If the former leader of the Labor party, Julia Gillard, thought yesterday was tough, she might take comfort knowing this short sightedness will be superseded by a strong legacy. In the three years her government has held office they have watched a country be halted by floods, fires and cyclones. She has attended 24 funerals of fallen defence soldiers. Nationalised health and education. Priced carbon. Created the NDIS and begun rolling out the NBN.
While her assent to the position wasn’t traditional, in the beginning or after 2010 election, the government’s success in passing large scale reforms is a testament to the leader’s vision.
Gillard had the peculiar experience of witnessing what most do not in a life time: a parade of tributes and eulogies most often heard at one’s own funeral. Speakers, ministers, cabinet shuffles all came and went. In three years we had three leadership challenges. The third just 10 weeks from Election Day.
This time political nerds knew things were going to change when Bill Shorten returned to the scene with yet again blood on his hands. Shorten was a key right-wing power player in Gillard’s original challenge for leadership, now in her most tumultuous moments he drew the same knife from Rudd’s back and delivered a stifling blow in Gillard’s.
Labor caucus members filed into a room to deliver a 57 to 45 win to Rudd. At 9pm a stoic Gillard delivered her exit speech with characteristic grace and wit: “The reaction to being the first female prime minister does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership,” she said.
She went on to describe how pioneering this position will pave the way for women to come. “What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman and the woman after that … and I am proud of that.”
“I have faced internal division within my own political party – it has not been an easy environment to work in,” she said. “I am very proud of what this Government has achieved which will endure in the long-term.”
Notably she called on the party to present a united front, with its “best face forward,” she said.
Gillard, for her part, travelled Canberra’s tree lined Dunrossil Drive – and was received by Governor General Quentin Bryce at 10pm to tender her resignation.
As a country we complacently dined on silver spoon spin. The fast-paced-media-feeding-frenzy granted us a front row seat, as it were, to the rise and fall of political careers – dramatic, modest and otherwise. During this election campaign opinion, commentary and media agendas have become the staple for news, while reporting on policy was tossed with left overs.
Despite Mr Rudd saying he would not challenge the leadership again after his second attempt in just March this year, the now Leader of Labor says “I simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and allow Mr. Abbott to become Prime Minister by default.”
The prestigious Prime Minster’s positioned will have to politically maneuver the treacherous and volatile waters of our democracy. This has been no more apparent as Labor and the Coalition have grappled with the intricacies of a hung parliament. This morning will no doubt see Mr Abbott call a vote-of-no-confidence and the political chess that will be extracted from here will be the first test in Mr Rudd’s time at the helm.
But will the Australian public see this coup as a sign of reliable strength or just another case of Labor setting its own agenda?