and yet again in Canberra

There is to be a ballot for the leadership of the ALP in about 3 hours. An influential cabinet minister, Bill Shorten, has shifted his support to Rudd. Rudd, unlike the last time, has declared he will stand. Both have said they will leave parliament if they are unsuccessful.

The governor-general, who strangely enough is Shorten’s mother-in-law, will have to decide whether to commission Rudd if he is elected, to send for the opposition leader,or to require Rudd to secure a vote of confidence.

40 thoughts on “and yet again in Canberra

  1. Rudd, who is apparently now the Labor leader, is reported to have told caucus he will advise a general election for 24 August.

  2. I wake up early to watch Origin rugby and instead get a dose of Australia’s far more dangerous pasttime–leadership spills.

    Does anyone know what will happen now?

    Will Rudd become PM, possibly only as caretaker?

    How likely is the GG to force Rudd to prove confidence or call Abbott when Gillard resigns?

    Assuming Parliament doesn’t need to meet again and 24 August will be the election date, does the campaign start now?

    How safe is any Australian prime minister/premier going to be now? (Or is this just a Labor thing?)

  3. The constitutional questions are wide open. After this no-one is ever again going to be very enthusiastic about challenging a sitting prime minister.

  4. Four weeks short of the third anniversary of Rudd’s deposition. Alan, by “Both have said they will leave parliament if they are unsuccessful”, I’m assuming you mean Rudd and Gillard not Rudd and Shorten?

    Bill Shorten MHR has dated at least one former Cabinet Minister, was previously married to the daughter of a former (Liberal) MHR, and is now married to the daughter of Her Excellency the Governor-General. He’s is a walking violation of (even the fairly relaxed Australian version of) the separation of powers. Imagine Greg Kinnear cast as Frank Underwood and you’re halfway there.

  5. Well, Rudd will have to wait upon the governor-general and Her Excellency will presumably ask if he enjoys the confidence of the house. Rudd has already been promised confidence by 2 of the 5 on the crossbench.

    The ALP has also made other changes to its leadership, replacing the deputy leader/ deputy prime minister, the leader in the senate and the deputy leader in the senate. That makes all 4 of the most senior positions in the leadership and the cabinet.

    The house is only scheduled for one more sitting day, tomorrow, and the opposition has announced a vote of no confidence, although who will then be prime minister makes that an interesting question.

    It would take an absolute majority to bring on the vote because (as usual) the opposition has not given notice. If Rudd is wise he will allow the motion to come on for debate.

  6. ABC (yes, the Oz one) reported that the Yom Kippur election date may be off.

    A small personal note: I woke up to this news today. Somehow my “Tune In” app on my iPad was on ABC this morning. I usually turn the iPad all the way off, after listening to BBC or Kol Yisrael in the evening. I left it on last night for some reason, and somehow must have touched the button for ABC before I went to sleep. And then I wake up to Kevin Rudd speaking about how he is “humbled” (is that possible?). I assumed for a moment it had to be a retrospective, not live(-ish) news!

  7. My question is, why would Rudd even want this? He gets to be PM for about three months, and then opposition leader. He doesn’t seriously believe he can right the sinking ship that is Labor in such a short time, does he?

  8. I’m also wondering how this advantages the Labor caucus. Presumably they think they will lose less badly under Rudd (or does anyone still think they can win this election) and so some members that would have lost under GIllard would get returned under Rudd and continue their careers. There may have been enough of these to make the difference.

    For anyone in a safe seat, or one marginal enough to be doomed under either leader, if they had stuck with Gillard, they could then select the new leader from several options at a relatively leisurely pace in opposition. Now they either have to hope that Rudd intends to be effectively an interim leader, or that he is really the most effective opposition leader Labor can have and that they don’t have to consider other options.

    I remember Major deliberately holding on as Tory leader and PM in the 1990s precisely so that they would get the election defeat out of the way with him as leader and then be able to select someone untarnished by the loss as opposition leader.

