Kevin Rudd

Kevin Michael Rudd

Kevin Michael Rudd (born 21 September 1957) is a former Australian politician who was twice Prime Minister of Australia, 26th Australian Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, and again he was Australian Prime Minister during 2013. He was the first former Prime Minister to return to the office since Robert Menzies in 1949, and only the second Labor Prime Minister to do so. He was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, from December 2007 until June 2010 and again in 2013.

Early life

Kevin Rudd, 1974 ‘Youth Speaks for Australia’ contest winner at age 17. Rudd was born in Nambour, Queensland and grew up on a dairy farm in nearby Eumundi. Farm life, which required the use of horses and guns, is where he developed his life-long love of horse riding and shooting clay targets. His father, a share farmer and Country Party member, died when Rudd was 11 and the family was compelled to leave the farm under hardship. Rudd joined the Australian Labor Party in 1972 at the age of 15. He boarded at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane and was dux of Nambour State High School in 1974.

Rudd studied at the Australian National University in Canberra where he resided at Burgmann College and graduated with First Class Honours in Arts (Asian Studies). He majored in Chinese language and Chinese history, became proficient in Mandarin and acquired a Chinese alias, Lù Kèwén.

Rudd‘s thesis on Chinese democracy activist Wei Jingsheng was supervised by Pierre Ryckmans, the eminent Belgian-Australian sinologist. During his studies Rudd cleaned the house of political commentator Laurie Oakes to earn money. In 1980 he continued his Chinese studies at the Mandarin Training Center of National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. Delivering the annual Gough Whitlam Lecture at Sydney University on “The Reforming Centre of Australian Politics” in 2008, Rudd praised the former Labor Prime Minister for implementing educational reforms, saying he was:

… a kid who lived Gough Whitlam‘s dream that every child should have a desk with a lamp on it where he or she could study. A kid whose mum told him after the 1972 election that it might just now be possible for the likes of him to go to university. A kid from the country of no particular means and of no political pedigree who could therefore dream that one day he could make a contribution to our national political life.

In 1981, Rudd married Thérèse Rein whom he had met at a gathering of the Australian Student Christian Movement during his university years. They have three children: Jessica (born 1984), Nicholas (born 1986) and Marcus (born 1993). Rudd’s nephew, Van Thanh Rudd is a Melbourne-based artist.

Entry into politics

In 1981 Rudd joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, where he served until 1988. He and his wife spent most of the 1980s overseas posted at the Australian embassies in Stockholm, Sweden and later in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

Returning to Australia in 1988, he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Labor Opposition Leader in Queensland, Wayne Goss. He became Chief of Staff to the Premier when the Labor Party won office in 1989, a position he held until 1992, when Goss appointed him Director-General of the Office of Cabinet. In this position Rudd was arguably Queensland’s most powerful bureaucrat. In this role he presided over a number of reforms including development of a national program for teaching foreign languages in schools. Rudd was influential in both promoting a policy of developing an Asian languages and cultures program which was unanimously accepted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 1992 and later chaired a high level Working Group which provided the foundation of the strategy in its report, which is frequently cited as “the Rudd Report”.

During this time he underwent a cardiac valve transplant operation (Ross procedure), receiving a cadaveric aortic valve replacement for rheumatic heart disease.

After the Goss government lost office in 1995, Rudd was hired as a Senior China Consultant by the accounting firm KPMG Australia. He held this position while unsuccessfully contesting the federal seat of Griffith at the 1996 federal election. He contested the seat again at the 1998 election and won.

Member of Parliament

Rudd made his first speech to the Australian House of Representatives on 11 November 1998. His most publicised local cause was opposition to a suggested parallel runway at Brisbane Airport, against which he organised one of Brisbane’s largest public demonstrations, receiving massive media coverage. His commitment to the issue reduced when the airport altered its plans with the support of Queensland premier Peter Beattie, removing Rudd‘s constituency from projected flightpaths and, with the advice of the airport’s 3PR adviser, renaming it a “staggered” runway, rendering the Rudd campaign’s widely distributed “No Parallel Runway” posters out-of-date. The development received legally binding permission to proceed in 2007 under the Howard Government.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs: 2001–2005

Rudd was promoted to the Opposition front bench following the 2001 election and appointed Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 2002 he met with British intelligence and helped define the position Labor would take in regards to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“There is no debate or dispute as to whether Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. He does. There’s no dispute as whether he’s in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. He is.”

