OPINION: What the hell was that all about?
The circus that is Australian federal politics descended into farce yesterday, as former Labor leader Simon Crean called for a vote on the current leadership, in the apparent hope that another former leader Kevin Rudd could oust current leader Julia Gillard, and that former leader Crean could oust current deputy-leader Wayne Swan.
Five minutes before the vote, the whole thing fell in a heap when Kevin Rudd announced he would not, in fact, contest the leadership - leaving Simon Crean without a chair when the music stopped.
Gillard and Swan remain in power, Rudd remains on the backbench, and Crean has been sacked from his position on the front bench.
At first glance, the whole thing just looks like a massive stuff-up, but I can't shake the feeling there might be a bit more to it. Consider the following:
- The latest reports yesterday before all the uproar was that Rudd did not have the numbers, and would require more time to launch another bid at the ALP top job.
- Simon Crean has long been a staunch supporter of Julia Gillard.
- Simon Crean is known to have met with Ms Gillard on Thursday morning.
- Simon Crean is 64, has been in parliament for about 23 years and may well be considering retirement in the near future.
Julia Gillard has a record of audacious political manoeuvring to bolster her position, such as installing the LNP's Peter Slipper as speaker of the house.
Look, I'm not saying the whole thing was actually a political stunt cooked up by Gillard and Crean to bring on a leadership vote before Rudd had the numbers to win.
But Gillard is still in power today, and after two failed attempts to topple her within a year, it would be a brave punter to predict Rudd had any chance now of becoming prime minister again before the election.
And I'll keep a very close eye on whether Simon Crean receives any plum ambassadorships or other golden handshakes.
Or maybe it's just the gigantic debacle it appears.