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article imageLabor should defend carbon pricing in opposition: ex-PM Gillard Special

By Alex Guibord     Sep 15, 2013 in Politics
Australia's first female prime minister touts her tenure, reveals her personal grief over losing power in a leadership coup and shares her hope for the Australian Labor Party's future since Kevin Rudd lost the election and stepped down eight days ago.
Julia Gillard penned an exclusive essay for Guardian Australia to share her take on retiring from federal parliament after being dumped as ALP leader and head of government over two months ago amid dismal polling results.
The opinion piece sends a clear message: her legacy and the ALP's record will lack "belief, fortitude or purpose" if the Labor party abandons carbon pricing as the Official Opposition.
"Climate change is real. Carbon should be priced . . . Labor is on the right side of history on carbon pricing and must hold its course (in opposition)," Ms. Gillard wrote.
"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."
The 5,000-word essay called out Mr. Rudd's megalomania, too, and warned the party should discover "A New Way" as it seeks its next permanent leader by shifting from a personality and poll-driven focus to a principled and issues-based approach.
"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," Ms. Gillard wrote.
The former Labor leader, 51, admitted she regrets not disproving PM-elect Tony Abbott for mislabelling her carbon pricing scheme's fixed rate period as a "tax".
". . . I made the wrong choice and, politically, it hurt me terribly," she said.
On Sept. 7, the Liberal-National conservative coalition ended Labor's dysfunctional six-year reign in a landslide victory by earning a majority government with 90 seats. Labor won 52 seats, three independents got elected and the Greens reclaimed their only seat in Melbourne. Four electorates are still too close to call.
The ballot question became a referendum against the unpopular carbon tax brought into effect on 1 July 2012. Mr. Rudd hoped to recover from it by expediting a floating price on carbon by 2014.
Liberal leader Tony Abbott successfully focused his campaign messaging on repealing the carbon tax and exposing Labor's rocky history of party infighting. His media narrative also highlighted how the Rudd and Gillard governments were preoccupied with personal vendettas instead of key national priorities like sustaining economic growth and returning Australia's budget to surplus.
"I would give us 9/10 for governing the country. I'd give us 0/10 for governing ourselves" outgoing Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told ABC News.
Shorten and Albanese face-off for ALP's top post, must mend internal divisions
So far only two Labor frontbenchers are contesting the vacated leadership position: Bill Shorten (Maribyrnong) and Anthony Albanese (Grayndler).
Outgoing deputy PM Anthony Albanese, 50, could become the leader by wooing a majority of Labor's grassroots members, but critics speculate he may lack clear support within his own caucus and among the party's right-wing faction.
Meanwhile, former Education Minister Bill Shorten, 46, risks winning the contest with backing from Labor Right power brokers despite more ordinary ALP members preferring Mr. Albanese. He also represents the "faceless men" responsible for turfing both prime ministers Rudd and Gillard on two previous occasions.
Whoever wins will likely stay leader until the 2016 election because another rule change now requires more than 60 per cent of caucus to trigger a contest by petition.
Significantly, Mr. Shorten and Mr. Albanese both declared common positions on climate change: they will vote on principle against the repeal of carbon pricing and oppose the new Abbott government by championing Labor policy.
But "neither one is capable of the stakeholder management required if the ALP is to remain competitive," said Dr. Richard Stanton, senior lecturer of political communication, University of Sydney.
The political commentator suggests the ALP should seek out "plenty of alternatives" despite: Stephen Conroy and Joe Ludwig resigning from cabinet after Mr. Rudd, 55, returned to power; receiving a historic drubbing at the polls; and retirements of fellow Gillard stalwarts Greg Combet, Peter Garrett and Craig Emerson.
"The caucus needs to move on beyond Kevin Rudd. If he stays, he will destabilise. It's in his nature," Dr. Emerson told ABC News last Monday, insisting Mr. Rudd will plot to reclaim The Lodge while in opposition
Labor sources speculate Ms. Plibersek will support her Socialist Left colleague Mr. Albanese for the leadership ballot instead of running herself. To complicate matters though, Mr. Shorten favours her becoming deputy leader to represent the party's progressive base if he wins.
Ex-Treasurer Chris Bowen will step in as interim Labor leader since ruling himself out as a contender. Other potential candidates still undeclared include outgoing Immigration Minister Tony Burke, Mark Butler, Richard Marles and Jason Clare.
'No comment' on Gillard essay criticising leadership reform: Rudd spokesperson
Since she stopped representing her Lalor electorate in suburban Melbourne, Ms. Gillard joined the University of Adelaide as an honorary professor of politics. Now Australia's 27th prime minister plans to reconnect with family in her hometown and maintain a public profile by teaching at her alma mater.
But Ms. Gillard explicitly criticised the new rules for electing ALP leaders, calling the changes her successor endorsed after ousting her "a clumsy attempt to hold power."
Under Labor's new regulations, the social democratic party can only change leaders when one resigns, the party loses an election, or three-quarters of the caucus defeat the leader in a vote of non-confidence.
After conceding defeat to the Liberal-National coalition, a spokesman said Mr. Rudd told his Labor colleagues last Friday that he "expected free-ranging analysis of his character" from many insiders, media and pundits.
"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," he said, insisting "no comment."
During his concession speech on election night, Mr. Rudd announced he will stay on as MP for Griffith, but won't remain as Labor leader while the party focuses on "renewal".
The ALP still has 23 days left to hold a rank-and-file ballot to make its fifth leadership change in over six years.
Timeline: ALP Leadership
Timeline: ALP Leadership
Australian Labor Party
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