As the curtains came down on the Rudd-Gillard era last night, the press gallery scribes and the op-ed columnists were busy in the wings, bashing away on their keyboards, sizing up the moment, honing the first draft of history.

According to The Age‘s Michael Gordon, despite the swing against the government being smaller than expected, Kevin Rudd is less saviour than villain:

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“The Kevin Rudd experiment has failed and failed comprehensively — and Labor now faces the colossal challenge of rebuilding and redefining and reconnecting, most likely under the leadership of Bill Shorten. Rudd insists he is not into ‘what-ifs’ but he and his party must surely reflect on the squandered opportunity of the last six years, and wonder how a talented government that pursued and implemented some landmark policies could succumb to such collective insanity and division.”

Over at The Conversation, however, Michelle Grattan is more forgiving:

“In assessing Kevin Rudd’s performance, it depends where you’re coming from. Rudd’s destabilisation over the last three years has contributed mightily to the perception of a fractured and disunited government. But his return to the leadership has significantly contained the swing against Labor — which under Julia Gillard was likely to be huge — to a relatively modest level.”

Also at The Convo, Shaun Carney warns Abbott will have to quickly change his style as prime minister:

“Vindication is his, but there is still the small matter of actually doing the job now that he has secured it. Abbott as an opposition leader was frenzied, intense, relentless, functionally incapable of pulling back and changing either his tone or his rhetoric. Now that they are in charge, Abbott and his likely treasurer Joe Hockey will have to transform their political approach instantaneously. The hysterics of the past few years will no longer be of use to them.”

No such concerns for the Herald Sun‘s Andrew Bolt. It’s his day to celebrate — and rub the Left’s face in it:

 “Tony Abbott, written off as ‘unelectable’, has led the Coalition to one of its biggest wins. This is a victory over a cultural elite that mocked him and Labor, which vilified him as a ‘misogynist’ and bigot. It is particularly a victory over the green movement, which Abbott fought from the day he won the Opposition leadership four years ago … Labor bet its house on it, smearing Abbott as a woman-hating ‘thug’. Journalists fanned that deceitful stereotype. In fact, Abbott is seriously smart, literate and considerate, as well as ferociously disciplined and competitive. Voters saw that in the campaign.”

The Sunday Telegraph‘s Piers Akerman also took time to gloat:

“Despite the relentless smear campaign which began from the moment he was elected Opposition Leader, Abbott comes to office without any skeletons rattling in his closet. He is neither a bully nor a thug, contrary to the baseless stories peddled by Labor lickspittles in the media pack. He is a man of values and principles, a family man with a loving wife and daughters, a man with mates across the spectrum, mates who may not parade themselves in the public eye for PR purposes but who know the special value of true friendship.”

Also at The Sunday Tele, union leader Paul Howes was stoic in defeat:

“There are so many things the Coalition will now have to support and implement that simply would never have happened if it were not for Labor. Does anyone seriously believe a National Disability Insurance Scheme would be coming in if not for Labor? And just as the electorate will punish a government for poor discipline, similarly they will grow tired very quickly of a small-minded Coalition, which fails to engage seriously with the big, long-term challenges we confront. Labor must remember this, keep calm and carry on.”

The Sun-Herald‘s Peter FitzSimons admits he was wrong to think Abbott was unelectable. Fitzy, too, is looking on the bright side:

“[I]t is possible — just possible — that Abbott will surprise us. If he can get to the prime ministership against all odds, in part on the back of the amazingly generous paid parental leave scheme — which runs entirely contrary to his entire policy drive before that — there has to be a chance that he will embrace other surprising policy U-turns.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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