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The view from both sides -

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The view from both sides

Broadcast: 24/06/2010

Reporter: Tony Jones

Lateline is joined by former Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger and Labor strategist
Bruce Hawker.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: We are joined in Melbourne by the former Victorian Liberal Party President
Michael Kroger and in Sydney by Labor strategist Bruce Hawker. Thanks to both of you for joining
us.

Bruce Hawker I will start with you if I can. You were working in Kevin Rudd's office yesterday
while this challenge was unfolding.

Can you tell us or give us a sense of what it was like as it dawned upon the now former Prime
Minister that his number was up effectively?

BRUCE HAWKER, LABOR STRATEGIST: The first real whispers started to come through I think just after
Question Time, Tony, sometime between 4 and 5. Then people started to get reports in the next hour
or two that there was a significant move on.

And the story broke on Channel 2 news at 7 o'clock and after that all hell broke loose in terms of
the way in which it spread through Parliament House. It was, to misquote Hunter S Thomson, a night
that made the hard men shudder. And of course by the end of the night it was reasonably clear that
the Prime Minister had lost the support of the caucus.

TONY JONES: What was Kevin Rudd's demeanour while this was happening? Because obviously this is
political history and you are one of the few witnesses.

BRUCE HAWKER: He was steely, he was determined and certainly not fazed by the challenge ahead of
him.

I think he had an inkling for a day or two that there was some rumbling going around the place so
it wasn't a complete surprise to him - although it did take me by surprise. I thought some of the
discontent that was there wasn't going to fold into something much more significant.

But it did and so he managed it as best he could. He met with Julia Gillard and John Faulkner and I
think... I wasn't in the room but I understand that they had a very civilised discussion.

And at the end of the night it was pretty clear though that with the factions - particularly from
the right coming in behind Julia - that it was going to be a long and hard struggle for the Prime
Minister to recover from there.

But as I say, he was steely, he was determined. But he maintained a good sense of humour throughout
it.

TONY JONES: Michael Kroger, there have been some dramatic leadership challenges on your side of
politics but have you ever seen anything at all like this?

MICHAEL KROGER, FORMER VICTORIAN LIBERAL PRESIDENT: No, I don't think we have, Tony.

But I think the seven key leaders of the coup against Kevin Rudd quite frankly did an outstanding
job.

The last time Labor changed a Prime Minister was in 1991 when it took 6 months for Paul Keating to
dislodge Bob Hawke - two leadership challenges, resignations of he as Treasurer and various
Treasurers afterwards, a debacle that ripped the Labor Party apart and still has ramifications
today in terms of the hatreds that grew during that 6 month period in late 1991.

This was an execution of an amateur Prime Minister within 24 hours. I think the seven people did an
excellent job quite frankly from the Labor Party's points of view.

TONY JONES: Tony Abbott is blaming faceless men from Sussex Street - assassins from Sussex Street
as he calls them - but of course they were not faceless and many of them actually came from
Victoria and other parts of the country. They are not just New South Wales right wingers are they?

MICHAEL KROGER: No, a couple come from Victoria - David Feeney and Bill Shorten. There was a
senator from Adelaide, Don Farrell, I think his name was, Karl Bitar... Paul House had a very big
hand in it, Bill Ludwig up in Queensland.

You know... there were seven or eight of them who got together and quite frankly they did the right
thing. I think my query is what took them so long?

This man was headed for electoral defeat. He was described by Nicola Roxon as a Labor Party hero.

Yeah, well, he has just been saved from a fate worse than death which is one win and one loss so it
surprised me they took so long to remove him but when they did so they did so in a cold political
manner. And if you want the execute a Labor leader that is the way to do it so you get minimal
blood on the floor and the next day you've got a bright new Prime Minister and away you go again.

TONY JONES: Bruce Hawker, do you see it like that? An assassination conducted well with very little
blood on the floor and a new chance for Labor to win the next election?

BRUCE HAWKER: Well it was certainly done with pinpoint precision in terms of the very narrow window
of opportunity that this was to execute the coup. They really had to move very quickly because
Thursday was the last day of sitting.

I would take issue though with the suggestion that he was anything like an amateur Prime Minister.

This is a man that led Labor to victory and more importantly than that, led Labor through - and the
Government through - the worst financial crisis in a lifetime and we ended up with 5.2 per cent
unemployment and no recession.

That will be his lasting legacy whatever anybody says about Kevin Rudd. He was not an amateur. He
is not an amateur. He is a professional. He did a lot of things in his time as Prime Minister and I
think there are things that he is justifiably proud of.

