Australia: Prime Minister Julia Gillard Wins Big in Leadership Dogfight

There have been very mixed reactions to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decisive victory over former PM Kevin Rudd in the leadership challenge. The vote amongst Australian Labor Party parliamentarians (the caucus) was 71 – 31, despite opinions polls showing Rudd having much higher popularity with voters.

Can she unite the party and make sure that her only opponent is Opposition leader Tony Abbott?

Image courtesy: Jon Kudelka

Image courtesy: Jon Kudelka

The blogosphere has been active in assessing whether it will be a fresh start for Gillard’s government. On his progressive blog Public Opinion, Gary Sauer-Thompson is pessimistic:

All the rhetoric about healing should be taken with a grain of salt. The wounds are too raw and deep, there is a fundamental disconnect between the Gillard Government and the broader Australian electorate, the Gillard Government faces the existential threat of being destroyed in the 2013 election, and the Abbott-led opposition will only increase the grenade throwing.

This is a government under siege. It is fighting issues of authority, legitimacy and trust in difficult times amidst the angst stirred up by its policy reforms.

At The Drum, former secondary teacher Malcolm Farnsworth sees it as a case of “sink or swim” together for the Australian Labor Party:

The Labor caucus has bound itself to Julia Gillard. It is impossible to imagine a Rudd revival.

… The message to the electorate is also stark and direct. Forget Kevin Rudd, he's not coming back. June 2010 was then. Now it's Gillard or Abbott. Make your choice.

Do not sell Julia Gillard short is the warning from government opponent Steve Kates at ‘libertarian and centre-right’ Catallaxy Files:

She wins, and is now the most powerful Prime Minister this country has had in years. There is nothing she wants that is beyond her grasp being in cahoots as she is with her soulmates in the Greens.

… I fear people misjudge Julia’s competence. She has shown herself incredibly able at the job of leading a party and it is she who is Prime Minister…

Cosimina, ‘Personal and Corporate Image Branding’, is aware of the dangers of highlighting a female politician’s appearance but does it anyway:

In order for her to successfully win the next election the Labor party must work extremely hard in rebuilding the Gillard Brand & Image.

…The changes in her appearance need to be subtle and continuous. julia needs to dress with authority…

… Julia needs to work on tone, speed, and breathing techniques. One comment I always get is “she is stiff” so body language and motion definitely need attention…

Politician should not be about clothes and fashion but unfortunately we are a society that judges – so accept it and work with it.

Business Spectator’s Rob Burgess is full of optimism in Gillard is now a real threat to Abbott, hoping a policy debate will replace personality politics:

So let the contest of ideas, and the communication of those ideas begin. If Abbott really rises to that challenge, Gillard is finished.

But if something like serious political debate emerges in this country in the next 17 months there's a good chance Abbott has a problem.

As a member of Abbott’s Liberal Party, The Red and the Blue’s Yale Stephens sees a glass less than half full for Labor:

People don’t like her; they don’t trust her; they don’t believe anything she has to say; and they certainly don’t support her.

There has been a lot of rhetoric from Labor types today about the imperative to all come together; to “heal;” and to “unify.”

All of that is noble sentiment, but the problem remains: Rudd might have been a disloyal troublemaker, but ultimately the government’s problem is its leader.

In contrast, Catching Up poses the question Do you know who our PM is?

I believe most do not.

Many do not know her, but they all know she is bad, sly and a liar.

The answer:

What we do know: Those who know her personally and are close, have nothing but praise for her guts, ability and loyalty.

Law professor James Allan, writing for the conservative think tank Centre for Independent Studies, is Looking for an analogy:

Then there is the federal Labor brand. If anyone thinks there can be unity after this, that the party can re-unite and get on with things, then I’d like to smoke what he’s smoking.

And how can Gillard deal with the Liberal election campaign when it repeats all the accusations first made by Labor people themselves?

Finally, the inevitable sports satire came from the White Maggot (the name refers to umpires who traditionally wore white) in Rudd set to challenge Gillard as Bulldogs Number 1 Ticket Holder. The Western Bulldogs is an Australian Football League club located in Footscray, part of Julia Gillard’s electorate. The prime minister will be hoping that her bark is at least the equal of her bite.

Personal Disclosure: I have been a member of the Australian Labor Party for 40 years.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.