Feb 23, 2012

Delusion, dysfunction and the true history of Kevin Rudd

The government is obsessed with Kevin Rudd but he is not its problem.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The talking points have been cast aside. The real politics, red in tooth and claw, the savage sort reserved for colleagues rather than partisan opponents, are being undertaken in public, rather than behind closed doors. The time for subtlety, euphemism and obfuscation are over. But not, it seems, the time for delusion. We’re now getting the true history of Kevin Rudd from his erstwhile colleagues, people so lavish in their praise of him and so earnest in their support while he was prime minister, who now feel released from whatever bonds of collegiality they may have felt -- bonds that seem to have snapped around Simon Crean some time ago. Even Julia Gillard, in what will doubtless be a decision she will eventually rue, decided to open up about her time as his deputy, today discussing the paralysis that gripped his government and her own valiant efforts to remedy things. We look forward to future revelations about her own time as Prime Minister from former colleagues following her example. Of course, Wayne Swan has topped everyone and secured whatever awards exist for political spray of the year with an extraordinary, vitriol-laden outburst against his colleague, basically suggesting he shouldn’t be in the party and should never have been in it. Turns out Swan can communicate effectively when he feels like it. The outpouring of contumely towards Rudd is so great you wonder how on earth anyone in Labor ever tolerated his presence for a moment, let alone allowed him to become leader. And what does it say about Julia Gillard’s judgment that this "dysfunctional", "demeaning", "undermining" man has been allowed to hold a senior cabinet position for so long? Most remarkable, though, was Swan’s claim that "colleagues are sick of Kevin Rudd driving the vote down by sabotaging policy announcements and undermining our substantial economic successes". It’s an odd claim to make, that Rudd has been driving the government’s vote down. The key issue that drove the government’s vote down was Gillard’s decision to embrace a carbon price early last year. What’s kept it down has been a succession of misjudgments by the Prime Minister that cancelled out any momentum she ever gained. It wasn’t Rudd who bungled a reshuffle, or performed poorly at the national conference, or who alienated Andrew Wilkie. Rudd didn’t elevate asylum seekers as a totemic issue and then fail to deliver. It wasn’t Rudd who failed to nail Tony Abbott, the biggest policy flake to lead a major party since Alexander Downer, over economic management. Labor’s problem isn’t Rudd. It’s Gillard and, when it comes to selling the government’s excellent economic record, Swan and Penny Wong. Those problems will remain beyond Monday if Gillard wins. Her media conference this morning -- which began in tedium and only livened up when a News Limited journalist was appallingly disrespectful to her -- was decidedly short on how she was going to turn around the government's fortunes. And it’s a funny parallel but just as with Abbott, the government appears obsessed with Rudd and can’t stop talking about him, but can’t lay a glove on him. Tony Burke declared Rudd’s campaigning for the leadership was "the worst-kept secret in Canberra" (gee minister, I can think of some other things that fit that particular bill). But Swan evinced no evidence of Rudd sabotaging policy announcements or undermining economic success. Indeed, the search for a "smoking gun" of Rudd’s disloyalty appears to have consumed the government for days. Andrew Wilkie’s comments were seized on by Crean, before Wilkie explained them away. A Rudd ally is said to have spoken to the clubs and pubs about pokies reform and the leadership. And in a moment of high comedy last night, Michael Danby was wheeled on by the ABC to declare that he knew Rudd had backgrounded several unnamed journalists about his ambitions. "Say it isn’t so, Kevin," Danby pleaded earnestly, like the mythical baseball fan who demanded as much of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Meantime, Swan has issued a statement saying he wouldn’t be heading to the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Mexico, a key one following the Greek bailout that will address the role of the IMF in the eurozone crisis. And, of course, Rudd himself has walked out halfway through a series of important international meetings. For all Abbott’s many and large flaws, he’s dead right when he says the government is dysfunctional and falling to pieces.

