In the q&a after a fairly predictable speech by the Prime Minister on economic policy at the National Press Club today, Laurie Oakes asked her a question which implied that Kevin Rudd had indicated, on the night of June 23, his preparedness to stand down before an October election had the polls continued poor. Oakes claims that Rudd believed that a deal had been reached, but Julia Gillard consulted her supporters and returned to his office to signal her intention to challenge.
In her response to Oakes, Gillard batted the question away, reiterating that she never intends to discuss the events which led to her election to the leadership.
The audio of the interchange has been posted here.
One perhaps unforeseen result of the Labor leadership switch is that it increasingly appears that questions about the manner of its execution will continue to be aired in the press. A host of stories in the media this week speculate on whether Kevin Rudd is under pressure from Labor MPs to stand down from Parliament altogether, and question his future intentions and the significance of his attendance at the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in Washington.
The media, as is their wont, find this sort of thing more interesting to write about than policy questions. And no doubt it will lead the tv news bulletins tonight.
Early signs are that it will be accompanied by a lot of moralising about “trading the Prime Minister-ship”, riffing off the Hawke-Keating deal. No doubt we’ll hear that echoed by the opposition in short order.
It’s already all over Twitter.
Talk of the contest of wills between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating is, of course, in the air at the moment, for a variety of reasons.
The danger, for Labor, is that the Coalition is promoting a narrative of instability, which reinforces their previous themes of government incompetence and backflipping. On cue, opinionistas talk up this narrative.
Joe Hockey’s appearance on Lateline on Tuesday night signalled an opposition sewing seeds of doubt about the stability of a re-elected government, and articulating this to a belief that Australians were better off under the Howard government. It’s an attempt to turn around the ‘risk’ factor that normally favours incumbents, and to negate the advantage the government has of providing reassurance and stability in a turbulent time.
Of course, the Liberal party has had four leaders in three years. But, perhaps, memories are short. Labor’s ability to remind voters of the fact that both Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull were fatally undermined, and that the spectre of a Peter Costello challenge haunted the Coalition through and beyond John Howard’s Prime Ministerial tenure, is somewhat nullified by their own leadership shift.
How does Labor counter this theme?