12/06/2007 - 22:00

Eddington's role in Rudd rise

12/06/2007 - 22:00


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It’s becoming increasingly evident that the federal opposition is headed by two individuals with quite different left-of-centre visions for Australia.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that the federal opposition is headed by two individuals with quite different left-of-centre visions for Australia.

There’s opposition leader Kevin Rudd, a Catholic-turned-Anglican – the faith of his multi-millionaire, entrepreneurial wife Therese Rein – who appears to envisage a future somewhere between what European Social and Christian Democrats strive for, or perhaps even on the Liberal Party’s left or soggy side.

That’s prompted militant Perth leftist unionist Kevin Reynolds to say: “Kevin possibly wants us all to go to bible class with him or something, but that’s not for us.”

State Scene says this largely because of a BBC interview with a watcher of British politics whose name, unfortunately, wasn’t repeated at the end of the program.

The watcher was assessing outgoing British PM, Tony Blair, an Anglican-turned-Catholic – the faith of his human rights lawyer wife Cherie.

The watcher said the key to understanding Blairism was the fact that Mr Blair was really a Christian Democrat who got to lead Labour.

Most Westminster Labour MPs – including, for a time, hard-line lefties, of whom Britain has plenty – failed to grasp this, erroneously believing the man they came to increasingly dislike (to the point of finally ganging up to force his resignation) was a Social Democrat. In reality, he and his wife would have felt quite at ease within Britain’s Conservative Party.

The watcher said Mr Blair was more like German Christian Democratic Chancellor, Angela Merkel, than her leftist Social Democrat predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, now head of the shareholders’ committee of a consortium controlled by Russian energy giant, Gazprom.

But back to Canberra.

Alongside Mr Rudd stands one of Labor’s more ardent lefties, Julia Gillard, whose vision closely resembles what Australian Labor sought during the 1960s, with little interest in or understanding of economics.

Consequently, whenever confron-ted with greater governmental involvement in economic and social affairs or other options, it’s Sydney-to-a-brick she’d want the former.

Ms Gillard’s past includes presidency of Adelaide University’s student union plus heading up that ever-leftist vehicle, the Australian Union of Students.

Both prospered only because students Australia-wide were legislatively forced to fund them via annual compulsory union dues, as a condition of enrollment, something the Howard government has now thankfully outlawed.

On moving to Melbourne she joined the legal firm, Slater & Gordon, as an industrial relations lawyer, followed by a stint as a staffer with Victorian Labor opposition leader John Brumby, before pre-selection for a safe federal parliamentary seat.

A fairly typical leftist background, therefore.

Like Mr Blair and prime minister-in-waiting, Gordon Brown, Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd have drawn-up a job sharing pact; he to deal with broader issues while labor relations were her exclusive domain.

To help ensure a Labor victory, Mr Rudd’s media and advertising boffins embarked on portraying him as a 49-year-old version of 68-year-old John Howard, similar to Mr Blair indicating he never envisaged reversing Britain’s individualising, Thatcher ‘revolution’.

And like Mr Blair, who found collectivising union affairs utterly boring, Mr Rudd is also disinterested in them, which explains his and his business guru, former Western Australian, Sir Rod Eddington’s ongoing silence on such matters.

When recently asked if Sir Rod was consulted on Ms Gillard’s industrial relations package, Mr Rudd said: “When it comes to Rod Eddington on the question of final policy, no.

“When it comes to Rod’s liaison between us and the business community. that is a much more broad-based function he is performing.”

When Ms Gillard was quizzed on Sir Rod’s role in devising Labor’s plans to re-regulate industrial relations by reinstating union boss oversight across Australia’s workforce, she said: “I am always happy to talk to Rod Eddington and this [industrial relations] is an issue over-played by the newspapers.

“We have consulted up hill and down dale.... Kevin speaks to Rod very frequently.”

This is similar to the job-sharing pact between Messrs Blair and Brown, who has been Chancellor of the Exchequer since they toppled the conservatives in 1997.

