We asked Crikey’s readers for their impressions of the first year of the post-Howard era. As usual, we have received a flood of responses which we will run every day this week.

Leonie Hellmers writes: My favourite and much circulated First Dog on the Moon (published by Crikey on 27 November, 2007):

John Wilkinson writes: Kevin has been a dismal failure in terms of the most important problem facing us; i.e. global warming. It took about six months for him and his team to be nobbled by the coal industry mafia and big business. And then Rudd gives this money away to different people to boost the economy — why not link it to getting them to put solar water heaters on their roofs or PV panels or buying rain water tanks instead they just buy more crap from China. C’mon guys let’s see some real action. Nothing you’ve done so far (apart from the apology and Kyoto) has made me think I’ll not vote green again next time.

Todd Winther writes: Within a year of a new Prime Ministership the Australian public generally knows where a new Prime Minister will take them. Whitlam would “crash, or crash through” ultimately leaving the ALP in the wreckage when he left office, Hawke would “build consensus” then left office after a bloody coup that did anything but, Keating took great delight in humiliating the Opposition and only ended up humiliating himself. In the 2007 election campaign Rudd demonstrated that he would be a boring diplomat that would get the job done, and that’s what we got.

Like many a “true believer” I celebrated Rudd’s victory like my life depended on it. Literally half my life had been spent with the Howard Government in office. During that time, I loved my country and loathed my government with a passion. After the 2007 election, life has changed, but not in the ways I expected it to. My government no longer appals me, instead the government is now doing its job, and the only real flash of controversy is whether George W. Bush really knows what the G20 is. Come January it won’t matter anyway.

Inspirational rhetoric played such a key role in the US election and the contrast between their system and ours has never been more obvious. Being a boring diplomat may not have the same rhetorical flashes of Whitlam, Hawke, Keating or Obama, but it suits me just fine.

Russell Boyd writes: Kevin who?

Peter Wildblood-Stumm writes: For me the Rudd year has been one of wholehearted relief — and throughout the whole year.

Not because I think he is Obama-like in any way whatsoever (though in retrospect his performance in and around parliament on the day of his government’s apology goes close). From what I see on the box and read about Obama including his publications, he is a true forger of consensus — almost as an article of faith, and this is borne out every step of the way including today’s press release about his meeting with McCain and the recent appointment of his economic advisory panel.

Rudd just doesn’t do that stuff — more’s the pity. He is from all accounts a top-down control freak (nothing visible to me I might say — how terrible it is to reply on the third estate in such matters; could it be that their noses are out of joint because they don’t have exactly what they want from him?). He gives the appearance of conviviality and a genuine interest in people in the various street walks he makes and THAT is so much a relief from the stilted and forced “conviviality” of the Howard Years.

What I see is a more than competent performance against an opposition who still does not get how effective a more constrained and focussed criticism might be. I speak here of his whole ministry and that reminds me that I have yet to see a piece in the press contrasting the shenanigans Howard’s lot got up to in that first year with the [almost] blemish free performance of the Rudd ministry. Sure there have been issues where decisions could have been better made or processes better created; overall the contrast with Howard is so obvious. Howard never made me feel “comfortable” and Rudd certainly does … maybe it is his [occasional] blemishes that continue to have me warm to him and his performance.

Pat Cassell writes: Actions speak louder than words and Kevin et alia appear to be getting runs on the board. The economic stimulus, assistance to industry, calamity payments to Brisbane storm victims to name just a few. My only complaint: I just wish he was more engaging on the TV. My impressions of Rudd, Swan and Smith could be called the “Bland Brothers”. It might be my age (78) but I wish he wouldn’t treat us all like kindergarten children.

Danielle Schwerin writes: You want my impressions of Kevin Rudd’s first year as PM? Fine, here we go then… Simply put — *pokes tongue out and blows a big raspberry* — this is because if you don’t fall into the “working families” or “pensioner” category (which I don’t) then you don’t exist in Rudd land and therefore, despite all the hand-outs that have been thrown about, he’s handed you P-diddly squat.

