Rudd saved Labor, leaked polling shows
September 22, 2013
Labor would have been reduced to a parliamentary rump worse than in the Whitlam defeat of 1975 had it not replaced Julia Gillard with Kevin Rudd as prime minister, according to leaked internal polling.
Mr Rudd saved Labor at least 15 seats, including those of enemies Wayne Swan, Warren Snowdon and Gary Gray, who would all have lost their jobs if Labor had persisted with Ms Gillard, according to the polling.
In the months before the June 26 leadership coup, Labor's pollster told the party's national office to expect negative swings as large as 18 per cent, wiping out key electorates across Australia. It suggests Labor seats would have been reduced from 71 to 40, rather than the 55 it is now expected to hold.
The expected losses had also included seats held by Labor MPs considered possible future party leaders - Jason Clare and Kate Ellis.
The individual seat polling was conducted by Labor's pollster UMR while Ms Gillard was still prime minister. The results - for 41 seats of concern across Australia - were made available to a small number within the leadership group.
In a pointed reference to a barrage of internal leaks that have dogged Labor for more than three years, Ms Gillard's spokesman said on
Saturday that she would make ''no comment on or off the record''.
Bill Shorten, who was instrumental in the removal of Mr Rudd in 2010 and Ms Gillard in 2013 - and is now running for the leadership himself - said he stood by the removal of Ms Gillard as prime minister.
''Mr Shorten indicated both before and throughout the election campaign that the leadership change was one of the toughest decisions he's ever had to make,'' a spokesman said.
''It is his view that Kevin Rudd was the leader most likely to deliver the greatest amount of support for Labor at the general election. He stands by that view.''
Comparisons between Labor's internal polling under Ms Gillard and the final election result suggest that Mr Rudd saved five seats in Queensland (Moreton, Lilley, Blair, Oxley, Rankin), four in South Australia (Adelaide, Wakefield, Makin, Kingston), one in NSW (Blaxland), two in Victoria (McEwen and Ballarat), one in the Northern Territory (Lingiari) and two in Western Australia (Brand and Perth).
The defeat of the Whitlam government in 1975 left Labor with only 36 seats, or 28 per cent, of a parliament that then had 127 seats. Had Labor been cut down to 40 seats under Ms Gillard, as its internal polling suggested, that would have represented less than 27 per cent of the 150 seats that now make up the Parliament.
At that rate, it would have fared only slightly better proportionally than in 1931, when a deeply divided Labor was cut down to 18 seats in a 74-seat House of Representatives.
By early June this year, Labor national secretary George Wright was looking at some bleak numbers. Negative swings of about 10 per cent were expected to claim the Queensland seats of Moreton, Lilley, Blair, Oxley and Rankin.
But Labor held its ground in all of these seats at the election, with former treasurer Mr Swan defying expectations and hanging on to his seat of Lilley.
Asked to respond to the leaked internal polling, Mr Swan described those who leaked against the party as ''wreckers''. He said that the ongoing culture of leaks would hold Labor back.
''It's time for the wreckers to stop,'' Mr Swan said on Saturday. ''We need to put this kind of behaviour behind us if we want to renew and rebuild as a party.''
According to the polling, former home affairs minister Jason Clare should count himself especially lucky. On February 14, Labor's national executive was told to expect an 18 per cent negative swing in Mr Clare's western Sydney seat of Blaxland. The once safe seat, which Labor won in 2010 on a margin of 12.2 per cent, was expected to fall to the Liberals, but Labor ended up holding it with a negative swing of only 0.7 per cent.
Mr Clare was not available to comment on Saturday.
Other supporters of Ms Gillard who may owe their jobs to Mr Rudd include West Australian Gary Gray, Victorian Rob Mitchell and South Australian Kate Ellis.
Mr Gray, a former cabinet minister and vocal critic of Mr Rudd, was expected to lose his seat of Brand with an 8 per cent negative swing. He held it with a negative swing of only 0.42 per cent.
In early June, Mr Mitchell was expected to lose his seat of McEwen with a 14 per cent negative swing. He now looks likely to hold the seat.
Former sport and early childhood minister Ms Ellis, another strong supporter of Ms Gillard, was expected to lose her seat of Adelaide on a 12 per cent negative swing. She ended up holding it with only a 3.62 per cent swing against her.
Labor's expected final result of 55 seats won under Mr Rudd will leave it with 37 per cent of the Parliament. This is a better result than Labor managed after John Howard's walloping defeat of Paul Keating. Mr Howard then secured 94 seats while Labor was reduced to 49 out of 148 seats, or 33 per cent.