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<p>Mike Bowers/The Global Mail</p>

Mike Bowers/The Global Mail

Win Or Lose With A Vengeance

Prime Minister Julia Gillard decisively won the leadership ballot, sending Kevin Rudd packing. But Rudd is not her only enemy.

On a wall of the government party room at Parliament House in Canberra, there is room for just one more portrait of a Labor leader amongthe frames that go back to 1901. There is a last white space next to Julia Gillard. If we accept the old wisdom, "Revenge digs two graves", and the new wisdom that flowed from the Prime Minister's enemies on Feb. 27, then we might expect that space to be filled before the next election. And it is unlikely to be Kevin Rudd.

Perhaps that is why the challenger's eyes seemed to linger for a moment or two on that empty space as he rose up and departed, with his wife and children, after his post-defeat appearance, without taking a single question. He looked maimed, and appeared to be sliding off, stung by a leadership ballot result that even he conceded - at 71 for the Prime Minister and 31 for himself - was a strong result for Gillard.

“Tony Abbott would be pretty happy with it [the result]. He feared Kevin Rudd because the opinion polls gave him good reason to.”

Just before the ballot, Mr Rudd made a last appeal to his colleagues in the party room, acknowledging just how searing his campaign to wrest the leadership from Julia Gillard had been upon his party.

"This has been a difficult, almost violent, ballot," Rudd said.

His pitch to the Labor caucus relied on his record as a Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, and also included the seizure by Julia Gillard of his old job. "Today gives us an opportunity to deal with the events of June 2010," he told the party room. "As Albo said on Saturday, what was done in 2010 was wrong. That's the people's view. That's the view of the overwhelming majority of our supporters and our branch members. Not just what was done, but how it was done."

<p>Photo by Mike Bowers</p>

Photo by Mike Bowers

After the vote, enough carping. He said there would be no further challenge from him before the election; "To Julia I would say the following, as I have said just now in the caucus: I accept fully the verdict of the caucus, and I dedicate myself to working fully for her re-election as the Prime Minister of Australia."

Within the hour, the Prime Minister made her own appearance. She could not - and chose not to - avoid the blood all around her and her party that the past week has left. It has been ugly, she admitted.

“Provided everyone can unite behind Julia, this won't be a strong memory by the time the next election comes around.”

"I can assure you that this political drama is over and now you are back at centre stage where you should properly be and you will be the focus of all of our efforts," she told the nation, staring down the barrel of the camera trained on her.

While the Prime Minister and her supporters sorely want the leadership question to be settled, that appears unlikely; one-third of her caucus and a quarter of her Cabinet sided with Kevin Rudd in yesterday's party room ballot.

Bruce Hawker, Kevin Rudd's campaign manager and the public face of the Rudd challenge, told The Global Mail after the ballot: "Clearly we are disappointed. We were hoping that public opinion would be reflected in caucus opinion. In the end, it was probably in inverse proportion to the public endorsement of Kevin Rudd. So Julia Gillard has certainly won the battle. The big challenge for her now to is win the war. Against Tony Abbott. I think Tony Abbott would be pretty happy with it [the result]. He feared Kevin Rudd because the opinion polls gave him good reason to."

Inside the Rudd camp the view is that the Prime Minister, no matter how much she believes that she is able to catch and deal with Tony Abbott, will not be able to garner the sustained lift in the opinion polls that she and her party need - especially given how much fresh ammunition has been gifted to her Coalition opponents this week.

The harder heads arrayed against her in the Labor Party do not believe she will lead the party to the next election and that a third candidate for the leadership will emerge - or be drafted.

The most likely candidates are the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, or the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten.

<p>Photo by Mike Bowers</p>

Photo by Mike Bowers

Rudd is bound, they say, by his pledge after the Feb. 27 ballot not to challenge before the next election. But if Julia Gillard were to step aside before the election - an event all sides consider unlikely - then Rudd could re-emerge.

Tactically, the Rudd forces got a poorer-than-expected result yesterday because they did not get more big name Cabinet defections to their side, other than Anthony Albanese. And, they now admit, the so-called shock-and-awe tactic of the Prime Minister's forces, which saw Kevin Rudd attacked by his own party's Cabinet and the depictions given of the disorganisation and chaos of his office during his period as Prime Minister, sapped his campaign of votes.

The 40-vote margin that secured Julia Gillard's victory eclipses the 22-vote margin that Bob Hawke had when he beat off Paul Keating's first attempt to oust him. Keating used the margin to leverage a second - and successful - challenge. Rudd faces a much bigger hurdle to win in any second challenge.

Why, then, did she appoint Kevin Rudd her foreign Minister, when, in her words, Mr Rudd had "very chaotic work patterns"?

Hawker believes the public campaign fought between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, while unprecedented and unpalatable, will be largely forgotten by the time of the next election. "I think that the public see this as a rather extreme form of the hurly-burly of politics," says Hawker. "They don't like it, that's pretty clear. But I don't think they are all that surprised by it. Provided everyone can unite behind Julia, this won't be a strong memory by the time the next election comes around."

What has surprised most is Julia Gillard's belated concession after yesterday's ballot that she had been wrong not to have exposed Kevin Rudd's chaotic Prime Ministerial office before last week. She said: "In all of the things that have happened over the last few days, I have had the opportunity to explain the circumstances of 2010 and how I became Prime Minister. I accept that I should have explained that at the time.

