A leadership spill in the Australian Labor Party, the party of government in the Parliament of Australia, was held on 27 February 2012 at 10 am AEDT, followed by a ballot. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the spill at a press conference on 23 February 2012, following the resignation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, from his cabinet position after months of speculation that he intended to challenge Gillard for the leadership. Rudd announced his intention to seek the leadership at a press conference on 24 February.[1]

At the leadership ballot, Gillard won by a vote of 71 to 31.[2]


Kevin Rudd led the Labor Party to a landslide victory at the 2007 federal election, becoming Prime Minister on 3 December. On the same day, Julia Gillard was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister.

On 23 June 2010 Gillard publicly requested that Rudd call a leadership election for the following day. Despite declaring that he would stand in the election at a press conference, it quickly became apparent that Rudd did not have the necessary support to remain in his position. Hours before the vote on 24 June, Rudd resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labor Party, allowing Gillard to assume both offices unopposed.

Gillard announced a snap election to be held on 21 August 2010 but, despite Labor leading the polls at the start of the campaign, the result was the first hung parliament since 1940. In the days following the election, Gillard successfully negotiated the support of one Green MP and three Independent MPs in order to allow Labor to rule as a minority government. The Second Gillard Ministry was sworn in on 14 September 2010 by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, with Rudd accepting an offer from Gillard to become Minister for Foreign Affairs.

For several months, beginning in September 2011, many stories and opinion pieces began to appear in the press speculating that Rudd intended to challenge Gillard for the leadership, although it was generally believed that his support in the Labor Party was relatively low and hence a challenge would be unsuccessful.[3][4][5] Rudd denied these rumours publicly, stating that he was happy being Foreign Minister and that Gillard had his full support as Prime Minister. By February 2012, it was suggested by some journalists that Rudd himself had been giving "background briefings" in his office to the press.[6] Several senior ministers, including Simon Crean, reacted to this by openly accusing Rudd of disloyalty, demanding that Gillard sack him.[7]

On 22 February 2012 Rudd, who had been on government business overseas, gave a press conference from the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. announcing his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs, citing the attacks on him by Crean and others he described as "faceless men" within the party, as well as Gillard's unwillingness to condemn the attacks when given the opportunity. He said he would return to Australia the following day and consult with family and parliamentary colleagues before announcing his next move.[8][9][10] A number of senior ministers spoke to the press later that evening attacking Rudd, while Bruce Hawker and Senator Doug Cameron gave interviews supporting Rudd. Rudd himself held a second press conference the following morning, outlining his policy vision for Australia and saying that he wished to "save" Australia from a Tony Abbott-led government. Rudd stated, "I do not believe that Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election."[11]

In response to these developments, Gillard called a news conference in Adelaide on 23 February, at which she announced that a spill of leadership positions would be held at 10.00am on Monday 27 February, at which she would re-nominate herself as Labor Leader. She strongly defended her performance as Prime Minister, citing her health agreement between the states, the structural separation of Telstra vital to the implementation of the National Broadband Network and, as achievements, noted that these had not been achieved under Rudd's leadership.[12] Gillard stated that if she was defeated by Rudd in the ballot, she would retire to the backbenches and renounce any further claims to the leadership.[13]

In their initial responses to the announcement, senior ministers launched stinging attacks on Rudd's legacy as Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan criticised Rudd as "dysfunctional"; Tony Burke said of Rudd's term in office that "the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories"; Nicola Roxon declared she could not work with Rudd again; and Stephen Conroy said that Rudd had had "contempt" for his colleagues, the Parliament and the public.[14][15][16][17] Ministers Tanya Plibersek, Stephen Smith, Bill Shorten and Greg Combet were more circumspect, but also declared their support for Gillard.[18][19][20] Senator Doug Cameron and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen came out in support of Rudd and called on their colleagues to show him respect.[21][22] Ministers Robert McClelland and Martin Ferguson also declared for Rudd, saying that they didn't believe Gillard would win against Tony Abbott.[23][24] Minister Kim Carr also declared for Rudd.[25] Labor MP Nick Champion resigned as caucus secretary in order to back Rudd.[26]

Gillard portrayed Rudd's time as Prime Minister as "chaotic and dysfunctional" and implied that he viewed the ballot process as "an episode of Celebrity Big Brother".[27][28] Rudd called for "people power" to support his challenge for the leadership, as well as accusing Gillard of betraying him in 2010 and questioning her trustworthiness.[29]

Prior to the vote, Rudd promised that if he lost he would initiate no further challenges against Gillard, although he did not rule out being drafted as Labor Leader at any later date.[30]

Caucus support

102 of the 103 members of the Labor caucus from the House of Representatives and the Senate were eligible to vote, with 52 votes needed to win. Several ministers and members of the Labor caucus publicly stated ahead of time who they intended to support in the event of a ballot.[12][31][32] Michelle Rowland was not able to vote as she was on maternity leave but had made it known that she would have voted for Prime Minister Gillard.[33]

Public supporters of Gillard: Public supporters of Rudd:


Gillard overwhelmingly defeated Rudd in the leadership ballot, by 71 votes to 31. Rudd returned to the backbenches as he had promised, and pledged his loyalty to Gillard until the next election.[52] Rudd's strategist, Bruce Hawker, left open the possibility of Rudd being drafted as Leader in an emergency situation if Gillard's polling did not improve.[53]

