The spectre of Kevin Rudd rising from the political ashes dominates the front pages of the country’s major newspapers today — although papers in the rugby league states had to balance the action in Canberra with Queensland’s State of Origin triumph …
And it’s not just the design artists who had to be on top of their game. A leadership spill allows the fiercely competitive members of the Canberra commentariat to show off their analytical skills.
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Peter Hartcher, who is seen as close to Rudd, reckons Tony Abbott will be ruing the demise of Julia Gillard. “Suddenly, Abbott faces an opponent far more popular than himself,” concludes Hartcher. “The Opposition Leader’s assured run to election victory has been radically disrupted.”
According to The Australian‘s Peter van Onselen, Rudd’s return “must go down as the greatest comeback in Australian political history”. PVO’s thesis is that Rudd will now run as an “anti-Labor Labor candidate” and will seek a fresh mandate to “fix” the party.
Dennis Shanahan, however, doesn’t forsee Rudd sweeping to victory at the next election:
“Rudd knows that any polling improvement is likely to be a ‘sugar hit’ — a quick response that won’t last. Rudd also realises that Labor’s problems are not only a result of Gillard’s leadership but also ingrained disappointment among voters with Labor’s policies and implementation of those policies.”
Also at The Oz, Paul Kelly warns: “Rudd must become a master of improvisation — an internal healer, a political plumber who keeps the ship afloat and a persuasive salesman who fronts a discredited government.” But Rudd’s broken promise not to challenge will offer the Coalition ample ammunition to attack him.
The Australian Financial Review‘s Laura Tingle agrees the task facing Rudd Redux is immense. And not just uniting the party and overcoming the anger of female voters — he needs to overhaul Labor’s policies too. “His focus will be the economy and jobs, national security, education, health and climate change,” argues La Tingle. “Notice anything missing? Boats and asylum seekers.”
The Daily Telegraph‘s Simon Benson, who’s been on the money over recent days, seems to have the inside running on Rudd’s policy agenda:
“He will seek to immediately drop the carbon price to a floating mechanism. He has a plan to cut tax for small businesses to 25 per cent. He has toyed with the idea of sending the navy north, plans a major infrastructure program for Sydney, and already had a policy similar to Tony Abbott’s about transforming northern Australia, with low tax rates and expansion of the food bowl to fuel a new economic boom for the country.”
The events of the past 24 hours offer far more questions than answers, according to Annabel Crabb on The Drum:
“What if the polls turn out to be chimeric after all, like they often do in these situations? What if the people who answered ‘yes’ to the poll question about whether they would be more likely to vote Labor if Kevin Rudd were restored to the Labor leadership find a new thing to be grumpy about now that’s been done?”
For The Conversation‘s Michelle Grattan, the transition is probably too little too late:
“Labor has finally made the decision it ought to have taken long ago, but the counter-revolution has been extremely bloody and there are bodies all over the place … It is a great pity they did not have the political nous and hard headedness to realise a year ago that he was their best option. Labor’s prospects would be much better.”
So where did it go wrong? In a carefully-crafted piece, The Guardian‘s Katharine Murphy argues Gillard never settled into the job after Rudd’s removal:
“Gillard could command admiration, but not respect. She shape-shifted. She confounded rather than connected. She was, in turns, too loyal and then too ruthless. The tempo of project Julia was ragged. She could not nurture a fractured government back to functionality. She did not command the caucus, the cabinet, the voters. She became a solo act, shrinking before our eyes.”
Business Spectator‘s Alan Kohler says policy mistakes explain the PM’s demise:
“Gillard’s blunder was to give in to the Treasury’s and Greens’ pressure for a high fixed price for three years, and try to use the predicted revenue for big cash giveaways and tax cuts to buy votes. The revenue naturally turned out to be a ghost. It would have been better just to introduce emissions trading with no household compensation — only free permits for emitters.”
The resurrection of Kevin Rudd also garnered attention around the globe, with The Jakarta Post splashing the story on its website home page. While noting Rudd’s “authoritarian” leadership style, The New York Times describes his comeback as “one of the most sensational political comebacks in Australian history”. The Times also eventually worked out that it’s the prime minister, rather than premier, of Australia.
NBC focussed on Gillard’s reputation as a champion for women, reporting: “Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister hailed as a feminist icon after a fiery speech against ‘sexism and misogyny’ in politics, was dumped from office by her own party Wednesday.”
Following a major speech by President Barack Obama on climate policy earlier this week, The Washington Post‘s wonk blog notes the transition could have “potentially broader implications for climate-change policy in the years ahead”. Israeli newspaper Haaretz recalls Rudd as the “former prime minister who expelled a Mossad agent from Canberra in 2010”.