Julia Gillard admits she gave Kevin Rudd “false hope” about allowing him more time as leader at their fateful meeting in 2010.
Mr Rudd’s then-deputy confirmed she would stand for the party’s leadership at the meeting in his office, witnessed by Labor stalwart John Faulkner.
About two hours into the meeting, Mr Rudd proposed a compromise.
“If come the time of this election I believe I can’t win, then of course I would step aside,” he tells interviewer Sarah Ferguson of his offer to Ms Gillard.
“I have no interest in taking the government over a cliff.”
Ms Gillard was told that if Mr Faulkner was of a view, based on the party’s independent research that Mr Rudd could not win the election, he would at that point resign the prime ministership and offer an uncontested succession to her.
Ms Gillard says she recalls a discussion about Mr Rudd having more time, but admits she “gave Kevin some false hope” and should have been more “clinical” from the start.
Asked whether she agreed with Mr Rudd that he could hold on, she said: “I did not agree. I can understand why Kevin felt that, you know, there was there was a … potential wedge of sun on the horizon.”
Mr Rudd says the pair had not only agreed on the extra time, but shaken hands on the deal.
“That’s not a wedge of hope,” he says.
The meeting was then interrupted and Ms Gillard took advice from her caucus backers, who told her she had the numbers to win a leadership ballot.
Mr Rudd recalls that when Ms Gillard returned to his office “she walked in ice cold … with absolute determination in her eyes”.
“It was a complete transformation in five or 10 minutes … by a person who I’d always supported in good times and in bad, as she has supported me,” he says.
“There’s something pretty gut-wrenching about all that, something which tears open your heart.”
Ms Gillard says there was no “stuffing the genie back into the bottle”.
Mr Rudd’s fragility in the face of criticism and bad polls could be explained by the hardship of his childhood in rural Queensland.
“Clearly there’s a hole that needs to be filled by applause and approval.”
Mr Rudd hits back: “I haven’t seen Julia’s university qualifications as a psychoanalyst.”