Following the vote, Senator Mark Arbib, a factional leader and a key backer of Gillard in 2010, announced that he would be resigning in order to help the party "heal" in the wake of the leadership dispute. Gillard described the events leading up to the ballot as "ugly" but said that the leadership issue was now "determined".[54]

See also


  1. ^ Rudd confirms he'll contest leadership - Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  2. ^ "Julia Gillard wins Labor leadership ballot". The Australian. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  3. ^ AAP (15 October 2011). "Labor prepares for Rudd challenge: report". Business Spectator. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  4. ^ Farr, Malcolm (10 December 2011). "Movers and shakers: PM Julia Gillard to reshuffle cabinet to ward off Rudd challenge". The Australian. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  5. ^ Shanahan, Dennis (3 February 2012). "Kevin Rudd may challenge Julia Gillard before Queensland state poll". The Australian. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  6. ^ Barrie Cassidy (17 February 2012). "(Opinion) Leadership tussle: Rudd circles, Gillard stumbles". Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  7. ^ Farr, Malcolm (20 February 2012). "Simon Crean attacks 'disloyal' Kevin Rudd". news.com.au. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Rudd's resignation speech as foreign minister". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Rudd resigns as Australian foreign minister". ABC (Radio Australia News). 22 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Media circus surrounds Rudd's Washington hotel". ABC Online. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  11. ^ Curran, Enda (23 February 2012). "Resignation sparks Australia leadership battle". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "Rudd to contest Labor leadership". The Age. Melbourne. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  13. ^ Williamson, Brett (23 February 2012). "PM Gillard announces leadership ballot in Adelaide". ABC Online. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  14. ^ Vasek, Lanai (26 February 2012). "Ministers line up to attack Rudd". The Australian. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  15. ^ "Wayne Swan attacks 'dysfunctional' Kevin Rudd, accusing him of self-interest". Adelaide Now. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  16. ^ "Gillard will call leadership ballot on Monday". Herald Sun. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  17. ^ "7.30". ABC. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  18. ^ Lincoln, By (24 February 2012). "Labor leadership crisis: The rival camps". News.com.au. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  19. ^ "Leadership stoush no different than any other". Abc.net.au. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  20. ^ "7.30". ABC. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  21. ^ "Democracy requires leadership ballot to wait: Cameron". Abc.net.au. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Bowen says Rudd should run for leader". News.ninemsn.com.au. 13 September 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  23. ^ "7.30". ABC. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Martin Ferguson declares for Rudd". Sky News. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
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  26. ^ Vasek, Lanai (26 February 2012). "Champion declares support for Rudd, resigns as caucus official". The Australian. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
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  28. ^ "Debate about leadership 'not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother', says Prime Minister". News.com.au. 24 February 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
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  30. ^ Packham, Ben; Vasek, Lanai (27 February 2012). "Kevin Rudd fails to rule out being drafted as leader at a later date, as he heads for ballot defeat". The Australian. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  31. ^ a b c d e f "Dummies guide to a leadership challenge". Daily Telegraph. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  32. ^ "Who's backing Gillard and who's supporting Rudd in Labor showdown?". Herald Sun. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  33. ^ Flitton, Daniel (26 February 2012). "Caucus vote sticks to tradition and rules". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Grattan, Michell3 (24 February 2012). "Cabinet ministers take up fight". Merriden Wheatbelt Mercury.
  35. ^ a b c d "Backbench throws off vow of silence". Brisbane Times. 24 February 2012.
  36. ^ a b "Illawarra MPs pledge support for Gillard". The Illawara Mercury. 23 February 2012.
  37. ^ "Gillard supporters continue offensive on Rudd". ABC. 21 February 2012.
  38. ^ a b c TV News story, WIN TV Canberra, 24 February 2012
  39. ^ "Federal MPs arrive in Canberra pre-vote". AAP. 26 February 2012.
  40. ^ "Local MPs pick sides". Parramatta Sun. 24 February 2012. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  41. ^ "Interview with Gary Hardgrave 4BC Brisbane". Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australia. 21 February 2012.
  42. ^ a b c "State Labor pollies voice support for Gillard". The Advocate, Australia. 23 February 2012.
  43. ^ a b c "Labor faces tough battle against the Rudd rift". ABC News. 24 February 2012.
  44. ^ "Leadership fight live—a great day for Kevin Rudd". Herald Sun. 25 February 2012.
  45. ^ "Albanese throws support behind Rudd". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 February 2012.
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  48. ^ "Labor MP Cheesman backs Rudd". Herald Sun. 20 February 2012.
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  50. ^ TV News story, WIN TV Canberra, 27 February 2012
  51. ^ "Saffin supports Rudd". ABC North Coast NSW. 23 February 2012.
  52. ^ "Rudd pledges loyalty to Gillard after ballot defeat". Abc.net.au. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  53. ^ Franklin, Matthew (27 February 2012). "Fears Julia Gillard win won't end Labor warfare". The Australian.
  54. ^ "Arbib resigns after Rudd crushed in spill". Au.news.yahoo.com. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.