As you will also remember, I was solidly defeated by Julia Gillard in that ballot. Afterwards, and since then, I have said time and time again, that I would not challenge in the future for the leadership of the Labor Party. I believe in honouring my word. Furthermore, had I done the reverse, and simply gone out there and challenged, each and every one of you here today as journalists, in Brisbane here and around the country, would quite rightly have attacked me. For a loss of credibility, for having walked back on my word.
Since that time, I have also been very plain with my colleagues in saying that the only circumstance in which I would consider returning to the leadership of the Labor Party would be if there was a draft from a significant majority of the Caucus in support of my return. There’s a reason for that: and that is, our Party needs to be united, there is no point in inheriting a disunited Party, therefore, that has been my position since then and all my Parliamentary colleagues have known it.
In the events of yesterday, and following Simon Crean’s surprise statement, it became clear to me following discussions with my colleagues that there was no significant majority. In fact, there was no majority at all. Therefore, the whole notion of a draft was simply not in reality there.
So, to have proceeded on that basis knowing that one could not have achieved a majority, let alone a significant majority, would have simply split the Labor Party right down the middle. And as someone who has been a member of the Australian Labor Party for 31 years, I wasn’t prepared to do that. And, it would simply be inconsistent with the word I had given my colleagues over a long period of time. I gathered my key friends and ministerial colleagues together in my office yesterday afternoon after Simon Crean’s statement. And I asked for their views. I asked Chris Bowen for his views, I asked Anthony Albanese for his views, I asked Joel Fitzgibbon for his views, Richard Marles, Alan Griffin, as well as Kim Carr. And the truth is this: I asked them what the prospects were for obtaining a significant majority. Their collective response was zero. I asked them what the prospects were for obtaining a majority to which their response was zero. I then asked them, well, under these circumstances, given I don’t have a want of courage for these things as demonstrated by the challenge of last year, following my resignation as Foreign Minister, I said to them, therefore, what should I do. And I asked each of them for their views. Each of them said to me, Kevin, I believe you should not run because it would divide the Party.
I went around the room. I don’t walk away from the fact that it’s my responsibility to make the final decision, but I was determined to be as consultative as possible and I believe it was the right decision.
When I look at these extraordinary colleagues of mine, and have listened to their statements over the last 24 hours or so, what we see before us, are Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Whips, Deputy Whips, of extraordinary capability, demonstrated over a long time.
Chris Bowen, who has been a Minister in this Government virtually on five years, is I believe, one of our great hopes for the future. I see in him, a future Prime Minister of Australia. He is a very good man. He has a good heart and a very strong mind and is a man of integrity. And his service, in a number of portfolios, including the really hard ones, shows that this bloke has a future. I would say to the good burghers of his electorate, treat him kindly, return him to the Parliament; Australia needs him for the future.
I’ve just of course been watching Martin Ferguson. There you see the absolute solidity of the Australian Labor movement over a long period of time. In Martin, you have someone who is part and parcel of the Accord, the modernisation of the part and process of the Labor movement, part of the modernisation process of the Hawke and Keating Governments. And on top of that, you cannot speak to anyone at home or abroad, about the resources and energy portfolio who doesn’t come up to you and say “this is the best Minister I’ve met anywhere in the world” – he knows his stuff. And so Martin is a person who knows his brief, works his brief, and frankly, has earned respect on this basis.
Just now, we’ve heard from Kim Carr. And over five years, I remember Kim as I believe the best Minister for Manufacturing this country has seen. When you look at the Australian car industry, the fact that today after the Global Financial Crisis, we still have a car industry unlike so many countries where it just fell it’s because of Kim Carr’s direct intervention. Him flying to Nagoya, Detroit, doing deals with senior car executives, to keep the manufacturing of motor vehicles in Australia. He, like myself, believes that this country must be a manufacturing country in the future.
Richard Marles we heard from earlier, Richard’s a great bloke, despite the fact he’s a Geelong supporter. Richard, as a Parliamentary Secretary, working for me as Foreign Minister and responsible for the Pacific earned regard and respect from across the Pacific Island countries. He knows the governments, the oppositions and the alternative governments across all these island states, so crucial to Australia’s security. And so he will also be a great loss to the team. And, I believe he is one of the future hopes of our side.
Then for the Whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, this is not often seen of Joel, about Joel, but what I have seen in him, in his time as Whip, is a person who demonstrates extraordinary pastoral care to the people in the Parliamentary Party and frankly across the Parliament, who are going through a really tough time. Politics is a very hard business. It’s a very tough life. And Joel, I commend you for something you are really commended for which has been a pastor of the place, looking after people when they are in serious stress.
And for the Deputy Whips, Ed Husic, Janelle Saffin, great friends of mine, fantastic local members, and again I’d say to the good burghers of their electorates as well, make sure they are returned to the Parliament. These are very good people who cherish their relationship with their communities. I began my remarks by sating today that we in the political life of Australia are judged by our words, we are judged by whether we honour our words. And for me, this is a matter of deep conscience. And reflecting on the circumstances of yesterday and the discussions with those senior ministerial colleagues I referred to before these were the principles which came to bear in the decision which was taken.
