Kevin Rudd Is Back As Prime Minister -- Now He'll Have To Explain What He's Going To Do

Kevin Rudd after seizing power / Stefan Postles

THIS IS OUR BLOW-BY-BLOW COVERAGE OF THE RUDD LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE

11.15pm: Time to wrap up after an extraordinary day that will leave many voters bewildered at the ability of the Australian Labor movement to do all it can to portray itself as unfit for office.

Three years and three days after he was removed from power, Kevin Rudd is Australia’s Prime Minister again. Julia Gillard, who seized power from Rudd in 2010, will be quitting politics under the terms of the leadership ballot that she herself laid out at just 4pm today.

Labor’s standing in the polls – currently a crushing 30 per cent or below of the primary vote – means that for Rudd, winning an election at any point between now and the end of the year is a nigh-impossible task.

Rudd needs to be officially sworn in by the Governor-General tomorrow and get through a sitting day in Parliament. On balance it’s likely this will all play out as expected and over the coming days a ministry will be announced. Anthony Albanese will be deputy prime minister, with Chris Bowen tipped to take Treasury.

There are big policy questions for a Rudd administration on what it will take to the election around the resources and manufacturing sectors, workplace laws, and the deeply unpopular carbon price.

Today’s events give the opposition a huge cache of campaigning ammunition that they will unload over the coming days and weeks. They will point to dysfunction in the Labor party with suspicion and rancour set to linger between the two camps after this protracted tussle for the leadership; Rudd’s record as prime minister, particularly on border protection, will also be under attack.

We’ll be watching it all unfold.

11.09pm: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s speaking and as expected is calling for clarity on the election date. Rudd hasn’t committed to continuing with the planned September 14 election date.

He says this Parliament has been “low and dishonorable” and voters should get a chance to determine the prime minister.

10.44pm: Rudd on the economy — he says the “time has come for us to adjust” to the structural changes in the economy, noting that the China resources boom is over.

He adds that “there’s a big future for Australian manufacturing under this government.”

10.40pm: Rudd starts with tributes to Gillard and Swan: “If it were not for Julia, we would not have a Fair Work Act… she has been a remarkable reformer.”

On why he is taking on the leadership again, he says: “I simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and allow an Abbott government to come to power in Australia.”

He says Abbott is “steeped in the power of negative politics”.

10.32pm: Via this guy on Twitter, the front page of tomorrow’s Courier Mail in Brisbane, featuring Rudd’s win and Queensland’s smashing of NSW in the State of Origin:

https://twitter.com/BruceMcAvaney_/statuses/349865367251853312

10.15pm: Rudd due to speak with his elected deputy Anthony Albanese any minute.

Albo is set to be deputy prime minister.

Rudd will be trying to build a team, but some of his other key supporters – Janelle Saffin, Kim Carr, Chris Bowen, Richard Marles – will be expecting some kind of reward now that their camp has their hands on the spoils.

For the business community, beyond Treasury which is expected to go to Bowen, some of the main portfolios of interest will be resources, tourism, small business, trade, and competition.

9.23pm: Gillard was typically composed speaking to the assembled press.

On the gender wars, Gillard said the reaction to her being the first female prime minister “does not explain everything about my prime ministership — nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership.”

It explains some things,” she said. “It is for the nation to think in a sophisticated was about those shades of grey.

Neatly put.

9.20pm: On foreign policy, Gillard says that she is confident she is leaving office having “strengthened the relationship with our major partners, every one of them”.

She notes that during her time in office, as prime minister or acting prime minister, she has attended 24 funerals for ADF personnel killed in action in Afghanistan.

9.15pm: Gillard’s speaking now.

She says she’s asking the Governor-General to commission Rudd as PM – one constitutional detail that needed attention.

She says the privilege of serving as prime minister was “truly humbling” and that she is “very proud” of her achievements in office, including introducing the price on carbon and having “guts and tenacity to stare down one of the most reckless fear campaigns in this nation’s history”.