After the fall of Saddam he would criticise the Howard Government over its support for the United States, while maintaining Labor’s position of support for the Australian-American alliance.

“Well, what Secretary Powell and the US seems to have said is that he now has grave doubts about the accuracy of the case he put to the United Nations about the claim that Iraq possessed biological weapons laboratories - the so-called mobile trailers. And here in Australia, that formed also part of the government’s argument on the war. I think what it does is it adds to the fabric of how the Australian people were misled about the reasons for going to war.”

Rudd‘s policy experience and parliamentary performances during the Iraq war made him one of the better known members of the Labor front bench. When Opposition Leader Simon Crean was challenged by his predecessor Kim Beazley in June, Rudd did not publicly commit himself to either candidate. When Crean finally resigned in late November, Rudd was considered a possible candidate for the Labor leadership, however, he announced that he would not run in the leadership ballot, and would instead vote for Kim Beazley.

Rudd was predicted by some commentators to be demoted or moved as a result of his support for Beazley following the election of Mark Latham as Leader, but he retained his portfolio. Relations between Latham and Rudd deteriorated during 2004, especially after Latham made his pledge to withdraw all Australian forces from Iraq by Christmas 2004 without consulting Rudd. After Latham failed to win the October 2004 federal election, Rudd was again spoken of as a possible alternative leader. He retained his foreign affairs portfolio and disavowed any intention of challenging Latham.

When Latham suddenly resigned in January 2005, Rudd was visiting Indonesia and refused to say whether he would be a candidate for the Labor leadership. Such a candidacy would have required him to run against Beazley, his factional colleague. “The important thing for me to do is to consult with my colleagues in the party”, he said. After returning from Indonesia, Rudd consulted with Labor MPs in Sydney and Melbourne and announced that he would not contest the leadership. Kim Beazley was subsequently elected leader.

In June 2005 Rudd was given expanded responsibilities as the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security and, also, the Shadow Minister for Trade.

Leader of the Opposition

A November 2006 Newspoll opinion poll indicated voter support for Rudd was double that for Beazley. In December 2006, Beazley declared open the positions of Leader and Deputy leader of the Labor Party, and Rudd announced his candidacy for the leadership. Fellow Labor MP Julia Gillard ran alongside Rudd for Deputy Leader against Jenny Macklin. The vote took place on 4 December 2006. Rudd was elected Leader with 49 votes to Beazley’s 39, and Gillard was elected unopposed as Deputy Leader after Macklin withdrew from the ballot.

At his first press conference as leader, having thanked Beazley and former deputy leader Jenny Macklin, Rudd said he would offer a “new style of leadership”, and would be an “alternative, not just an echo” of the Howard government. He outlined the areas of industrial relations, the war in Iraq, climate change, Australian federalism, social justice, and the future of Australia’s manufacturing industry as major policy concerns. Rudd also stressed his long experience in state government, as a diplomat and also in business before entering federal politics.

Rudd and the ALP soon overtook the government in both party and leadership polling. The new leader maintained a high media profile with major announcements on an “education revolution”, federalism, climate change, a National Broadband Network, and the domestic car industry.

Since 2002, Rudd appeared regularly in interviews and topical discussions on the popular breakfast television program Sunrise, along with federal Liberal MP Joe Hockey. This was credited with helping raise Rudd‘s public profile. Rudd and Hockey ended these appearances in April 2007 citing the increasing political pressures of an election year.

On 19 August 2007, it was revealed that Rudd, with New York Post editor Col Allan and Labor backbencher Warren Snowdon, had briefly visited a strip club in New York in September 2003. When he realised it was a strip club, he left. The incident generated a lot of media coverage, but made no impact on Rudd‘s popularity in the polls. Indeed, some people believe that the incident may have enabled Rudd to appear “more human” and lifted his popularity.

2007 election

Main article: Australian federal election, 2007

Electoral writs were issued for an Australian federal election on 17 October 2007.

On 21 October 2007 Rudd presented strongly in a televised debate against incumbent prime minister John Howard.