Now for the future, it’s time for the Australian Labor Party to unite under Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, unite totally. Secondly, it is time for us to confront significant threat to our nation’s future and its interests and that is Tony Abbot and all that he stands for, a person who I have said before I don’t believe has the temperament or the policies to be the Prime Minister of this great country. And beyond that, to make sure that we are taking Labor’s phenomenal record of achievement out to the people of Australia. In keeping us out of the Global Financial Crisis induced recession and so that we didn’t have mass unemployment in this country like you see in so many countries around the world. For myself, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard has my 100% support. As I have said in a written statement earlier today there are no circumstances under which I will return to the leadership of the Australian Labor Party in the future. And I will, like my colleagues, including Martin, in his comments just before continue to offer my services as the Federal Member for Griffith.
JOURNALIST: What changed between yesterday when you said the conditions to return to leadership had not been met and your statement this morning that under no circumstances would you return?
RUDD: These matters have been determined. I think very few of us were expecting the spontaneous combustion of Simon Crean’s statement yesterday. I certainly wasn’t. And as a result thing came to a head. And politics is a bit like that. It’s a volatile business as well and it caught many of us off guard. And so the consequence is a ballot was held, the Prime Minister was confirmed in the leadership of the party and therefore the Prime Ministership of Australia and it is time to draw an absolute line under it this I think is import not just for the Party’s future which I care about deeply. I’ve been in this show for longer than some of you have been alive around here, and for the country’s future as well.
JOURNALIST: Is this acknowledgement that you would never have the support now or in the future for the majority vote?
RUDD: I think my words speak very plainly for themselves. In the statement that I put out and being absolutely clear cut that there are no circumstances what so ever under which I’d return to the leadership in the future. We have a common national objective which is to ensure that this upcoming contest which will be held or called in four or five months’ time is about our policies vs Mr Abbott’s policies for Australia’s future. Our record of policy achievement vs what he has opposed through his period as Leader of the Opposition including during the critical time of the GFC.
JOURNALIST: You have praised your supporters, do you think it’s unfair that they’re resigning and also do you think they are paying the price because Ms Gillard chooses her ministry?
RUDD: Look It is for the Prime Minister to determine, I would say this as a very general comment, the time now is to bind up the wounds I remember when I was first elected as leader of the Labor party some of you were around at that time back in 2006 and people like Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith and Stephen Conroy all lead the charge against me well I prevailed, I won. It’s very important to bring people into the tent and keeping Wayne Swan then as Shadow Treasurer, Stephen Smith I appointed as Shadow Foreign Minister and Stephen Conroy I recall in the same portfolio that he occupies today. It’s important to bring people into the tent and ultimately leaders and prime ministers will make these calls. But I think that it is very important that we bind up the wounds. You know something politics is a hard business. It is about often competing values some competing interests but it’s really important that we bind together that’s what the Australian people expect of us because the country needs decent politics with decent policy debate about real alternatives for our nation’s future.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Simon Crean let the Party down yesterday?
RUDD: Look, I honour Simon Crean as a person who has been our former Leader and secondly a person who has a phenomenal commitment to regional Australia. If we had before us today all 500 or 600 mayors from the local authorities of Australia, two thirds of them would know Simon personally he’s just like that. I honour his record of achievement. He made up his own mind in terms of what he did and he went out and saw the Prime Minister, he went and made his statement and as you know one thing followed from another so I don’t think it worth raking over the coals and all of that what’s done is done. Let’s get on with the future.
JOURNALIST: Labor’s polling has been going down for so long and your very presences in the Caucus fuels a lot of that leadership speculation, have you considered retiring resigning from the parliament?
RUDD: I made my position clear on that when I came out of the leadership ballot 12 months ago. Michael, you’d remember I made two undertakings one was I would not challenge for the leadership of the Labor Party and I would continue, subject to the views of the good burgers of Griffith, to be their local representative in the Australian Parliament, I have honoured my word on both those questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you bring disunity? That what it seems to the good burgers of Australia?
RUDD: I think what you’ll see Michael is you’ll see me very much in this community here on the beautiful Brisbane Southside which I know and love very well, attending to their needs and on top of that perusing the other national policy interests I have for example in reconciliation with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. And international interests as well in terms of our future with China. You can do these things as a Member of Parliament and make a contribution. For example a good friend of mine Gordon Brown following his period as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom remains in the House of Commons as member fully engaged in the national and international politics of his nation. And this has occurred many times through history.
JOURNALIST: Martin Ferguson said Ms Gillard needs to return to the Hawke-Keating legacy and inclusion within the Party, consultation within the party, how much does she need to take that on board?
RUDD: In the spirit of unity, far be it for me to provide public apostils, public lectures to the Prime Minister, about what she should or should not do in the future. She has a great challenge ahead of her. What I would say though is this, Martin has come through that whole period, and I think his words of wisdom I think we should all listen carefully to and when you reflect on that Hawke/Keating period, the Hawke/Keating period took the Australian Labor Party from a political industrial model frankly of the fifties, into one which has taken Australia into the future, and set us up for the future. That I think is really important. Folks, I think we’re about to bake in the sun.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that the public can forget what’s happened in the past 12 or 18 months?
RUDD: What I can say is that if you’ve been a student of political history for a while, you have political disputes come and political disputes go, and these things are resolved. We have democratic processes through which they are resolved within parties and within the electorate at large and this will pass into time. The key thing is the values for which we stand as a movement, these are the values which our opponents stand for, and we stand for a strong Australia, a fair Australia, and an Australia which prepares for the future. The other mob will talk about strength, sometimes they will talk about the future, but with them, I’m sorry to say, the fair go often disappears out the back door.
And with that folks, I’m going to zip.