The battle of the keywords is now well under way as Labor and the Coalition struggle to damage their opposing leader.

For Labor the recent task has been portraying John Howard as one of those clever politicians who are too tricky by half.

For the Liberals, the emphasis is on the words judgment and inexperience as they search to find a way of turning Labor’s Superman into a mere political Clark Kent.

Treasurer Peter Costello was at the forefront of the attack a month ago:

Labor is drawing inspiration for its economic analysis from a Donald Duck magazine. This is the evolutionary cycle of the Labor Party. We have moved from Mark Latham’s roosters to Kevin Rudd’s ducks. Managing the Australian economy, which is a $1 trillion economy, takes experience and commitment and you do not get your analysis from Donald Duck comics. (11 February 2007)

Prime Minister John Howard recently stepped up the description:

It does demonstrate a very serious error of judgment, a lack of experience on Mr Rudd’s part. (2 March 2007)

Joe Hockey showed his ability to follow a party line on the same day as the PM:

Kevin is challenging to be Prime Minister. We’ve got to test his judgment. I mean, we’ve got to test his experience. (2 March 2007)

He’s a new opposition leader, he’s been in Parliament less time than me, you’ve got to work hard to be prime minister, it doesn’t come to you easily, and judgment is a key part of it. (2 March 2007)

Perhaps the real lack of experience was shown when the Opposition Leader was caught using one of the Liberal words about himself.

Mr Rudd said he did nothing wrong apart from demonstrating “misplaced judgment”. (2 March 2007)

Immigration Minister Julie Bishop had clearly read her briefing notes too:

Laurie, this is where Mr Rudd is showing great inexperience, there are no grounds for an early election. (4 March 2007)

As the Rudd meetings with Brian Burke received greater publicity so did the use of judgment and experience. Howard again:

What I’m wanting is for Mr Rudd to come clean. This is a very serious error of judgment, to behave in a way that you might be indebted to a person like Mr Burke. … He has compounded that very big error of judgment by covering up the real circumstances of those meetings. …And as each day goes by, he refuses to come clean about what actually did happen he only compounds the original error of judgment. (5 March 2007.)

And then the Prime Minister again:

This is a very serious error of judgment, to behave in a way that you might be indebted to a person like Mr Burke. (5 March 2007)

Soon even the underlings were at it. Parliamentary Secretary Christopher Pyne:

It’s about judgment and it’s about experience, and both (Labor leader) Kevin Rudd and Kelvin Thomson have demonstrated that the Labor Party team doesn’t have the judgment or the experience that’s needed to run a $1 trillion economy like Australia. (9 March 2007.)

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews sought to broaden the attack on Labor beyond just Mr Rudd:

What this shows once again is the inexperience of the Labor Party federally and the fact that they simply could not be trusted to govern Australia. (11 March 2007.)

Even the Japanese press were introduced to the concept at a Prime Ministerial press conference in Tokyo:


Do you think that Kelvin Thomson is a grubby sort of character?


I think Kelvin Thomson showed very bad judgment.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey