Who is this man called Kevin?

One of the curiosities of recent political debate in this country has been the persistent quest for the real identity of Kevin Rudd.  We have known him for many years from the days when he was opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, yet columnists still scratch their heads.  Even the ever-reliable George Megalogenis said at the end of one of his recent pieces in The Australian, “Rudd remains a work in progress. His second anniversary as Prime Minister is a couple of months away.  But recent private polling suggests that voters still don’t really know him.

What more do commentators and the public want to know? [more]

For what it’s worth, this piece puts together one person’s observations made from the viewpoint of an ordinary citizen with no more access to information about our PM than anyone else, who relies solely on the media and publically available information.  It’s rather long.  I thought of breaking into two posts, but decided against that as it would break the piece inappropriately.  Instead, I’ve added subheadings to break it up into bite-sized bits that I trust will make the piece more assimilable.

I can recall that when Rudd was foreign affairs spokesman he was clearly very well informed, smart, and articulate, even if at times long-winded.  I could always understand what he was saying.  And he answered questions openly.  Nobody seemed to be saying then ‘Who is Kevin Rudd?’

But when he was elected Opposition leader the clamour for his identity began.  It stepped up a notch at the moment he stood at the podium at the 2007 ALP Conference and said ‘I’m Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help’.

However it was not until elected PM that it heightened into a persistent cry for his ‘narrative’, that which would identify his philosophy, his aims and his approach.  Just over a year ago I wrote In search of the political Holy Grail – the Rudd Government narrative.  It was rather long, but it may be worth your time reading it again.  What strikes me is the similarity between the then unending quest by journalists for a narrative, (which now seems to have gone out of fashion), and the contemporary quest for ‘Who is Kevin Rudd?’  As was the case with the narrative, I believe the answer is already before us.

So let’s try to compose a picture of Kevin Rudd from what we already know.

Political philosophy
In his maiden speech to parliament in 1998 Rudd talked of “...the creation of a competitive economy while advancing the overriding imperative of a just society.”  That seems to encapsulate in a very few words what Rudd believes in.  In an article in The Weekend Australian of September 6-7, 2008, Telling it like we’d prefer, Nick Dyrenfurth, a political historian at Monash University, spelt Rudd’s narrative out in more detail: “…Rudd Labor clearly has a plan and a potentially good narrative to tell about ensuring Australia’s long-term economic prosperity: improving productivity by addressing skills, education and infrastructure; targeting spending to lock in low-inflation growth; crafting a responsible climate change policy; fixing federal-state relations; and planning a whole-of-government approach to reforming taxation and transfer systems.”  This was elaborated in my piece on TPS; there is no need to do so here.

During the election campaign Rudd described himself as an ‘economic conservative’, little different from John Howard – he represented himself as a younger version of Howard but just as safe.  Although some journalists now portray that as a charade and that Rudd was at heart just a big spending socialist with little regard for the budget bottom-line, is there any evidence that at the time his was not a genuine claim? Journalists write as if global financial circumstances had not changed since Rudd made that claim. 

Rudd seems intensely aware of context.  At election time the context was one of economic stability, unparalleled prosperity, and growth in wealth.  While it could be argued that economic conservatism was appropriate for that context, was it appropriate to manage the fallout from the GFC?  Hardly – that called for a radically different approach, a program to stimulate a threatened economy and reduce the risk of sharply rising unemployment, a program portrayed as ‘Go early, Go hard, Go households.’  This has been successful.  But that has not stopped critics from asking: ‘How can Rudd be an economic conservative yet spend so much money and rack up so much debt’, concluding that he is a dishonest chameleon.  The answer seems obvious - there is a time and place to be economically conservative, and a time to spend what’s necessary to save the country from financial calamity.  It’s not all that difficult to understand.

Once the crisis has passed, as it now seems to be doing, will Rudd revert to economic conservatism?  He has stated his determination to reduce the size of the budget deficits and debt as soon as possible, even if that means a period of hardship for the country.  Sceptics believe he won’t or can’t.  They believe they can foresee the future despite their lamentable record predicting the economic environment.  Ordinary people know they can’t predict any better than we can.  So let’s see.

Political orientation
Commentators seem confused about Rudd’s orientation.  The confusion seems to arise from their attempts to place him in a conventional left, centre, or right box.  Some see him as a lefty at heart while others see him rightist.  The fact is that these distinctions are unimportant to Rudd – he operates within a different paradigm that does not make those distinctions.  His approach both nationally and globally is eclectic, selecting what works without rigid adherence to any single political philosophy.  He seems to believe that a balance between socialism and capitalism can create a stable, caring society that embraces sound economics and avoids excess greed and elitist privilege.  His willingness to be economically conservative at one time, entrepreneurial and prepared to take a calculated risk at another as he did in response to the GFC, and socially and culturally sensitive on other occasions, such as with the ‘Apology’, is a manifestation of his ideological flexibility that continues to amaze critics, who would prefer him to be one thing or the other, not all of them.

Another example of Rudd’s ‘new politics’ or as The Piping Shrike might put it, ‘anti-politics’, is his unwillingness to embrace the factions in his party that have been so dominant in the past, or the union movement, as Labor governments have done for many decades.  The Piping Shrike spells this out well in his August piece Realignment.

Rudd would feel at ease with the ‘social democrat’ tag.  As a political ideology of the political left and centre-left on the classic political spectrum, modern social democracy allows for a democratic welfare state which includes elements of both socialism and capitalism, resulting in a mixed economy combined with an inclusive welfare state.  Commentators who have a conventional understanding of social democracy cannot comprehend how Rudd can encompass being a social democrat, an economic conservative, and a risk-taking entrepreneur.

Political agenda
This has been spelt out over the last two years.  His Government’s economic agenda for prosperity and productivity, its plans for education, skills training and infrastructure, its environmental agenda, its plans for the health system, its IR changes, its intent to improve federal-state relations, its indigenous affairs agenda and its ambitions for regional and global relations and national security have all been clarified.  One has only to look at the last two budget papers, and the plethora of policy announcements all recorded on the ALP website, to see what agenda the Government has.  There might be disagreement with it, but there can be no argument that it is there for all to see.  Perhaps that is why we don’t now hear much about Rudd’s ‘narrative’.

Political process
There was much criticism in the first year of the Rudd Government of what was seen as its preoccupation with reviews and committee deliberations.  It’s always mystified me why taking a measured, cautious approach to policy determination, getting the best information from the widest variety of contributors, carefully analysing the data and formulating rational conclusions and recommendations, is to be so condemned.  It led to the oft-repeated mantra ‘all talk, no action’, or ‘all spin, no substance’, something we don’t much hear now.  In fact Lenore Taylor suggested that to the contrary there may be too much substance for the Government to manage and for the public to assimilate.  Would the critics have preferred the back-of-the-envelope approach we saw John Howard take over his $10 billion water plan?

Rudd is a past bureaucrat, and even as far back as his school days, he has taken a methodical, painstaking approach to every endeavour.  That is his modus operandi.  It has served him well; we should not expect him to change, unless the urgency of a situation demands, as indeed he did when faced with the unfolding GFC.  He then consulted with expert advisors urgently, and made a rapid decision. 

Rudd is not Howard – commentators need to get used to that, and stop using Howard as the benchmark against which to judge Rudd,

Political strategy
From the time he assumed leadership of the Labor Party, Rudd’s political strategy has been to diminish, even destroy the heritage of the Howard Government.  Before the election he vowed to ‘play with Howard’s mind’, and pursued that relentlessly.  His attack on neo-liberalism and his oblique association of it with the Liberal Party seemed like an attempt to sheet home some of the ignominy of the financial crisis to the Liberals, an attack that evoked an angry reaction from Liberals and the conservative media.

Rudd had shown a disinclination to give credit for the reforms introduced by the Howard Government and the sound state of the economy he inherited.  Instead he has labelled the Howard Government as indolent for not pursuing higher productivity, and wasting its plethora of wealth. That seems to be part of his strategy to destroy the Liberal brand and enshrine the Labor brand for the decade ahead.

He seems to have set on a course of discrediting Malcolm Turnbull, even more determinedly after Turnbull’s ferocious but unsuccessful attempt to upend him over the OzCar affair.  We can expect that he will give Turnbull no respite.

Whether or not that sort of behaviour is acceptable to the general public is uncertain; present polling indicates that the public regard Rudd well, and Turnbull as poorly as does Rudd.

Geopolitical orientation
Rudd is a multilateralist.  His long experience in foreign affairs has persuaded him that Australia must engage with the world and avoid isolation and protectionism.  He has high ambitions for Australia as middle-power diplomacy.  He wants a seat for Australia on the UN Security Council, and he has been active in promoting the G20, on which Australia has a seat, as the prime global economic forum, something that is now the reality.  He has travelled widely to countries central to Australia’s interests, and to many international forums.  Increasingly his contributions are being lauded by the international community.  Some local commentators though paint Rudd as ‘too big for his boots’ and question whether Australia’s small population warrants the place in the sun Rudd is promoting.   

Back home of course we have had repeated Kevin 747 jibes and articles by lesser journalists about Rudd’s travels, the miles traversed, the cost, even the carbon footprint he’s created.  We even had Tony Abbott a couple of days ago blogging to the effect that Rudd had plenty of problems at home to solve, which was code for ‘he should be here’.  Do these people expect Australia’s PM to sit at home in the midst of a global financial upheaval; do they expect him to stay put in his office and ignore crucial international meetings, our trading partners and our overseas allies?  They criticize his ‘tripping off to 'strut' the world stage’, but never spell out what he should more usefully be doing at home instead.

Rudd attracted criticism for on the one hand criticizing China’s human rights record in his lecture to students in Beijing, then for ‘cosying-up’ to them, then for not sitting next to the Chinese ambassador to Britain in a London TV interview, then for upsetting China with the Defence White Paper that acknowledged China’s increasing military strength, then for not being tough enough with China over the Stern Hu affair.  Which every way he jumps, some in the media and in the Opposition say he’s wrong, and contradictory in his responses.  The critics might like to consider the proposition that different situations require different responses.  Rudd has shown that he will respond in the national interest, and not just to keep the peace with individual nations no matter what they do or say.  Flexibility in international relations seems essential; sycophantic attraction to individual nations seems inadvisable.

We citizens have to decide whether we would prefer to leave international relations to Rudd and his Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, or take the advice of the armchair critics who regularly try to second-guess Rudd.

The Rudd essays
The first extolled Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and theologian who defied the Nazis and was executed just before the end of WW II.   Rudd saw him as a role model.  That brought forth sceptical comment, particularly from Tony Abbott, who saw Rudd wearing his religion on his sleeve, something Abbott would never do.  Abbott has consistently questioned Rudd’s sincerity, and likes to paint him as a fraud, willing to wear any garb that suited his political purpose.

The next was Rudd’s account of the genesis of the GFC.  This was analysed on The Political Sword in Kevin Rudd’s essay on the global financial crisisThere were many critics of Rudd’s thesis that the crisis was the result of rampant neo-liberalism, unregulated markets, and a “particular brand of free market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed.”   Much of the criticism seemed to be centred on the descriptive words Rudd used and their meaning, and some jumped on what they saw as a conflict between Rudd’s declaration that he was an ‘economic conservative’ and his condemnation of unfettered free markets, which the critics asserted were incompatible concepts.  That was always a debateable argument, but now the G20 ministers seem to be echoing many of Rudd’s sentiments, and have set about to better regulate financial markets, and to curb disproportionate risk taking for excessive reward.  Whether they will succeed is not the issue; the fact that they largely go along with Rudd’s thesis, is.

