Mark Latham’s selection of Kevin Rudd as his fifth best Labor
politician left in Canberra might be more about mischief-making than
genuine admiration, but I’ve got to confess to being a Heavy Kevie fan.

However, the bloke can be as arrogant as all get out. I first met him
at the February 1994 COAG meeting in Hobart when he was head of the
Wayne Goss cabinet office.

It was getting on towards midnight in the bar of the Sheraton and he
was with then NSW director general Roger Wilkins, the current partner
of Sydney spindoctor Sue Cato. I’d had a few drinks and lobbed a couple
of gentle sledges about the state of the Queensland electricity system,
suggesting they should build an interconnector with NSW which had more
power stations than it knew what to do with.

After a couple of exchanges I introduced current Herald Sun columnist and then Adelaide Advertiser
state political reporter John Ferguson, and Rudd dismissively declared
that South Australia was “one great big community service obligation
for the rest of Australia.”

Ferguson was quite taken aback and apparently ended up going into print with this sledge, albeit without naming Rudd.

That said, Rudd is genuinely smart, works very hard, presents well in
the media and has had a life outside ALP machine politics, unlike other
leadership aspirants such as Stephen Smith and Wayne Swan. Indeed, Rudd
actually has serious experience in government, having been the senior
bureaucrat in the Queensland government from 1991-95, and
before that was a career diplomat who spent time in Beijing and
Stockholm.

No-one gets anywhere in politics without playing some political games
and if that meant leaking to Laurie Oakes from time to time then so be
it. One Crikey subscriber has made a good point that Rudd was stoically
loyal to Latham insofar as he publicly defended the “troops home by
Christmas” policy, despite having private reservations.

Latham is right that he would be a far better option for Labor than
Beazley, as would Julia Gillard. That said, Latham’s endorsement after
the various attacks in his diaries is a very interesting and newsworthy
development. Will anyone in the mainstream media be big enough to
actually report it?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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