There is an inescapable conclusion from the brutal final instalment of the three-part ABC documentary series The Killing Season.
Nobody involved in Labor’s leadership ructions of the past five years can say the damage to their political party wasn’t their fault.
In fact, it takes an outsider – a confidante to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who’d been imported to help – to fully articulate the disaster of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd revolving door.
In the series’ final moments, former British Labour MP Alan Milburn asks how a party could win an election with so much goodwill and then manage to lose it all, “to trash the permission”, in six years.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it in any country, anywhere, anytime in any part of the world,” he says. “No-one can escape blame for that, in my view.”
While Opposition Leader Bill Shorten probably made the right political decision in refusing to be interviewed, his role in removing two leaders won’t simply disappear because he declined to answer questions. And he will soon ask Australians to give him a go.
As the final credits roll, it’s not especially sympathetic to either Gillard or Rudd – nor they to each other.
“He was calibrating his media performances to distract from things that I was doing as Prime Minister,” Gillard says.
“I think it’s time people actually ask themselves objectively, what did Julia actually get right and get wrong – on her own merits?” Rudd asks.
Among her achievements, the program highlights the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the apology to former child migrants taken from their families and the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
It illuminates the sexist jeers that greeted Gillard’s rise and the fact many voters simply never forgave her for how she got the job.
Former ALP strategist Tony Mitchelmore describes the language in research ‘focus’ groups when Gillard’s name came up.
“It would be full-on and nasty … and it would always end in the word ‘bitch’.”
Her former partner, fellow Cabinet minister Craig Emerson, says the signs at protest rallies calling Gillard “Bob Brown’s bitch” for her deal with the Greens made him want to vomit.
“(That) is so deeply and utterly offensive … to any woman in this country, let alone the Prime Minister of Australia,” Emerson says, almost in tears.
Gillard ponders why now-Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s association with them wasn’t a “career-ending moment”.
“Sexism is no better than racism.”
The final episode exposes some of Gillard’s own poor decisions and her evaporating grip on power, undermined persistently by Rudd, as those who installed her fled.
“She didn’t have within herself the persona or the authority that is necessary to do that job,” says one of them, former West Australian Labor Senator Mark Bishop.
“We made a mistake.”
The question for Labor now is how long will Australians punish them for it?