Australian Labor Party leadership spill, 2012
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A
leadership spill In Australian politics The politics of Australia take place within the framework of a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises authority in accord ...
in the
Australian Labor Party The Australian Labor Party (ALP), also simply known as Labor and historically spelt Labour, is the major centre-left Centre-left politics (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language ...
, the party of government in the
Parliament of Australia The Parliament of Australia (officially the Federal Parliament, also called the Commonwealth Parliament) is the legislative branch A legislature is a deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind ...

Parliament of Australia
, was held on 27 February 2012 at 10 am
AEDT Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands o ...
, followed by a ballot. The
Prime Minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
,
Julia Gillard Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September 1961) is an Australian former politician who served as the 27th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is either the hig ...

Julia Gillard
, announced the spill at a press conference on 23 February 2012, following the resignation of the
Minister for Foreign Affairs A foreign affairs minister or minister of foreign affairs (less commonly minister for foreign affairs) is generally a Cabinet (government), cabinet Minister (government), minister in charge of a sovereign state, state's foreign policy and foreign ...
,
Kevin Rudd Kevin Michael Rudd (born 21 September 1957) is an Australian former politician and diplomat who served as the 26th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is eithe ...

Kevin Rudd
, from his
cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
position after months of speculation that he intended to challenge Gillard for the leadership. Rudd announced his intention to seek the leadership at a press conference on 24 February. At the leadership ballot, Gillard won by a vote of 71 to 31.


Background

Kevin Rudd Kevin Michael Rudd (born 21 September 1957) is an Australian former politician and diplomat who served as the 26th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is eithe ...

Kevin Rudd
led the
Labor Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
to a landslide victory at the 2007 federal election, becoming
Prime Minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
on 3 December. On the same day,
Julia Gillard Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September 1961) is an Australian former politician who served as the 27th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is either the hig ...

Julia Gillard
was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister. On 23 June 2010 Gillard publicly requested that Rudd call a
leadership election A leadership election is a political contest held in various countries by which the members of a political party determine who will be the leader of their party. Generally, any political party can determine its own rules governing how and when a l ...
for the following day. Despite declaring that he would stand in the election at a press conference, it quickly became apparent that Rudd did not have the necessary support to remain in his position. Hours before the vote on 24 June, Rudd resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labor Party, allowing Gillard to assume both offices unopposed. Gillard announced a snap election to be held on 21 August 2010 but, despite Labor leading the polls at the start of the campaign, the result was the first
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no particular political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an absolute majority of legislators (c ...
since 1940. In the days following the election, Gillard successfully negotiated the support of one Green MP and three Independent MPs in order to allow Labor to rule as a
minority government A minority government, minority cabinet, minority administration, or a minority parliament is a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Art ...
. The
Second Gillard Ministry The Second Gillard Ministry (Labor Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth, the delivery of a baby * Labour (human activity), or work ** Manual labour, physical work ** Wage labour, a socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employ ...
was sworn in on 14 September 2010 by Governor-General
Quentin Bryce Dame Quentin Alice Louise Bryce, (née Strachan; born 23 December 1942) is an Australian academic who served as the 25th Governor-General of Australia The governor-general of Australia is the representative of the monarch A monarch ...

Quentin Bryce
, with Rudd accepting an offer from Gillard to become
Minister for Foreign Affairs A foreign affairs minister or minister of foreign affairs (less commonly minister for foreign affairs) is generally a Cabinet (government), cabinet Minister (government), minister in charge of a sovereign state, state's foreign policy and foreign ...
. For several months, beginning in September 2011, many stories and opinion pieces began to appear in the press speculating that Rudd intended to challenge Gillard for the leadership, although it was generally believed that his support in the Labor Party was relatively low and hence a challenge would be unsuccessful. Rudd denied these rumours publicly, stating that he was happy being Foreign Minister and that Gillard had his full support as Prime Minister. By February 2012, it was suggested by some journalists that Rudd himself had been giving "background briefings" in his office to the press. Several senior ministers, including
Simon Crean Simon Findlay Crean (born 26 February 1949) is an Australian politician and trade unionist. He was the Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral distr ...

Simon Crean
, reacted to this by openly accusing Rudd of disloyalty, demanding that Gillard sack him. On 22 February 2012 Rudd, who had been on government business overseas, gave a press conference from the
Willard Hotel The Willard InterContinental Washington, commonly known as the Willard Hotel, is a historic luxury Beaux-Arts hotel A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. Facilities provided inside a hotel room may ...
in
Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
announcing his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs, citing the attacks on him by Crean and others he described as "faceless men" within the party, as well as Gillard's unwillingness to condemn the attacks when given the opportunity. He said he would return to Australia the following day and consult with family and parliamentary colleagues before announcing his next move. A number of senior ministers spoke to the press later that evening attacking Rudd, while Bruce Hawker and Senator Doug Cameron gave interviews supporting Rudd. Rudd himself held a second press conference the following morning, outlining his policy vision for Australia and saying that he wished to "save" Australia from a
Tony Abbott Anthony John Abbott (; born 4 November 1957) is an Australian former politician. He served as the 28th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is either the high ...

