Monday, February 13, 2012

Was US Govt Behind Coup That Toppled Oz PM?

Following revelations that Julia Gillard's staff was drafting an acceptance speech two weeks before she ousted Kevin Rudd as Australian PM, and that Kim Beazley was briefing Hillary Clinton on the leadership change two weeks before it happened, I have compiled the following time-line of known events, including selected text from US Embassy cables.

While there is no smoking gun here, it does show that US officials were keenly interested in leadership speculation, identifying Gillard as a potential successor to Rudd within 8 months of his election victory, and closely monitoring her progress on key issues like Israel and Afghanistan. They were also in close contact with the major players in ALP factions, including Mark Arbib and other "protected" sources. Interestingly, the frenzied ALP leadership jockeying in Canberra during May-June 2010 coincides with Bradley Manning's May 2010 arrest and the frenzied US State Dept diplomacy that followed it.

Make of it what you will!

* * *

 24 November 2007 - Rudd wins election after a campaign in which he called climate change "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time". He promptly signs the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the USA isolated. Australia withdraws remaining "combat troops" from Iraq.

29 November 2007 - Rudd directly chooses his frontbench, breaking with more than a century of Labor tradition whereby the frontbench was elected by the Labor caucus, with the leader then given the right to allocate portfolios.

13 June 2008 - US Canberrra Embassy cable titled "Deputy PM Julia Gillard Star In Rudd Government" notes:
"At this point, Gillard would have to be considered the front-runner to succeed Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, which would make her Australia's first female Prime Minister. Several contacts caution, however, that Rudd is ambivalent about Gillard, who is not from Labor's Right Wing like he is, and he will avoid creating a potential rival. By the time Labor is thinking beyond Rudd, Gillard may well face more serious competition....

Many key ALP insiders have told poloffs that Gillard, who joined the ALP as a member of the Victorian branch's Socialist Left faction, is at heart a pragmatist. New South Wales Right powerbroker Mark Arbib (protect) described her as one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP. Michael Cooney (protect), from the ALP Right and a former senior adviser to ALP leaders Mark Latham and Kim Beazley, said she has been very impressive as a minister: knowledgeable on the issues, listens to advice from subordinates and civil servants and is not afraid to delegate responsibility. When we reminded Paul Howes (protect), head of the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ALP Qof the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ALP politicians from the Left, no matter how capable, do not become party leader, he said immediately: "but she votes with the Right." ...

Although long appearing ambivalent about the Australia-US Alliance, Gillard's actions since she became the Labor Party number two indicate an understanding of its importance... Although warm and engaging in her dealings with American diplomats, it's unclear whether this change in attitude reflects a mellowing of her views or an understanding of what she needs to do to become leader of the ALP. It is likely a combination of the two. Labor Party officials have told us that one lesson Gillard took from the 2004 elections was that Australians will not elect a PM who is perceived to be anti-American."

10 November 2008 - Rudd votes against Israel on two UN resolutions, ending Howard government's unswerving alignment with the United States.

11 Feb 2009 - US Canberrra Embassy cable notes:
"Rudd, who likes to centralize decision-making in any event, undoubtedly believes that with his intellect, his six years as a diplomat in the 1980s and his five years as shadow foreign minister, he has the background and the ability to direct Australia's foreign policy. His performance so far, however, demonstrates that he does not have the staff or the experience to do the job properly... In October, Rudd's self-serving and inaccurate leaking of details of a phone call between President Bush and him cast further doubt on his foreign policy judgment... In January, after the press published a story that the U.S. had asked Australia to accept some Guantanamo detainees, the Government responded to the story by issuing a statement publicly acknowledging our confidential request and stating that they were not likely to accept the detainees."

4 May 2009 - Rudd delays implementing an emissions trading scheme until 2011, defers Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation until 2013.

