Many Australians were perplexed when they woke up on June 24, 2010, to find that Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had been deposed by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who in turn became the country’s 27th PM, the first women to do so, sworn in by the first female Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
It’s a role she held for three years and three days, securing a minority government and passing an unprecedented amount of legislation in a hostile environment, attacked from without by Opposition Leader Tony Abbot and within by Rudd who regained the Prime Ministership on June 26, 2013.
Gillard’s tell-all memoir My Story, detailing those tumultuous years in Canberra, was released today, with the former PM maintaining that the chaotic Rudd had to be removed, sticking to the line, “a good government had lost its way”. His name is a constant thread throughout.
Gillard claims the double-edged sword of responsibility for putting Rudd in the leadership position over former ALP leader Kim Beazley, and credits Rudd with running the popular 2007 election trail with diligent hard work, but also acknowledges its flaws.
“The marketing campaign that turned him into Kevin 07 was masterful,” she says. “It brought with it the vibe and energy for our victory. It also brought with it expectations that could never be fulfilled: Kevin was human, Kevin 07 was hype.”
Gillard insist Rudd’s forte was “tactics, not strategy”. Crediting his apology to the Stolen Generation as “magic”, she says his haphazard approach to day-to-day governing was his downfall.
Undue focus on Gillard’s appearance was present from the start, with the former PM dubbing media reactions to the colourful coat she wore on her first mall walk that day as “the trench coat that divided a nation”. Meanwhile, Gillard’s parents were inviting the media in for cups of tea.
Gillard describes Rudd’s disastrous leaks during the 2010 election campaign as “the political equivalent of one of those horror movies when you think things are as bad as they possibly can be, then there is another burst of guts and gore”.
Insisting she thought Rudd would ultimately feel relived to be free of the pressures of the Prime Ministership, Gillard notes instead his prime motivation was revenge. While installing him as Foreign Minster stopped the leaks, the grudge bubbled underneath.
On the subject of her much-challenged leadership and the future for the ALP, Gillard jokes that Kylie Minogue would be a perfect pick. “After all, she is popular, has millions of Twitter followers and fans wherever she goes.”
Of her Welsh background, Gillard says: “The only reality I have ever known or ever wanted is that of being Australian … stories of Wales and the fact of my parents having immigrated halfway round the world to seek a better life for us form the backdrop to … a very Australian childhood.”
On asylum seeker and refugee policy: “Kevin sought to parade progressive views on asylum seekers … saying ‘We will not be lurching to the right’.It was a hollow statement.”
On marriage equality: “My views are not that same-sex marriage is too radical. If anything, the vision is not radical enough.”