    Presumably Australian voters are pretty blasé about a governing party getting elected with one leader, throwing him out and bringing in a new one, winning (sort of) another election, then throwing out the new leader and bringing back the old one. Am I right that Kim Beazley was the last Labor leader to be allowed to fight two consecutive elections?

  9. A very early post-Ruddstoration opinion poll shows the 2PP shifting from 57/43 to 51.5/49.5.

    That movement is about what was predicted by most polls before Rudd regained the leadership. I think many people see this as the righting of a wrong rather than one politician deposing another.

    The electorate really, really likes Kevin Rudd.

  10. I just don’t believe leaders matter that much to a party’s electoral success in parliamentary systems. But there’s no way to know for sure. We can’t re-run the precisely same election, only with a different leader.

    I previously elaborated on some of the reasons why an allegedly better leader for election purposes would not be selected over one the caucus liked better. Of course, this was to explain why the party didn’t plump for Rudd. Now that it has, who knows?

  11. I think it’s an unusual combination of a very unpopular leader being replaced by a leader who, in addition to high electoral standings, enjoys a certain legitimacy that his predecessor lacked. There’s also undoubtedly an element that ALP supporters are relieved the whole thing is finally over.

    Just for the stats, I think the last time a defeated prime minister of Australia regained the office was Menzies in 1949.

    The governor-general will swear in Rudd at 9:30 AEST before he meets the parliament later today. There is a remote possibility that Rudd will advise an immediate dissolution.

    ABC live coverage

  12. And (as usual) the opposition dogged the confidence issue, so the Rudd government now has the presumptive confidence of the house of representatives. The opposition have their own king over the water, former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, who would have to feel his own chances have risen considerably in the last 24 hours.

  13. Err, I was wrong about “four weeks short” – actually two days over the third anniversary.

  14. Chris Bowen, the new treasurer,just told the ABC that the 14 September election date is dead and one of Prime Minister Rudd’s concerns is the clash with Yom Kippur. Apparently Rudd intends at some stage to wait upon the governor-general and then announce the election date in the conventional way.

  15. Is the referendum on recognising local government still going ahead? Admittedly the conjunction of “Bowen” + “Federal Labor Government” + “proposal to alter Australian Constitution” is a non-auspicious precedent.

  16. Has Australia gone Italian? So much political drama, but will Kevin Rudd save the Labor Party? And Australia is a parliamentary system not a presidential system, seems a bit odd that they would dump a Prime Minister just to win the next election as the people don’t vote for the Prime Minister, but for the party and/or local representatives. This might make sense in a Presidential system where dumping the incumbent because the party wants to win so badly.

  17. The referendum cannot be held before 14 September.

    You’d expect Rudd to go late but a second set of polls has just proved, if anything, more spectacular than the first. Reachtel is reporting swings to Labor up to 10 points on the 2PP since Rudd regained the prime ministership. You’d think there’d be a growing temptation (which I hope is ignored) for an election as soon as possible.

