David Hawker: leadership brawl is extraordinary.RETIRED Canberra veteran David Hawker has been astounded by the Rudd-Gillard leadership battle, claiming it is worse than the famed feud between Hawke and Keating.
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The former Wannon MP was ringside during the Bob Hawke/Paul Keating leadership contests and has watched the ongoing debate between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Mr Hawker said the bitterness between Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard was extraordinary and claimed it was rare for either Liberal or Labor leadership battles to become so heated.

He said the two leadership ballots between former prime minister Mr Hawke and his treasurer Paul Keating in 1991 were tough contests but believed most debate was conducted behind closed doors.

“Some commentators have drawn comparisons between the Bob Hawke v Paul Keating leadership debate but this is quite different in my opinion,” Mr Hawker said. “Hawke had served as prime minister since 1983, he was near the end of his reign and was running out of firepower against (then opposition leader) John Hewson.

“Today, we have Kevin Rudd who served as prime minister for two-and-a-half years and Julia Gillard, who has served less than 24 months.”

Mr Hawker said personal attacks such as the one issued by Treasurer Wayne Swan had no place in Australian politics. He said he had witnessed nearly a dozen Liberal and Labor leadership contests and believed most had been conducted in a civilised fashion. “Most of the negotiations were conducted behind closed doors (in 1991),” Mr Hawker said.

“This time around, it’s very ugly and very public.

“I don’t think Hawke or Keating, (Malcolm) Fraser or (John) Howard would see the need to take this out into the public domain.”

Mr Hawker, who served one term as Speaker of the House of Representatives, declined to comment of the performance of his successor in the role Peter Slipper. He said Mr Slipper’s defection from the Liberal National Party had not impressed colleagues and voters.

“It’s a judgment others can make about his (Mr Slipper’s) performance but I don’t feel he’s done much to improve the public perception of parliamentarians,” Mr Hawker said.

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