In July Rudd wrote another essay The road to recovery, about which he said “The purpose of this essay is threefold: to review progress in dealing with the immediate crisis; to look beyond the immediate crisis to outline challenges likely to arise during recovery; and to define the core economic challenge for the decade ahead, the ‘Building Decade’, as we embrace a bold strategy to boost Australia's long-term global competitiveness.”   It drew such acerbic criticism from Ross Gittins, who saw it as all spin, that I penned Is the latest Rudd essay all spin?  Turnbull agreed with Gittins, but several commentators didn’t and made no mention of spin.

If you had to choose between a PM who said in print what he thought about world issues and what action should be taken, even if you disagreed, and one who made no attempt to expose his thinking, which would you choose?

Rudd and the media
Rudd has not had an easy time with the media.  Even allowing for the inevitable political bias we all have, many of us believe News Limited papers and specifically The Australian has an anti-Rudd bias, so much so that some bloggers have given it the tag ‘OO’.  Dennis Shanahan was one who exhibited this bias during the dying Howard years, but now writes more balanced pieces that amusingly now attract the accusation that he’s pro-Government.  Glenn Milne often writes material that is malevolently anti-Rudd, so much so that Rudd now calls him ‘the Coalition’s journalist of choice’.  His Sunday tabloid scuttlebutt seems designed to embarrass Rudd, especially if he’s overseas.  Look back and you’ll see Milne has written most of the nasty pieces; I won’t catalogue them here – you know them well.  Recently Rudd has drawn supportive pieces from Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan and from several Fairfax journalists.

Barrie Cassidy is piqued that Rudd has appeared only once on the ABC’s Insiders.  Alan Jones is annoyed Rudd won’t appear on his show.  Rudd and Julia Gillard have not shrunk from criticizing The Australian’s campaign against the Government’s schools program.  They have shown they will not be intimidated by the media. 

Rudd has had regular jousts with Kerry O’Brien and Tony Jones, both of whom seek the gotcha moment.  Rudd is always cautious during these interviews and as a result he is not as forthcoming as he might otherwise be, and is therefore accused of not answering questions.  If they desisted from laying traps for him, or for that matter for other politicians, they might achieve more informative interviews.

A regular assertion from those inside and outside the media is that Rudd and his media team are obsessed with the 24 hour media cycle, looking for an item to fill every slot on TV and radio.  That seems to be the case. Why is it so?  As far back as the Menzies era, RG undertook ‘fireside chats’ on radio with his ‘forgotten people’.  Since then technology has provided steadily increasing opportunities for media exposure.  Howard used talkback to great advantage.  Rudd has extended that.  It is a mystery to me why the media, which so desperately craves news, any news, to fill its multiple outlets, complain about Rudd and his Government filling them. 

Why do journalists complain?  Is it that Rudd does not fit their concept of how a PM should relate to the media?  Is it that the leisurely pace they once enjoyed is being rudely replaced by fast tempo action? 

The public seems to have adapted better than the media; it has realized that Rudd is a new-age leader who has redefined the way the media is used; it is now an integral part of his political process.  The media’s criticism of Rudd’s approach is inexplicable.  It should get used to it; the pace is not going to slow.

Pragmatism
An attribute that has become increasingly apparent is Rudd’s pragmatism.  Politics is said to be the art of the possible, a lesson Rudd has learned well.  The CPRS is a classic example. Realizing that implementing it according to his original schedule was not practical, he delayed it for a year.  He has also made provision for substantial compensation for affected industries aware of the fact that coal and related industries provide employment for hundreds of thousands and generate a large chunk of Australia’s revenue.  This has attracted strong criticism from the Greens who see the CPRS as a weak plan that is a ‘sell-out’ to polluters, while the polluters cry foul that their compensation is inadequate.  Rudd has taken the pragmatic middle course, and has angered both sides.  Those who criticize want to push the CPRS radically one way or the opposite; both cannot occur; both cannot be right.

Most successful politicians are pragmatic, most are prepared to compromise; Rudd is no exception.

Popularity
Tony Abbott is convinced that Kevin Rudd will do anything to enhance his popularity, that he is ‘poll driven’, and that he shrinks from making hard decisions that may upset the electorate.  In fact Abbott insists that Rudd has never made a ‘hard decision’, fearful of a backlash from the voters.  Abbott still believes the electorate is sleep-walking, so besotted with Rudd that they keep giving him high ratings.  He longs for the awakening and the long-anticipated end of the Rudd honeymoon.

There seems little doubt Rudd enjoys his popularity, which is reflected month after month in the opinion polls.  Whether he sacrifices good policy on the altar of populism is debatable.  The anti-Rudd bloggers are adamant that this is so; increasingly, thoughtful columnists incline to the view that many of his policies have been accepted by the pundits and the people.  Just one example is the widespread acceptance of the efficacy of the stimulus package, which attracted so much initial criticism from economists and the Coalition.  While the Coalition cannot bring itself to give credit for that move, the public has; two thirds believe the stimulus has been about right and even more that the Government has managed the GFC well.

Personality
This has been the subject of endless debate.  His opponents paint him as a chameleon, a fraud, a hollow man, with a smooth facade that hides a nasty streak.  They see his appearances at church each Sunday, even when overseas, as a cover for his less-than-pleasant inner self, and the doorstops at the church as a ‘look at me’ self-righteous exercise.  The possibility of him being a committed Christian is discounted, although he reportedly reads the Bible regularly.

The fact that he sometimes does his block, that he demands much of his staff, that he refuses to be intimidated by factional heavies and tells them so using the f-word, is advanced as an argument that he is not a committed Christian at all; how could he be if he swears?  Milne has written ad nauseam about this and his other misdemeanours.

