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Chris Gatenby: In Australia, Labor face meltdown after vengeful Rudd returns as PM

Chris GatenbyChris Gatenby is a Conservative Party activist and Vice President of Australian Liberals Abroad UK. Follow him on Twitter here.

Kevin Rudd has dramatically returned to the Australian Labor Party leadership following a 57-45 caucus ballot against Julia Gillard on Wednesday evening in Canberra.

Rudd was sworn in the following day by the Governor General, Quentin Bryce, making then Leader of the House Anthony Albanese his Deputy Prime Minister. Senator Penny Wong emerged as Labor Leader in the Senate. Gillard will retire from politics at the next election.

Rudd’s relentless pursuit to return to the leadership seemingly hung on the balance of Cabinet member union powerbroker Bill Shorten. Shorten - himself a touted future leader - appeared before the media minutes before the party room vote to announce he was switching his support from Gillard to Rudd, effectively sealing the outgoing PM’s dramatic fate. Shorten was instrumental in making Gillard Prime Minister in the first place and having now wielded the knife a second time may have badly damaged his future leadership prospects, in the process.

The result also led to the resignation of senior Ministers from Cabinet including Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan. Gillard is set to resign from Parliament altogether following her calls for the ballot loser to resign as an MP at the next election, with other Cabinet colleagues following suit.

With rumours of an early election before the14 September date set be Gillard, Labor has set its sight on a campaign aimed at salvaging seats in Kevin Rudd’s own State of Queensland and Western Sydney, whilst creating a narrative that the Opposition’s plans for public spending will result in austere times – all in an effort to stem the losses predicted by recent opinion polls.

The move will no doubt be seen as the party’s best chance of survival in campaign against Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s looming victory at the upcoming election. With Gillard’s performance pointing towards to a primary vote for Labor of just 30 per cent and Abbott far outstripping her in the preferred PM stakes, recent polls have shown voters feel that Labor’s prospects will improve vastly under Rudd’s leadership; though a large proportion of voters did not like the idea of a change when put to them.

Big questions now loom for Rudd on Labor’s policy priorities he will take to the next election, as well as the focus on key seats.  With less than 100 days he has little time to re-cast and resolve many of the internal battles on policy direction and attempt to wedge the opposition as he returns to the Prime Ministership. Key issues include the bemoaned carbon tax, border control, education reforms with State Governments and ultimately the budget and public spending.

For the opposition, their campaign to remind voters of Kevin Rudd’s tumultuous terms as PM begins through a series of ad campaigns, highlighting current and former ministers advocating their staunch views against his premiership. Rudd won’t be able to escape the reasons why his first attempt at PM was a failure.

Julia Gillard’s three year tenure at Prime Minister has been dramatically ended at the hands of the vengeful Rudd and the key backing of the Unions in an attempt to salvage a victory or minimise the losses at the next election. The big question looming for Rudd and Labor for the next election is; is it all too little, too late? 


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