Greg Combet, a senior minister in the previous Labor government, says then Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered to stand aside to allow him to assume the leadership.
Combet appeared in an interview broadcast on the ABC’s 7.30 program tonight. Combet’s memoirs, The Fights of My Life, will be released next week and launched by Gillard.
Combet says that he approached Gillard in mid-June last year and was of the view that a ballot for the leadership should be held. He said Gillard offered to stand aside if he put his name forward. He says he declined because he thought the momentum for Rudd’s return was well-developed and that it would be a difficult political manoeuvre to “pull off”. Facing a personal health problem, Combet said he decided not to nominate.
The former member for Charlton, who retired at last year’s election, said that Kevin Rudd told him in 2007 that he needed to be “de-unionised” if he was to assume a more senior role in the party. He said he found this offensive, given the union movement’s successful campaign against the Howard government’s WorkChoices policy.
Whilst Combet is highly-regarded inside the ALP, it is difficult to believe he would have been a viable candidate in the context of the long-running battle between Gillard and Rudd. By mid-June last year, Gillard’s ability to swing votes behind Combet, or anyone else, was doubtful. It is now known that the moves to topple Gillard and reinstate Rudd were well-advanced at that time.
- Listen to Combet’s 7.30 interview with Chris Uhlmann (8m)
- Watch a preview of the interview (2m)