Kevin Rudd
(Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

Kevin Rudd seems to want to have the last word lately, having spent the past week writing letters to editors across the globe defending his former government.

On Friday, Crikey received and published a letter from Rudd responding to an article by reporter Chris Woods that canvassed the attempts of various politicians to spin or finger-point their way out of the climate crisis. The article made reference to a quote from Rudd that blamed the “Green Party’s political opportunism in 2009-10” for Australia’s lack of an emissions trading scheme.

Rudd, to put it mildly, was not pleased.

“We on the centre-left who are committed to climate action have never let up on this fight,” he wrote. “But what Woods seems to suggest is that, while we are fighting the conservatives for an actual policy outcome, we should lie down and accept the Greens making that task harder by flinging mud at us like cowards. How preposterous.”

This came a day after Rudd wrote to The Sydney Morning Herald to argue that criticism by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet of Labor’s stimulus during the global financial crisis was unfair. “Former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz — a Nobel laureate — said it was ‘one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country’,” Rudd wrote. “Treasurers, even state treasurers, are supposed to know what they’re talking about.”

Then on Saturday, the UK’s The Independent published Rudd’s response to a article likening Jeremy Corbyn’s communications plan to his government’s NBN. Of the latter, he wrote that “costs have spun out of control after the totally botched ‘redesign’ by the conservatives, at the behest of Rupert Murdoch”, before declaring that comparing Australia’s experience to Corbyn’s plan was “facile in the extreme”.

And on Sunday, US democratic socialist magazine Jacobin published a letter from Rudd responding to an article alleging he had been scared off of an emissions trading scheme by then-opposition leader Tony Abbott’s climbing approval rate. The author of the article, Rudd wrote, was “totally wrong about my record on climate change,” adding that “the option of a double-dissolution poll to help force the legislation through parliament remained a viable option for our government, right up to the day that Julia Gillard and her co-conspirators drew their knives”.

But this isn’t the first time Rudd has taken to a media outlet’s editorial section to set his record straight. Even before last week’s quartet of letters, “Kevin Rudd, New York” has had a number of missives published in Australian newspapers.

  • On November 8, a letter was published across the Nine newspapers objecting to part of chief political correspondent David Crowe’s column about Scott Morrison’s take on progressivism. Rudd wrote of the column: “it is ludicrous to compare his half-baked attacks to my analysis of neoliberalism during the global financial crisis”.
  • Two days earlier, News Corp’s The Australian was carrying a letter from Rudd, adamant that his “crackdown on thugs like Joe McDonald” at the CFMEU was not a “politically motivated sham”, as per an article in a previous edition of the paper.
  • On November 2, The Canberra Times published Rudd’s defence of his government’s economic strategy in the face of Mathias Cormann’s accusation that the ex-PM wasted money during the financial crisis. “The conservatives’ fetishisation of a budget surplus despite worrying economic portents exposes that they’re all politics and no policy,” Rudd wrote. Stiglitz got another mention too.
  • The Ruddbot also fired up over an October 23 article in the Daily Telegraph. “Claim does not compute”, he bleeped, in response to a reference to his government’s school infrastructure program having “wasted potential ‘billions'”.
  • News Corp columnist Terry McCrann prompted a letter to the Herald Sun published October 17 to correct quotes attributed to the former PM which Rudd said were wrong. “Wouldn’t it be nice if an editor actually read Terrysaurus’s ramblings before hitting publish?” he asked.
  • In September, Rudd defended his government’s stimulus package in the Financial Review and chastised Scentre Group chief executive Peter Allan for swallowing “the urban myth” that the tax rebates were funnelled “into alcohol and pokies and big screen TVs basically”. He also sent a similar letter to The Australian on the same topic, published a week earlier.
  • And way back in February, Rudd threw himself into a sparring match over the NBN involving multiple letters to the Australian Financial Review, in which he accused senior writer John Kehoe and media and marketing editor Max Mason of being “permanently captive to a deeply ideologically blinkered view”.

It isn’t clear why Rudd is so intent on clearing his name at the moment, nor how he is keeping track of his mentions in fringe outlets like the Jacobin (does he have google alerts turned on for his name?).

At this rate we anticipate his response to this article within the next 2-3 business days.

What do you see as Kevin Rudd’s legacy? Send your thoughts to [email protected]. Please include your full name if you would like to be considered for publication.

Peter Fray

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