- Posted November 16, 2013 by
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Quincy Timberlake: Australians may regret dumping Kevin Rudd
I am afraid that Mr Rudd’s personal voters have been severely afflicted by his tearful departure. The result could be that many of those aggrieved may decide to shift allegiance to the Palmer United Party at the next elections.
As one who supported Rudd and volunteered to campaign for his re-election in the last polls, I am proud of his achievements and humbled to have played a small part. Whether you love or loathe him, everyone has an opinion about Kevin Rudd and many of his former colleagues are still happy to air theirs. There is no doubt however that he has loomed large over Australia for the past six years.
Many were moved to tears as they realized that there will be no more KRudd in the national arena. Some hold out hope that like Peter Bettie, he could one day make a come-back when Australians have had enough of regimes they thought could save their souls. Politicians on both sides of the House put aside partisanship to wish the former Prime Minister well and, in a spirit of generosity, recognise his extraordinary political legacy.
I personally cannot forget some of the notable achievements under Rudd including: the apology to the stolen generations; the protection of Australian jobs during the global financial crisis; ratification of the Kyoto agreement; the biggest increase in the pension on record; the democratisation of the Australian Labor Party; the increase of female members on the front bench and the National Broadband Network, to name just a few.
Labor will have no other choice but continue to broaden its decision-making base to include rank-and-file members as a tribute to Rudd’s legacy. The success of such a move was evidenced in the recent ballot for the Labor Party leader. This new process which saw 30, 000 members voting to choose between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten, opened the window to a world of possibility.
Party officials were stunned to discover that many members had included $20 and $50 notes with their ballot papers when postal ballots were opened. These were unsolicited donations by activists delighted at their opportunity to participate and thirsty for more involvement. Political parties that embrace this demand for participation will profit in the future because they will be more deeply rooted within the mainstream of community opinion. Rudd leaves Parliament after making an immense contribution to the life of our nation, the Labor Party can best serve our interests by heeding his calls for greater democratic reforms.
There's a lesson here for the ALP - they need to talk less of themselves and focus outwards - to the community they seek to represent.
It is however not all rosy for the Labor Party which fails to understand that despite presiding over many of the Labor government's early failures, Rudd was and still is, more popular than it. The fact Rudd was loved by the people, and loathed by his own party, is something that may never be properly understood.
Bill Shorten alluded to this uncomfortable fact in his hastily penned tribute speech. Rudd has shared a "special relationship" with Australians which afforded him a celebrity status above politics, something Julia Gillard never enjoyed. This is the reason they went to him in June and begged him to come back.
But Rudd's departure is unlikely to change this reality in the short term. The perception that will linger in the public’s mind is that Labor, and in particular the forces aligned with Gillard's revisionist agenda, have driven him out. Labor finally broke the bloke and now he is gone.
Being a slave to tradition apparently was his reason for waiting until Parliament sat to announce his shock resignation. Of course dropping his bombshell during a division in the House of Representatives ensured all his Labor colleagues were in the parliament to bear witness to their crime.
There can be no doubt that his wife Therese told him that enough was enough. He had to get out. Gillard has certainly shown no willingness to let go of it. The war, that is. And Rudd's family, rightfully, has probably had a gutful of the ongoing character assassination.
Through the tears of his farewell speech, Rudd revealed a lingering bitterness at the way he has been treated by his party; a party that could equally argue had been treated poorly by his leadership.
In my view, Labor has now lost the only person in its ranks who was actually liked by voters. Unless Shorten is able to reach out to voters and engage them over the perceived back-stabbings of his two former colleagues, he cannot regain trust right now. His task was always going to be casting off the tag of the assassin. After all, Shorten was instrumental in Rudd's downfall - arguably the moment the modern Labor Party voted to destroy itself. Rudd being absent from parliament may help Shorten or may explode in his face.
It is a flat dream to believe that Rudd will be absent from public life. As long as he is alive he will serve as a reminder of the Labor's political savagery. And his absence from Parliament will change little internally for Labor. In fact, in the short term it could get even worse.
Anyone who thinks the civil war in the Labor movement will now be over is kidding themselves. The fault lines between the Rudd and Gillard camps are still real, they have just gone underground.
The Gillardists are happy to have clinched power and the bloke who continues to fuel it behind the scenes is Rudd's fiercest enemy Stephen Conroy. Mr. Conroy is now up to his old factional tricks, frustrating the selection process for committees.
Shorten can do little about it because of the IOUs he wrote to people like Conroy to secure the leadership. Labor's internal problems run deeper than Kevin Rudd. But he has become a convenient excuse for those still in the caucus who search to blame anybody else but themselves for why only 33 per cent of Australians voted for them. He has also become a human shield for the carnage that has been wreaked inside the Labor Party
He didn't appoint Peter Slipper as the Speaker, he didn't force his cabinet ministers to go skiing with Eddie Obeid, he didn’t form an alliance in government with the Greens and he never lied about not introducing a carbon tax.
Kevin Rudd didn't come up with the East Timor solution, he didn't continually promise a budget surplus and fail to deliver one, he didn't stuff up the rollout of the NBN, nor did he destroy the live export trade (he wasn't even told about it even though he was foreign minister).
Mr Rudd might have presided over some monumental failures, such as pink batts, the abandonment of the ETS, abolishing offshore processing and spending too much money during the global financial crisis as they claim.
But until Labor combats the reality of what it did in 2010 when it sacked him for not being nice, faces up to the principles it then jettisoned to form government afterwards and admits to how poorly it governed henceforth, it has little hope of resurrection. Whether we like it or not, Julia Gillard’s advisors misadvised her to reap from that “not so nice” period and overthrow Mr Rudd.
I salute the “People’s President” - former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his family. May you clinch a new respectable post (perhaps at the helm of the United-Nations?) that befits you as the statesman that you are and shall always be.