Julia Gillard won four prime ministerial elections, a caucus election (unopposed) on June 24, 2010, a popular general election on August 21, 2010, another caucus election on February 27, 2012 (when she secured 71 votes to 31 for Kevin Rudd) and a caucus election on March 21, 2013 when she again won unopposed.

Two details of her popular general election win are worth recording. In two-party preferred votes the numbers were 50.1 per cent for Labor and 49.9 per cent for Liberal-National. In seats in the House of Representatives the result was 76 for Gillard and 74 against her.

Gillard was prime minister from June 24, 2010 until June 27, 2013 when Kevin Rudd resumed his tenure on that office. So Gillard’s term lasted for three years and three days.

Rudd is our 26th male prime minister but we have had 27 prime ministers in all, Gillard being our 27th.

In having more than one term not consecutively Rudd joins three great prime ministers, Alfred Deakin (1903-04, 1905-08 and 1909-10), Andrew Fisher (1908-09, 1910-13 and 1914-15) and Sir Robert Menzies (1939-41 and 1949-66).

Rudd fancies himself as having some things in common with Fisher, both being Labor and both representing Queensland seats, Griffith and Wide Bay, respectively. Rudd was born and raised in that part of rural south-east Queensland located in the federal electoral division of Wide Bay at the time Fisher was the member.

However, historians are unanimous in rating Deakin, Fisher and Menzies as great prime ministers. I confidently predict that historians will describe Rudd as “ average” and place him (in terms of greatness) somewhere about 16th of the 27 prime ministers, below John Curtin, Bob Hawke, Joe Lyons, Billy Hughes, John Howard, Ben Chifley, Stanley Bruce, Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser, Gough Whitlam, Edmund Barton and Julia Gillard, these being ranked in my order. However, he will rank ahead of Victorians like Harold Holt and John Gorton and Queensland failures like Arthur Fadden and Frank Forde.

There have been four prime ministers from Queensland.

As noted above Gillard became prime minister unopposed at a caucus meeting on the morning of June 24, 2010. Why was she unopposed? Simple really. Rudd is a gutless wonder. He did not test the numbers because he knew what they would show. It would have been 90 votes for Gillard and 22 for Rudd.

As also noted above, Rudd recently resumed his leadership of the Australian Labor Party. At 8.30 pm on Wednesday, June 26, it was announced that the vote was 57 for Rudd and 45 for Gillard.

After giving a very dignified and impressive media conference, Gillard was driven to Government House, Yarralumla, where she tendered her resignation to the Governor-General.

The present term of federal parliament is known as the “43rd Parliament” and it will be known by historians as the “hung parliament” and the “Gillard parliament”. Its technical description is that it was elected on August 21, 2010 and first met on September 28 of that year.

However, for me personally the 43rd Parliament dates from September 7, 2010. After 17 days of wheeling and dealing it was announced (after Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott declared their hands) that Gillard did, indeed, have 76 supporters in the House of Representatives and could, therefore, form government as the so-called “elected” prime minister.

During the 43rd Parliament I have so far been interviewed by Peter Switzer on “Sky Business News” on twelve occasions. My first was in mid-September 2010 when I made the following predictions:

First, this parliament will run a full term of three years and the next election will be held in October 2013.

Second, there will be no by-election during this term.

Third, Julia Gillard will lead Labor into that election as prime minister.

Fourth, Tony Abbott will lead the Liberal Party into that election as Leader of the Opposition.

Since September 2011 (in other words, after one year of uncertainty on my part) I have consistently predicted that Abbott would become prime minister in the spring of 2013.

Since Barnaby Joyce was selected as the Nationals candidate I have consistently predicted that he would be the next member for New England, probably by defeating Tony Windsor.

In my next article I shall give details as to why I made those predictions at those times.
I shall also discuss in detail the only forecast where, so far, I have been wrong – my third prediction.
(Malcolm Mackerras is Visiting Fellow in the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University, Canberra Campus. malcolm.mackerras@acu.edu.au)

Malcolm Mackerras