On 14 November 2007, Kevin Rudd officially launched the ALP election campaign with a policy of fiscal restraint, usually considered the electoral strength of the opposing Liberal party. Rudd proposed Labor spending measures totalling $2.3 billion, contrasting them to $9.4 billion Rudd claimed the Liberals had promised, declaring: “Today, I am saying loud and clear that this sort of reckless spending must stop.”

The election was held on 24 November 2007. Labor’s win was coined a ‘Ruddslide’ by the media and was underpinned by the considerable support from Rudd‘s home state of Queensland, with the state result recording a two party preferred swing of 7.53 percent. The nationwide swing was 5.44 percent to Labor, the 3rd largest swing at a federal election since two party estimates began in 1949.

As foreshadowed during the election campaign, on 29 November Rudd directly chose his frontbench, breaking with more than a century of Labor tradition whereby the frontbench was elected by the Labor caucus, with the leader then given the right to allocate portfolios.

Prime Minister

Main article: Rudd Government

On 3 December 2007, Rudd was sworn in as Prime Minister by the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery. Rudd is the first Prime Minister to make no mention of the Queen in his oath of office.

Kevin Rudd is the second Queenslander to lead his party to a federal election victory, the first being Andrew Fisher in 1910. Rudd is the first Prime Minister since World War II not to come from either New South Wales or Victoria.

In office, Rudd and the ALP government have set records for popularity in Newspoll polling.

Environment

In opposition, Rudd called climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” and called for a cut to greenhouse gas emissions by 60% before 2050. On 3 December 2007, as his first official act after being sworn in, Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol. On 15 December 2008, Rudd released a White Paper on reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The White Paper includes a plan to introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2010 that is known as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and gave a target range for Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 of between 5% and 15% less than 2000 levels. The White Paper was criticised by environmental groups and the Federal Government’s climate change advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut. On 4 May 2009 Rudd announced that the Government will delay implementing an emissions trading scheme until 2011.

Parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generations

As the parliament’s first order of business, on 13 February 2008, Rudd read an apology directed to Indigenous Australians for the stolen generations. The apology, for the policies of successive parliaments and governments, passed unanimously as a motion by both houses of parliament, and was publicly well received; most criticisms were of Labor for refusing to provide victims with monetary compensation as recommended in the Bringing them Home report, and that the apology would not alleviate disadvantage amongst Indigenous Australians. Rudd pledged the government to bridging the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australian health, education and living conditions, and in a way that respects their rights to self-determination.

Industrial relations

WorkChoices, the industrial relations regime introduced by the Howard Government, is being overhauled. Rudd‘s 2007 policy included the phasing out of Australian Workplace Agreements over a period of up to five years, the establishment of a simpler awards system as a safety net, the restoration of unfair dismissal laws for companies with under 100 employees (probation period of 12 months for companies with less than 15 employees), and the retention of the Australian Building and Construction Commission until 2010. It retains the illegality of secondary boycotts, the right of employers to lock workers out, restriction of union right of entry to workplaces, and restrictions on workers’ right to strike. Rudd also outlined the establishment of a single industrial relations bureaucracy called Fair Work Australia, which will play a far more interventionist role than the Howard Government‘s Fair Pay Commission.

Some unions claim it to be “WorkChoices Lite”, although the most fundamental elements will be reversed and since then, changes have been made to the legislation which accommodate union demands. This has led to employer concern over the legislation, as more rigid and expensive wage and other outcomes with employees will be particularly difficult for many businesses to afford during an economic downturn. Business groups have argued that this will contribute to job losses and negative growth in the near future.

Economy

Upon election to office, the Rudd Government announced a five point plan to combat inflation. The first budget of the Rudd Government was delivered by Treasurer Wayne Swan in May 2008 and a projected surplus of $21.7 billion was announced. As the global recession began to take hold, the Government guaranteed bank deposits and announced two stimulatory spending packages. The first was worth $10.4 billion and announced in late 2008, and the second worth $42 billion was announced in February 2009. After initially raising interest rates to combat inflation, the The Reserve Bank cut official interest rates several times in increments of up to 1 percent, and is currently sitting at 3 percent, the lowest since 1960. The second budget, released in May 2009, projected a $57.6 billion deficit for 2009-10. The majority of the deficit was created by a loss of taxation revenue as a result of the recession, with the rest made up in stimulus and other spending. The recession is expected to remove $210 billion in taxation revenue from the budget over the next four years.