  18. What Alan said @11 – the vibe I’m getting is that people see this as having “one and a half prime ministerships” rather than “three prime ministerships” since Dec 2007.
    Repeated insistence by Gillard backers along the lines that “This is a Westminster system: it’s MPs choosing a Prime Minister, not voters choosing a President” (not sure where defector Electors fit in there, but anyway) seemed to miss the point in a big way. Yes, we have a Head of Government who can be removed from office by his or her fellow MPs if he or she turns out to be a criminal, a lunatic, or simply so past his or her use-by date that he or she has outworn his or her welcome with the electorate. (The first two grounds are roughly mirrored by impeachment in a Presidential system, and I suppose the third is very roughly approximated by term limits – as a fixed rule rather than a political judgment – thus yielding a considerable number of false positives [Clinton I after 2001] and false negatives [Bush II after 2005]).
    The Queensland Nationals might have hung on after they replaced Bjelke-Petersen if it hadn’t been for the massive scandals revealed by the Fitzgerald Inquiry. (The voters were far more lenient on the Nats in 1989 than they were on Labor in 2012). The UK Tories did hang on after replacing Thatcher, for one more election.
    BUT if MPs are seen to use their power of removal arbitrarily – to avenge personal slights rather than to save the polity from some dangerous Greg Stillson type at the helm – then they will suffer electorally. (Just as do members of a Congress that is seen to impeach frivolously, eg the GOP in 1998). Rightly or wrongly, this was how the 2010 Removal was viewed by Australian voters. (At least the ones I spoke to. But I spoke to a lot. Including a number who were female university students and therefore should have been a prime demographic as Julia Gillard fans). It was viewed the same way as student union politics was when I was in it: all about who had grudges against whom, and who wasn’t willing to work as part of a team. The fact that Rudd didn’t quit Parliament, hung in a Foreign Minister, and (at least at first) seemed to respect the Caucus result rather than spitting the dummy, probably helped solidify the image that he wasn’t the cause of inability to work together.
    True, people I know who’ve met him attest that Rudd can be very trying in person. And ironically, if I were voting in a Labor leadership primary in 2007 – or even 2010 – I’d probably choose Gillard over Rudd. But she was seen to have betrayed her leader, and not to save the government from a terminal death-spiral but to have put a functioning, still-fresh government into a death spiral. She’ll be remembered as Labor’s Billy McMahon.

  19. Also, can it please be minuted that Australia’s two mid-term changes of Prime Minister in the last 3 years were not the doing of independent or minor-party MPs. In 2010, Labor had an absolute majority of seats when Rudd was ousted. In 2013, Labor did not have a majority but Gillard was not ousted at the behest and demand of Messrs Windsor, Wilkie, Oakeshott or for that matter Katter. The “three amigos” all stuck to their side of the bargain. Keep this in mind if anyone overseas starts making misleading claims about how “AV leads to unstable governments in Australia” (I’m giving the Daily Mail or the Spectator about a week before one or both publishes someone making this argument).

  20. I think McMahon may be remembered as the LNP’s Gillard. The government McMahon took over was already a complete mess.

    Gillard seized control of a government with excellent prospects and managed to destroy its parliamentary majority at one election. She then spent the rest of her time as PM effectively insisting the ship should go down with the captain.

  21. And at the end of a very, very strange week Newspoll has the 2PP at 51/49 from a position of 57/43 on 23 June. It’s particularly significant that Labor has gone from huge 2PP deficits in Queensland and New South Wales to parity.

    On those figures, and without making any further gains, Labor could expect to form a minority government with crossbench support.

    Evidently there are cases in parliamentary elections where leadership does matter.

    • I’ve seen polling bounces before. Newly anointed presidential candidates in the US almost always receive some sort of “convention bounce”. The analogy is imperfect, but the best one can get in a parliamentary context.

      Thus polling days after a leadership change in a parliamentary democracy do not prove that the leader matters to the ultimate outcome. Basically it is an unknowable, because it depends on various counterfactuals. What if the election really were today? If Rudd wins, can we know that Gillard would not have? In a context of an actual campaign, voters might discover that they like the Labor government’s record, regardless of the party’s problems, or that they don’t like the available alternative enough to take the plunge. Polling this far out is just not likely indicative. In fact, if Rudd and his party have only the barest of leads just after the change, and a minority government would still be the most likely product of such a lead, I’d take that as a rather ominous sign going forward.

      At least in the US case, we have some significant research on the relationship between campaign “fundamentals” and polling fluctuations. If such research exists in Australia–or even Britain or Canada–I would love to know it. Of course, the phenomena are different–which is precisely my point: It is not that leaders do not matter, but that parties and their collective reputations matter more, in parliamentary systems. Of course, one major source of that reputation is whether they can keep their own house is order. If this leadership shift, accompanied by the loser’s (promised) fading into the background, changes a reputation that was badly damaged during the Rudd-Gillard wars, then it will restore the party’s chances–if the fundamentals of the campaign are sufficiently favorable for the party.

