The Kevin Rudd story takes incredible twists and turns and it has ever been thus since he hit the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade (DFAT) like a tornado as a cadet in 1980 and quickly came to the attention of his peers and senior staffers for his intelligence and work ethic, both of which were described as being “enormous”.
The man who was regarded as a loner has always been under the microscope, as a diplomat, an adviser to Wayne Goss, a federal MP, an opposition leader and as the man who rolled John Howard for the nation’s top job.
But the story in The Age today, claiming Rudd gatecrashed a Hillary Clinton media event on Sunday, is curious indeed:
An Australian official familiar with the event said Mr Rudd had stridently demanded plans be changed to include him. ”The behaviour was disgusting and he deserves to be called on it,” the official told The Age.
The 7.30 Report’s Kerry O’Brien put the question to Rudd on Monday night:
KERRY O’BRIEN: Did you or your staff express an interest in you sharing the stage with Hillary Clinton at the Melbourne University forum yesterday? And were you disappointed that you weren’t able to?
KEVIN RUDD: Did I what? No, not at all. I didn’t ask to go on the stage at all. I said to Hillary, “Oh, you’re going to the university tomorrow? That’s terrific. I know the Vice Chancellor. I’d like to come along and have a look. That’s terrific.” Because she does this thing around the region. She’s done it most recently in Cambodia; she’s done it elsewhere. I think it’s terrific what she did. So, whoever’s on to that I think’s just up to a bit of mischief, mate.
But a DFAT source has told Crikey it was “natural” for Rudd to be present with his American counterpart. He had been Clinton’s host for her time in Australia and, in any case, he enjoys a close friendship with her and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
The source said Rudd did not gatecrash the event at Melbourne University and it was known on Saturday he would be present and that a place had been kept for him close to Clinton.
The Sunday media event was arranged by the university and the Asia Society with input from DFAT.
In addition, the source said, our Ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, was there as was the US Ambassador in Canberra — Rudd was expected to be there and he was.
The source claimed the reason for the “leaks” was the unrelenting jealousy of some DFAT officials, who could never come to terms with Rudd’s “eccentricities”, citing as an example his liking for his “rock star” status among the young, who mobbed him at Sunday’s event.
And we can now reveal the Asia Society suggested Leigh Sales do the interview with Hillary Clinton, and not Kerry O’Brien or Tony Jones, as suggested by the national broadcaster.
The whole episode, our source claims, is vintage “let’s get Rudd”.
His enemies, and there are many, the source said, should get over him and let him get on with his job and his life.