Tony Abbott
-led government. Rudd stated, "I do not believe that Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election." In response to these developments, Gillard called a news conference in
Adelaide Adelaide ( ) is the capital city A capital or capital city is the municipality holding primary status in a Department (country subdivision), department, country, Constituent state, state, province, or other administrative region, usually ...

Adelaide
on 23 February, at which she announced that a spill of leadership positions would be held at 10.00am on Monday 27 February, at which she would re-nominate herself as Labor Leader. She strongly defended her performance as Prime Minister, citing her health agreement between the states, the structural separation of
Telstra Telstra Corporation Limited is an Australian telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over , radio, , or other systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for commun ...

Telstra
vital to the implementation of the
National Broadband Network The National Broadband Network (NBN) is an Australian national National may refer to: Common uses * Nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many ca ...

National Broadband Network
and, as achievements, noted that these had not been achieved under Rudd's leadership. Gillard stated that if she was defeated by Rudd in the ballot, she would retire to the
backbench In Westminster system, Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a member of parliament (MP) or a legislator who occupies no Minister (government), governmental office and is not a Frontbencher, frontbench spokesperson in the Her Maje ...
es and renounce any further claims to the leadership. In their initial responses to the announcement, senior ministers launched stinging attacks on Rudd's legacy as Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister
Wayne Swan Wayne Maxwell Swan (born 30 June 1954) is an Australian politician who is Australian Labor Party National Executive#National Presidents, National President of the Labor Party. He was previously the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Australi ...
criticised Rudd as "dysfunctional"; Tony Burke said of Rudd's term in office that "the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories"; Nicola Roxon declared she could not work with Rudd again; and Stephen Conroy said that Rudd had had "contempt" for his colleagues, the Parliament and the public. Ministers
Tanya Plibersek Tanya Joan Plibersek (born 2 December 1969) is an Australian politician who served as Leaders of the Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition (Australia), Deputy Leader of the Opposition from October ...

Tanya Plibersek
, Stephen Smith,
Bill Shorten William Richard Shorten (born 12 May 1967) is an Australian politician who served as Leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest party not in government in a parliamentary dem ...

Bill Shorten
and
Greg Combet Gregory Ivan Combet (; born 28 April 1958) is a former Australian politician and trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States Engli ...

Greg Combet
were more circumspect, but also declared their support for Gillard. Senator Doug Cameron and Immigration Minister
Chris Bowen Christopher Eyles Guy Bowen (born 17 January 1973) is an Australian politician serving as Shadow Minister for Health since 2019, and has served as Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live ...

Chris Bowen
came out in support of Rudd and called on their colleagues to show him respect. Ministers Robert McClelland and Martin Ferguson also declared for Rudd, saying that they didn't believe Gillard would win against
Tony Abbott Anthony John Abbott (; born 4 November 1957) is an Australian former politician. He served as the 28th prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is either the high ...

Tony Abbott
. Minister
Kim Carr Kim John Carr (born 2 July 1955) is an Australian politician who has been a Senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the Ancient Rom ...

Kim Carr
also declared for Rudd. Labor MP
Nick Champion Nicholas David Champion (born 27 February 1972) is an Australian politician. He is a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and has served in the Australian House of Representatives, House of Representatives since 2007. He represented the ...

Nick Champion
resigned as caucus secretary in order to back Rudd. Gillard portrayed Rudd's time as Prime Minister as "chaotic and dysfunctional" and implied that he viewed the ballot process as "an episode of ''
Celebrity Big Brother ''Celebrity Big Brother'' or ''Big Brother VIP'', is an adaptation of the ''Big Brother (franchise), Big Brother'' reality television series. It is the celebrity version of its parent franchise ''Big Brother'', the celebrity version airs in severa ...
''". Rudd called for "people power" to support his challenge for the leadership, as well as accusing Gillard of betraying him in 2010 and questioning her trustworthiness. Prior to the vote, Rudd promised that if he lost he would initiate no further challenges against Gillard, although he did not rule out being drafted as Labor Leader at any later date.


Caucus support

102 of the 103 members of the Labor caucus from the Australian House of Representatives, House of Representatives and the Australian Senate, Senate were eligible to vote, with 52 votes needed to win. Several ministers and members of the Labor caucus publicly stated ahead of time who they intended to support in the event of a ballot. Michelle Rowland was not able to vote as she was on maternity leave but had made it known that she would have voted for Prime Minister Gillard.


Result

Gillard overwhelmingly defeated Rudd in the leadership ballot, by 71 votes to 31. Rudd returned to the backbenches as he had promised, and pledged his loyalty to Gillard until the next election. Rudd's strategist, Bruce Hawker, left open the possibility of Rudd being drafted as Leader in an emergency situation if Gillard's polling did not improve. Following the vote, Senator Mark Arbib, a factional leader and a key backer of Gillard in 2010, announced that he would be resigning in order to help the party "heal" in the wake of the leadership dispute. Gillard described the events leading up to the ballot as "ugly" but said that the leadership issue was now "determined".


See also

*2010 Australian Labor Party leadership spill *March 2013 Australian Labor Party leadership spill *June 2013 Australian Labor Party leadership spill


References

{{Leadership spills in Australia 2012 elections in Australia Australian Labor Party leadership spills Gillard Government Rudd Government February 2012 events in Australia