FROM THE HUSTINGS . . .
This campaign – perhaps more than any other – is revolving around the personality of the rival contenders for the prime ministership. On television in particular, policy receives short shrift. Nevertheless, everyone expects the leaders to at least pretend to be civilised and respectful of one another, and that’s why the well-sourced attacks on Julia Gillard’s credibility are such a gift for the coalition.
If Tony Abbott accused his opponent of hypocrisy, people would simply dismiss his words as campaign rhetoric. The current series of attacks on Gillard appear, however, to be inspired by a far more elemental emotion: sheer hatred. And that’s why they strike home so viciously and represent such a direct threat to her bid for election.
Once he was deposed as leader, it initially appeared that Kevin Rudd would meekly accept the verdict of the party. He'd (apparently) begun with the expectation that Gillard would find him a position as Foreign Affairs Minister, but he’d lost that chance the minute he decided to try and fight it out. As soon as news of the plan to replace him leaked out it was obvious that she didn’t want him sitting around the cabinet table.
On the Wednesday morning when Gillard told Rudd she wanted to succeed him, there was still a slight chance his career could have been saved. If -- then and there -- he'd accepted that he didn't have the numbers and had voluntarily agreed to stand down for Gillard, something might have been worked out. But he didn’t.
That’s why later, on the evening of the 23rd June, when Rudd seemed to think he’d been offered a deal by Gillard, it was all too late. He’d taken too long to understand that his time was up. Later that night, as the soon to be deposed PM was speaking to the press, he was already thinking about protecting his legacy. That’s why he presented himself as the one person who’d been driving popular reforms through cabinet; asserting that his efforts had been hobbled by ‘others’.
This current campaign of leaking revolves around protecting Rudd’s reputation. That’s the only objective. If it weakens Labor . . . well, that’s a price that whoever’s doing the leaking appears quite willing to pay.
Forget the idea of Rudd ever serving in a Gillard ministry. That fanciful notion is completely off the agenda now. The party might still be prepared to send him overseas to a diplomatic post (Bangladesh has been mentioned) but that would just be to get rid of him. There’s no residual goodwill on either side.
And Abbott? The Liberals just want him to be quiet and allow people to focus on Labor tearing itself apart. Unnamed sources can imply things about Gillard that he never could.