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Rudd Announces ALP Caucus Leadership Ballot; Gillard To Challenge

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced that there will be an ALP caucus ballot for the party’s leadership tomorrow morning.

Rudd emerged from a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to make the announcement at around 10.25pm. He confirmed that Gillard requested a ballot.

Kevin Rudd’s press conference announcing a leadership ballot

The announcement followed several hours of feverish speculation, following an ABC report at 7pm that Rudd’s leadership was under challenge.

Rudd warned of a “lurch to the right” under Gillard. He said: “If I am returned as the leader of the party and the government and as Prime Minister then I will be very clear about one thing – this party and government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum-seekers as some have counselled us to do.”

Listen to Rudd’s press conference (9m)

Watch Rudd’s press conference (8m)

Watch Paul Bongiorno on Channel 10 Late News, June 23, 2010 (12m)

Transcript of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s press conference, held at 10.25pm on June 23, 2010.

Rudd: Earlier this evening, Julia Gillard came to see me and has requested a ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party.

As a result of that request I will be writing to the secretary of the caucus to convene a special meeting of the caucus at 9 o’clock in the morning.

It’s important I believe in the interests of the party and the government for these matters to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

I was elected by the people of Australia as Prime Minister of Australia.

I was elected to do a job, I intend to continue doing that job. I intend to continue doing it to the absolute best of my ability. Part of that job has been to steer this country through the worst economic crisis the world has seen in 75 years. I believe the government has acquitted itself well to that task.

Part of the reason the government was elected was to deliver fundamental reforms in the health and hospital system, I believe the government has acquitted itself well to that task as well.

Part of what the government was elected to do was also deliver fair outcome for pensioners in Australia and I believe we’ve done that well by increasing the pension to the extent that we have.

These are important reforms. Infrastructure, education, health, hospitals, closing the gap with indigenous Australians. Also the apology to the first Australians. As Prime Minister of the country I am proud of each and every one of these achievements. There is much more to be done and we intend to get on with the job of doing it.

It has become apparent to me in the course of the last period of time, last several weeks, that a number of factional leader within the Labor Party no longer support my leadership. That is why it is imperative that this matter be resolved. I therefore will be contesting the leadership of the party and therefore the government tomorrow at that ballot.

I think it’s important for stability for the government and the party this occur. As I said before, it’s far better these things are done quickly rather than be strung out over a period of time.

I’d say one or two other things as well.

If I am returned as the leader of the party and the government and as Prime Minister then I will be very clear about one thing – this party and government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum-seekers as some have counselled us to do.

Also, on the question of climate change, we’ll be moving to a timetable on emissions trading which is of the government’s decision, contray to the views of some in terms of when that best occurs.

These are important reforms for the future but there is much work still to be done, right now obviously we are at the midst of a debate on the future of the taxation system. This is a hard debate, a hard debate which has been waged in previous times as well.

Tax reform is never easy, a lot of paint’s been taken off the government on the way through. It’s also been difficult for previous governments engaged in the business of hard reform. We don’t resile from that challenge.

However, this obviously has created some challenges and tensions within our party and I mentioned before, having lost the support of certain factional leaders. Therefore it’s time to get on with the business of resolving this as quickly as possible as the national interest at stake.

I conclude where I began, I was elected by the people of Australia to do a job. I was not elected by the factional leaders of Australia, of the Australian Labor Party to do a job – though they may be seeking to do a job on me, that’s a separate matter.

The challenge therefore is to honour the mandate given to me by the Australian people.

We’ve made mistakes on the way through, I have been very up front about that, but in navigating this economy through the worst crisis the world has seen and keeping hundreds of thousands of Australians in jobs who would otherwise be on the unemployment queues, of that I am fundamentally proud and we intend to continue that reform.

Before you ask your questions, I’ll take two or three questions and then as you may appreciate I have some other work to do.

Question: Do you think you can win tomorrow?

Rudd: I believe I’m quite capable of winning this ballot tomorrow – based on the soundings that we have taken most recently then I believe there is a strong body of support for the continuation of my leadership.

Question: Has Julia Gillard told you she’s standing against you?

Rudd: I indicated before that Julia has asked me to have a ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party, I’ve responded to that request. I’m sorry if I didnt make that clear before.

Question: Personally, do you feel betrayed?

Rudd: Politics is a tough business but the business of politics is about doing what’s right for the country. I can say in full and honest conscience that I have taken every decision I have taken so far as Prime Minister in the nation’s interest. A lot of those decisions were hard and rough on the way through but I’ve appreciated the strong support of my colleagues on the way through as well.

They have been a fantastic team but we’ve gone into some heavy weather of late and a few people have become, shall I say, a little squeamish at that. I’m not for getting squeamish about those things, I am about continuing the business of reform and providing good, strong, proper government for the people of Australia, the people of Australia who elected me as Prime Minister.

Question: Mr Rudd, you mentioned asylum seekers and the ETS, are you talking about a change in policy in both those areas?

Rudd: I’ve been very plain about what I said before and you’ve heard me say things about asylum-seeker policy recently, I believe it is absolutely wrong for this country to and absolutely wrong in terms of the values which we hold dear, to get engaged in some sort of race to the right in this country on the question of asylum-seekers. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. That’s the direction the Liberal Party would like to take us – under my leadership we will not be going in that direction.

Furthermore, furthermore, furthermore, can I say this, on the questions of emissions trading which you have raised and is obviously a matter of great controversy in the community, let me be very clear, action on climate change cannot be achieved in the absence of an emissions trading scheme. We need a price on carbon and it needs to be put, that price on carbon needs to be put, on it within a reasonable timeframe. That would be the decision of the government assuming I’m re-elected as its Prime Minister.

Question: Would you expect Ms Gillard to stand down as Deputy Prime Minister if she doesn’t win tomorrow?

Rudd: I am simply calling for a ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party. I believe that is the right and responsible course of action to do, to undertake, for the simple reason that that was the request which was made of me.

My fundamental interests are to preserve the good name and standing of this Australian Labor Party and to act in the national interest on behalf of the Australian Government. We have large challenges ahead, not least of which is an upcoming G20 summit in Toronto at which I am currently scheduled to lead an Australian delegation. This G20 Summit will deal with a whole range of fundamental reforms to the financial system which go to the interests of the Australian banks and the cost of credit in the country.

These are important national interests to pursue, it is one reason why I have decided, apart from others, that it’s important to resolve this matter of the leadership as a matter of urgency. There are national interests at stake here, which go beyond the personal interests of me as an individual, which go beyond the personal interests of me as a politician, which go beyond the personal interest of me as a Prime Minister. Those national interests should be equally in our thinking at a time like this. My party’s interests is important as well. These two matters should be resolved as a matter of urgency and I have a few urgent things now to attend to. Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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