Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rudd Hails Schools, Labor Deals

by Paul Osborne, 21st Century News:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declared a win on schools funding and is confident about plans to overhaul the ALP, as he weighs up calling an election within months.

Tasmania on Tuesday joined NSW, the ACT and South Australia in signing up to the Better Schools plan, delivering an extra $380 million in funding between 2014 and 2019.

Talks are scheduled with the Victorian and NT governments this week, ahead of Mr Rudd’s July 14 deadline for the states and territories to get on board the plan.

Visiting Darwin on Tuesday, Mr Rudd said the Tasmanian deal was a positive step and all coalition state governments should now sign on.“I would say directly to Mr Abbott, the leader of the opposition: `Get behind a positive plan for Australia’s future’,” he told reporters.

Mr Rudd also appeared confident of getting caucus support for his plan to change the way the ALP chooses its federal leader.“We have now new rules for the election of Labor leaders,” Mr Rudd said.

Under the proposal to be put to a special caucus meeting in Canberra on July 22, the vote will be split 50-50 between federal caucus and grass-roots members.

Education Minister Bill Shorten, who two weeks ago switched his support from former leader Julia Gillard to Mr Rudd, said the rule change would modernise the ALP.

“It is important for people who are interested in politics that there is a meaning to them getting involved in a political party,” Mr Shorten said. Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes said the prime minister’s reform proposals were “smart”.

The caucus meeting will also discuss Labor’s election strategy and it has been speculated Mr Rudd could follow up the gathering with a visit to the Governor-General to call an August 24 election.

Labor’s primary vote has risen nine percentage points, to 38 per cent, in the two weeks since Mr Rudd returned to the leadership, the latest Newspoll says. Based on preference flows, Labor and the coalition are both on 50 per cent of the two-party vote.

Mr Rudd leads Opposition Leader Tony Abbott 53-31 as preferred prime minister. “I always said it was going to be a contest,” Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister also gave his endorsement to NT Senate candidate Nova Peris, who had been hand-picked by Ms Gillard to replace sitting Senator Trish Crossin.

Mr Rudd said while he did not like the way the preselection was handled, NT Labor members had advised him they wanted the former athlete to remain the candidate.

The prime minister’s call for rank-and-file preselections could be snubbed by the ALP national executive which meets on Wednesday to discuss candidate processes in the NSW seats of Charlton and Kingsford-Smith, the Victorian seats of Lalor and Hotham and the Queensland seat of Rankin.

Mr Rudd will attend an event in Arnhem Land on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the land rights movement and deliver a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.

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