As you are all aware, Laurie Oakes decided to crap all over Julia Gillard’s strategy leading into the election campaign with his ‘Kirribilli’ question(s) at the National Press Club last Thursday. It included this:
Is it true that there was then a brief break during which Mr Rudd went outside and briefed a couple of colleagues on what he thought was a deal while you contacted your backers, and that when the meeting resumed you said you’d changed your mind? You’d been informed he didn’t have the numbers in caucus and you were going to challenge anyway?
For 24 hours it was the lead story in the ABC radio news. So you had it three times – in the headlines, the item itself and the recap of the headlines at the end. Often it was the only election story. There was certainly nothing else about National Press Club speech.
On Friday an article by Pamela Williams Kill Kevin: the untold story the coup in the Australian Financial Review tells us that during the weeks after the coup a rumour had been flying around that:
Gillard in fact had initially agreed during the meeting not to challenge, and to instead give Rudd the opportunity to resolve a range of policy issues and attempt to improve his standing in the polls.
And, moreover, she had changed her mind after being told that she had the numbers during a break in the meeting.
A rumour, Mr Oakes, a rumour, that’s all. If you believe it’s a fact rather than a rumour you should explain why. Now!
In the article Williams tells us that the meeting between Rudd, Gillard and Faulkner started at 7.20 pm and at 10.15 Rudd emerged “white-faced and defiant” to face the press.
In William’s account of the meeting there is no break mentioned. In fact Gillard’s staff tried to send in a note to Gillard saying that the numbers were now OK. At first Rudd’s staff wouldn’t allow the note in but later relented. It seems clear that they sat within a cone of silence for three hours.
Laura Tingle in the Weekend AFR reports:
“like the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd has not made, nor will he make, any comment on these private discussions,” his spokesman told AAP. “Appropriately, the only comment Mr Rudd made on these matters was in the context of the caucus meeting specifically convened on the issue of the leadership”.
I think we can accept that the
leak rumour didn’t come from Rudd.
So no break in the meeting, no leak from Rudd, but Gillard was informed that she had the numbers during the course of the meeting. And a rumour circulating amongst disaffected Rudd supporters, which any half competent journalist could have picked up.
In the Weekend AFR Williams returns to the Press Club incident, describing it as “a first major punch to the solar plexus”. She says that Gillard half closed her eyes took a breath and brushed the question aside. She would take her secrets to the grave.
Well done, and a right response, thinks Williams.
On NewsRadio I heard her initial remarks. She said that one of the perks of office was to have [the great] Mr Oakes attend her National Press Club appearances and have him ask her questions. It was a new experience for her, she said. Exceptional poise under heavy fire.
Williams says that the rumour had circulated amongst Rudd supporters in the caucus and shows that “bitterness is alive and well within the government.” She says that if more comes out during the campaign “Gillard will need the instincts of a fox, and the temperament of a Hawke.”
Perhaps Williams was not around when Richard Carleton asked Bob Hawke how it felt to have blood on his hands after he had knocked over Bill Hayden. Richard Fidler played Hawke’s response on local radio the other day. Hawke flew for Carleton’s throat, virtually told him to stop smirking and that he would put his integrity up against Carleton’s any day. His minders told Hawke that if he did that again his butt would be history. It’s the last time I recall Hawke losing his temper. More’s the pity, perhaps. It made him sound real.
On Saturday also, fresh from punching Gillard in the guts, Oakes turns reflective analyst explaining that his question had made sure that voters would concentrate on how Gillard had gained power to the exclusion of her plans for the country and how it would help Tony Abbott.
Gillard wanted people to forget about how she came to be Prime Minister and focus on what she proposed to do in the role.
Instead, she will go into an election campaign with the bitterness and duplicity she thought had been covered up now on open display. And that is bad news for the Government and its re-election prospects.
It gives Tony Abbott and the Coalition a message of disunity to use against the Government in what is shaping as a very tight contest.
Gillard’s National Press Club appearance was intended to be her election launchpad.
The idea was that she would present herself as cautious and responsible, lay out her economic management credentials, reassure voters that she would run a fiscally conservative administration, and then dash to the polls this weekend.
I threw a spanner into the works…
Thanks a million, Laurie.
So the net effect of Oakes’ intervention was deny Gillard oxygen and to help the Opposition establish memes of disunity, instability and Gillard’s questionable character.
By Sunday a Sunday Mail journalist was referring to the ‘revelations’ rather than the allegations or rumour. I’m talking to you, Daryl Passmore.
Just what does Oakes think he’s about? I don’t recall such a partisan intervention by a senior journalist. Ever.