Bernard puts it, for as long as he doesn’t have to talk about policy.

Consider just one policy item, the national disability insurance scheme. Labor should be in a position to promise this for the next term of parliament. Mr Abbott says this is an aspirational target.  He cannot afford it as he believes that taking tax from the likes of Gina Rinehart and the overseas mining companies is wrong. That is one hard argument amongst many to make to the electorate.

James Burke writes: If nothing else, the events of the past week have confirmed my admiration for Anthony Albanese, and raised my estimation of Mark Arbib (admittedly from a very low base).

But how irritating has been the rewriting of history, especially by media commentators eager to portray Kevin Rudd as Satan incarnate. There’s been much lamenting that “it’s all about personalities”, accompanied by scorn of the stupid voters and their inability to distinguish between a Prime Minister and a President. Julia Gillard’s boasting of her record as a legislator is also repeated uncritically.

While true in part, these arguments ignore the period of Gillard’s first, brief, idiotic premiership. Yes, Gillard succeeded where Rudd failed, and put a price on carbon. But only after she had first abandoned any serious commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions, and promised to never introduce a carbon tax. It was the Greens and independents who forced Labor back into the game, after the shocking election result. The Greens didn’t win Melbourne (and nearly Grayndler) because voters thought Rudd was a wrongly deposed President. Instead there was a revolt by progressives against Gillard’s “me too” hard-right agenda.

There have always been policy aspects to these poisonous leadership debates. And there would be no crisis in the leadership if not for Gillard’s inability — or unwillingness — to put up a proper fight against the hydra of far-right fanaticism.

Dione McDonald writes: I am totally astounded by Bernard Keane’s misogynistic rant against Julie Gillard and then, not sufficiently satisfied, his attack on Penny Wong.

It is very disappointing as a Crikey subscriber to find that your Canberra political correspondent is so blinded by his dislike of these two extremely intelligent and capable politicians that he attempts to paint the Gillard Prime Ministership as having achieved nothing when in fact she has achieved a great deal. And all without a Senate majority, while leading a minority government.

Either you find a more balanced Canberra correspondent or I — and a number of my fellow subscribers — will in future rely on The Global Mail for their alternative, balanced news source — and cancel our Crikey subscriptions.

John Ley writes: Bernard Keane has again shown his bias against Gillard and a failure to take an objective view of the federal political situation as it now is. Gillard won well and now is in a strong position within the ALP caucus. She is a capable parliamentary performer and will beat Abbott there and in the community — as she has done before.

Smith will not stand against Gillard, nor will Shorten, this side of the next election. And Crean won’t either. To suggest that Crean, after being ousted as leader quite some years ago, before he even had a chance to face an election as leader, would now be drafted as leader again, is fanciful. For that suggestion alone Bernard’s piece is laughable.

I expect no change in Bernard’s perspective on Gillard as he seems not to recognise his own prejudices.

Peter Taylor  writes: One can’t help but think this has all been engineered by an impatient Bill Shorten. As one of the faceless men that terminated Rudd for Gillard, he also foresaw the blatantly obvious sooner-rather-than-later departure of Gillard. Shorten will be confident that he will prevail over the West Australian Stephen Smith (no Victorian or NSW factional power base) no matter how worthy, nor that been-there-done-that Simon Crean will ever be considered a serious challenger (“moving forward”).

So the winner is … Bill Shorten!

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Come in Spinner: the Greek/Roman/Shakespearean tragedy of Labor” (yesterday, item 16). Noel Turnbull describes the failure of the two-party preferred vote to have moved against Labor over the lead up to the Labor leadership contest as “bizarre and almost inexplicable”. I disagree.

Previously the voter perception of Kevin Rudd was that he was a bright, goofy guy who got unfairly stabbed in the back through the evil machinations of the Labor machine.  This image has now been replaced by that of an arrogant and unpleasant autocrat, a type most voters have met (and detested) in the workplace.

To the voting public it finally gives an understandable context to the leadership change. This can only be positive for Labor.

Peter Fray

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