  22. Using Antony Green’s election calculator it’s instructive to compare the immediate past Newspoll, taken when Gillard was prime minister, with the current one. The previous result gave Labor 42/150 seats in the house. The current result gives Labor 68/150, still not enough for a hung parliament let alone a majority, but one hell of a shift in 7 days.

    Given there is usually some lag between a political event and its full impact in the polls you’d expect to see the Rudd bounce go a bit higher before anything else happens.

    It’s also worth noting that Rudd is an extraordinarily capable campaigner and that several years of fairly vitriolic attacks by ALP rivals have done nothing to dent his electoral standings. The current LNP strategy of repeating those attacks is likely to have the same lack of effect, at least until Turnbull begins his own march on the Lonely Mountain.

  23. I wonder if some or all of that poll is less of a Rudd bounce and more of a “Thank God She’s Gone” bounce. Aside from die hard Liberals, most of the Australians I know seem to have no faith whatsoever in Abbot, but even less in Gillard. They, an admittedly small sample, seemed more inclined to have voted for the coalition as a means of voting against Gillard than anything else. Now that Rudd is back, they safely vote for Labor or just plain Rudd again.

  24. John and I are quite close on on the Gillard issue.

    The weird thing for me was how quickly she lost the initial burst of support as first woman prime minister, largely with cackhanded and never-explained statements of conservative social positions. Because she was never able to explain these positions coherently the almost universal assumption was that they had been imposed as the price of support by rightwing unions or social movements.

    You cannot, for instance, claim to oppose marriage equality because you are a cultural traditionalist when you are an atheist living in the official residence with an unmarried partner. Nor does it wash when that explanation goes over like a lead balloon so 18 months later you switch to saying that you don’t feel the need for a marriage certificate to validate your own relationship. And when that explanation fails in turn, you start telling the country that the ALP isn’t a progressive party it’s a labor party.

  25. Qui-Ginn Jon’s assessment is balanced. Julia Baird’s is misleading by omission. Any account of the main Julia’s “misogyny” speech (which was received much more favourably outside Australia than among those women able to vote for or against Gillard, many of whom viewed it as a political stunt) is seriously – I hesitate to say “deliberately” – misleading if it omits two important facts:

    1. Abbott was trying to get rid of the Speaker, Peter Slipper, a former National turned Liberal now turned Labor-aligned Independent, on sexual harassment claims: for this purpose, Abbott had quoted some very NSFW SMS texts that Slipper had sent the alleged harassee describing female genitalia (think Hill/ Thomas hearings, but even further downmarket). I have no doubt whatsoever that had Slipper still been a Coalition MP, Gillard and her supporters would have been loud in calling on Abbott to sack him. But because Labor needed Slipper’s vote to maintain their one-seat majority, Gillard replied with a major non-sequitur along the lines of “You think that’s misogynist? Abbott’s anti-abortion. Now that’s misogynist.”

    Which, following what Alan said, might have worked if Gillard herself were not so professedly anti-SSM. I know a number of people who are anti-abortion but support gay marriage. I have never met a single person who is pro-abortion but opposes gay marriage. Gillard thus managed to wedge herself into a statistically non-existing electoral demographic in the culture wars.

    2. Some weeks after The Speech, Gillard was happy to be interviewed amicably by Kyle Sandilands, a notorious Sydney “shock jock”. Non-Australian readers are invited to google Mr Sandilands and weight whether he or Abbott is worse on the misogyny scale.

    It was stunts like this that sunk Gillard’s brand, in combination with the perceived greed of knifing the leader after just two and a half years Comparisons with Keating in 1991 don’t work because he had served as Treasurer under Hawke for 8-9 years before he challenged, and Hawke had broken the Blair/ Brown style agreement to retire. I refuse to believe that Rudd ever agreed in 2007 to serve less than three years.

  26. It would be deeply unkind to mention that the leadership of the Shop Distributive and Allied Trades union passionately opposes same sex marriage and was one of the decisive groups within the ALP that made and then maintained the Gillard leadership. Ditto the Australian Workers Union.

  27. Aren’t the Shoppies union chiefs also anti-abortion? I thought one reason Linda Kirk got demoted to an unwinnable position on the SA Labor Senate ticket was because she voted in favour of stem cells.

