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Why Gillard should lead

  • 24 February 2012

Monday's leadership ballot will offer a much needed opportunity to clear the air and move on to a healthier, more open climate in Australian federal politics.

Whether or not Rudd contests, the result should begin to heal the deepening wounds the party has suffered from weeks of Machiavellian plotting and rumour-mongering. As Tony Burke said on Thursday, the vote will lance the boil so that healing may begin.

Most Australian voters of Labor sympathies will breathe a sigh of relief that the subterranean issues of leadership and thwarted ambition are out in the open. Now elected ALP federal representatives may freely make their final individual decisions.

Those decisions will be informed partly by self-interest (under which leader can each member of caucus best hope for re-election at the next national election?) but also, one hopes, by consideration of which leader is likely to operate cabinet government most effectively in the national interest.

I believe the right course of action will be for the caucus to support Gillard.

Politics in the Australian party system has to be a team sport. Players must stand behind the captain, loyally papering over their faults. They must not undermine them with disparaging judgements, either on or off the record or by leaking to others.

Things are at last being said in public about Rudd's record. Eminent Labor politicians such as Simon Crean, Wayne Swan, Greg Combet, Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, Tony Burke, Anna Bligh and Peter Beattie are saying in different ways that this saga must end now. These are not 'faceless men', but men and women with clear faces, opinions and responsibilities.

Rudd had acquired a reputation as PM for failures as an efficient decision maker and manager. He failed to show decent and productive respect and courtesy for ministerial colleagues and senior public servants. He was autocratic and unreasonable in his determination to monopolise power and exploit all the prerogatives of his office. These things were well known in Canberra.

The gossip out of Foreign Affairs since he became Foreign Minister is that those habits had not changed. Last week's leaked YouTube video tended to confirm this.

Rudd's was not a high-achieving government in terms of policy runs on the board. It was good at articulating messages