Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard reunite for Labor’s election campaign launch. (ABC News: Andy Kennedy )
In one shot, two bitter rivals have given Bill Shorten something he’s been trying to convince voters of for more than a year.
Former prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd sat side by side, smiled and even managed a laugh at the party’s federal election campaign launch on Sunday.
Gone were the character assassinations and the reliving of history.
It was the embodiment of the Labor campaign Mr Shorten has been attempting to wage — the infighting’s over, the score’s settled, and the team’s united.
The mere thought of Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd in the same room, let alone appearing to enjoy each other’s company, had previously seemed unimaginable.
It was a sight that had to be seen to be believed.
Few could forget the awkward scenes as they sat alongside each other during the 2010 election, at a time when Mr Rudd’s first prime ministerial corpse was still warm.
Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd appearing together in 2010 for the first time since she replaced him as PM a month earlier. (ABC)
As recently as December they’d had their chance to reunite at Labor’s national conference in Adelaide.
The New York-based Mr Rudd was there but Ms Gillard, who lives in the city, was noticeably absent.
Their saga-fuelled relationship was thanks in large parts to Mr Shorten’s factional might.
He was the faceless man that ended Mr Rudd’s rule.
He installed Ms Gillard as prime minister only to withdraw his support three years later when he backed Mr Rudd’s return.
The significance of a Rudd-Gillard reunion cannot be underestimated.
This event was more than just healing wounds of the past.
It was about convincing the public that Labor is a party that’s reformed.
For Mr Shorten to attack the Coalition for having three prime ministers in its years in power, he needs to demonstrate how that behaviour is now consigned to Labor’s history.
He needs to convince voters that leadership chaos continues to engulf the Coalition, while Labor offers a united front.
Tanya Plibersek said Scott Morrison “talks so much” but has “so little to say”. (ABC News: Andy Kennedy)
Smiling together a low bar to pass
The gamble Labor is making is it needs to hope that the mere sight of Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd together wasn’t enough to remind the public of the party’s leadership chaos when it was last in power.
It also shows how low the bar is set that the two former colleagues being able to sit next to each other civilly was regarded a success.
As powerful as the image of a Rudd-Gillard reunion might be, it’s still just that — an image.
It’s easy to be united and get everyone to play nice when the prize of governing is within grasp.
Penny Wong dubbed the Coalition’s leaders “small men with small ideas”. (ABC News: Andy Kennedy)
The Labor Party’s entrenched factions have called somewhat of a truce in recent years in an effort to ensure infighting doesn’t spoil its best chance of returning to power in years.
If Mr Shorten loses what some say is an unlosable election, there will be recriminations that will likely tear the party apart and resurface all Labor has attempted to bury.
Liberal reminder about leadership changes
The framing of the Labor launch brings with it a dilemma for Scott Morrison.
Yesterday the Prime Minister spent the day campaigning alongside women in New South Wales, with his wife Jenny again by his side.
But what image will he send to the nation when he takes to the stage for the Liberal campaign launch?
Jenny Morrison has been appearing alongside her husband for the bulk of Scott Morrison’s campaign. (ABC News: Adam Kennedy)
The party’s most well-known female politician is leaving — former foreign minister and deputy leader Julie Bishop.
Frontbencher Kelly O’Dwyer, the first woman to hold a Treasury portfolio and the first to give birth while serving as a Cabinet minister, has just two weeks of her federal political career remaining.
Environment Minister Melissa Price is missing, and Michaelia Cash is returning from what’s been dubbed witness protection.
The party is also facing the prospect of going further backwards in the number of women in its Lower House ranks after the election — thanks in large part to its leadership changes last year.
Those sitting behind Mr Morrison as he takes to the stage will send a message about the state of his party at a time when he wants to show what its future might offer.
Ghosts of prime ministers past
Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd’s reunion was almost a decade in the making.
Theirs was a messy affair that ended the political careers of a generation of future Labor leaders.
The Liberal Party doesn’t have that time if it’s to mend the wounds of its leadership changes from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull.
It’s also out of time to solve the problem of a lack of women in its ranks, with voters already having their say.
Mr Morrison is now the Coalition’s best electoral asset.
What he does next is anyone’s guess.
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