In my opinion one of the worst things about having a hung parliament is that Julia Gillard cannot kick Kevin Rudd’s hide all the way from Canberra to Brisbane and tell him to bugger off out of Cabinet and the Parliament if he is going to continue carry on like a sook.
On Monday night, Rudd in his usual planned-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life manner, decided to basically confirm what we all knew about Cabinet discussions on the CPRS from last year, and then he followed it up with his standard mea culpa line (on which Jack the Insider has an excellent piece) .
He did it in that old way of I’m not actually going to say it, because then you can’t say I actually said it:
TONY JONES: Well, what other factors were in play? I mean, were you driven in this direction by others?
KEVIN RUDD: I don't think it's a secret to all assembled here that there were a diversity of views within the Labor Party at the time and...
TONY JONES: And within the cabinet.
KEVIN RUDD: That wouldn't be stretching the truth too far
TONY JONES: Well, I mean, we're talking about history here and part of that history you spelt out yourself to the Labor Caucus. I mean we know from the leaked documents from the Labor Caucus that you were approached by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan to drop the ETS or at least to shelve it. You're saying some people actually wanted to get rid of it altogether. Was it them?
KEVIN RUDD: There were a diversity of views and all I can say - look, I'm not going to go down to name names about who had what position where.
So he didn’t actually say Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan did it. And yeah I know, we know he said it in the caucus meeting because it was leaked last year, but at least he was playing it smart enough not to name names – because when a politician does that, they’re dead.
(He need not have bothered really, because tonight on the 730 Report Chris Uhlmann was telling Julia Gillard that on QANDA Rudd had actually said she had wanted to dump the CPRS. So I guess we’ve got to the point where implying something is now “said”. An interesting development that certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier for journalists when needing to get out a story. At best you could argue Uhlmann was referring to things said in Cabinet last year, but for mine, he was referring to Rudd on QANDA.)
As I predicted (well it wasn’t really a hard prediction since it had already happened) the media was all over the QANDA lines and was talking up a split in Cabinet and quasi-leadership challenges and Rudd going rogue.
To be honest I wasn’t too bothered by his QANDA “revelations”. It was Rudd being Rudd – wanting to be loved by the audience – doing the whole “I’m sorry” line and then making it clear that it really wasn’t his fault by suggesting others in Cabinet wanted him to do worse.
It went down with those who felt sorry for Rudd. But in reality it was a bit of a “oh that’s interesting” story, but nothing much more – as the Strewth column in The Oz pointed out today, the ABC got a bit excited and had headlines of:
Labor in damage control over Rudd revelations
when in fact no one from the ALP seemed to really be bothering to do much damage control at all.
So let’s give Rudd his pathetic little day of empathy, and then let him get back to being Foreign Minister (and doing a good job at it as well, I should add).
But today Rudd was again asked about his comments, and he said:
“As the former prime minister I will speak as appropriate to make sure the record is straight. In the period that I was prime minister, it's no secret that there was a diversity of views on this matter when we got to this period last year.
“I don't propose to elaborate on it. I will always act as appropriate to correct the record.”
Everything that led to the loss of your Prime Ministership is your fault. Every single thing.
Factional thugs? Oh you mean the ones that got you your job in the first place? Sorry, but I don’t recall you decrying the factions when you rolled Beazley – or did that just happen because a majority of caucus decided to vote for you because they thought you were a nice guy and they just happened to vote in the blocks they did coincidentally?
Suck it up, Kevin.
You were the leader. Gillard told you to dump the CPRS? Big deal. You were leader, you made the call, live with it, own it and leave the Cabinet divisions for Paul Kelly for when he writes his book about the Rudd years sometime in 2019. (He’s usually 10 years behind with his books). Even the bringing it up in caucus after you resigned was pathetic – if he wanted to say that you should have said it just before you held a ballot on the leadership. Otherwise, shut up until you retire and you write your memoirs.
Malcolm Farnsworth wrote an excellent piece for The Drum titled
Prime Minister, it's time to sack Kevin Rudd
Parliament maths don’t really allow that to happen (as Farnsworth acknowledges). If she sacks him, he could quit and given that would all go down like a bag of poo in Brisbane, the ALP would quite likely lose and bye bye Government.
But just because Rudd has that advantage, doesn’t mean he needs to carry on like some wounded kitten. Here’s a news flash Kevin – you chose the life of politics. You were a machine man in QLD, you played the game as hard as any bastard has. If you didn’t realise people in politics can swap allegiances then you ain’t as smart as your ANU degree would let on.
Rudd needs to look in the mirror and admit he is to blame for the loss of his Prime Ministership. He needs to ask himself why when the factions started to get antsy there were no supporters who were there to slap them down? So unwilling was anyone in the ALP caucus to stand up for Rudd that the spill went from whisper to finished in a day.
That is pretty bloody damning of a leader.
And it ain’t the fault of his staff or his cabinet.
Sure Rudd was ably assisted in his demise in the polls by his Treasurer Wayne Swan – a man who couldn’t sell cold beer on a hot day to a roomful of alcoholics – but hey I’ll blame Rudd for that as well because back in 2007 he was so scared of Costello and Howard that he let them sucker him in to confirming that Swan would be Treasurer. Had Rudd shown some back bone back then, he could have had Tanner as Treasurer – a man who could sell cold beer at a meeting of the temperance movement.
Gillard didn’t fall for that trap last year when it came to naming her Finance Minister. The only fault she made was saying Rudd would be a member of Cabinet. But I guess she needed to say that just so Rudd would allow the cameras to come in and show the two of them together “discussing” strategy. But boy, remember the vision of that meeting? Gillard sitting there trying her best to look like a conversation was going on, and Rudd sitting there with a face like a slapped arse (as an old mate of mine used to say of grumpy customers when we worked in the Cairns Casino).
Being a leader means taking responsibility. And being a Cabinet member means shutting the hell up about discussions in cabinet. Especially the ones you lose, or the ones where you wish in retrospect you’d made a different decision.
So here’s a tip Kevin. If you think the record is ever wrong on your Prime Ministership, start your response to the journalists with this line:
Everything that went wrong during my Prime Ministership was my fault.
And then walk away. You may not like saying it. You may think it completely wrong. But it the price of admission for staying as Foreign Minister. Decide quickly whether you’re prepared to pay it, because the ALP can’t afford the cost of you carrying on like the world owes you something.
You were Prime Minister. Show some dignity.