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PM Julia Gillard Favored To Beat Back Kevin Rudd's Challenge

Australian Labor will probably back Julia Gillard, considered a better prime minister, over Kevin Rudd, considered a better vote getter.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 2/26/2012, 8:48 PM

Rudd and Gillard
Rudd and Gillard
Reuters


Tomorrow the Australian Labor Party parliamentary caucus will decide whether Julia Gillard continues in office or whether she will be ejected by her predecessor Kevin Rudd, Australia's Foreign Minister until several days ago.

According to newspaper accounts, Gillard commands a solid majority of around 2 to 1. Additionally, most of the cabinet heavyweights have launched blistering attacks on Mr. Rudd. Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan claims that these are not personal attacks but an attempt to set the record straight and explain why Rudd was dumped in favor of Gillard in the first place.

"Yes, he does have some very significant achievements, but on the flip side, he has great weaknesses, great weaknesses which to date have not necessarily been seen in public," Swan said.

A few ministers have already gone on record stating that if Rudd were to be elected, they would resign. These include the Attorney General Nicola Roxon, the Environment Minister Tony Burke and Education Minister Peter Garrett.

Roxon went on Sky News to describe the chaotic conditions that prevailed when Rudd served as prime minister. Roxon recalled an attempt to take over the Health services from the states - with no documentation or legal advice "This is just a ludicrous way to run a government."

Rudd fired back by saying that the drumfire of personal attacks and the attempt to rewrite history was the reason behind his challenge to Gillard. The Gillard "spin machine" run by "faceless men" was turning him into the "son of Satan." For those who accused him of dictatorial tendencies, Rudd promised to turn cabinet selection over to the parliamentary caucus.

Rudd's major hope for an upset is provided by the public opinion polls, that all concur that he would make a far stronger candidate than Prime Minister Gillard in 2003, handily defeating the opposition leader Tony Abbot, while Gillard trails Abbot by nearly 10%. Among ALP voters, Rudd tops Gillard by 17%, while among opposition voters, the margin is a crushing 2 to 1.

Gillard retorts: "The ultimate measure of a government ... isn't opinion polls in newspapers…The ultimate measure of a government is whether it led this nation to a stronger and fairer future."

Gillard looks like the winner and Rudd has promised an end to the challenges, but given the animosity that has surfaced, Gillard may achieve no more than a pyrrhic victory.