Rudd resignation sets stage for battle

2012-02-22 13:01

Canberra - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigned on Wednesday, saying he could no longer work with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, igniting a new and bitter leadership crisis for the struggling minority government.

Gillard's government has sunk in popularity as Gillard and Rudd, whom she ousted in 2010, have waged a personal feud that has split their Labour Party and alienated voters.

Labour insiders said that while Rudd was more popular with voters, Gillard had stronger support within the party and would easily win a leadership vote, which could come as early as next week.

They differ little on policy, but the battle - described by Rudd as a "soap opera" - threatens to trigger an early election and a defeat for Labour's economic reform agenda, including major mining and climate change legislation.

Senior ministers had in the past week urged Gillard to sack Rudd due to the leadership speculation and increasing animosity between the two camps.

Gillard disappointed

"The simple truth is I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I do not have Prime Minister Gillard's support," Rudd told a news conference in Washington. "The only honourable course of action is for me to resign."

Rudd's supporters believe only he can stem haemorrhaging voter support to opposition leader Tony Abbott and his conservative coalition, which holds a strong lead in opinion polls.

But a move back to Rudd risks losing the backing of independents who give the minority Labour government a one-seat majority.

"I am disappointed that the concerns Mr Rudd has publicly expressed this evening were never personally raised with me, nor did he contact me to discuss his resignation prior to his decision," Gillard said in a brief statement.

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan was more critical, issuing a scathing attack on Rudd, accusing him of disloyalty and of undermining the government.

"The party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision-making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people, including our caucus colleagues," Swan said.

A Rudd government

Analysts said a change of leader would cause upheaval in the caucus, including likely changes in key positions such as treasurer and defence minister, but have little impact on policy or the outcome of the election.

"If Rudd were to wrest the leadership, I think we'd be headed certainly to a 2012 election," Australian National University Political analyst Norman Abjorensen said.

"A Rudd government would look very different from a Gillard government, and would presumably be fairly short lived."

Rudd, who will return at least temporarily to the backbenches after quitting cabinet, told the news conference he would return to Australia this week before deciding his future.

"There is one overriding question for my caucus colleagues and that is who is best placed to defeat Tony Abbott at the next election," said Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat.

Opposition to a 40% tax on mining profits introduced by Rudd contributed to his demise as prime minister.

Damaging instability

Gillard overthrew him in a party room coup and immediately cut the tax rate to 30% while excluding all but the country's most profitable iron ore and coal miners.

Abbott has said that if he wins the next election, he will dump both the planned mining tax and plans to introduce a carbon price to combat climate change, both due to come into force on July 1.

The instability was damaging the country and the government was unworthy of staying in power, he said on Wednesday.

"Kevin Rudd has confirmed two things - that the faceless men are running the Labour Party and that the instability at the top of this government is damaging our country," Abbott said in a statement.

Rudd's backers say he remains more popular with voters and would help revive party support ahead of the next election, due in late 2013.

Chances undermined

But he is not as well liked within the Labour Party and he alienated may colleagues with his imperious style when he was prime minister.

"The overwhelming support within the parliamentary party is for the prime minister, is for the government. It is overwhelming, it always has been," Environment Minister Tony Burke told Australian television.

Weeks of leadership instability has undermined Labour's chances of holding power in the state of Queensland at a March 24 poll - the resource-rich state is also crucial for the national government's re-election.

"I think the dislike of the current government is quite deep. It goes beyond the leaders, which is part of their problem," said John Stirton from pollster AC Nielsen.

"They would get a short-term boost from Rudd, but I don't think it is going to solve their problems."

Read more on:    julia gillard  |  kevin rudd  |  australia

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB

There are no straight lines in nature. The Samsung  GALAXY...

From R3515.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.