9.09pm: News Ltd reports the Governor-General is seeking legal advice on commissioning Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister for a second time.

8.24pm: So there’s more chaos to come in the days and weeks ahead.

Rudd is now Prime-Minister elect, and needs to get his commission from the Governor-General tomorrow.

Assuming that goes smoothly (and there’s a good piece on the outlying scenarios here), Parliament sits tomorrow and the government’s majority could get tested on the floor of the House. Andrew Wilkie announced tonight he would support Rudd on motions of confidence. He can also count on the support of Bob Katter and Craig Thomson. Tony Windsor said today he was more likely to support Tony Abbott in the event of a Rudd victory. Adam Bandt and Rob Oakeshott or Peter Slipper would give him the votes he needs.

There’s the question of an election date. There were rumours earlier tonight that Rudd had decided on an August 24 snap election but that has now been disputed by supporters including key strategist Bruce Hawker.

Then there’s the team to build – a ministry to take as the government running for election. Rudd will face what is a practically impossible task of not only trying to unite the party but also convince the electorate that the leadership mess is behind them. This is the biggest factor weighing in favour of an election rather than sooner.

7.56pm: There are reports that senior ministers including Treasurer Wayne Swan and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy have quit the front bench.

Julia Gillard will now leave politics, and there’ll be a lot of discussion about what brought about her demise — from entrenched misogyny in public life, to her leadership style, to policy disasters, especially the carbon tax, to her office staff.

Rudd will need to move quickly to build a team and sell some key messages to the electorate. He’s flagged that he believes “strong, proven” economic leadership will be critical in the coming campaign, so a critical post will be that of Treasurer, with Chris Bowen being the name most raised in relation to the role.

7.48pm: 57-45 – KEVIN RUDD HAS HIS OLD JOB BACK

7.31pm: There are reports Rudd will call a snap election for August. Barrie Cassidy just said on ABC TV that a prominent supporter of Julia Gillard texted him just before the caucus meeting to say “it has shifted against us” after reporting earlier that the vote was close.

Cassidy says it’s a “diabolical political dilemma” for Labor because whatever they do, they lose – the Coalition will have huge ammunition to deploy against Labor in the forthcoming campaign.

7.10pm: Sky’s David Speers reports Gillard has lost the numbers… they’re calling it for Rudd.


7.06pm: Here’s the PM with supporters entering the caucus room:


6.58pm: MPs walking into the caucus room. Now we wait — it should be a pretty quick process.

The Rudd camp has been shopping around a number of 55 to 60 votes of the 101 members of the parliamentary Labor party – but as we’ve seen before those projections can be overstated to try and build momentum.

Remember, whoever loses tonight has promised to quit politics.

6.45pm: Check out this live chart from BetMetrix.com, which uses a combination of data from betting markets to determine the probability of a Labor victory in the coming election. That spike all happened in the past three hours – moving the chance of an ALP win from 12.5% this morning to 17.9% tonight.

6.36pm: SHORTEN SWITCHES SUPPORT TO RUDD.

In a development that puts the momentum behind Kevin Rudd just 20 minutes before the leadership ballot, Bill Shorten has declared his support for the Queenslander saying it gives Labor the best chance of being competitive in the September election.

He’s just said that while the government had achieved a huge amount in office, that “Labor stands the best chance to defend the legacies of this government … with Kevin Rudd as our leader.”

He said “Tony Abbott and his conservative Coalition represent a once-in-a-generation” risk to the country.

It’s unclear how many votes Shorten is carrying in caucus but this is a big blow for the Gillard camp.

20 minutes to caucus…

6.26pm: Key Labor powerbroker Bill Shorten will address the media shortly.

Interesting that he’s decided to speak publicly – what he has to say could be critical to tonight’s outcome. Openly, he’s been supporting the PM — but there has been some speculation that he’s been considering switching to Rudd and he would take a number of votes with him.

