When Is A Shift Not A Shift?

A frontpage report in the Financial Review this morning invited readers to believe that union support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership was “shifting”.

A closer read showed that a meeting at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) on Tuesday discussed the Labor leadership but the union leaders remained supportive of Gillard, although conscious that “time is running out”.

Union and political figures have been at pains during the day to dispute the accuracy of the report. They have adamantly denied suggestions of a “shift”.

Perhaps the most reliable take-out from the Financial Review report is the claim that union leaders were concerned about the advent of an Abbott government. Their attitude to the leadership is reflected in their desire to avoid an early election that could result from any attempt to remove Gillard.

Media critics have been quick to jump on the report as further evidence of the media’s preoccupation with leadership at the expense of policy. Others see it as evidence of a shift to the right under the Financial Review’s new editor, Michael Stutchbury.

However, it seems clear that another decision on the Labor leadership is likely over the next few months. What isn’t clear is whether the obstacles to a Rudd revival can be overcome. Moreover, it isn’t clear whether the party has the capacity to change leaders without destroying the government and precipitating an election.

Financial Review

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