Today author Robert Macklin has seen fit to counsel biographee Kevin Rudd to cease agitating for the leadership of the Labor Party via open Letter. You can read Macklin’s letter here, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Macklin’s letter employs less than watertight logic and leaves the reader befuddled by his decision to write. For one thing he seems to want to assist Julia Gillard’s leadership, yet does so by publicly reminding everyone that there are questions over her leadership and that an alternative Prime Minister lurks among the Labor ranks.
Macklin also make the dubious claim that the current parliament is the most difficult in history. While it is true that no government in living memory has had to negotiate to pass legislation through the lower house, we also have an upper house and for all legislative intents and purposes they are of equal importance. In the lower house Gillard has an extremely constructive cross bench, Craig Thompson, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Adam Bandt have made it clear that there desire is to generally assist the government pass legislation where possible. Andrew Wilkie is arguably more obstinate but Wilkie is at least ideologically proximate to all concerned. By contrast the Senate composition during Rudd’s Premiership was wholly unworkable. While Nick Xenophon was a reasonably constructive player, Rudd required the support of both the Greens and Family First Senator Steve Fielding to pass legislation through the upper house. The then Greens leader, Bob Brown, and Fielding were ideologically polar opposites, developing a piece of legislation that would palatable to both of them would be nigh on impossible and yet both enjoyed the power to shoot down legislation in the upper house on a whim. To have navigated any legislation through that Senate would have been miraculous, yet Rudd managed to pass a raft of historic legislation in that time. In the panicked atmosphere of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression Rudd passed two enormous stimulus packages which are now widely credited with keeping Australia out of recession. Rudd historically repealed the draconian Howard government Industrial relations legislation, “Workchoices” and replaced it with the Fair Work Australia Act.
Not only did Rudd get both houses to pass motions in support of his historic apology to the stolen generation, he also secured passage for his return to country legislation, an enormous package of investment into closing the gap for Indigenous Australians and returning federally controlled land to Northern Territory authorities. It was also the Rudd government which set in train the preparations for the National Broadband Network, the school halls infrastructure programs and which ratified the Kyoto protocol. It was under Rudd’s leadership that forty pieces of legislation which were discriminatory towards homosexual couples were removed(hitherto Gillard has removed none.) Rudd abolished off shore processing of asylum seekers at Nauru, abolished Temporary Protection Visas and successfully abolished detention debt, all on his first attempt. By contrast Gillard failed to secure passage for her so called Malaysian Solution and at the end of twelve month impasse capitulated and agreed to implement the preferred policies of the Abbott opposition.
The shining jewel in her legislative crown, the Clean Energy Bill, was a policy she privately opposed but was strongarmed into implementing by the Greens. All in all the only thing Gillard has successfully negotiated as Prime Minister was the support of the crossbench on matters of supply and confidence. And for all this Rudd got along famously with the crossbenches, Bob Katter in fact maintains to this day he would have supported Rudd had it been he and not Gillard leading the government through the hung parliament.
But the biggest furphy Macklin bandies about is the simple fiction that Rudd would not be more popular than Gillard as Prime Minister. As is written in the classics, this is just plain wrong. There can be no rational interpretation of the polling numbers we have consistently seen since 2011 other than to believe that Rudd would be more popular. They all say they like him more, they all say he’s more competent and they all say they want change. What’s more, Rudd WAS more popular than Gillard even at his worst. The so called collapse in Rudd’s popularity plateaued with Rudd leading Abbot 52-48. Julia Gillard and her supporters herald a 50-50 poll as an enormous victory, how diabolic must your situation be? If Labor is to have any hope of returning a majority at the next federal election then this Labor leadership must now change.