Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd reunite to help Bill Shorten sell Labor federal election unity


PHOTO: 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.

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.

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.