How politicians behave after losing office is very revealing – do they shoulder responsibility for the defeat or point the finger at others? In their recent memoirs, neither Hillary Clinton nor Kevin Rudd appears willing to accept blame for their losses. Where statesmanship and analysis are required, we have pages of justification and score-settling, which is a disservice to the reader. Could they please get some therapy so they write something insightful? And if you are going to write a book with a high body count, could it at least be entertaining like The Latham Diaries?
First to publish was failed US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – so unpopular with the voting public that 54% of her core constituency, white women, voted for a misogynist like Donald Trump. But in an interview on ABC TV last week, she blamed the Russians, Julian Assange and FBI Secretary James Comey for the loss, with not a hint of insight into her own contribution.
Last night it was Rudd’s turn, at the launch of his book, Kevin Rudd: Not for the Faint-hearted. Coming in at 600 pages, it takes us from young Kevin’s birth right up to winning the election in 2007 and becoming Prime Minister. But don’t panic – it doesn’t end there! For those of you who want to know about the extraordinary achievements of the Rudd Labor government – he is currently working on volume 2.
Kevin’s journey from a dairy farm in Queensland to the Lodge has been very well-documented; only the die-hard Rudd fans will probably need to read yet another account of how the young boy and his mum spent a few nights sleeping in the car.
The Sydney Writers’ Festival hosted the sell-out event, which was held at the University of Sydney’s Great Hall. Former deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese introduced him – also in the audience was former attorney-general Robert McLelland, former diplomat Dick Woolcott and Rudd’s wife, Therese Rein.
Interviewer Jennifer Hewett, a columnist at The Australian Financial Review, asked Rudd about his failed bid to become Secretary-General of the United Nations. “That didn’t go very well, did it, it felt like 2010 all over again, ” he said, laughing hollowly.
Asked if he had since spoken to Malcolm Turnbull, who voted against Rudd’s candidacy, he replied, “yes I have spoken to Malcolm Turnbull, rather Anglo-Saxon monosyllabically..” (Rudd is famous for his swearing, saying at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit climate that: “Those Chinese fuckers are trying to rat-fuck us.”)
Selling out Rudd was dumb on Turnbull’s part, he added, saying that “not voting for the Australian candidate” didn’t pass the pub test.
After the near-death experience of the 2016 election, which Turnbull won by only one seat, he “felt the breath of the conservatives like Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott breathing down his neck,” Rudd said. “He didn’t want to alienate them, so he wilted like melted jelly in the midday sun.”
It’s no secret that Rudd does not get on with his former treasurer, fellow Queenslander Wayne Swan. In Rudd’s book, he says that former Labor leader Mark Latham appointed Swan as Treasury spokesman as a “joke on the party”.
“He would bequeath Swan to his successor as a permanent Achilles heel, entrenched in the position once it had been given to him, simply because Swan’s factional strength would make it impossible to remove him.”
“Wayne,” he said at the launch, “is capable of some pretty deep destabilization”. Breathtaking coming from someone who spent three years back-stabbing Julia Gillard after she succeeded him as Prime Minister in 2010.
We were also treated to one of Kevin’s most annoying characteristics – his faux Dad and Dave-like persona; at one stage last night, doing jazz-hands, he said “there’s a bit of chill-bill in this”. At least he’s stopped saying “fair suck of the sauce bottle.”
Former colleagues from his days working for Queensland Premier Wayne Goss have an old joke: “Rudd is a creature from outer space. The proof? Who but an android would say so often, ‘I am only human.’ “
The issue now, of course, is how many people in the world want to read TWELVE HUNDRED pages on the “Ruddbot” (Thanks Annabel Crabb)? Do we actually need to talk about Kevin or, even worse, hear Kevin talk about himself? Not for the faint-hearted.