Earlier today, the following exchange between Barrie Cassidy and The Hon. Anthony Albanese took place about loyalty on the ABC’s Insiders program, in relation to The Hon. Kevin Rudd and the overthrow of Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier this year. This statement by Mr Albanese is in stark contrast to his comments on the night of the 2013 Federal Election, about Former Prime Minister Gillard’s disposal back in June.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Further on the question of loyalty, can you say hand on heart you knew nothing of the destabilisation and the undermining that was going on against Julia Gillard?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course not. Everyone knew about it Barrie, it was in the paper.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Yes but you knew beyond what was written in the paper and you knew who was doing the undermining?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Everyone knew what was going on, Barrie, everyone knew it. The question is do you involve yourself in it? And certainly I didn’t. I was of the view, I was of the view very strongly, that we should concentrate on taking up the challenge to the opposition.
And I think now what we need to do is actually look to the future. We need to draw a line in the sand under this and we need to unite and move forward with whoever is the leader Barrie.
BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, but you say you knew it was going on. You heard talk of the cardinals, the group that called themselves the cardinals, Kim Carr, Joel Fitzgibbon and Richard Marles, that was Rudd’s core group of supporters. Why didn’t you go to them at some point and say “This has to stop”?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, the fact is, going over history, everyone knew this was going on. What my job was, each and every day, Barrie, I was leader of the house, minister for infrastructure and transport, minister for regional Australia and local government. I frankly, Barrie, had enough on my plate arguing against our political opponents. That was what I concentrated on each and every day.
What we need to do is to make sure that every member of the caucus moving forward does just that, Barrie.
BARRIE CASSIDY: You could have done more surely. And the suspicion is you didn’t want to because, as Pam Williams wrote in the Financial Review, that you were a secret cardinal. What do you say to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, that’s just not the case. Pam Williams didn’t bother to speak to me about any of those articles.
Now this is a particularly interesting series of commentss by Mr Albanese, given that at the Cyprus Club in Stanmore on Election Night he confirmed off-the-cuff on stage and on camera, that he had purposefully been undermining former Prime Minister Gillard in the weeks and months prior to her removal from the ALP Leadership only a couple of months ago. Needless to say, the campaign to replace Prime Minister Gillard earlier this year was anything but positive, according to Mr Albanese.
Mr Albanese: One of the lessons the Labor Party needs to learn and needs to show in the coming weeks, days and weeks, is that when we talk about ourselves, people switch off. We need to talk about Australians and what is of interest to them. And when we are not united, when we are not united, we will be punished for it.
This was soon followed by:
There was a potential for tonight to be about whether the Labor Party continues to be a viable Opposition. After the results that occurred in NSW and QLD, in terms of substantial… substantial swings and decimations of Parliamentary Parties. That has not happened at this election. That has not happened. It has happened because of some tough and difficult decisions long term in the interests of the Labor Party.
As well as:
The truth is we’ve been up against it from Day 1 and in terms of some of the predictions have not proven to be true. To Carmell and Nathan, you have been absolutely sensational in terms of, I left home that Sunday and of the last sitting week and said “By the way, you might have to come down later on in the week, there will be something going on”. They have been absolutely extraordinary in their support always, but particularly during what has been a very difficult couple of months, so thank you.
Now with these comments in mind it is intriguing that Mr Albanese believes that he can admit to helping destabilise and dispose of Julia Gillard, then less than two weeks later say on national television that he didn’t have a hand in these events at all. This is particularly interesting when you consider that he also stated that people need to stop “backgrounding” journalists for the health of the Australian Labor Party, on the day that he announced his leadership candidacy to the caucus. These comments came about after somebody left their mobile phone on and covertly made a call during the ALP’s Post-Election Caucus Meeting on the 13th of September, allowing the ABC’s Latika Bourke to hear and live tweet (unethically in my mind) the entire event, without people being aware that they were being listened in on. Not only do such statements reinforce the divisions present within the ALP by showing that some ALP Members of Parliament are more equal than others when it comes to leaking, but they also remind the public of the autocratic attitudes that made Kevin Rudd and his close associates about as popular as the plague within the Parliamentary Caucus back in the middle of 2010.
Furthermore, you’ve got to wonder what was said to The Hon. Bill Shorten in the hours, days and weeks leading up to the Spill back in late June of this year, which prompted him to look as angry, frustrated and cornered as he did on television the night that Gillard was deposed. As the video provided by Fairfax shows, Mr Shorten was extremely reluctant to commit to the course of action that he did that night, which raises the question as to how much trust is actually present between the current members of the ALP Leadership at this particular time. Can the ALP actually heal itself and regain the fighting strength of the Hawke and Keating era, or will it continue to stagnate as it has since 1996, due to the continual infighting that occurred under each of its leaders since that time? Given that Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had a central role in each of these bouts of infighting, one must wonder if such healing can occur while he remains in public office. At the same time, you’ve got to wonder why people such as Mr Albanese and Senator Doug Cameron amongst others are still willing to support him, given the spectacularly destructive influence that Former Prime Minister Rudd has now had on two election campaigns.
Do both Mr Rudd and Mr Albanese have mud on each other in the form of highly controversial and profitable unregistered Pecuniary Interests that keeps them as “thick as thieves” as the old saying goes in the Labor Caucus, or is there something else entirely that cements this particular political pact? Either way, as their respective histories show, neither Mr Albanese nor Mr Rudd are afraid of spilling a little bit of party blood or bringing the entire roof down on the Labor Caucus when their own agendas demand it. Needless to say, this particular dynamic will instil a sense of certainty in uncertainty within the Labor Caucus and leadership, while Mr Rudd continues to remain in the Parliament.
While the current situation will make things interesting for the Press Gallery and other political observers, you’ve got to wonder just how long Labor can afford for this political circus to go on. While Former Prime Ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard realised that they needed to step back in order to let their parties have the time they needed in order to heal after their respective losses of the nation’s “Top Job” respectively, for better or worse, that’s a realisation that neither Mr Rudd nor Mr Albanese have acknowledged at this particular time.
Either way, until the ALP completes the purge of its previous generation of leaders, it’s doubtful that they are going to be able to be an effective fighting force in opposition. Similar to how Paul Keating once said that the early 1990’s economic downturn was a recession that we had to have, sadly the same can be said for the Australian Labor Party at both this election and the next for the health of Australian democracy. Hopefully this is a lesson that one of Australia’s oldest political institutions learns from in the years to come.