Interestingly, Mr Brown, like Ms Gillard, hails from the UK’s Celtic Fringe – Scotland – whereas she is Welsh-born, both regions that have historically sent more than their fair share of left-wingers to Westminster.

And while a student at Edinburgh University Mr Brown was elected student rector, akin to Ms Gillard’s Adelaide University student union presidency.

But it’s here that the Blair-Rudd similarities begin to weaken.

It’s highly likely that, once Mr Blair vacates Number 10 this month, the Brown Labour government will move to disengage British forces from southern Iraq, and probably soon after that, begin steadily winding down its Afghanistan commitment.

Mr Brown has already indicated he’s more at ease with his party’s Old Labour image than the Blair New Labour one.

State Scene is indebted to British journalists and biographers, Francis Beckett and David Hencke, authors of their gripping, The Blairs and their Court (Aurum Press, 2004), for an insightful examination of Mr Blair’s religious commitment and his long-standing alliance with Mr Brown.

Mr Rudd has indicated that he, like Mr Brown, is unenthusiastic about Australia’s commitment to defending the democratically elected Iraqi government against its murderous domestic and external enemies, who specialise in detonating explosives among congregated civilians.

Mr Brown appears to see Britain’s future as hinging around Europe and the northern Atlantic, but not far beyond Shannon on Ireland’s far-western coast.

Put bluntly, London’s links with Washington are likely to be downgraded once Mr Blair departs.

Although it would be unfair to see Mr Rudd as envisaging Australia going quite that far, Canberra’s Washington links seem set to slip several notches if a Rudd-Gillard Labor government emerges; something the leftist Ms Gillard wouldn’t regret.

The Rudd-Gillard partnership undoubtedly has several other chords that haven’t yet begun resonating.

But what of Mr Rudd’s corporate guru, Sir Rod, now a Melbourne establishment figure due to his links to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Rio Tinto, heading-up Cathay Pacific, Ansett Airways and British Airways, and presently sitting as the top man on several Bracks Labor government quangos?

Like Mr Rudd, Sir Rod is also on the sunny side of 60, so is far from retirement.

Many have consequently wondered what other new horizons he may seek to reach, now that he’s winding down his corporate involvement and boosting his governmental – Labor governmental – associations.

One source has drawn State Scene’s attention to a detail from the 1970s, when then Labor leader, Gough Whitlam, was headed for the prime ministership, as Mr Rudd now seems to be.

Shortly before the 1972 ‘it’s time’ election that brought the Coalition’s 23 governing years to an end, Melbourne establishment figure, Kenneth Myer (1921-92), publicly stated he backed Whitlam-led Labor.

Eyebrows understandably rose, just as they’ve risen with Sir Rod’s decision to throw his hat into the Rudd ring.

One obituary reads: “On the occasion of the inaugural Kenneth Myer Lecture established by the Friends of the National Library of Australia in 1990, the Hon. E.G. Whitlam paid special tribute to Ken Myer’s remarkable gifts and his great personal contribution to Australia in several fields of endeavour.”

Mr Myer was on the Australian Universities Commission (1962-65); the Vernon Committee (1963-65); chairman of the Victorian Arts Centre (1965-89); and the interim Council of the Australian National Gallery, which headhunted Colin Madigan to design the gallery.

He was on the Australian National Capital Planning Committee (1971-82) and president of the Howard Florey Institute board.

Furthermore, many suspect he was offered the position of governor general, but declined since he didn’t wish to have his earlier public backing for Whitlam-led Labor seen as being motivated by personal gain, which it most certainly was not.

Mr Whitlam eventually turned to one-time Labor Party member, NSW chief justice, Sir John Kerr, to be governor general.

And as that old saying goes, the rest is history.

The interesting question now is, if Mr Rudd wins the coming election and offers Sir Rod the vice-regal post, will he decline like Mr Myer or accept like Sir John?

That is the question.


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