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242 thoughts on “Delusion, dysfunction and the true history of Kevin Rudd

  1. Ugliness

    “…whatever awards exist for political spray of the year…”

    Surely that would be “The Latham”?

  2. John64

    “Labor’s problem isn’t Rudd. It’s Gillard”

    No, no, no, no! It’s Tony Abbott! Didn’t you get today’s memo?

    … or yesterday’s memo?

    … or the day before that’s memo?

    … or in fact any memo the Labor party have issued? All their problems are caused by Tony Abbott. In fact this whole leadership spill is because of Tony Abbott!

    Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott.

  3. mikeb

    Let’s not kid ouselves. K Rudd manufactured a public image for himself and was only tolerated in the ALP because he was the one person who could deliver Government. It was no secret amongst insiders that he was almost universally loathed by staff and colleagues and opponents and it was only a matter of time before things exploded. Yes Gillard has been a disappontment and yes she had lacked a vision – or at least she might have had a vision but lacked the b*lls to follow it through. Quite frankly, I’d rather the ALP push through and at least try to retain some dignity in defeat by ignoring Rudd’s ego-driven bid for office, and then try to make a difference in their final months. Whether another manufactured image in Abbott can be a success in the job will remain to be seen. I’m fearful however that Abbott and Hockey et al are falling into the same trap as the ALP in being willing to do anything to gain power.

  4. Jimmy

    The assertionin the article that Gillard’s mistakes are the issue not Rudd’s behaviour gloss over the fact that, the reshuffle would not have been necessary had Rudd not being agitating, the ALP could well have won enough seats to govern in their own right had Rudd not been leaking (removing the necessity for the Wilkie deal and the Carbon tax backflip), the largely irrelevant performance at the conference would not have been exaggerated under the “leader under pressure” prism and the policy achievements might of been able to get some sort of media coverage had they not always been spoiled by some leak or another.

    Rudd’s behavior since being demoted have been appalling and the fact he has enough ego to still run when he has so few numbers and blame the “faceless men” for his resignation when he is the one who has been unwilling to put his name to his behind the scenes actions, demonstrates why Gillard is the leader.

  5. GeeWizz

    Last Newspoll before the Faceless men rolled Kevin Rudd:

    Labor TPP: 52%

    Labor Primary Vote: 42%

    Gillards latest polling:

    Labor TPP: 45%

    Labor Primary Vote: 30%

    Labors faceless men know how to pick em

  6. shepherdmarilyn

    Kevin Rudd is not like the media and some of his worthless colleagues go on about. Those who have never met the man should not listen to their crap.

    I think the stand up comedy line comes from Gillard’s bleat “he didn’t tell me”.

    They are narky with Rudd because he has the brains they lack.


    I beg to differ with you Bernard Keane. I am a strong supporter of Julia Gillard and am and have been disgusted with the vitriol that she has had to endure from people who disagree with her. The outburst that has been directed towards Kevin Rudd has given him a taste of what Ms Gillard has received by the media and the opposition. The low level that too many Australians have dropped surely is an indictment on the whole of Australian society. Pick yourselves up and show a bit of respect!
    Kevin Rudd may not have been the sole perpetrator. He is such a manipulator I feel sure that he has had others, like Kim Carr running around doing as he bids so that he can say that he didn’t do any of the things of which he has been accused.
    The media have to mellow their attitude. They have become worse than the Opposition in their manner towards the government. Whatever you/they feel, remember that you are criticising the head of our government and she deserves better.

  8. Jimmy

    Geewizz – And how much influence has Rudds 18 month long dummy spit had on those negative numbers?

  9. SBH

    “It wasn’t Rudd who failed to nail Tony Abbott, the biggest policy flake to lead a major party since Alexander Downer, over economic management.”

    No, that honour goes the the Australian Media who appear blind to any idiocy coming from the opposition.

  10. Suzanne Blake

    @ Jimmy, Peter Ormonde and the 100s of other lefties here.

    Here is your chance, apply now


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