"I have now had the opportunity to do so, but having taken that opportunity, I believe the discussions about 2010 should now be at an end, our focus is on 2012 and all the years that lie beyond for the Australian nation."

But, as the Opposition's Christopher Pyne very quickly demonstrated in Parliament yesterday, her revelations about the failings in Kevin Rudd's office - that led to her becoming Prime Minister - raise one obvious question: Why, then, did she appoint Kevin Rudd her foreign Minister, when, in her words, Rudd had "very chaotic work patterns"?

As Kevin Rudd, on the far backbench, read and sipped water, both looked to be in their political graves.

Such is the price of revenge.

View The Global Mail’s photo essay, Scenes from A Spill, by Mike Bowers.

9 comments on this story
by Ben

Revenge may dig two graves – if it is successful. It seems to me, though, that the mirror Kevin Rudd attempted to hold up to the PM instead reflected on him – and very badly. The revelations of the last few days (including the leaked video) are likely to finally have brought on a realisation amongst the electorate of Rudd being disturbingly Latham-like and Gillard’s 2010 move to thus have been warranted.

If so, there could be a marked swing in popularity as preferred PM in Gillard’s favour, meaning a very strong likelihood that she’ll lead the Party through the next election – and in a real contest.

February 28, 2012 @ 3:01am
by Jim

I find this a disappointing news story for the Global Mail.
This story is not reporting the news, it is forecasting an outcome. It is forecasting that Julia Gillard will not survive as PM.
Is that in line with Global Mail policy?

February 28, 2012 @ 8:20am
by Peter

....or maybe the ALP just tore itself together and that second grave is the one Turnbull rolls Abbott into.

February 28, 2012 @ 9:31am
by gweneth

I agree with Ben. That has certainly been the case for me. I see both in a new light and now strongly support the PM.
But I understand the political system. Many Australians do not. Hawker tried to take advantage of that. I find that reprehensible.
The media has a role to play here and it failed. First by protecting Rudd’s lies and second by failing to explain the real politics behind this.

February 28, 2012 @ 10:50am
by Nic

Brilliant start! The empty spot is the key. This is news - and exactly the sort of thing I'd expect from the Global Mail - because it takes us behind the events of the day and provides the analysis that allows us to understand what's coming next.

February 28, 2012 @ 12:20pm
by lee

Yes Gweneth, I agree.

Why didn't the media - who clearly knew much more about Rudd's MO than they revealed - show his true problems earlier?

All we learnt of were a few complaints that he 'worked too hard' and 'through the night.' There were hints, but no real analysis of why so many staffers left his office throughout his term as PM.

It's very disappointing that because of the strident anti-Labor bias of News Limited outlets, trying to sift what's real and what's beat-up about any Labor Govt is very difficult. Fairfax and the ABC seem increasingly unprepared to challenge or go beyond superficial commentary.

February 28, 2012 @ 1:58pm
Show previous 6 comments
by Roxane

First I'd like to say I agree with commenter Jim. I am spreading the word about The Global Mail because it does not (did not) appear to be a news source that seeks to mould opinion. The forcasting of the PM's demise at the next election reeks of "moulding" so my anttenae are now out and monitoring for future infractions.
What I am amazed about is the lack of discussion in the media about the words Mr Rudd used at The Stag, which he clearly intended to be insults: childless woman, atheist, and ex- communist. Given the public utterences of the Republican Rick Santorum, seeking nomination to run for President in America, and the nightmare for women the imposition his religious beliefs on them would bring I find a somewhat disturbing parallel of attitude in the "insults" made by Mr Rudd. Childless woman? Really? A woman who has chosen to not have children is an insult? If he believes this to be an insult does that mean he believes only women who have children are worthy of our respect (I have 2 children incase you were wondering). Atheist? Really? A person who has declared they don't believe in theistis descriptions of god (if indeed there is a god at all) is an insult. Does that mean he believes only people who have theistic beliefs are worthy of respect? Do those people have to share his particular theistic beliefs to earn his repect, or are all theistic believers worthy, even though they don't believe in each others' beliefs, as long as they are not atheist. Ex-communist? Really? Does this mean if the PM was currently communist he would respect her more, or, as I suspect, he doesn't think people should be shown respect today because of views they may have held in the past, even if they no longer hold them.
Had my opinion been sought in the polling, I probably would have supported Mr Rudd over the PM, even though I think the PM has been doing a great job.; because I still had misgivings about the coo. If I was polled today I would be giving my resounding support to the PM, purely because what Mr Rudd thought to be insulting I find perfectly acceptable. I await the next poll results with interest.

February 28, 2012 @ 2:12pm
by Karen

Rather than muse about another possible tumble, how about considering that the clear result of the ballot now allows for continuation of government, without the tittle tattle of gossips sometimes known as journalists.
Keep the governing on track!
Question the policy, process and management, not the personalities.
Ask the Ministers the hard questions about all the injustices, govt. dept. and quango mismanagements of services and the environment. And how about reporting on the good stuff that is happening?

February 28, 2012 @ 5:11pm
by bob

I am with other writers . This is a disappoinment in the Global Mail where you also now take the side that all politicians are liars and a good conspiracy beats a good story. Please leave this rubbish for others.

February 29, 2012 @ 4:52pm
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