Julia Gillard has seen off one Rudd without a fight, but the next one says he will at least go down swinging when he takes on Australia’s new prime minister.
Van Thanh Rudd, nephew of former PM Kevin, will contest Gillard’s seat of Lalor in Melbourne’s south-west in the next federal election. Rudd is running as the candidate for the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
Gillard’s majority in the Labor stronghold is not so much comfortable as luxurious. Rudd, of course, has no hope of scoring any real electoral points against her. But he does have a habit of drawing media attention, some of it irritating for sitting prime ministers. Just ask uncle Kevin.
In February of this year, the then PM was forced to respond to Rudd’s appearance outside the Australian Open tennis dressed in the garb of the Ku Klux Klan. The protest, coming after several violent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, was against racism.
Channelling Voltaire, Kevin defended Van’s right to protest but was pointed in distancing himself from his nephew’s methods.
It was not the first time Rudd had found himself the object of public attention. In 2008, an artwork of Rudd’s was expelled from an exhibition after being deemed unsuitable by the Melbourne City Council.
On foot, and on trains, trams and buses, he has carried his art around Australia. Australia often asked him to move on and take his pictures with him.
News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt has blogged on Rudd on more than one occasion, lending oxygen to the artist’s anti-establishment flame. And the spotlight is exactly what Rudd will be hoping shines on the issues he brings with him to the battle for Lalor.
“Many people are fed up with both the Labor and Liberal parties. Their aims do not reflect the struggle of so many working people in Australia and world wide,” he told Crikey.
“We want to show that the parliamentary system does not guarantee democracy, only the privileges of those with lots of money. The ongoing lobbying conducted by the mining companies is a typical example.”
Gillard has already foreshadowed a softening toward the mining industry and a harder line on asylum seekers, who Rudd believes are a convenient scapegoat for both major parties.
They are exactly the kind of issues Rudd — like his uncle did almost 48 hours ago — will zero in on, albeit in a more radical fashion.
How that plays out to voters disenfranchised or disillusioned with Labor mark Gillard remains to be seen, but Rudd’s hope is to at least highlight his party’s areas of concern in the run up to the election. His flair for political protest will help, as will his relationship to the previous prime minister. However, Rudd says the events of the last two days have not made his campaign in Lalor any more poignant.
“I just keep in mind that party factional infighting is normal and that the Labor party is still the Labor party — a party that we oppose,” he said.
“If anything, I feel it allows me to escape the personalisation that the corporate media was so hungry to find in me when Uncle Kev was PM.