13/11/2007 - 22:00

Rudd an unknown quantity

13/11/2007 - 22:00


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

State Scene remains apprehensive about the fact that Queensland’s multi-millionaire Rudd family is headed for Australia’s two most prestigious addresses – Kirribilli House overlooking Sydney Harbour and The Lodge in the heart of Canberra.

State Scene remains apprehensive about the fact that Queensland’s multi-millionaire Rudd family is headed for Australia’s two most prestigious addresses – Kirribilli House overlooking Sydney Harbour and The Lodge in the heart of Canberra.

And that’s not only because the man of the house – Kevin07 – harbours some rather idiosyncratic characteristics.

Who, for instance, was convinced by his claims that no fewer than three meetings with former premier, Brian Burke, including one as a Perugino Restaurant guest, were coincidental?

Who believed that the planned phoney Long Tan ANZAC commemorative service for Channel 7’s Sunrise program was a public relations exercise known only to anonymous staffers within Mr Rudd’s office?

Who accepted Mr Rudd’s claim that a sojourn to Manhattan’s Scores strip joint wasn’t his idea and that he’d forgotten all because he was inebriated?

It’s important to stress that we’re considering here someone seeking to be Australia’s next prime minister.

There’s also that temper, which, well before the election campaign commenced, had reportedly prompted several Canberra bureaucrats to discretely contact some retired 1990s Queensland counterparts for more detail, since Mr Rudd had headed that northern service.

Clearly some in Canberra were apprehensive about the prospect of having to confront yet another firebrand Labor leader.

That temper may yet become more significant than his explanations of each of those embarrassing incidents.

It’s perhaps also worth nothing that a little-appreciated aspect of Labor is that so many of its leaders have been hot heads, something that’s certainly not conducive to making wise decisions.

Taxi driver arm-breaking Mark Latham isn’t Robinson Crusoe in this regard.

The fact that Labor, for reasons never adequately explained, has attracted more than its fair share of those with fiery predispositions since the departure of the Ben Chifley in 1951, who succeeded the quiet and calm John Curtin, isn’t encouraging.

If one discounts Labor’s Great War leader, Billy Hughes, this turn for the worse with leaders seems to have begun plaguing the party with the emergence of the often-forgotten Herbert Evatt who led Labor from 1951 to 1960, and who, among other things, sparked its bitter split in the mid-1950s.

High Court judge, Michael Kirby, a long-time Evatt fan, put it thus: “I knew nothing of his titanic temper, his outrageous suspicions, the flaws in his personality and the flaws in his judgement that are so well documented as to be incontestable.

“His temper would often lead to extreme unforgivable rudeness to those around him.”

Mr Rudd shares with Dr Evatt a strong desire to have things his own way.

This was again confirmed by Mr Rudd’s unexpected announcement early in the campaign that he’ll be unilaterally deciding who’ll serve in his cabinet, as well as what portfolios the chosen few will have assigned.

Is this to be the first instance of the resurfacing of his 1990s Queensland public service behaviour of laying down take-it-or-leave-it edicts to colleagues?

Although prime ministerial selection of ministers is the way the Robert Menzies-created Liberal Party has operated, it’s not been Labor’s way, where caucus has traditionally chosen cabinet members.

It will, therefore, be interesting to see, when crunch time comes just after November 24, if caucus in a Labor government insists that Mr Rudd cannot unilaterally declare who gains cabinet selection by insisting Labor’s longstanding procedures apply.

The fact that no Labor MP publicly contradicted Mr Rudd on this during the campaign certainly shouldn’t be seen as meaning that will be so after a November 24 victory.

On top of all that comes Mr Rudd’s decision to build his prime ministerial challenge upon quite an incredible degree of policy plagiarism; so much so that several commentators now refer to him not as Kevin07, but rather as “me-to-Kevin”.

So dominating a feature has his plagiarising been that one has even dubbed the campaign as Australia’s Coke-versus-Pepsi election.

“In a matter of weeks, Australian voters will face the ultimate Coke-versus-Pepsi challenge,” that commentator said.

“In this challenge, the similarities are baffling and the stakes nail-bitingly high.

“They look the same, taste the same and have fundamentally similar economic policies.”

That will depend, of course, on whether Labor’s environment spokesman, Peter Garrett, was serious when he apparently claimed that, “Once we get in we’ll just change it all”.

If he was, as the Liberals are claiming, the big question is, what is Rudd-led Labor’s real or hidden agenda?

We may find we won’t be drinking Pepsi after November 24, but something else.

Being left in the dark this way is good reason for further apprehension.

Directly related to such a possibility is the matter of Mr Rudd’s convoluted manner of speaking, especially when asked to answer quite simple questions.

Take the following segment with ABC anchorman, Kerry O’Brien, who wanted to know what Labor policies would mean to coal mining, a big employing and a huge export-earning sector.

O’Brien: “On your new mandatory renewable energy targets, do you know what or how those targets would impact on the coal industry in terms of jobs and so on?”

Rudd: “We have taken this position of a new ambitious but responsible nonetheless renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020 based on modelling which has been done by MMA, a modelling firm which in conjunction with Monash University looked at all the variables which go into the economic impact of such a renewable energy target.

“There’s one element to it which is what capacity do we have at present, within the Australian renewable energy industry, what capacity have we got to expand in solar and wind and hydro, in geothermal and the rest and secondly, the other element that they’ve analysed carefully is the impact on the whole economy and the impact on electricity prices.

O’Brien: “Then come back to my question, how will it impact on the coal industry in terms of jobs?”

Rudd: “In terms of the whole economy what the modelling from MMA demonstrates is that the total impact on the economy will be marginal over time. That is that they calculate that between now and about 2045 that you’d be looking at a total impact on the economy of somewhere between $600 and $800 million or something in the vicinity of $45-per-person over that period of time or something like $1-per-person-per-year.

O’Brien: “Do you know how this will impact on jobs in the coal industry?”

Rudd: “It is quite clear from the analysis and the modelling done by MMA that the overall impact on the economy in terms of growth and jobs in the near to medium term would be negligible and in the longer term, the overall impact on the economy would be significantly positive.

“It follows therefore when it comes to coal that the impact in the near term on the coal industry would not be of an order of magnitude which would be throwing people out of jobs. Let me add to it.

“If Mr Howard was truly serious and committed to the coal industry, why hasn’t he matched our fund, our proposed fund of half a billion dollars to encourage people with clean coal technologies?

“I don’t see that commitment from him on the table. I’ve been to the coalmining centre of this nation, they like our proposal to provide them with that assistance with clean coal technology because they know that’s their pathway for their industry’s future.

“I’m confident we’ve got the right mix of policy there to encourage them as well as having a responsible renewable energy target out to 2020.”

Being so evasive, and imprecise, certainly doesn’t help alleviate apprehension.



Subscription Options