Iraq War

Labor’s plan to withdraw the Australian Defence Force contingent from the Iraq War is nearly complete, with around 150 support personnel remaining in the country. Formal withdrawal of Australian armed forces from Iraq will occur on 31 July 2009, under a Multinational Force Iraq agreement with the new Iraqi Government.

Afghanistan War

Rudd has supported Australian involvement in Afghanistan, as has the Opposition, despite the growing number of Australian casualties. On the 29th of April 2009, Rudd committed 450 extra troops to the region.

Australia 2020 Summit

In February 2008 Rudd announced the Australia 2020 Summit, held from 19-20 April 2008, which brought together 1000 leading Australians to discuss ten major areas of policy innovation. The summit voted in favour of a plebiscite on Australia relinquishing “ties” to the United Kingdom followed by a referendum on the model for an Australian republic, a bill of rights and the re-formation of an Indigenous peak representative body similar to ATSIC, which was abolished by the Howard Government in 2005.

Findings released in April 2009 reported that nine ideas were to be immediately enacted and that the government was deliberating on other ideas proposed.

Education

During the election, Rudd promised a “digital education revolution”, including provision of a computer on the desk of every upper secondary student. The program initially stalled with state governments asserting that the proposed funding was inadequate. The federal government has increased proposed funding from $1.2 billion to $2 billion, and will not mandate that a computer must be provided to each upper secondary student. Negotiations with the states are continuing.

Political views

Economics

In his first speech to parliament, Rudd stated that:

“Competitive markets are massive and generally efficient generators of economic wealth. They must therefore have a central place in the management of the economy. But markets sometimes fail, requiring direct government intervention through instruments such as industry policy. There are also areas where the public good dictates that there should be no market at all. We are not afraid of a vision in the Labor Party, but nor are we afraid of doing the hard policy yards necessary to turn that vision into reality. Parties of the Centre Left around the world are wrestling with a similar challenge—the creation of a competitive economy while advancing the overriding imperative of a just society. Some call this the ‘third way’. The nomenclature is unimportant. What is important is that it is a repudiation of Thatcherism and its Australian derivatives represented opposite. It is in fact a new formulation of the nation’s economic and social imperatives.”

Rudd is critical of free market economists such as Friedrich Hayek, although Rudd describes himself as “basically a conservative when it comes to questions of public financial management”, pointing to his slashing of public service jobs as a Queensland governmental advisor. In The Longest Decade by George Megalogenis, Rudd reflected on his views of economic reform undertaken in the past couple of decades:

“The Hawke and Keating governments delivered a massive program of economic reform, and they didn’t shy away from taking on their own political base when they knew it was in the national interest. Think tariffs. Think cuts to the marginal tax rate. Think enterprise bargaining. Think how unpopular all of those were with the trade union movement of Australia. Mr Howard, on the other hand, never took on his own political base in the prosecution of any significant economic reform. His reform agenda never moved out of the ideological straitjacket of the 1970s and 1980s. Think industrial relations. Think consumption tax. And think also of the explosion in untargeted welfare… When the economic circumstances change, and the demands of a competitive economy change, Mr Howard never adjusted and never took the lead when it came to new ideas. Look at climate change. Look at infrastructure policy. Look at education policy. Look at early childhood education. There’s a mountain of economic evidence about the importance of those policy domains to Australia’s future.”

In early 2009, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, Rudd stated “that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed”, and that “Neo-liberalism and the free-market fundamentalism it has produced has been revealed as little more than personal greed dressed up as an economic philosophy. And, ironically, it now falls to social democracy to prevent liberal capitalism from cannibalising itself.” Rudd called for a new era of “social capitalism” from social democrats such as himself and U.S. President Barack Obama to “support a global financial system that properly balances private incentive with public responsibility”.

