Kevin Rudd resigns as Australian Foreign Secretary

by Mark Benson on February 22, 2012

in General Information

Gillard v Rudd

In a move which had been expected by many in political circles Kevin Rudd has today resigned his position as Australia’s Foreign Minister with immediate effect. He has laid the blame for his resignation fairly and squarely at the door of Prime Minister Julia Gillard with whom many expect him to fight for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party and leadership of the Australian government.

Behind-the-scenes tussle comes into the open

In a rather bizarre move Kevin Rudd resigned his position live on television straight after a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The speech was relayed live to Australian TV and it now turns out that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had no idea that Kevin Rudd was about to resign. This is a massive blow to her leadership and is seen by many as a direct undermining of her authority.

It is believed that Mr Rudd took his decision after he became aware that a number of backbenchers were demanding his resignation and the Prime Minister had failed to come forward and support him in public. As a consequence he believes that his position is now untenable but on the plus side this now releases him for a direct leadership battle with the lady who ousted him in 2010.

Bitter feelings between Rudd and Gillard

On the surface it seems as though the Australian Labor Party is very much pulling together in the same direction but underneath the surface things are very much different. There have been very bitter feelings between the Rudd camp and the Gillard camp over the last few weeks culminating in the release of mysterious footage showing Kevin Rudd shouting and swearing at advisers during his previous tenure as leader of the Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia.

Many believe that Kevin Rudd has never forgiven Julia Gillard for the underhand way in which she gained leadership of the party and the country and indeed it has now come to light that her advisers were working on her “victory speech” two weeks before she managed to oust Kevin Rudd from his position in 2010. In many ways Julia Gillard has undertaken the old political strategy of keeping your allies near and your enemies even closer with her appointment of Kevin Rudd to the position of Australia’s Foreign Secretary.

Labor government continues to slide in the polls

The Labor government in Australia has been on a knife edge for some time now as the support of minority parties continues to drift away leaving Julia Gillard reduced to a one seat majority in the Australian Parliament. Ms Gillard took to office with a whole raft of promises regarding taxation and future funding of the Australian government. Unfortunately some of the promises she has pushed through have upset business leaders and some of the promises she has not pushed through have upset the Australian population. As a consequence, the popularity of the Prime Minister is now at an all-time low and indeed the opposition party, led by Tony Abbott, is now three percentage points ahead in the polls.

Is Kevin Rudd the answer to Australia’s woes?

There is no doubt that the ongoing battle for leadership of the Labor Party and leadership of the Australian government has created something of a political vacuum in the short term. There are now serious concerns that internal wrangling within the government will take the focus away from the Australian economy which is performing very well although it may well come in for some turbulence in the short to medium term if the European problem is not rectified. But is Kevin Rudd the answer?

Despite the fact that Kevin Rudd would appear to have his supporters in the Labor Party, despite the fact that some of these would have voted against him in 2010, many still remember his autocratic and very authoritative style when he was prime minister in 2010. The release of the secret videotape showing him shouting and swearing at his advisers with regards to a speech he made in China has in some ways undermined his credibility but he did manage to turn this around after admitting he had made mistakes and learned lessons.

It will be interesting to see how the Australian public react in the next few weeks with regards to a potential leadership challenge, which has yet to be announced, and whether indeed there is support on the ground for Kevin Rudd. Whatever happens, it seems that Julia Gillard’s days as prime minister and leader of the Labor Party are coming to a close at a time when the economy needs strong management and foresight.

Will the Australian economy struggle in the short term?

Over the last few weeks it has become apparent that there is underlying strength in the Australian economy and indeed the property sector has not been as quiet as some would assume. However, the Australian central bank last week confirmed there would be no change in base rates this month although many believe the bank is only holding back so that it has more ammunition in the short to medium term should the problems of Europe translate to Australia and the Far East.

As a consequence, this is a very important period for the Australian economy and indeed internal wrangling within the Labor Party and the Australian government is the last thing anybody needs. Despite the fact that Kevin Rudd has yet to officially announce a leadership challenge it is now taken for granted that his resignation from his role as Foreign Minister will allow him to concentrate upon a leadership challenge which should be announced in the next few days.

Conclusion

While the position of prime minister of Australia and leader of the Labor Party is very much in the news at the moment it seems as though we are moving towards the endgame. The resignation of Kevin Rudd as Foreign Minister yesterday, citing a lack of support from Julia Gillard, is the first in a series of stages which will allow the former prime minister to try and regain the role of PM from the lady who ousted him in 2010. It will be interesting to see how the Australian population react to this move and indeed whether renewed support for opposition parties continues or whether the ruling Labor Party regains the trust of voters.

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