As part of his PR campaign, K. Rudd proclaimed that he had never been any kind of socialist. Instead, while playing Judas to his leader, he paraded his species of Christianity in an article for The Monthly. Rudd extolled the Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose resistance to Hitler led to his execution in 1945. It is easy to attach yourself to Bonhoeffer when you know you are never going to be put to the tests that he faced. How much easier is it to say, “I oppose Hitler” when you dare not abolish the police-state powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

On the contrary, in 2007, Rudd initiated the expulsion from the ALP of the assistant-secretary of the WA Construction Division, Joe McDonald, because he had called a boss a “f-cking thieving parasite dog”. Instead of waiting for the result of an internal Party investigation, Rudd buckled to a Liberal Party internet campaign by sealing McDonald’s expulsion the day after a court had acquitted him of trespass. Joe’s hanging offence had been to assure reporters that, unlike that “burnt-out dictator” John Howard, “I’ll be back” to organise against “getting robbed by unscrupulous bosses”. Rudd found these words “incendiary”, with no place in “a more modern industrial relations system.” Rudd thus put his electoral prospects above the due process that Bonhoeffer had given his life to defend.

The radical poet Victor Daley exposed the speciousness of Rudd’s moralising style in this swipe at the pontificating of The Sydney Morning Herald:

Write boldly, cut and thrust,
‘Gainst wrong in some unseen land;
Denounce the Blubber Trust
That paralyses Greenland…

Be hard on Ancient Rome —
Things dead, or at a distance,
Are safe — but take at home
The line of least resistance.

What has Rudd ever done to show that faith without works is dead? Did he ever join a non-violent protest? Has he put himself in the way of getting arrested in support of a just cause? Even Peter Beattie got nicked during one of the Brisbane Street Marches. Rudd belongs to the would-to-God Brigade: “Would-to-God that I had been born in Germany in 1900, for then I too could have been a martyr.”

Rudd is not the only “tinkling cymbal” in the ministry. Fellow believer Peter Garrett is questing for a principle he cannot betray. A third Christian, Greg Combet, began his campaign against WorkChoices by promising to go to prison. Well, we can’t say he hasn’t ended up among criminal types.

Twas not always thus. For sixty years, Equality, by Christian socialist R. H. Tawney, was the bible of British Labour. Then came the Vicar of Blair. Tawney’s Christianity was as rooted in his commitment to social equality as it was grounded in his character.

When the Labour Party offered him a peerage, he replied: “What have I ever done to harm the Labor Party?”

Seventy years on, the answer to that question would be to have promoted social equality.

Tawney’s name would never be considered for preferment. Instead, he too would be liable to expulsion for his “incendiary” advocacy of social equality, which has no place in “a more modern industrial relations system.”

Peter Fray

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