Maxine McKew holds Wayne Swan squarely responsible for mishandling the mining tax.THE night before he turned against his prime minister, Wayne Swan went to Kevin Rudd’s office for a drink and congratulated him on defending the new mining tax, a new book reports.
As Julia Gillard’s challenge unfolded the next day, the man Mr Rudd had appointed Treasurer did not tell him he was abandoning him.
”In the case of Wayne, I did not even receive a telephone call advising me he had decided to withdraw his support from me and back Julia as replacement prime minister,” Mr Rudd tells the former Labor MP Maxine McKew in her new book. ”I had to telephone him myself.”
Mr Swan was responsible for bungling the introduction of the mining tax and Mr Rudd called in the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, to fix the mess, Ms McKew writes in Tales from the Political Trenches, to be published on Monday.
But while Mr Rudd had defended Mr Swan, the Treasurer did not reciprocate.
”In response to my question on the Wednesday afternoon,” the day of the coup, ”when I asked him ‘What’s happening?’, he replied he would be ‘voting for change’,” Mr Rudd says. ”It was only later that I discovered that an arrangement had been put in place to make him deputy prime minister” in a Gillard government. ”But the core point was this: at no stage did either Julia or Wayne say to me that, unless I undertook change x, y or z, there would be a challenge to my leadership.
”So did I feel let down and indeed betrayed? Well of course.”
But last night a spokesman for Mr Swan said: ”On the basis of the existing reporting of this book, it appears to be too full of errors, misunderstanding and untruths – and far too heavily skewed towards one particular version of events – to be taken seriously as balanced or accurate journalism.”
The Treasurer has more important things to focus on, such as ensuring Australia’s economy remains the strongest performing economy in the advanced world, the spokesman said.
Ms McKew offers a tough verdict on the coup against a first-term prime minister. ”It’s never happened before in our party. It was engineered and executed by a small group of people intent on indulging their own political vanities.”
Ms McKew is referring to the factional lieutenants and union chiefs who led the coup, the so-called ”faceless men”. But she also reports that Ms Gillard was using internal research to undermine Mr Rudd days before the coup as part of a ”conspiracy”.
Ms Gillard has maintained that she refused any part in any plotting and only made up her mind to challenge on the day of the coup.
Mr Rudd has largely been blamed for mishandling the mining tax. The announcement of the tax in its original form in 2010 provoked the big miners BHP Billiton, Rio and Xstrata to fund a vigorous $22 million ad campaign against the tax. It was used within the caucus to argue that Mr Rudd had gone to war with the business community.
But Ms McKew holds Mr Swan squarely responsible. Mr Rudd had wanted to avoid a contentious debate on a mining tax and so had set down key conditions for Mr Swan in setting up the tax. ”Rudd told Swan that he needed to secure the support of at least one of the major industry players and that he needed to have the states on side. Neither would be easy. But as West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has said, Rudd’s ‘jaw just about hit the table’ when Barnett told the PM at a COAG meeting in April 2010 that the tax was a dead duck”.
The big mining firms ”felt blindsided by an uncompromising Treasurer”, Ms McKew writes. ”Swan had not delivered and Rudd had come to believe that he had been sold a pup.”
Mr Rudd asked Mr Ferguson to find a political solution. He believed that one was in sight but the coup ejected Mr Rudd before one could be delivered.
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