Rudd is often the subject of adverse comment because of his use of old fashioned language.  Remember what a fuss was created over his use of ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ – three times in the one interview!  That expression was common in Queensland when I was a kid, but now it’s considered passé by the media, as are other expressions Rudd uses.  The media labels his use of them as a confection designed by his spin doctors to make him sound ocker – one of the boys.  The length to which the media goes to press this case is astonishing; it seems part of the ‘Rudd is a sham’ campaign.  But the language Rudd uses in public seems to be simply a reflection of the way he speaks.  He uses expressions that suit the circumstances.  When sombreness is required he provides it, such as at the time of national or international tragedy.  He is a man for all seasons.

That he seems congenial, able to converse with people in supermarkets and workplaces as easily as those in high office, seems a worthy attribute.

He has ego-strength, confidence, and a positive attitude. 

Some in the media sees the display of his indisputable intelligence, his extensive knowledge and his considerable accomplishments as boastful and his appearances overseas as ‘strutting the world stage’.  There was even a disparaging piece recently in The Punch about how much he smiled at the G20 meeting. Good grief.

Whether the likes of Milne, or whether the Abbott’s and Turnbull’s of this world find him congenial, matters not at all.  The public does, if the record high satisfaction and the low dissatisfaction ratings he enjoys are any indication; many Liberals also rating him highly.

So who is this man called Kevin?
When it’s all said and done, there’s a mountain of evidence that enables a judgement about Kevin Rudd.  George Megalogenis sees him as ‘a work in progress’, which of course he is.  But why some still insist they don’t know him is a mystery.  While it’s impossible for one human being to fully know another, and although you may disagree with my account of him, surely there’s enough around about him in the public domain for anyone to make a reasonable assessment of who Kevin Rudd is.

Those who can’t make up their mind after three years of his being leader of the Labor Party, should ask themselves what information they still need.  It may be that their concept of leadership, their notion of what a latter day PM should be, do and say, need radical updating.

In politics perception is more important than reality.  The media try to create a perception of Rudd, but it is the reality that should be the basis for judging him.  This piece is an attempt to paint that reality, at least as I see it, so that you might more readily answer “Who is this man called Kevin?”

What do you think?

 

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Bushfire Bill

2/10/2009[i]"Who is this man called Kevin?"[/i] An easy question to answer: he is Kevin Rudd. He is not John Howard, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Barak Obama. He is not Hitler, Stalin or Dear Leader. Nor is he Bazza McKenzie or Pope Benny. The search many in the media seem to be obsessed with is not a search for Kevin Rudd, it is a search for their own work ethic. Once they have a definition of "Kevin Rudd" then they can criticise him for absconding from it. They can have his "nerdiness" or his "toxic boringness" closely confined and bring them out without having to argue their points. The clamour to define Rudd is nothing less than lazy journalists looking for a convenient hook to hang him on. That he is - we all are - a complex person with faults, foibles and towering strengths, does not fit into a 500 word, 24-hour-news-cycle article neatly. People like certainty and predictability. Rudd gives them neither. That's why he irritates the hell out of so many commentators whose main claim to relevancy is that they can distill politics and life into soundbites. They decide, we digest. Kevin is what happens while the pundits are making other plans.

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2/10/2009BB A very apt comment, one that makes a fitting postscript, a stylish coda. You're so right: [i]Kevin is what happens while the pundits are making other plans[/i]

Acerbic Conehead

2/10/2009AA, great piece, thank you. The reason, I believe, Kev's detractors say they "don't know" him, is because they are in denial - they are afraid to face up to the reality that their born-to-rule hubris has taken a nose-dive. Moreover, they fear they are doomed to continuously relive this nightmare, like Groundhog Day. They cannot come to terms with the fact that a share-croppers son, associated with a party founded by yukky trade unionists, is now in the big house. The peasants have revolted and it is no longer Upstairs Downstairs. Whether or not this is reality, and Kev turns out to be another false prophet, is moot. Either way, it doesn't change their perceptions. Essentially, they are nothing but a bunch of begrudgers. BTW BB, loved your paraphrase of John Lennon.

monica

3/10/2009AA, I did a double take about Georg M's statement about supposed internal polling saying people didn't know Rudd. Rubbish, I thought, both about the supposed internal polling as well as people not knowing Rudd. Like others, I'm thinking much of the commentariat haven't figured out that Rudd is both a very clever politician and has happily coincided his ascendency (not luck, more hard work) with other clever and gifted politicians, such as Guillard, Swan and Tanner, to name just the major movers and shakers. And, they are, for the most part, very disciplined as a government. The way that Turnbull manages to make just about anything, any issue at all, to be about him and the LNP leadership is equally remarkable. Perhaps the commentariat are so mesmerised by Turnbull's endless antics, they've not taken the time to notice just what's going on with the government? Can't see the forest for the trees, perhaps?

janice

3/10/2009It seems to me that more than 60% of voting Australians know that Kevin Rudd is someone who is comfortable in his own skin. He is comfortable and at ease in any company whether he is talking to members of the local pub, farmers, high flyers in business or leaders on the world stage. He is a man of great intelligence and compassion for his fellow human beings (and I suspect the other creatures that inhabit this planet). He is a hard worker, is capable of using the 'f' word like the rest of us, has been known to throw a little tanty and often has the irritating habit of answering his own questions. On the political front, Kevin Rudd is an enigma to his opponents and journalists because he seems to be too good to be true. He consults widely, even to the point of asking the 'dumb' public for their input. He has taken this country to a new level on the world stage and is confident enough to present and push his ideas so that our cringe mentality has been undermined and is diminishing rapidly. Kevin Rudd has earned the respect of other leaders across the globe and is showing them that Australia is more than a land of kangaroos with a population of happy-go-lucky she'll-be-right-mate inhabitants. Kevin Rudd is a PM this country hasn't had the fortune to have before.

Michael

3/10/2009Kevin Rudd is the bloke who a majority of Australians (voting for their local Labor Party members) elected to run the country. Numbers shuffle and shift in terms of individual voter's opinions, but it seems from the raw totals of those of us satisfied with the job he's doing, even more Australians give him the nod now than on election night. What more to we need to know? He's doing the job we asked him to, and well.