Robert Trotter writes: I would rate Kevin’s crisis policy as out of control, rudderless and about as bad a stint of policy that has been made by any government almost ever. These are my six good reasons:

  1. Why do helicopter drops to pensioners and first home buyers before monetary policy has been eased and unemployment is 4.3% and inflation 5%? This stinks of corruption and pork barrelling.
  2. Why give money to the least productive part of the economy when the productive, innovative parts are the ones you need to keep in work, thereby keeping the place going to support the rest?
  3. Would it be better to reserve the money for bank capital should they need it rather than a bank guarantee for deposits that nearly destroyed the NBFIs?
  4. Why give $6.4 billion to the car business when it is a very clear white elephant? Inefficient allocation of capital is a mortal sin and effects the future wealth of our country. And GM and Ford are the worst filthy offenders ever on the planet, i.e. can’t build a small efficient car to save their lives let alone their business.
  5. He probably is the most boring man he has ever seen.
  6. Kevin is a standard Labor politician, showing an inept feel for global diplomacy, and has embarrassed the nation with our greatest ever ally. Now where does this leave us, since Labor has entered power, we have harassed the Japanese, told the Chinese what to do in Mandarin, upset the US president, wasted the surplus, thrown away $16 billion, created a run on NBFIs, etc etc etc, all this in one year. I haven’t even started on what the lovely deputy dog Julia has been doing to business in the background.

It’s all over — get ready for plenty of poverty.

Mike Cahill writes: So, 12 months on, is Rudd a dud? No. But he’s the biggest control freak in Mandarin Village. His TV persona is so terribly, terribly earnest and boring. Like a four-eyed blancmange. My new tee-shirt says: “Let’s have a ball. Bring back Paul!”

Don Davies writes: Rudd is just another typical, anti-national politician who is more interested in selling us out to “globalisation”, trade agreements and getting us further into international debt it seems.

Jay Chilupo writes: I’m not a person who holds politicians in high regards, but the fact I don’t participate in the sham called democracy in this country has often helped me remain inoculated to the woeful performances of our elected representatives. While I often have equal qualms with the union movement, the recent quiet and bald-faced policy reversal over the abolition of AWAs has left me absolutely cold and with my last naive hopes for participatory democracy in tatters.

On the one hand it is no massive surprise they ditched their promise to kill AWAs forever, and who knows, it might not actually be a bad thing if real choice emerges in their wake. However they said AWAs were dead and went to the election on that premise; and to reverse from that position should bring about their immediate political deaths.

Julie-anne Wallace writes: Rudd is only riding high in the polls because of the inconsistent and dubious performance of the Opposition. I heard someone say recently that she thought Mr Rudd had charisma. I almost choked!

Stephen Tait writes: With apologies to ABC Radio’s Fran Kelly — Kevin07 in a word: enthusiasticworkalotwhoseleadershipsleevesarestillrolledup.

Audrey Raymond writes: There seems to be a sameness about his rhetoric, and whatever he is saying sounds just a bit too carefully prepared which suddenly makes one wonder. Are we having the wool pulled over our eyes? Certainly suddenly I am concerned that he does seem to do a lot of talking while there has not been much convincing action. He is not turning out to be the man of action that many of us thought he would be.

Rob Gibson writes: I tried to look at The Howard Years but five seconds of that self important little man started to make me feel ill. Kevin like Obama thinks he can help. I think there is a new sense of sincerity in the world. Since the neo cons have been routed there is this vibe thing happening. It brings up an emotion from really deep down like something vaguely religious. We can only hope that this hope feeling stays around for a while, I like it.

John Payne writes: The absolute highlight for year one for me was in February when Kevin Rudd made his “Sorry” speech. The mood in the crowd at Parliament House was one of contagious bonhomie, similar to that experienced during the Sydney Olympics.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey