The Labor leadership will be decided by the 103 members of Caucus. But contender Kevin Rudd, and his family, are calling on people power to get the ex-prime minister his old job back.
“Your power as the people is what will count in the days ahead,” Rudd said this morning, as he arrived back from the United States.
“Pick up your telephone, speak to your local members of Parliament, tell them what you think, jump into the media, tell them what you think, because this is your country, it doesn’t belong to the factions of the Labor party.”
Therese Rein, entrepreneur and wife of Kevin Rudd, says that ordinary people tell her that they trust and respect Kevin.
”And I think it’s useful for people to tell their local MP if that’s a Labor MP and to tell their local Labor senator ‘Look, this is what I want. This is what I want you to hear, and this is what I want’,” Rein said yesterday.
Daughter Jessica Rudd, writing in women’s publication MamaMia, urged Australians to make their voices heard in the leadership battle.
“We are participants. We have a voice and I think we should bloody well use it. Get up and say something. Say it loudly. Be heard.”
“Look, I know the Parliament can seem alien at times – believe me, it’s even weirder when you’re there – but it is not out of reach. It’s ours. We own it.”
“Let’s own this spill, people. Let’s make it ours. Make your MPs work for you. Tell them what you want.”
While Rudd has resigned as Foreign Minister and is clearly positioning for a challenge for the Labor leadership, he is yet to officially declare his bid and promises only a further announcement today.
Despite social network campaigns to reinstate Rudd – including “The Rudd Alliance” on Twitter and “Kevin Rudd for Prime Minister” on Facebook – the heavy hitters in Labor are firmly in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s camp and it’s considered unlikely that Rudd will receive enough votes to succeed.
Gillard’s supporters include Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, Communication Minister Stephen Conroy, Regional Development Minister Simon Crean, Environment Minister Tony Burke, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Finance Minister Penny Wong, Families Minister Jenny Macklin, and the newly appointed Foreign Minister Craig Emerson.
Those who have come out in support of Rudd are Martin Ferguson, Kim Carr, Robert McLelland, and Chris Bowen. They argue he deserves another chance and is more likely to win the 2013 election.
Gillard said this morning that the leadership battle was about who had the strength, courage and temperament to lead the country.
And writing in News Limited newspapers, Gillard said that “ultimately the measure of a Government is what the Government achieves for the Australian people, what meaningful change and meaningful reforms are delivered.”
“Government is about making sure that each and every day you have the discipline and the method necessary to get the huge volume of work done,” she said.
“Government is about having the personal strength in adversity to still ensure that you stay focused and get your job done.
“I believe I have demonstrated those attributes.
“I believe that we can win the next election … I believe I can lead Labor to that victory.”
Complicating the leadership issue is the fact that whoever wins will still need to negotiate with the independent MPs to pass laws.
Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie has been angered by Gillard’s decision to walk away from pokies reform, but New South Wales MP Tony Windsor saying “all bets are off” if Labor changes leaders.
Another independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, has said he’d prefer to deal with the Coalition’s old leader, Malcolm Turnbull, than Tony Abbott.
The Coalition has reiterated its call for a fresh election.
Rudd yesterday nominated small business as one of his key priorities if he wins the vote, flagging he would look into “what we can do to encourage directly small business to invest in their businesses’ future and turn them into the big businesses of the future.”
“And that means changes to the way in which we deal with them on tax,” without specifying what small business changes we was referring to.
Rudd also highlighted his support for manufacturing and industry, and said he would focus on health, education and reforming the Labor Party.
By contrast, Gillard has pointed to her ability to pass legislation despite not having a clear majority in the lower house. She nominated key reforms such as the carbon tax, the structural separation of Telstra, the health agreement with the states, the resource rent tax and the means-testing of private health insurance.
But with Rudd declining to match Gillard’s promise to retire to the backbench and relinquish her leadership ambitions in the event of a loss, there are fears the leadership tensions could simmer beyond Monday’s vote.
It’s not a prospect that pleases the Australian Retailers Association, which is one of many business groups to call for quick resolution.
ARA head Russell Zimmerman says further uncertainty is “bound to have an impact on consumer confidence.”