What now? After the most dramatic night in national political life since three years and three days ago, how will Kevin Rudd manage the weeks until the election?
First, Rudd will need to high-tail it to Government House and get his cabinet in order, after Gillard goes first to resign her position. But the Governor-General will surely ask whether the new PM has the confidence of the Parliament.
As Anne Twomey wrote last week, Bill Shorten’s mother-in-law is likely to ask — if Rudd’s support levels are unclear — if the independents will back him. But if they refuse to commit, then it’s likely she’ll ask the House to decide if it supports the PM, possibly by asking Rudd to recall Parliament. Or she could be satisfied Rudd will move to an election.
But tomorrow, there will almost certainly be a vote of no confidence moved by Abbott in the Parliament. Looking at the current House numbers, Labor has 71, the Coalition 72 with seven crossbenchers.
Of the seven crossbenchers, Bob Katter and Green Adam Bandt will definitely back Rudd, as should Craig Thomson, taking the government’s total to 74. The Rudd camp is maintaining that Andrew Wilkie is in its orbit. So 75.
A question mark surrounds the other three. Retiring independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor are hinting their deal with Gillard is null and void and they have no obligation to back the member for Griffith. Earlier today Windsor suggested he could vote against Rudd in a vote of no confidence. And Peter Slipper, who knows?
Gillard’s senior office will all be looking for new employment. Senior Labor sources confirmed to Crikey that communications director John McTernan will head either to 2GB or Heathrow via Glasgow and chief-of-staff Ben Hubbard and deputy CoS Tom Bentley will also be automatically terminated. But they could technically still be re-hired by Rudd.
In the wash-up, questions will inevitably be asked about when Bill Shorten shifted his loyalty. Were caucus members still deliberating 10 minutes before 7pm? Did David Feeney switch? Was Sam Dastyari’s counting a triumph?
But that’s likely to be of academic concern — with momentum behind him Rudd, Australia’s 26th and 28th Prime Minister, will be racing full-speed ahead to take on the Tories at the ballot box.