  28. So possibly Gillard was willing to compromise her (normally left-wing) views on same-sex marriage to maintain her alliance with the right-wing unions (or at least with those unions’ leaders), but compromising her views on abortion may have been a bridge too far?

    I suppose if there is a common them to Gillard’s positions across these issues, it’s a distrust of all-male institutions with no women to be seen…

  29. Should add that I agree with Baird that a non-negligible amount of the criticisms of Gillard (“ditch the bitch”, the “joke menu”, etc) were definitely misogynistic. Hard to tell whether these critics would have made different but equally nasty slurs against a male prime minister whose policies they disliked. Harder still to decide whether it matters. If, say, an American who opposed the Iraq invasion decides to use a racial or sexual slur against Condoleezza Rice for supporting that invasion, the fact that others manage to oppose the Iraq invasion without resorting to racial/ sexual slurs doesn’t mean that our subject is not engaging in racism/ sexism.

    Australian politics does seem particularly rough in its rhetoric (the nickname “bear pit” is regularly applied to various parliaments in this continent – not, of course, those chambers elected by AV, since we have it on reliable authority [coughspikedcough] that AV elects bland, consensual, non-conviction politicians). Mungo MacCallum, a veteran political journalist, regularly refers to John Howard as “the turd that won’t flush”, which I guess is at least gender-neutral. True, we don’t have websites accusing Bob Hawke of having his former associates murdered: Americans seem to deal in deadly serious accusations, whereas in Australia the Keatings and the Abbotts prefer to just get under their opponents’ skin.

    • What is this “reliable authority” that claims “AV elects bland, consensual, non-conviction politicians”? I don’t recall seeing that one.

  30. How could one miss that trope? Here’s a sample of representative (as it were) results from a few minutes googling “alternative vote” + “bland”, “boring” and “inoffensive”:

    Five minutes locked in a room with Jeff Kennett, Paul Keating or Johannes Bjelke-Petersen would be enough to cure a visitor to Australia of ever repeating this particular soundbite again.

    And yeah, yeah, I know, the irony of the spikedistas repeatedly arguing that “there was no mass groundswell of public opinion behind the push for [X reform]” while simultaneously trying valiantly to argue against schemes to censor things for being “offensive”. Because if there’s one cause that really does come from repeated mass groundswells of public opinion, throughout history, it’s schemes to censor things for being “offensive”. Plain Folk Populism is a great thing, except when it’s not.

    To be fair to spiked they also neatly skewer the bad arguments of the No2AV case too:

    • I guess we understand “authority” rather differently. One thing is for sure: the UK referendum outcome was not driven by rational debate about the merits of specific electoral systems. That may be a lot to expect of any referendum campaign, but my (loose) understanding is that the UK campaign was characterized by a far lower level of debate than other electoral-system referenda in New Zealand and some Canadian provinces.

      And, as far as I know, the electoral systems specialists have not alleged that MPs without conviction would be favored under AV. If anything, my colleagues in this specialty are more likely to argue that AV produces a politics insufficiently different from the winner-take-all climate of plurality to be worth the trouble.

  31. Aha, l see. By “authority” MSS means “rigorous empirical evidence” as opposed to “Daily Mail columnists reasoning that, because ‘most’ [scil ‘many’] parliaments copy the layout of the House of Commons [apart from the UK’s ‘not enough seats for all MPs’ tic], ergo FPTP is the best voting system.
    However, if one insists on intermediate premises in one’s syllogisms, there are some more scholarly cites for the “bland candidates” point. IIRC the 1987 NZ Royal Commission made that argument against both AV and Approval. The writings of the late Prof Michael Dummett – an advocate of the adoption of Borda and the abolition of national borders – provided the, uh, UK Tories with anti-AV/ STV points.

  32. Putting quotation marks around a word or phrase are a way of expressing sarcasm. It was my understanding that ‘authority’ was meant in this way. I hope I did not misunderstand and did not add more confusion…

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