Who: “The Australian public now have certainty, Australians demand to know that the prime minister they elect is the prime minister they get and that is underlined by these reforms.” Kevin Rudd
The claim: A change in caucus rules means that a popularly elected Labor party prime minister cannot be challenged from within his or her own party. The statement also reinforces the notion that Australians elect the prime minister.
The facts: The Labor party caucus has changed the rules on how the leader of the Labor party can be challenged. 75 per cent of caucus is required to declare the leadership vacant when in government and 60 per cent when in opposition.
Discussion of evidence: While the change in rules by the caucus means that an elected prime minister cannot be challenged without the support of 75 per cent of caucus, it is important to remember that the change in rules is a decision of caucus and any decision of caucus can be over-ruled by a majority of caucus.
For the change in rules to occur it required a majority of caucus, which it got on Monday 22nd July. To change the rule again would also require a majority. That is if a majority of the caucus wanted to remove the prime minster as leader of the labor party they could vote to change how the party selects the leader back to a simple majority and then force a ballot on the prime minster.
This rule change does increase the proportion of caucus required to challenge the leader of the Labor party but not the proportion needed to change this rule in the future. Any certainty about the tenure of a Labor prime minster is still at the discretion of the majority of caucus.
Mr Rudd also perpetuates a common misconception that Australian voters elect the prime minister. Australian voters elect Members of Parliament. By convention the prime minster is the leader of whichever party can command a majority of the votes in the House of Representatives. Australia does not have a presidential system where the leader of the nation is popularly elected.