After months of hearing and reading the “all talk no action” mantra, it would be too much to now expect the reverse after the announcement yesterday of the $10 billion ‘boost to the economy’. Some journalists got close. In today’s issue of The Australian Paul Kelly says “Kevin Rudd has acted swiftly...”; Mike Steketee’s headlines read “PM launches pre-emptive strike...”; even Dennis Shanahan acknowledged “...Rudd has intervened massively and early.” In The Australian Financial Review, Laura Tingle’s headlines read “PM cast as man of action”, and the front page pointer to the Editorial reads “The PM has shown himself to be more than capable of chancing his arm with bold but risky emergency measures”.
But if the ‘man of action’ label is unlikely to have instant appeal to journalists who for so long enjoyed using the opposite, is it too much to hope that at least “all talk, no action” will be now put to rest?
It is a matter of deep concern that so many well-established journalists have taken so long to discern the Rudd modus operandi. They seem to have not discovered that Rudd, by his own admission, is a careful methodical worker who places great emphasis on process – getting the correct information, soliciting informed opinion, undertaking thorough analysis and logical decision making – before taking action. This is the bureaucratic way, and Rudd is an ex-bureaucrat. Politicians bring their background with them – Brendon Nelson his medical experience; Malcolm Turnbull his banking history; John Howard his long political upbringing; and that influences how they operate. We should not be surprised at this and therefore that Rudd brings his bureaucratic origins and his diplomatic skills to his job. So all the clamour for ‘action’, and all the disdain heaped on ‘process’ by so many in the media shows their lack of insight, and worse still, their apparent unpreparedness to discover why Rudd is the way he is. Do we want a PM who uses thorough process to arrive at the appropriate course of action on such complex matters as tax reform, climate change, ‘the education revolution’, infrastructure development, and indigenous affairs? Or would we prefer ‘back of the envelope’ planning and instant action?
The events of the last week have demonstrated starkly how quickly Rudd and his Government can work when the need is urgent. He and his ministers went through the same process he favours, but did it with lightning speed, because that was what was needed. Lightning speed is not needed with most Government reviews; indeed in these instances too much speed can lead to defective planning and implementation and poor outcomes.
Let’s hope that the events of this last week will cause the scales to fall from the eyes of those journalists who have been forever looking for something Rudd was never going to deliver, and see him for what he is – a thorough, thoughtful leader who acts cautiously and conservatively over most issues, but can and will act speedily when the situation demands – in many ways like a good surgeon who carries out routine work methodically without flourish, but when cardiac arrest threatens, acts with speed and precision.
So let's ditch "all talk, no action" once and for all.