Paul

3/10/2009Excellent piece, good analysis & conclusions. Who is KR? Well, if we compare him with the likes of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard (even Turnbull, Latham, Crean, Beazley, Hewson, Nelson, etc) he doesn't have discernible passion (a fatal flaw one might say). We associate fine music & clocks with Keating, an "Ocker" image with Hawke, conservative value with Howard, etc, etc. But what do we associate with Kevin, what stands out? Go further: Carr, Bracks, Beattie, Rann, Bjelke-Petersen, even Obama, Blair, Clinton, etc. Most in high office have an "image", a personna, a label, something about them with which we can "stereotype" them. Could it be that he's just a normal bloke, albeit bland with nerdish tendencies, that is just trying to do his best? Could it be that some sections of the media can't handle technocrats? That they can't handle "normal people" in top political jobs? Could it be that the commentariat can't believe that Rudd is adhering to the maxim "politics is the art of the possible" (Bismarck, 1867), that they can't see that the factors of production (Adam Smith: labour, capital, land) are now so mobile that its not about those the provide labour & those that provide capital? Could it be that the political shibboleths that many hold dear are becoming irrelevant? Could it be that the fourth estate are still struggling with the new political process? So, who is he? As BB states: he's an individual called Kevin Rudd with a unique set of characteristics, personal traits, skills, education & experiences (just like the rest of us!).

bilko

3/10/2009well put together AA, other inputs also say a lot of things he is not, but most overlooked one thing that he is and that is a control freak. However if one works 16 plus hrs a day it is understandable. Now we have Turnbull buttering up the public re Quantas, I bet his garage is full of foreign made transports of delight without a bicycle aka uk tories in sight.

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3/10/2009Thank you all for your comments. BB, you have added the ‘nerdiness’ issue, which until the G20 week was used to put Rudd down, just like the less-smart kids put down the nerds at school, or as they were called in my school days, ‘the brains’. It’s as childish for journalists to do this as it was at school. But nerdiness was given respectability during an introduction given to Rudd at a US university, where they portrayed it as a reason for respect. When will our media put away childish things? ‘Toxic boringness’ is Abbott’s creation, which the lesser journalists have taken up. It seems their attention span is too limited to listen to him through. A course of Ritalin may help. I think you’re right Acerbic Conehead, Rudd doesn’t fit the Coalition’s idea of a PM; he’s not a silvertail, he’s from a modest background, he talks funny, he talks too long and bores everyone, and worst of all he’s successful and popular. How can that be – the world has gone mad. Denial continues, and denier-in-chief Tony Abbott still longs for ‘the great electorate awakening’, the stark realization that it has made a terrible mistake, which it will rush to correct as soon as a ballot box appears on the horizon. monica, I would dearly love to see the polling to which George refers, but expect we never will. What sort of a question or proposition would evoke a ‘we don’t know him’ response? You’re right too about Rudd’s team. Apart from Joel Fitzgibbon, all the other ministers are still in place and by all accounts doing their job well. Despite all his attributes, Rudd is not a one man band, which makes it all the more difficult to dislodge the Government, reflected in the polls so consistently showing strong support for Labor. With Turnbull performing the way he is, with the Coalition in such disarray, the focus has been deflected from the Government. Rudd expected Turnbull to make trouble for him while he was overseas, but with Turnbull taking off to the UK that opportunity was missed, and on his return he became quickly embroiled in a scrap with his backbench. The Labor boys had to just sit back and watch the Coalition self-destruct. janice, you make some good additions to the picture of Kevin Rudd. His compassion is very apparent but not acknowledged by the media. You’re right, Rudd is an enigma. He has blurred the line between left and right politics and between business and labour, and even appoints Liberals to diplomatic posts. They can’t work him out because he doesn’t fit the mould they have constructed for him. He is outstanding and accomplished and the people like him. That’s what makes the Coalition so furious. Michael, you’re correct – what more do we need to know about Rudd. The people seem to know enough to give him record satisfaction ratings and his party an average TPP of around 57/43 or according to the latest Reuters Poll Trend 58/42. Paul, you’re spot on, the fourth estate is struggling to understand not only Rudd but his take on politics. He refuses to fit the template. He has turned much conventional wisdom on its head, and most of the journos are confused. Bilko, anyone who works that hard should expect that others will do their work properly. Who cares if he’s what the likes of Milne call a ‘control freak’, so long as he governs this country well, which is exactly what he’s doing.

bilko

3/10/2009AA don't get me wrong,I fully support your comments kevin is the best thing since PJK, with the national interest first and formost at heart, very refreshing after the rodent and his pack. What with the Morgan poll equating to 117 seats with Hockey Turnbull Pyne all gone only the mad monk in contention makes for many good sleeps to look forward to, if only??. He also has a streak of ruthlessness, needed to get where he is today. Takes me back to "Yes Min-Party Games" you have to have the killer instinct. He certainly has my Lib next door neighbour, bamboozled.

bilgedigger

3/10/2009An interesting article by Paul Krugman in the N.Y.Times this week on the delegitimisation of Barak Obama in the U.S. which he claims is fuelled by the right-wing. While there are many differences with the treatment of Kevin Rudd here in Australia, at base there are many similarities in the processes used by the media. The constant name-calling and attributions are unlike any I have known for a Prime Minister in Australia, including John Howard. The sneering tone which appears necessary to be adopted by many in the media in order that they are included in the "special Media insiders" Club needs to be confronted. Journalists are not called to account enough for the lack of evidence for what they write. We should be promoting a "fool of the week" award for many in the media and in online blogs.