Nationhood and foreign policy

Although disagreeing with the original commitment to the Iraq War, Rudd supports the continued deployment of Australian troops in Iraq, but not the continued deployment of combat troops. Rudd is also in favour of Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Rudd backs the road map for peace plan and defended Israel’s actions during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, condemning Hezbollah and Hamas for violating Israeli territory.

The Prime Minister also pledged support for East Timor stating that Australian troops will remain in East Timor for as long as East Timor’s government wants them to.

Rudd also gave his support for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, before Australia officially recognised the republic. This decision sparked protests of the Serbian Australian community against Rudd.

The question of Republicanism in Australia was raised following the failed 1999 referendum, and although Rudd is a republican, he has indicated that no referendum will take place in the near future. In 2008 Rudd appointed Quentin Bryce as the first female Governor-General of Australia.

Society and religion

Some commentators have described Rudd as a social conservative. While moving to remove financial discrimination against LGBT couples, he has remained opposed to same-sex marriage:

I have a pretty basic view on this, as reflected in the position adopted by our party, and that is, that marriage is between a man and a woman.

In a conscience vote in 2006, Rudd supported legislation to transfer regulatory authority for the abortion-inducing drug RU486 from the federal Minister For Health to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, removing the minister’s veto on the use of RU486 in Australia.

Rudd and his family attend the Anglican church of St John the Baptist in Bulimba in his electorate. Although raised a Roman Catholic, Rudd began attending Anglican services in the 1980s with his wife.

Rudd is the mainstay of the parliamentary prayer group in Parliament House, Canberra. He is vocal about his Christianity and has given a number of prominent interviews to the Australian religious press on the topic. Rudd has defended church representatives engaging with policy debates, particularly with respect to WorkChoices legislation, climate change, global poverty, therapeutic cloning and asylum seekers. In an essay in The Monthly, he argued:

“A [truly] Christian perspective on contemporary policy debates may not prevail. It must nonetheless be argued. And once heard, it must be weighed, together with other arguments from different philosophical traditions, in a fully contestable secular polity. A Christian perspective, informed by a social gospel or Christian socialist tradition, should not be rejected contemptuously by secular politicians as if these views are an unwelcome intrusion into the political sphere. If the churches are barred from participating in the great debates about the values that ultimately underpin our society, our economy and our polity, then we have reached a very strange place indeed.”

He cites Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a personal inspiration in this regard.

In May 2008, Rudd was drawn into the controversy over photographic artist Bill Henson and his work depicting unclothed adolescents as part of a show due to open at an inner-city gallery in Sydney. In a televised interview, Rudd stated that he found the images “absolutely revolting” and that they had “no artistic merit”. These views swiftly drew censure from members of the ‘creative stream’ who attended the recent 2020 Summit convened by Rudd, led by actor Cate Blanchett.

2010-06-14 Kevin Rudd

It's Time! Kevin

Well Kevin.. I wish we didn’t have to have this little talk.. But we do.

Although I’ve been sniping at you over the past few months on twitter.

Secretly I’ve been hoping for you to wake up and start to listen to the voting public. Because, honestly, the prospect of a Liberal Party Government scares the crap out of me.

But.. You continue down your path to political extinction.

Kev.. Bro.. You need to understand this one fact. Your on the nose. Sorry to have to be the one person to wake you up.

It was too much way too fast.. and you quite frankly blew it.

Stimulus was too much. You should have cut back as the foolish Liberal party insisted. Because next thing.. Reserve Bank lifted rates again. So you simply over stimulated the economy. (Driving us toward debt faster than we needed)

You needed to get the insulation running again. You upset many people by not ‘fixing’ the problem and getting back to installing insulation.

ETS was flawed by not going far enough. As the Greens have suggested (and the public seem to agree with..) As a result the whole concept of the ETS received a less than lukewarm public acceptance. (The public know its basicaly a waste of time)

Then there is the Internet Filter. You hide behind Conroy as he ignores 90% of the public concerns.

Now, at the worst possible time. With fast falling public opinion. With an election looming. You inflame the mining companies to advertise against you.

It all reflects badly on you Kevin.

It shows you to be a stuborn man who refuses to listen to the will of the people. Like Howard before you. You have tempted the public to show their complete disapproval.

The only bad thing out of all this is that Australia doesnt deserve Tony Abbott with more Howard style fascism.

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