Rudd to campaign for Gillard

2010-08-05 16:51

Canberra – Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister dumped by his own party, has vowed to campaign for the woman who replaced him, in a rare show of unity for a government that appears bitterly divided ahead of elections later this month.

Lingering anger over Rudd's sudden ouster in June has overshadowed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's campaign to win a second three-year term for her centre-left Labour Party at the August 21 polls.

Her campaign has had to deal with a string of government leaks to the media, suspected to be from Rudd or Rudd loyalists, including claims that she reneged on a secret deal when she challenged Rudd's leadership and that she had unsuccessfully argued in confidential Cabinet meetings against increasing pensions because old people didn't vote for Labour.

Rudd told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio late on Wednesday that he was not behind the leaks. He also said he planned to campaign for Gillard's re-election.

"Absolutely, because it's really important for the country's future," Rudd said.

Life’s too short

"Life's too short to carry around a great bucket load of anger and resentment and bitterness and hatred," he added.

Gillard welcomed Rudd's support and said she would speak to him within days for the first time since she called the election on July 17.

"Kevin has made it very, very clear that he will be supporting and campaigning for the re-election of the Gillard government," Gillard told reporters while campaigning on Thursday in Rudd's home state of Queensland, where opinion polls show Labour's popularity has fallen since the 2007 election.

"He's doing that because we do share a deep sense of belief about what's right for this country," she added.

Gillard took on Rudd at the urging of Labour powerbrokers concerned by weeks of bad opinion polls for the government. She explained to the public that she had ousted him because "a good government had lost its way" under his leadership.

She has offered Rudd a senior ministry position if Labour is re-elected.

Nick Economou, a Monash University political scientist, said Labour would genuinely welcome Rudd's support in the campaign, with opinion polls showing opposition leader Tony Abbott's conservative Liberal Party gaining popularity and even possibly winning.

Unfair treatment

But having Rudd on the national stage would also remind many voters of their anger at how Labour had dumped a leader whom they overwhelmingly supported at the last election.

"I went to Queensland last week and it struck me how many people said that they thought it was unfair how Rudd was treated," Economou said.

Economou said that with each damaging government leak published in the press, Gillard's campaign was distracted by the controversial history of how she came to power and the appearance of a party with deep divisions.

Abbott predicted Rudd would harm the government's chances.

"His presence on the campaign trail will be a reminder of the kind of political thuggery which now haunts the modern Labour Party," Abbott told reporters.