Bushfire Bill

3/10/2009[i]"What sort of a question or proposition would evoke a ‘we don’t know him’ response? "[/i] It's probably that some question was asked to a focus group giving five alternative answers as to what Rudd is. Because no one answer garnered a majority, George has most likely used this to say that the people don't know who Rudd is. 20% think he's a nerd. 30% think he's a control freak. 25% think he's a technocrat. Another 25% think he's foul-mouthed arrogant sonofabitch. See? People don't know the real Kevin Rudd. The whole idea is based on the proposition that Rudd can only be one kind of person. To have multiple facets to his personality is confusing to George. George, in the article he wrote on the "sauce bottle" issue, confessed to being something-or-other kind of person. It doesn't matter what that kind of person was. The point was that George was readily prepared to classify himself. So why not Rudd? George comes across as a very relaxed, broad-mined type of fella, but I'm not sure he is, at least not too relaxed. I think he operates within very narrow channels of what he regards as acceptable. And he expects others to follow suit. He gets quite upset when they don't. George Megalogenis is a [i]very[/i] conservative (with a small "c") person. [i]"... the constant name-calling and attributions..."[/i] Did anyone else notice last week on Insiders that the "panel" readily referred to Rudd as "K Rudd" (as in "[i]Kay[/i]Rudd")? Not quite your Piers Acolyte "Krudd", but about as near as a journalist could be allowed to go without being done on a "Biased in front of a camera" charge. From memory, Fran Kelly started it, and was the worst offender. I found it churlish, childish and offensive. Barrie Cassidy really does need to get his journos into line or, with this kind of disrespect among the "panelists" for the Prime Minister of the nation, he'll NEVER get Rudd onto his show. Cassidy should make up his mind whether his show is a serious, professional effort to analyse and explain politics to an interested audience or just a wankfest for tired, cynical hacks looking for a private giggle among themselves, reinforcing the fact that they are not "insiders" but very much on the outside.

Bushfire Bill

3/10/2009I reckon I could be a pundit! From a previous thread (feedback comment from AA): [i]"Milne has a piece today Liberals can't lose Dutton, which not unexpectedly has drawn much contrary comment. www.theaustralian.news.com.au/.../...33435,00.html In view of your assignation of 'the Reverse-Midas touch' to Milne, I'm not sure Dutton will welcome his advocacy." [/i] Poor Mr. Dutton, a victim of the Curse Of The Dapper Dwarf. http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/dutton-loses-liberal-preselection-20091003-gh7a.html

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3/10/2009Bilko, I was agreeing with you. Those who work hard expect the same of others, and they expect their work to be up to scratch. Anyone running a tight ship can’t be bothered with slackers or incompetents. Milne has never explained in what way Rudd is a control freak, so we’re left with just that vague notion that he’s not OK. A control freak needs to exercise control only when things are not going right. If all the troops are doing their job as expected there’s no need for control. The mere fact that we’re debating this shows how pernicious Milne’s jibes are. I’ve not heard much about Rudd’s ‘control-freakery’ lately but I’m sure Milne will resurrect it if he feels he’s running short of barbs. I applaud any ruthlessness Rudd exhibits to get the job done properly. Clearly, in his encounter with his backbenchers over the printing allowance he exhibited ruthlessness in as far he was not prepared to wear their badgering, and told them so. I suspect that Rudd is probably one of those people who are amiable most of the time but have a long fuse – anyone who is unwise enough to light it and let it burn, can expect an explosion. By the way, I didn’t get the ‘Qantas’ reference. bilgedigger, my sister told me today that some far-right Christian churches in the US are praying for Obama’s death and descent into hell. The conservatives have set about destroying his presidency, and some of the ‘Christian right’ have joined them. Like the Liberals here, they cannot accept that the people have elected a non-conservative, you know, the ones born to rule. The first blog piece I wrote in June 2008, one that appeared on [i]The Possum Box[/i], was on groupthink, which I argued was afflicting the media. It still is. I believe that mediocre journalists, of which there are plenty, afraid of losing their membership of the ‘let’s-not-give-Rudd-credit’ club, avoid giving him a pat on the back, no matter how well he’s doing. I like you idea of ‘fool of the week award’. We could nominate journalists for this on the basis of the ludicrousness of their writings, complete with reasons. I’ll think about that. Certainly the media needs confronting about the appalling quality of so much of its offerings. Media Watch exposes gross inaccuracies and misrepresentations. In political writings the offence is usually more subtle. Milne’s writings are a classic example. BB, your thesis about the type of question that might have evoked the ‘we don’t know Rudd’ response is intriguing, as is your view of George. I enjoy reading his columns, which I find informative and well reasoned. I’ll read them now through the prism to which you allude. I too noticed the K Rudd reference on last Sunday’s [i]Insiders[/i]. Fran Kelly talks like a liberal; she lets her bias show rather too readily. She fancies herself as an astute political analyst, which she is not. I am regularly astonished by the sheer arrogance of some commentators who talk with such authority, who sneer at politicians so conceitedly, and who have such self-confidence in their judgements. Why don’t they stand for election and straighten out the mess the parliamentarians are creating? In disappointed with [i]Insiders[/i] and have twice emailed Barrie Cassidy suggesting that it’s turning tabloid. I got two courteous replies insisting the ABC was seeking a ‘balance of opinions’. He needs to be careful that the likes of Glenn Milne and Fran Kelly don’t turn it into yet another shoddy tabloid, light on serious discourse. On Dutton, with his own supporters in Dickson criticizing him for deserting them, and just now loosing pre-selection for McPherson, and the ‘Curse of the Dapper Dwarf’ to boot, he’s in quite a bit of bother.

monica

3/10/2009On 'Insiders', why would anyone watch it anymore? It's not informative of anything other than the panel members gripe de jour.

bilko

3/10/2009AA butter ref Turnbull complaining that Quantas use foreign produce "Turnbull interview with Alan Jones (Radio 2GB) - ETS. 2nd October 2009. Qantas butter flies in face of Australian dairy farmers" from google.

Bushfire Bill

4/10/2009Who is Kevin Rudd? A brilliant comic mind has answered that question for us. It's a laugh a minute. http://whoiskevinrudd.com/ (hat tip to bob1234 T at PB for finding this).

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4/10/2009monica, this morning’s [i]Insiders[/i] was an improvement because the panellists were sensible – Gerard Henderson in the ‘right chair’ made rational comments, Malcolm Farr was his usual ebullient but level-headed self and Karen Middleton, as usual was balanced. The guest was Malcolm Turnbull who struggled through an agonizing interview trying to climb out of the hole he’s dug for himself. It’s noteworthy that Turnbull’s week was the main subject of talk on not only [i]Insiders[/i], but also on [i]Meet the Press[/i] and Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes interview. He has managed to make himself and his deeply divided party room the focus of discussion, almost all of it adverse. He’ll need a Houdini effort to get out of the tangle he’s created. What I object to is filling the right chair with the likes of Piers Akernam, Andrew Bolt and Glenn Milne. Akerman is incapable of making a balanced comment; Bolt has an elaborate set of bizarre ideas, and Milne is always ready to make snide comments, which he must think are clever or funny, because they are accompanied by his supercilious laugh. [i]Insiders[/i] could be a good sounding board if balanced rational panellists were selected. bilko, I missed that; you’d wonder how much Turnbull thought he could gain by criticising Qantas over its selection of butter for its first class passengers. BB, what a delightful collage; I’ve saved it for future occasions when ‘Who is Kevin Rudd?’ is again the focus of attention.

Ebenezer

4/10/2009Well written piece Ad :) We all know that the question the MSM ask, [b][i]who is Kevin Rudd?[/i][/b] is code for you can't trust Kevin Rudd. So far the majority of Australians are ignoring the self adulating msm. This is the first time I have watched Insiders in ages, even with Malcolm as the primary interview. I think it was at least watchable today. According to Paul Kelly, Rudd and Labor face yet another test with the recovery. I see no reason why he cant pass with flying colours yet again. Is it my imagination or is Henderson starting to fall for our Kevin? Dutton is spoken of as a future Liberal leader! I can't see why, he's a loud mouth bully and an obnoxious prat in parliament. Seriously though, if he is a potential leader than what better way to prove his worth than to take a marginal seat and make it safe. For those interested, in more laughs, here is another Rudd site. http://www.ruddshop.com/?Page=Home Cheers Eb :)

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4/10/2009Ebenezer, that’s right, it’s simply code for how can you trust this man – you don’t even know him. Gerard Henderson is sounding more conciliatory lately; although he fiercely defends the Howard legacy, he is able to give Rudd credit where he feels it’s due. Paul Kelly enjoys making such profound comments – he often does. Rudd is always having to face new tests, and every time the ‘test’ word is uttered the implication is that he may fail. Like you, I believe he will pass the test of reducing deficits and debt, as he has passed all the others. He’s smart, he’s determined, and he takes good advice. Dutton comes across as a snooty angry arrogant young man. He has not laid a glove on Nicola Roxon, and has contributed little to the health debate. I can’t understand why he’s considered such an asset. He’s revealed his lack of fighting spirit by deserting Dickson and trying for McPherson. I wonder what moves the Liberals will make to retain him. Gerard Henderson didn’t give him much encouragement, asking why a NSW seat should be found for him when there was such a surfeit of good candidates surplus to requirements in Bradfield. The Liberals have produced this Rudd site to make the usual ribald jokes. Pity they don’t put the same effort into policy creation.

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4/10/2009Eb, have you seem Andrew Elder’s piece on Dutton in [i]Politically Homeless[/i] http://andrewelder.blogspot.com/

Bushfire Bill

5/10/2009[i]"Gerard Henderson is sounding more conciliatory lately; although he fiercely defends the Howard legacy, he is able to give Rudd credit where he feels it’s due."[/i] Could have something to do with Gerard needing speakers at his Sydney Institute. The punters will soon grow tired of hapless Liberal ex-ministers taking the podium. Gerard needs incumbents, and sees what Barrie Cassidy and his producers don't: if you insult the Prime Minister with stupid name-calling (e.g. "K-Rudd"), have your pictorial savants gigglingly discuss the "nerd position" for the steering wheel of a ute, and continually mock the PM's every move and decision, then he won't come onto your show. Your gig will become the last refuge of the disaffected sore loser, left with nothing else but spite and playground "humour" to tide you over until your own team gets back into power. But of course, the more you mock the less chance there is of this happening. Gerard runs a professional outfit. It relies on bums-on-seats. Selling tickets. He realises that you're not really an "insider" (even if you call yourself one) if no-one of importance appears on your program.

Ebenezer

5/10/2009Thanks for the link Ad.

Austin 3:16

5/10/2009Vell, Kevin's just zis guy, you know

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5/10/2009Folks, it looks like 'Ruddkill' has reached epidemic proportions. BB, you've referred to the derogatory comments about Kevin Rudd on [i]Insiders[/i]; I may write again to Barrie Cassidy about his show’s drift to tabloid. But take a look at Paul Daley’s piece in today’s [i]Age, Bamboozled by a Rudd awakening[/i]. http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/bamboozled-by-a-rudd-awakening-20091003-gh9o.html Daley is cited as ‘a Canberra-based writer and an award-winning political journalist’. I ask myself why ‘an award winning political journalist’ is writing such garbage after Rudd’s recent success in the US, after a quiet week for him when he was ill, then conducted a community cabinet meeting in Geraldton, appeared on a Telethon in Perth, and has scarcely made any public statements to the nation except to not buy into the Coalition shemozzle, which incidentally might have given Daley a touch more fodder. His attempts at humour are pathetic for an ‘award winning journalist’, the conclusions he draws from his effusion non-existent, and his admission that he can’t understand or is bored by Ruddspeak surprising for an ‘award winning journalist’, who one would have thought might be able to understand English, even when words of more than two syllables are used. “Ruddkill’, or if you prefer ‘Ruddslaughter’, has been endemic for years. Lesser journalists like Milne and Co have kept it smouldering month after month, but when an ‘award winning journalist’ comes along and writes a trashy piece like this, we have to ask is it now becoming an epidemic? How do we counter this chronic malady? Can we?

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5/10/2009BB, if you haven’t already seen it, you’ll be interested to read in [i]The Australian[/i] Glenn Milne’s [i]Liberals' rising star hobbled by Nationals[/i] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26164176-7583,00.html You’ll enjoy reading the comment of John Cowan of North Sydney: [i]“Congratulations Glen. Last week’s passionate article in support of Dutton surely delivered the kiss of death. As the recently proclaimed journalist of choice for the Liberal Party, keep up the good work. Kev and Co will be pleased, Malcolm perhaps less than delighted with your efforts.”[/i] He too is a subscriber to your tag: ‘Curse of the Dapper Dwarf’.

Bushfire Bill

5/10/2009We all write a bad piece from time to time. Daley's are usually pretty obnoxious, but this one combines "incomprehensible" and "self-indulgent" with "obnoxious". He's a well-known Rudd slagger-offerer. I like the idea of women marrying their father, but realising it too late (BTW: in multi-storey carparks I park in the first vacant spot available, no matter how far from the store entrance). However, Daley then dives into a swimming pool full of WTF? and comes up gasping for air. It's just another (if belated) cheap shot against Rudd's propensity to WonkSpeak, but it won't do any good. First it's FAR too late in the game. It's not an original concept that Rudd speaks funny sometimes. Second, I think the punters like a bit of Bureaucratize in their PM's utterances. They might not be able to understand exactly what he's on about, but feel that as long as the [i]Ruddster[/i] knows what he means then that's OK by them. I have to admit to being one of these from time to time. Let's face it Kevin's strength is [i]not[/i] in always expressing himself clearly and concisely. Which of course invites the question: why is he so popular? Forget the GFC response, or the Stimpac,.I think Rudd's popular because he is perceived as being honest. He's clearly not a corrupt polly. He's rich as Croesus (and so isn't seeking to line his own pockets), gentle (or mostly gentle) in his ways, softly spoken and incorruptible in the Voter's mind. He is not seen as a faction-bound hack, nor a grubby local Tammamy Hall snake oil salesman. He seems to honestly have the nation's best interests at heart and has the attachments and, most importantly, the [i]freedom from attachments[/i] (where necessary) to carry this out. It's almost as if Rudd is an amateur politician. He's smarter than most of the voters are... I mean [i]really[/i] smart. The kind of guy all the Mums in town want to succeed, while their own sons are fixing cars, laying bricks and breeding babies back home in Eumundie. I think the punters like that kind of person as Prime Minister: The Boy Most Likely. We read so many articles and particularly those odious blog responses at Pies' and Bolt's blogs which cannot countenance the idea of a politician who is [i]not[/i] corrupt. The assumption is that Rudd is corrupt, yet he does not behave corruptly or have a corrupt demeanour. Therefore he [i]must[/i] be a phoney. That's the only answer to the paradox in their minds. That Rudd is [i]not[/i] corrupt doesn't enter their empty heads. They're still trying to figure out Rudd's angle. Likewise the pundits who expect Rudd to conform to a certain "type" are puzzled when he doesn't. Just as they have him slotted into one character - or perhaps caricature - he switches direction and utters a Bazza-ism, or Wonkspeak, or - horror of horrors - spits out the f-word at some no-hopers from the Factions. The expectations that Rudd will typecast himself are borne of the usual way political figures set themselves up, and allow themselves to be set-up. This one is a "conviction" politician. This other is a "country bumpkin" full of common sense. Over there we have a "factional party hack". Just behind him is the "God botherer", standing next to the "Family Values" person. Rudd is all of these, and none of them. His ability to infuriate the commentariat is due to their [i]in[/i]ability to understand that he is not your usual kind of pollie. Perhaps he [i]is[/i] an amateur after all? No wonder his stock rose when Turnbull falsely accused him of beiong do greedy and venal that he would corrupt his office for the loan of a second-hand ute, based on fake evidence from a public servant who [i]was[/i] corrupt. Remember, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, how the pundits tried to run the line that it was [i]Rudd[/i] who was the con-man and Grech the pure knight in shining armour concerned only for the rape of democracy taking place in front of his very eyes? Grech couldn't tell a lie, so it must have been Rudd. That particular line ran on for weeks, even after it was discovered that Grech's activities were of more than usual interest to AFP investigators and the man himself went on what seems to be a permanent sickie. Of course Rudd's popularity increased after this. All he was doing was conforming to the public's perception of him as being honest and hard-working. Turnbull, saddled with a less fortunate public perception, also confirmed the public's understanding of his own character. Until the commentariat recognizes that Rudd will always be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of phoniness they will never land a blow on him. The more they call him a micromanager, a slave-driver, a wordy toxic bore, an ineffectual nerd and a wimp, the more the public will appreciate that we have Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and not someone else. He's just the kind of bloke they [i]want[/i] doing that job, and they believe he's doing it for [i]them[/i].

Rewi

5/10/2009Ad Astra et al: On your proposed award of the week for journalists, perhaps other potential names might be drawn from this Hunter S. Thompson quote: "Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for f@#$-offs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy p!ss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo cage."

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5/10/2009Rewi, any journalist fitting that description would be a worthy winner of 'The Worst Journalist of the Week Award'

driving school

10/10/2009I think we should all give Kevin Rudd longer to prove his ability, he is already bringing us out of this terrible recession with the stimulus package. Regards, Jonny <a href="http://www.drivingschooldirectory.com.au">driving school</a> <a href="http://www.drivingschooldirectory.com.au/driving-school/driving-school-directory-your-source-for-local-driving-lessons-instructors">driving school</a>
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?