With the publication of Maxine McKew's new book, Tales from the Political Trenches, the controversial ousting of Kevin Rudd from the prime ministership in June 2010 is once more in the spotlight. McKew's thesis is that the current PM, Julia Gillard, despite claiming that she was a loyal deputy to Rudd till the very day she asked him for a leadership ballot, was as involved in the plot to oust him as the so-called faceless men (Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar, Bill Shorten, David Feeney, Don Farrell and Paul Howes) who have hitherto received the lion's share of the blame. (See Gillard was a disloyal deputy, says McKew, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 26/10/12).
We are of course familiar with the story that Gillard and the 'faceless' ones were hawking internal Labor research critical of Rudd in the days before the challenge, research which Gillard later claimed she couldn't recall. And we're also familiar with the fact that Gillard's staff had prepared an acceptance speech for her in the event she won the prime ministership two weeks before the coup, a speech Gillard claimed wasn't written at her her direction.
I can't help wondering, however, to what extent (if any) commentators and researchers on the subject of the coup have bothered to consult the relevant WikiLeaks cables emanating from the US embassy in Canberra.
Take WikiLeaks cable 1074 of 6/10/09, for example, the subject heading for which is GILLARD: ON TRACK TO BECOME AUSTRALIA'S NEXT PRIME MINISTER.
Go to paragraph 11 and you'll see this particular sentence:
"Don Farrell, the right-wing union powerbroker from South Australia told us Gillard is 'campaigning for the leadership' and at this point is front-runner to succeed Rudd..."
And then this:
"Several Rudd confidantes have told us that Rudd appreciates Gillard and sees her as a possible PM, but that he wants to avoid anointing her to head off a possible leadership challenge when his poll numbers inevitably sag."
And finally this:
"[A]nother Rudd advisor told us that while the PM respects Gillard, his reluctance to share power will eventually lead to a falling out, while Gillard will not want to acquiesce in creating potential rivals."
As interesting as these are, however, they're still not the most interesting aspect of cable 1074. As I've already noted in other posts on WikiLeaks cables relating to Australia, particularly in numbers 4, 5 and 7 of my WikiLeaks series (just click on the label below), the more interesting aspect of these US embassy cables is the extraordinary prominence they accord to a small country not only many thousands of kilometres distance from these shores but from those of the United States as well.
To return to cable 1074. Consider its format. It has 11 paragraphs, each with its own heading.
Spot, if you will, the odd one out: 1: Summary; 2: The Gang of Four; 3: A Good Listener with an Even Disposition; 4: A Star at Question Time; 5-6: A Left-Winger Now a Pragmatist; 7: Pro-Israel; 8-9: Labor Reform Passes; 10: The Education Revolution; 11: The Front Runner.
That's right, paragraph 7, Pro-Israel. While one can readily understand an interest on the part of those responsible for the cable in whether or not the then rising star of Australian politics, Julia Gillard, was pro- or anti-American, the burning question, surely, is: Why should whether Gillard is pro- or anti-Israel matter any more than whether she's pro- or anti-Bulgaria?
Now consider the contents of paragraph 7:
"Gillard has thrown off the baggage of being from what one analyst called the 'notoriously anti-Israel faction' of the ALP. As acting Prime Minister in late December 2008, Gillard was responsible for negotiating the Government's position on Israel's incursion into Gaza. Left-wing ALP MPs, a group to which Gillard used to belong, wanted her to take a harder line against Israel. Instead, she said Hamas had broken the ceasefire first by attacking Israel - a stance welcomed by Israel's supporters in Australia. MP Michael Danby, one of two Jewish members of Parliament and a strong supporter of Israel, told us that after the Gaza statement he had a new appreciation of Gillard's leadership within the ALP. Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem told us that Gillard has gone out of her way to build a relationship with Israel and that she asked him to arrange an early opportunity to visit. He will accompany Gillard and a delegation of Australian officials (including newly-appointed Minister Mark Arbib and Liberal Party heavyweights former Treasurer Peter Costello and Chris Pyne, Manager of Opposition Business in the House) to a meeting of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum later this month."
It is interesting to speculate what the author(s) of this cable would have written if Gillard had been a) critical of Israel's barbarity in Gaza, (b) had not impressed Michael Danby, and (c) had not thrown herself at the Israeli ambassador. Perhaps Rudd would still be prime minister. Maybe serious analysts of the Rudd prime ministership and the circumstances of its demise should be asking themselves the following questions:
1) To what extent was the issue of uncritical support for Israel a factor in Rudd's fall?
2) Why should this issue have played any role at all in it?
3) Why has the ms media thus far avoided this issue?
And before anyone out there dismisses such questions as fanciful, in addition to the aforementioned WikiLeaks posts, please read my two posts The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy (22/6/10) and Julia Irwin Spills the Beans (11/8/10).