02/09/2010 - 00:00

At least Rudd was right on a bigger Australia

02/09/2010 - 00:00


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It was Kevin Rudd’s leadership style as much as anything else that made his removal as PM inevitable.

SINCE the ‘Kevin 07-to-10’ factor will be debated for eons to come, State Scene offers an early assessment.

Like so many Australians, Kevin Rudd was born into a battler family. His sharefarmer father was a backer of the (then) Country Party, now the Nationals, and his mother a Democratic Labor Party (DLP) voter.

Son Kevin did well academically, and while an undergraduate became an enthusiastic Labor backer.

He also did well professionally in Australia’s diplomatic corps.

Unfortunately he was posted to big-taxing Sweden, a country that appeals to all who see government as the font of all solutions. That compounded his enthusiasm for the kind of politics served up by Gough Whitlam, which explains his drive to transform Australia into a handout society.

Thereafter his career, and probably his family fortune, now estimated to easily exceed $50 million, rests to a marked degree on his links to the Australian Labor Party.

We can debate until the cows return on whether Mr Rudd owes more to the ALP or vice versa.

Both owe each other much since the ALP was the avenue through which he became prime minister and, in 2007, he propelled that party into power after 11 wilderness years.

Before that, through Queensland Labor, as an appointee of Wayne Goss, Mr Rudd became that state’s most powerful bureaucrat and never ceased letting all know he was the real boss, so was nicknamed Dr Death.

His over-assertive management style remained with him during 2007-10 and played a deciding role in his eventual humiliating removal from The Lodge, initiated by Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes, and his immediate predecessor in that post, Bill Shorten.

Mr Rudd didn’t help his case to remain PM because he had so many unattractive proclivities – a foul mouth, bad temper, and a tendency to ostracise those out of favour with him being the three standouts.

State Scene suspects these were the real reasons for his replacement by deputy PM, Julia Gillard.

They also contributed to his sudden slump in the polls after his decision to embark upon the RSPT slug on Australia’s crucial mining sector.

His precipitous poll drop thus became the excuse so many badly treated Labor MPs needed to rid themselves of someone they saw as an intolerant brat.

How Mr Rudd got away with such intolerant conduct over nearly four years beggars belief.

It’s simply amazing no-one ever told him to go jump in the lake, by those words or others more colourful.

The fact that no-one in Labor’s ranks ever did confirms what some have long suspected – Labor is now largely manned by yes-men and women.

If just one MP had told him to brace up and stop treating people so shabbily they’d undoubtedly have done Mr Rudd a favour. And if he’d listened, which seems unlikely, he’d still be leader.

It’s Sydney to a brick that if Labor’s parliamentary ranks still included former WA senator Peter Walsh he’d have straightened Kevin Rudd out on their second, if not first, encounter.

Unfortunately Labor no long has any insiders of that calibre.

That said, we’ll no doubt eventually learn more about all this because retired politicians are so inclined to write autobiographies.

All who publish accounts of their years in Canberra from 2007-10 will undoubtedly comment upon Mr Rudd’s ignominious dumping, presumably at great length.

To wrap up on Mr Rudd’s negatives: he was too self-centred; too inconsiderate of others; and had a puffed-up sense of his own abilities, which were nowhere near as outstanding as he believed.

He appears to have subconsciously modelled himself on Gough Whitlam, a man who also believed that putting people down somehow elevated him.

Ironically, Mr Whitlam’s demise came about through the actions of the man he’d elevated to vice-regal rank, governor-general Sir John Kerr, while Mr Rudd’s equally humiliating demise came about through Ms Gillard, who he’d helped elevate to the deputy prime ministership.

All that said, did Mr Rudd demonstrate any farsighted qualities?

The answer to that important question is, without doubt, yes.

Firstly, unlike Ms Gillard and so many of her backers, he quite unambiguously favoured a ‘big Australia’, a statement that was quickly narrowed down to mean he’d be backing policies that enhanced the likelihood of Australia having a population of about 36 million by 2050.

That stance probably emanates from his mother’s outlook, since DLP supporters have tended to favour an Australia with many more, rather than fewer, people.

He was therefore unlike his successor, Ms Gillard, who has let it be known she welcomes, and will seek to see realised, what she’s chosen to call a ‘sustainable Australia’, which is Newspeak spin or code for a mini or miniscule Australia.

Although careful not to give a figure, it’s likely she’s envisaging a nation, by 2050, with somewhere in the order of 10 million fewer Australians than Mr Rudd was looking to see realised.

Mr Rudd carried another longstanding DLP inclination – belief in stronger defence.

For example, he let it be known he wishes to see Australia’s present six Collins Class submarines fleet doubled to a dozen when they’re replaced from 2025.

He was therefore out of step with a large number of his parliamentary colleagues who are far more inclined to favour an Australia that doesn’t necessarily cast an unambiguous shadow across its region.

Unfortunately for Mr Rudd, he and his inner cabinet colleagues – the so-called gang of four, which included Ms Gillard – allowed their super government Swedish inclinations get the better of them.

So when they saw the Henry Tax Report, which pointed to a new way of harvesting billions more dollars annually from miners, they grabbed at the opportunity.

That fateful three-man and one-woman decision not only jolted global mining giants BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata into action, but did so with near unanimous concurrence of thousands of mining workers, many of them AWU members, plus their families and friends.

That fateful super mining tax decision sparked one of Australia’s most amazing political coups d’état that was launched with an unprecedented anti-tax advertising campaign funded by the three mining giants.

This was followed by late night telephone calls between AWU officials with longstanding links to about two dozen Labor MPs, who together feared the electoral impact of the proposed Swedish-style new tax that threatened jobs of that union’s members.

All that was needed was for the AWU’s two prime movers and shakers – Messrs Howes and Shorten – to decide that the only way Labor’s slide in the polls could be reversed was by removing the man so many MPs found increasingly unbearable.

The rest is history.

Tragically, this also means the prospect of Mr Rudd’s inclinations for a bigger and stronger Australia have vanished with him.

Nothing said during last month’s election campaign by Labor and the coalition, who find themselves having to cobble together a minority government, hints at Mr Rudd’s wiser aspirations ever being realised.



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