Gillard breaks silence on Rudd

BIANCA HALL
Last updated 12:01 15/09/2013
Julia Gillard
ANDREW MEARES
OUSTED: Julia Gillard lost a leadership challenge mounted by Kevin Rudd in June.

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Labor must never again choose a leader on the basis of opinion polls or ''the frippery of selfies'', Julia Gillard has warned, breaking her silence for the first time since her defeat at the hands of Kevin Rudd.

In a thinly veiled swipe at Rudd, Gillard asked the party to consider what should befall politicians who ''dedicate themselves to destabilising others and bringing the party in to disrepute''.

''This was a question incapable of being answered during a minority government, when every member had the ability to blow the government up but it is a question that should be answered now,'' she said.

In an essay published in The Guardian on Saturday, Gillard revealed her pain at losing the Labor leadership in June, as Labor desperately tried to limit its losses at the election.

It was, she wrote, ''a pain that hits you like a fist, pain so strong you feel it in your guts, your nerve endings''.

But Gillard said Labor must take the opportunity presented by its leadership ballot to safeguard against poorly performing leaders.

Under changes introduced by Rudd weeks after he took the top job, Labor's leadership will be determined by a joint ballot of rank-and-file members and caucus.

But the new rules also ensure a Labor prime minister cannot be removed unless three-quarters of the party room demands they go.

Former immigration minister Tony Burke said on Saturday he would be surprised if the rule was not reviewed, while Gillard said it was ''a clumsy attempt to hold power''.

''These rules protect an unsupported, poorly performing incumbent rather than ensuring that the best person gets chosen and supported for the best reasons - specifically the attachment of the Labor party to the leader's defined sense of purpose and vice versa.''

Labor's Right faction rising star Bill Shorten and NSW Left warrior Anthony Albanese have nominated for the top job. Albanese was expected to win the popular vote, Shorten the caucus vote.

Gillard said the contest between the pair was ''one between two worthy candidates''.

But, she said, the contest also gave Labor a rare chance to choose a new leader based on policy, debate and ideas, rather than leaks, ''poisonous backgrounding'' and polls.

''Caucus and party members should use this contest to show that Labor has moved on from its leadership being determined on the basis of opinion polls, or the number of positive media profiles, or the amount of time spent schmoozing media owners and editors, or the frippery of selfies and content-less social media.''

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A spokesman said Rudd would not comment on Gillard's essay.

''On Friday, Rudd told his Labor colleagues that he expected free-ranging analysis of his character from a variety of people in the wake of last Saturday's election,'' he said.

''But Mr Rudd made clear he did not believe it was in the interests of the Labor Party and its future for him to respond.''

Labor national vice-president Jane Garrett said: ''Everybody has to take responsibility for what happened in the last term of the government and I don't think you can blame any one individual.''

She welcomed the inclusion of party members for the selection of a leader, despite acknowledging it ''could be messy''.

''I think the Labor Party's at its best when we're having reasoned debate.''

Gillard admitted she had made mistakes, particularly by letting then-opposition leader Tony Abbott describe her carbon price as a ''tax''.

''I erred by not contesting the label 'tax' for the fixed-price period of the emissions trading scheme I introduced,'' she said.

''I feared the media would end up playing constant silly word games with me, trying to get me to say the word 'tax'.''

She urged Labor not to resile from its stance on climate change.

''While it will be uncomfortable in the short term to be seen to be denying the mandate of the people, the higher cost would be appearing as, indeed becoming, a party unable to defend its own policy and legislation: a party without belief, fortitude or purpose.''

Gillard is scheduled to appear in public interviews with writer Anne Summers in coming weeks.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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