TONY JONES: There was nothing amateur about the assassination - in inverted commas - though was
there? And I wonder is Julia Gillard going to be beholden to those factional leaders in any way?

BRUCE HAWKER: No, I don't think it is so cleanly cut as Mike would have you believe.

I think there was a general sense of unease in the caucus, which I think some of these factional
leaders were responding to. And that was in response as we all know to problems with the roll-out
of the building education revolution, the insulation projects and of course the mining tax.

The mining tax has effectively just sucked the air out of the room and it was very hard for Labor
to get any good messages up in the last two or three months - a real problem for them going into an
election campaign.

TONY JONES: Michael Kroger are you worried the election of Julia Gillard is effectively going to be
a game changer in the coming election?

MICHAEL KROGER: Look I think that's too early to tell at this stage, Tony.

What we know is that she has been a heartbeat away from Kevin Rudd and all of these decisions over
the last two years. So all these policy fiascos of this government, she has general along with
them. There is not a scintilla of evidence that she has opposed Kevin Rudd, had a stand up brawl
with Kevin Rudd on any single policy that they have implemented. And that's going to come back to
bite her.

The building the education revolution has been an utter disaster. It is arguable that she is the
most incompetent minister in history in terms of the losses that are racked up.

And I suppose the one person tonight who must be feeling it is Peter Garrett. I mean, he's over
there in some Kasbah in Morocco thinking 'Well I got sacked for my disaster, she's been promoted to
Prime Minister'. I mean, he must feeling that there's no justice in the world tonight.

TONY JONES: It is known that Tony Abbott has had a problem with women voters. It's been a big issue
for him and we now have the first woman Prime Minister. Is that effectively going to make it much
more difficult for Tony Abbott to win the next election?

MICHAEL KROGER: I don't think Tony has a problem with women at all. Y-You know, these sort of
clichés um sort of you know gain resonance. I don't think so.

Will he have a problem with Julia Gillard, combating her? No, no more than she will have a problem
with him.

TONY JONES: Bruce Hawker what do you say to that?

BRUCE HAWKER: Yeah, I think there are a few issues. I think Tony Abbott has got a very pugnacious
style and I think that doesn't necessarily go well when you're up against a female leader. Now she
can handle everything that he has ever thrown at her and they have had some pretty serious debates
in the past. And you see it every Friday on Channel 9 they do a debate...

TONY JONES: Well not any more apparently.

BRUCE HAWKER: Oh right. Well up until recently.

I think there are real issues there that they will have to come to terms with. This is a
significant circuit breaker for Labor. You saw today her announcement they were withdrawing the
ads, the government ads, for the mining tax. And the mining industry has reciprocated by
withdrawing their ads.

That's a very good sign I think for a proper negotiation to take place with the mining industry.

She is obviously approaching it with real good faith so there are some very good early signs that
there's a significant sea change in the way in which she is really approaching the Government. And
I think that will be a big thing for Labor going forward.

And as I said before, Tony Abbott I think does struggle in dealing with women.

We saw the celebrated incident with Nicola Roxon in the 2007 election campaign where he was quite
abusive towards her and that didn't do him very much good.

He has had some instances in the past where he has said he didn't think women were physiologically
capable of doing the same sort of things that men did. And when he was asked by Liz Jackson if he
repudiated that statement from 1979 he didn't. So he has a way to go.

TONY JONES: Michael Kroger - let me bring Michael Kroger back in on this. Let me ask you this. As a
political professional as you were for many years, you probably saw the interviews that Julia
Gillard did tonight - the flag on one side, the vase of flowers on the other.

In a way two halves of her personality, both of which she will take into this next campaign. It
must be a worry for the Liberal Party, for the Coalition generally, that you really face a much
more serious contest now.

MICHAEL KROGER: Well there has never been a new leader that hasn't looked good on their first day,
Tony.

They all look fantastic on day one and things invariably go south thereafter.

I think what we are seeing now is a very interesting point in Australian politics. We have two
former student politicians - two very well known famous former student politicians - at the head of
the political parties. Two people who the party has loved longest and vice versa.

We have had Rudd there for five minutes and gone. We've had Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull -
not nearly as longer term Liberals as Tony Abbott.

So what we have is both parties reverting to highly experienced party members of extremely long
standing and it is going to be a tremendously competitive battle between two people whose politics
have been their life.

And if you look at those people who have failed at the top of politics, in many cases they are
people who haven't had a lifetime in it. It is a profession like any other profession.

Those that come into it late in life tend to do much worse than those who go into it when they are
18, 19- start when they are 18, 19, 20.

TONY JONES: So much to talk about, so little time. We'll have to leave you both there.

Michael Kroger, Bruce Hawker, thanks for being there.