September 24, 2014 – 7:29AM
Political editor, The Age
Julia Gillard has accused Kevin Rudd of sabotage and blackmail, but expressed deep and lingering anguish over her own role in toppling Kim Beazley.
In My Story, the memoir to be launched by Quentin Bryce on Friday, Ms Gillard vigorously defends her decision to turn on Mr Rudd in 2010, but confesses to misgivings about working with Mr Rudd to bring down Mr Beazley four years earlier.
Julia Gillard says that Kevin Rudd asked to be reinstated as foreign affairs minister after his failed leadership challenge in 2012, a request that Gillard describes as “impossible”. Photo: Andrew Meares
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, she maintains she still feels “sad and very conflicted” about Mr Beazley’s demise as Labor leader. “It’s a decision I found painful at the time and that pain has grown, not lessened, over time,” she said.
In the memoir, Ms Gillard confesses to multiple errors of judgment during her three years and three days as the country’s first female prime minister, but asserts they were largely a product of circumstances beyond her control.
She also reveals that Mr Rudd asked to be reinstated as foreign minister, just after his failed challenge to her leadership in 2012.
“It was an impossible request. I knew I could not trust him, that he would continue the campaign of destabilisation and that he would use the status and resources of being a minister to do so. I also knew he would keep leaking from cabinet.”
While Ms Gillard insists she made the right judgment in refusing to acquiesce, she says she made the wrong call in deciding to bring former New South Wales premier Bob Carr, who subsequently supported Mr Rudd’s successful challenge in 2013, to Canberra as foreign minister.
She says Mr Carr found the transition from political retirement hard and the workload “overwhelmed him”. “The other negative was Bob’s struggle with the focused discipline required for Foreign Ministry work.”
While most of the 500-page memoir is devoted to policy battles, the first section concentrates on what Mr Gillard describes as the three factors that shaped her prime ministership: Labor instability, minority government and gender.
Her decision to form the so-called Dream Team with Mr Rudd in 2006 was not easy because of her reluctance to tear down Mr Beazley and her doubts about Mr Rudd’s temperament.
“I did have this genuine fear that Kim wasn’t going to get us there, that it was possible for the Liberal Party to refresh its leadership potentially and become the custodian of the safe-change proposition,” she said in the interview. “I made the best judgments I could in those circumstances, but I think you can tell from the book that it is something that I’ve thought a great deal about since.”
She claims responsibility for creating Mr Rudd’s leadership but says her assessment of the kind of man he was proved to be “dreadfully wrong”. So, too, was her belief that Mr Rudd would feel a sense of relief when she toppled him in 2010. “I was wrong. His dominant emotion was a need for revenge.”
Ms Gillard claims Mr Rudd’s behaviour during the 2010 campaign shattered Labor’s cultural norms that required the suspension of personal enmities, resulting in Labor having to form minority government.
This meant “everybody has got their hand on the pin of the grenade and it becomes impossible to have the kind of discipline system that was necessary to deal with his destabilisation”.
She writes that the first warning of what was to come came after a National Press Club address that was designed to showcase the themes that would define her prime ministership. When the time for questions came, veteran journalist Laurie Oakes alleged that Ms Gillard had agreed to give Mr Rudd time to change before toppling him in 2010, only to renege on the deal.
“Undeniably, I had been guilty of letting the crucial leadership conversation with Kevin meander in a way that fed false hopes but the blunt version conveyed to Laurie Oakes was deliberately skewed to be as damaging to me as possible,” she maintains.
Providing the material to Oakes constituted a “malicious act”, designed to overshadow the speech and “raise doubts about my character, precisely when most Australians were making up their minds about me”.
Ms Gillard asserts that, “as bad as this first act of sabotage was”, it paled into insignificance compared with what followed,10 days into the election campaign, when Oakes reported that Ms Gillard had opposed in cabinet both Labor’s paid parental leave scheme and its pension increases.
In the book, Ms Gillard confirms she questioned the policies in order to impress on Mr Rudd that Labor could not afford more new announcements and suggested a delay of a year for the parental leave scheme.
She says the only rational explanation for the leaks was that Mr Rudd, having been the “ultimate source” of the first story, also created the second story, “either directly or through the agency of a loyal staff member”.
Ms Gillard asserts the sabotage turned to blackmail when she met Mr Rudd in Brisbane for a photo opportunity designed to demonstrate Labor’s wounds had healed.
“His price for the photo had been a guarantee he would be foreign minister if the government was re-elected and I had accepted his demand. I had little choice. I had to stop what I considered to be the acts of treachery on his part.”
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald