x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Leaked Rudd video intensifies Labor party leadership spat

Video’s content and ‘suspicious’ release ignite leadership speculation that Kevin Rudd is planning to challenge Julia Gillard, the prime minister.

SYDNEY // Leadership tensions within Australia's ruling Labor party erupted yesterday with the release of a video showing ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd making an expletive-ridden rant about a Chinese interpreter.

The two-minute video, uploaded onto YouTube by a user calling themselves "HappyVegemiteKR", shows an irate Mr Rudd trying to record a message in Mandarin and railing against the embassy staff who wrote the text.

"This ... language, he just complicates it so much. How can anyone do this?" Mr Rudd, a former diplomat who speaks Mandarin, shouts as he slams his fist on the table in front of him.

Mr Rudd was ousted as leader in a shock party coup in June 2010 by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who scraped back into power at elections and is now badly lagging in the polls.

Speculation has intensified in recent weeks that Mr Rudd, currently Australia's foreign minister, is preparing to challenge for the top job.

He denied this but said a suspicious person would question the "unusual" timing of the video's release, given that it was shot several years ago when he was still prime minister.

Such footage is usually destroyed but Mr Rudd said the video in question had clearly been archived by the prime minister's office or some other government department. Ms Gillard's office denied leaking the footage.

Mr Rudd also insisted that he was a changed man and had learnt to be less controlling and to consult more broadly - two key criticisms that saw him lose office.

"As to whether [I have] changed in any fundamental way, that's a judgement for others to make, but I've certainly reflected a lot in the past several years," Mr Rudd told Sky News.

He said he was "embarrassed" by the swearing and he had been frustrated with himself, not the interpreter.

Independent politician Andrew Wilkie fuelled speculation of a challenge to Ms Gillard, claiming that he and Mr Rudd discussed the issue back in November and he "clearly wants the job back".

Ms Gillard admitted that the leadership tensions were hurting her government.

"This kind of focus over the last few weeks means it's more difficult for me to be out there explaining to people what's happening in our economy," Ms Gillard said.

But there are now open divisions within the party, with one Labor MP calling yesterday for Ms Gillard to stand down and another condemning Mr Rudd as a "prima donna" who had been "comprehensively rejected" by his colleagues.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon urged Mr Rudd to focus on his portfolio, saying he had left Labor with "a lot of challenges" and Ms Gillard was a better leader.

Political analyst Peter van Onselen said the impasse had now reached a critical phase and Ms Gillard had to either sack Mr Rudd for disloyalty or call a ballot to resolve the issue within the next few days.

"There's just no way things can continue the way they are at the moment after what's happened today, the stand-off is just utterly debilitating for the government," said Mr van Onselen.