June 10 2009 - US Canberra Embassy cable titled "Gillard: on Track To Become Australia's Next Prime Minister" notes:
"Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard - who visits Washington later this month - has positioned herself as the heir apparent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as ALP leader... Gillard, a product of the ALP Left in the state of Victoria, has shifted towards the political center since Rudd became ALP leader and is now a strong supporter of the Australia-US Alliance and Israel. Although she is still seen as a leftist by key right-wing union powerbrokers, that is not likely to stop her from succeeding Rudd as the next leader of the ALP... Gillard recognizes that to become Prime Minister, she must move to the Center, and show her support for the Alliance with the United States... Don Farrell, the right-wing union powerbroker from South Australia told us Gillard is "campaigning for the leadership" and at this point is the front-runner to succeed Rudd, conceding that the Right did not yet have an alternative. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, one of the early NSW Right backers of the Rudd-Gillard team, confided that Gillard is the clear front runner to succeed Rudd and in the end, the ALP caucus will follow the opinion polls if she is the one the public wants...

At present, the question of a successor to Rudd is probably two elections away. 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. The PM's brother Greg told us in April that Rudd wants to ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge. Mark Arbib once told us a similar story, though he stressed that Rudd appreciates Gillard's strengths. However, another 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. In the meantime, Gillard has proven her value to the Prime Minister and we expect her to remain the most important member of the Rudd Government, after the Prime Minister himself."

July 2009 - Wikileaks releases report of serious nuclear accident at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility (related to later Stuxnet virus).

July 20 2009 - US Canberra Embassy title "Mark Arbib: Clout-wielding Ascending Leader" notes:
"Arbib is a close adviser to Rudd and is his key conduit to the ALP factions... We have found that Arbib is an astute observer and able conversant in the nuts and bolts of U.S. politics. He understands the importance of supporting a vibrant relationship with the U.S. while not being too deferential. We have found him personable, confident and articulate. A strong supporter of the alliance, he has met with us repeatedly throughout his political rise."

4 August 2009 - US Canberra Embassy cable on ALP Forum:
"Rudd, to the bewilderment of many observers, remains highly popular with voters across the political spectrum. This is the bedrock of Rudd's unchallenged authority over the party."

October 2009 - WikiLeaks publishes Joint Services Protocol 440, a British document advising security services on how to avoid documents being leaked.

Dec 23 2009 - US Canberra Embassy cable discusses Rudd's reshuffled cabinet:
"Foreign Minister Smith stepped out of Rudd's shadow and the resignation of Joel Fitzgibbon as Defense Minister proved to be a blessing for the government. Support for the U.S. Alliance, and the mission in Afghanistan, remained strong.... Labor Right factional powerbroker Mark Arbib - close to the Prime Minister - was rewarded with a ministry despite his inexperience... [Gillard] remains Rudd's clear heir apparent. Colleagues continue to be in awe of her mastery of detail and confident performances...Rudd has unprecedented power for a Labor leader; one MP told us he had never seen a Labor Caucus as subservient to its leader, noting Rudd's control over promotions. Another told us she was surprised at marginal seat holders' acquiescence on the ETS. However, powerbrokers confide the factions will assert themselves when Rudd's popularity wanes."

18 February 2010 - WikiLeaks publishes REYKJAVIK13 cable, dated 13 January 2010. This is the first published Cablegate file.

April 2010 - Polling shows Rudd government was highly popular until this month. Graph here.

April 2010 - WikiLeaks publishes Collateral Murder video.

May 2010 - Bradley Manning is arrested after online chats with Adrian Lamo. US State Dept goes into damage control over release of cables. Australian Mining industry launches media "ad war" against Rudd's Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

10 June 2010 (approx) - Australia's US ambassador and former Labor leader Kim Beazley meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide a briefing on the coming leadership change.

23 June 2010 - Gillard announces leadership bid for next day.

24 June 2010 - Rudd steps down, becoming the only Australian Prime Minister to be removed from office by his own party during his first term.

October 2010 - WikiLeaks release Iraq War Logs.

December 2010 - Julian Assange is arrested. Fairfax journalist Phillip Dorling publishes WikiLeaks cables (quoted above) showing Australian ALP politicians were in regular contact with the US Embassy.


  1. "...the factions will assert themselves when Rudd's popularity wanes"

  2. "Rudd, to the bewilderment of many observers,- * the backward f**kers of the labor party
    namely conservative,politically correct MPS (ie: have no opinion other than backstabbing)*
    remains highly popular with voters across the political spectrum. This is the bedrock of Rudd's unchallenged authority over the party."



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