The current Gillard-Rudd impasse is an abject lesson for politicians everywhere on the absolute necessity of not just marginalising their predecessors when they take office but of driving a stake through their hearts. Gillard was warned that having knifed Rudd for the Labor Party leadership last June, it simply wasn't in his nature to meekly accept his fate and that she would need to watch her back. Barely scraping over the line at the subsequent election in August, Gillard gave Rudd the job of foreign minister. She had no choice. Her government is on a knife edge in the current parliament and one vote is all that separates her from electoral oblivion. Rudd made it clear that it was either the foreign gig or he would leave politics and precipitate a bye-election in his Queensland seat that Labor would surely lose. Thus it is that Australia's relations with the rest of the world are in the hands of a man also holding a gun to his leader's head.
Anyone else might be content to strut the international stage as Rudd does, posing as one of the big players and studiously trying to paper over Australia's status as a middle ranking power at best. Only someone with a world class ego would claim credit - as Rudd does - for being a prime instigator of the no-fly zone over Libya. That's right. Not Barak Obama, not Nicolas Sarkozy but Kevin - the Tintin lookalike Wonder Boy from Down Under.
|Role reversal: Now Kevin is eyeing Julia's back|
Kevin Rudd has taken to making unscheduled visits to shopping centres outside his home state, where he's mobbed by old ladies and other people with nothing better to do than pat him on the back and encourage him to move against his increasingly unpopular leader. Last week, he uttered a loaded "we'll see" when one of these mall creepers suggested that he make a comeback. He told journalists later that he was merely "being polite" in not throttling the suggestion at birth. Hello? Who does this guy think he's fooling?
The fact is that Rudd only seems to be popular with people who don't know him. A Queensland QC who does know him recently reminded Grubsheet that Rudd "inspired loathing" when he was cabinet secretary in the state government headed by Wayne Goss in the early 1990s. When he went to Canberra, Rudd's narcissism and sense of entitlement is said to have grown in direct proportion to his political advancement. As prime minister, flight attendants were reduced to tears if they brought him the wrong meal. And his fellow MPs soon discovered that for Kevin, loyalty is a one way street. It explains the almost total absence of conscience - let alone grief - when Labor decided it could stomach his hubris no longer and threw its weight behind Julia Gillard. The only tears shed were Rudd's at a farewell news conference that was cringe-making at the time and will seem positively astonishing through the prism of history.
With public sentiment now turning against Gillard, Kevin Rudd clings to the fantasy that he can ride the opinion polls to a second coming. Yet his chances of regaining the leadership are zero given the hatred for him in his own ranks. Labor is a tribe with a fierce sense of collectivism. Rudd is a loner and friendless, apart for a gaggle of desperate MPs in marginal seats who think they might be able to stave off impending defeat by enticing him to their own shopping centres and trying to bathe in the same limelight. Good luck. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, this gentleman's not for sharing. No one seems to be asking the obvious question. What on earth is the foreign minister of Australia doing pumping the flesh at a retail complex in western Sydney? Aren't there grand affairs of state that require his attention?
|Downer: "Our standing and leverage" is being damaged|
"Part of the narrative of the Australian political Left is that, in government, the Labor Party always shows more enthusiasm for Asia than the Liberals. Events of the past three years suggest otherwise. There has been almost no new initiative in Asia from the Australian government in four years, yet Australia has been aggressively vocal on issues of marginal importance to our country, like Libya. This has been a barren period for Australia in Asia and that, in turn, affects our standing and our leverage in Europe and America."
|Undermining Australia: Frank Bainimarama|
"As for Fiji, the Australian government has abandoned any real attempt to restore democracy there. We are in the worst possible position. We look weak because we can’t do anything. In the meantime, Fiji is working diligently and effectively to undermine Australia in the Pacific and beyond. Fiji is working day and night in New York trying to sabotage our Security Council campaign. Rumour has it they are having some success."
However much Labor may be inclined to use the Mandy Rice-Davies line, "well he would say that, wouldn't he?", Downer is making a telling point. Kevin Rudd is not doing the job he should for Australia. Worse, he's embarked on a personal crusade that can only destabilise an already shaky government. How can that be in anyone's interest but his own and that of Labor's enemies? In a memorable encounter Grubsheet once had with Jimmy Breslin - the celebrated New York columnist - Breslin spoke of the curse to humanity of "half people with full blown egos". It's a phrase that might have been coined for Kevin Rudd.