His article today in ‘The Australian’ reeks of self-justification … read it for yourself on-line here – or below:
HISTORY will not be kind to Kevin Rudd. Not since Malcolm Fraser have we produced a prime minister so desperately searching for a legacy in a barren landscape. Listening to the eulogies offered up last week left me feeling quite numb.
The showstopper remark undoubtedly came from Malcolm Turnbull. In referring to Rudd’s capacity to soldier on no matter what setbacks he suffered or criticisms to which he was subjected, Turnbull called it “a triumph of the human spirit”. It could just as easily be described as an ego which was so big, so strong and so toxic that it could not be killed.
The only real legacy he left from his term as prime minister was the apology to the stolen generations. To so many forgotten thousands of people this was a truly magnificent gesture. It really mattered to those people and they will never forget the deeds and the words and the man who uttered them. Tony Abbott was particularly generous in summing up this point.
Rudd has few friends in the Labor Party. The two notable in this category are Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese. They praised their mate but in listening to them it became clearer and clearer that there is very little of a legacy to speak of. The main focus of these two loyal and decent men was that Rudd guided Australia through the global financial crisis, the biggest financial crisis to hit the world in the past 80 years, so that we finished in a much better position than practically any nation in the world.
It seems to me there are three problems in trying to make this the centrepiece of a real legacy.
First, guidance is a tad nebulous for this purpose. Gough Whitlam could point to the first form of Medicare, bringing the commonwealth into education, the first heritage legislation, getting out of Vietnam and much, much more. Sure he may have allowed his budgets to get way out of whack (doesn’t that sound familiar) and for that history will mark him down. But he can point to a string of lasting achievements.
Similarly Bob Hawke and Paul Keating reduced ridiculously high tariff barriers, floated the dollar, reformed the tax system, brought in real superannuation for the great majority of Australians who had been missing out and from a personal point of view, saved our rainforests for future generations. This is a legacy which will be looked upon favourably by future generations.
John Howard and Peter Costello can point to the turnaround in budget numbers. From big deficits to big surpluses and the paying off of foreign debt are achievements of note. The introduction of a GST, though wrongly opposed by many people including myself, was both courageous and correct.
They claim credit for (and I would have to concede that some credit is due to them) Australia being in a better position to resist the GFC because of their own fiscal legacy. This further clouds the abilities of Rudd to claim this as his own.
Second, too much of what the Rudd government actually did has been questioned by many and ridiculed by some. The pink batts scheme has to be remembered as one of the worst pieces of public administration I have ever seen. Any Tom, Dick or Harry could and did set themselves up as installers to make money out of the scheme. Many had no training or qualifications yet they were able to send their employees into roofing all over the country. The results were hundreds of electrical fires and four deaths. I am not sure I would want to chalk that up as part of my legacy.
Similarly, the program that saw the building of school halls everywhere, whether they were needed or not, will not escape future scrutiny. It is certain that at least in the state of NSW the program was hopelessly botched and produced very little value for the massive dollar expenditure it involved. I know that the need for speed and the reliance on state government departments will be used as excuses for these failures but that just doesn’t cut it. You can’t spend massive sums of taxpayers’ money without building in the checks and balances.
Third, ample opportunity was available for Rudd to fix the schemes. With pink batts he was repeatedly warned of the failings of the scheme. The Rudd insistence that he was omniscient meant he could not heed the warnings and it was this trait that did so much to ruin his period of office. He shut out his colleagues, abolished cabinet government, and his ego, together with his temper, were allowed to run out of control.
I have been a member of the ALP for 47 years and I have not known a more hated figure. The old Left/Right rivalries never approached the viciousness of the Rudd tongue or the resentment of the Gillard forces at the way he conducted himself in the 2010 campaign.
It is hard to see this as a legacy for the nation, but for party professionals his 2007 campaign was brilliant. He was the first Australian politician to recognise the value of social media and how to harness it.
The problem was that he had a brilliant plan for how to get the job of PM but little or no idea about what to do once he got there.
I have never been able to figure him out. He was without friends and allies and yet he chose to make even those who were willing to serve into bitter enemies. His abuse of staff members and underlings is the stuff of legend, which of course is why everyone was prepared to believe the make-up artist in Brisbane during the last election campaign.
Rudd’s real legacy is a shattered party and a list of enemies that appears endless. Even his resignation was an ambush on the electors of Griffith and the new Labor leader Bill Shorten.
The lesson here is that you need more to lead Australia than intelligence and desire. You can’t inspire a nation if you can’t manage relationships with those in your cabinet and caucus. Furthermore, you must stand for something. In your words and deeds Australians need to see that you are not just there for the glory. They need to know you have a plan based on real convictions. Australians never saw that in Rudd because it wasn’t there.
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The man is a modern-day ‘boofhead’ who cannot get out of his own way when it comes to ALP politics … he believes it starts and ends with his knowledge base … most emphatically – Mr Richardson you are done and nobody is listening to the ALP anymore. Do us all a favour just go away, or at least ‘shut the fuck’ up …