6.10pm: Mathew Dunkley and Ed Tadros report over at the AFR the views of pollsters that while a Rudd comeback might provide a lift in the polls, it would not be enough for Labor to recover the ground it needs to retain government in September’s election.

Nielsen director John Stirton told The Australian Financial Review that Mr Rudd’s appeal was unlikely to translate into a win and any bounce at the ballot box would rely on a bloodless transition and a subsequent honeymoon.

Mr Stirton said on Wednesday that it did not appear that was how the leadership issue was being settled.

“It all really depends on how it plays out in the next couple of days and how it is portrayed and how, if Rudd gets up, how the Gillard supporters respond,” he said.

More here.

6.03pm: It’s Origin II night, and Lots Of People Want The Leadership Spill To Be Over So They Can Watch The Footy.

5.48pm: The Australian dollar, hovering around the US92.5c mark all week, popped above US93c shortly after Rudd declared he would stand. Here’s the chart, via investing.com:

5.41pm: Wayne Swan has chimed in on Twitter:


5.27pm: Via Leslie Nassar on Twitter, this chart of tweets with the hashtag #spill:

https://twitter.com/leslienassar/statuses/349789893133742080

5.17pm: The economy, stupid. Rudd’s key policy argument at his press conference it that it’s time for “strong, proven economic leadership”.

He says an Abbott-led government would “copy the British conservatives”, by launching an austerity drive that led to a double-dip recession in the UK.

He pointed to the need for careful management of the structural shifts in the economy with the end of the resources boom.

Rudd also says he would commit to not contesting the next election.

“I’m doing what I honestly believe what is in the best interests of Australia,” he said.

5.13pm: RUDD WILL STAND. He says that it’s not just at the urging of his parliamentary colleagues, but at the urging of voters on the streets.

He says the party is “on course for a catastrophic defeat”.

He says the last time Mr Abbott’s party had full control of the parliament they introduced Work Choices, and that “people are afraid, they are very afraid, that they will try to do it again.”

5.11pm: Via Tom Steinfort of Nine News on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/tomsteinfort/statuses/349774885104525312

5.09pm: Sky News reports Kevin Rudd will commit to resigning if he loses the ballot tonight.

5.05pm: Right now, there’s no consensus on who will win any leadership ballot and this leaves potential ongoing chaos if Gillard survives with a close vote. Gillard has already been forced to sack or marginalise supporters of Rudd but if she clings on tonight, she would be leading a shell of a leadership team into the election – a campaigning gift to the opposition.

4.49pm: Actual business of parliament was conducted today, with the federal government striking a deal with crossbench MPs on its 457 visa reforms. The vote of independent Tony Windsor, who along with Rob Oakeshott today announced his intention to retire from politics, was critical in carrying the vote.

The new laws will force companies to do local labour market testing for suitable candidates before being able to apply for hiring foreign workers under 457s.

4.47pm: On Twitter, Simon Benson of The Daily Telegraph says Rudd will declare:

https://twitter.com/simonbenson/statuses/349779932370567169

4.43pm: Rudd will give a statement at 5pm. It will be his moment to make his decision on the advice of former Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who has said he should “piss or get off the pot”.

4.27pm: It will all be settled in less than three hours.

Julia Gillard has said she will retire from politics if she loses tonight’s leadership ballot, which she’s called for 7pm eastern time.

In a sudden and dramatic escalation of the Labor’s leadership tensions, the Australian Prime Minister has called on a meeting of her parliamentary party to settle the issue. It has been simmering for the past 10 days.

On Sky News she said the candidates needed to declare for office and said the conditions should be: “If you win, you’re Labor leader. If you lose, you’ll retire from politics.”

Rudd has yet to declare whether he will stand, but his supporters claim he will be a candidate.

Gillard said in the interview with David Speers that she hadn’t confirmed the existence of a petition to call a special meeting of the Labor caucus that would allow for a debate the leadership.

More on this story as it unfolds…

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