The Killing Season continues

Mark forecast that participating in the program The Killing Season would diminish both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. He was right – Gillard more than Rudd.

Anthony Albanese was also right when he said that you shouldn’t change a first term prime minister on the basis of a newspaper story and again when he said that on that night the Labor Party killed two prime ministers.

Sarah Ferguson has said you will not learn the truth through the program. I think that’s right too. But I certainly did learn new facts and gain new insights.

My view has always been the Rudd had become dysfunctional in his role as prime minister and on that basis the move against him was justified, although the execution of the challenge was deeply flawed, which in the long run detracted from Gillard’s legitimacy.

The program tended to dismiss the ‘dysfunctional PM’ argument. For example, Ken Henry said the basic functions of government were operating. He did also say that they were witnessing a slow motion train wreck. He perhaps did not understand how much Gillard was doing to prop up Rudd. There was a clue in this sentence from Gillard:

    “It is not the job of the Deputy Prime Minister to be running the Prime Minister’s diary or chairing his staff meeting.”

Gillard virtually took over the running of Rudd’s own office.

Nicola Roxon bore witness that Rudd always treated her courteously. She was not asked about Rudd’s contribution to health policy development. Gillard’s book My Story (Saturday salon 13/12, Item 3) reveals all. Rudd was so dysfunctional that in the end Gillard had to take over running the policy internally. Yet health, along with pink batts, was front of mind for Rudd at this time.

Along the way Rudd asked advisers to work all night on briefing papers on 23 December, 2009, so that Rudd could get the papers on Christmas Eve and read them on Christmas Day. The papers were delivered but never read. Then:

    On Valentine’s Day 2010, a Sunday, advisers were told to be at The Lodge, only to be excluded from a ministers-only meeting at the last minute. Instead of receiving profuse apologies and being sent home, they were left for hours. The wait was so excruciatingly long and boring they took to playing a game with stones out in The Lodge grounds. Eventually someone managed to procure a ball and at least the game improved; their treatment did not.

The true chaos of Rudd’s style was overlooked in favour of a statement by Terry Moran that Rudd was not the rudest minister in treating staff. In any case that does not excuse Rudd, but misses the deeper dysfunctionality.

Some ministers had no trouble with Rudd; he left then alone. Others had all sorts of trouble when he micromanaged or came up with zany left-field ideas. In health he wanted to run a referendum together with the 2010 election to seek approval for the Commonwealth taking over hospitals. Legal advice was that a referendum was unnecessary. Political advice would have been that the referendum would go down. Some ministers couldn’t get to see him. Some timed their material so that it would hit the PM’s desk when Gillard was acting.

Gillard was well-placed to assess how well Rudd was coping and she didn’t need qualifications in psychiatry to make the judgement.

Gillard and Rudd were both being honest in what they said, with one exception. There was a plane flight with Martin Ferguson where one is lying about what was said. I don’t think it was Mar’n. It matters only in that it doesn’t fit Gillard’s narrative that she was not active in any way in pursuing the PMship.

Mar’n aside I think largely she wasn’t. Things were drifting until stirred by the SMH article which so upset Gillard. She demonstrated, I think, that it’s unwise to make decisions when you are angry.

There is much more to be said, but the whole thing was an unsavoury exercise in party machine politics. Rudd was right in making a condition of his return a change in the way leaders are elected.

Albanese on the night erred in not killing Rudd’s PMship properly. He persuaded Rudd to withdraw, reckoning he could only muster 20 to 25 votes in a caucus of over 100. Rudd and everyone should have got the message that his peers really didn’t want him and he should have left politics, giving Gillard clear air. Had he done so, I believe Gillard would still be PM.

Rudd speaks of treachery. How did he get to be leader? The bigger treachery is still to come in the saga next week which will presumably look at the leaks to Laurie Oakes against Gillard during the election campaign.

On this I’ve changed my mind. Gillard says in her book that Rudd wanted to be on the front bench and foreign minister. She would have left him on the back bench.

She got a message that there was plenty more to come if he didn’t get his way.

So, yes, Rudd was involved in the leaking, but Oakes told Phillip Adams that he verified the leaks from a second source. I wonder what Sarah Ferguson found.

Bill Shorten refused to participate, which was wise, but he still looked bad.

It’s all gold for Tony Abbott, who in a way is the Stephen Bradbury of Australian politics.

One thought on “The Killing Season continues”

  1. Jane Goodall’s piece Personality as destiny is a compelling read.

    Rudd seems to be winning the war for two reasons. First, he is still emotionally very raw, whereas Gillard has moved on. This, however, makes him sound the more authentic.

    Secondly, Gillard’s narrative depends on the validity of the ‘dysfunctional PM’ thesis. I don’t think you can fairly judge this thesis without reading Gillard’s book. Her account, for me, was backed up by an interview with Lenore Taylor (Richard Fidler, I think) who was working within government at the time researching her book (with David Uren) Shitstorm on the GFC.

    So there!

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