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A mate's take on Rudd’s call to arms

  • 30 October 2017


Kevin Rudd is back. Last week he was blitzing the country with a whirlwind book tour, having flown in from New York where he continues his post-prime-ministerial life as President of the Asia Society. He is promoting volume one of his autobiography entitled Not for the Faint-hearted. I caught up with him at Australian National University where he met in conversation with Stan Grant in front of a large crowd.

The evening was replete with policy wonkery, self-mockery, anecdotes reflecting poorly on political foes and well on political allies, profound abstract insights, and homely truths such as 'We Australians are at our best when contributing to the world rather than cutting ourselves off from the world'; 'We need to be more than China's quarry and Japan's beach'; and 'The Chinese would be surprised if we didn't stand up for where we come from' — the 'where' being the world of the Judaeo Christian ethic, universal values, the Enlightenment, rationalism, and human rights.

The book is dedicated to Rudd's wife and children with deep gratitude 'for a lifetime of care, love and support' and 'without whose love, care and nurture, my life would be small indeed'. Many times, key political decisions were made with Thérèse and Kevin joined for a tea ceremony on their four-poster bed with children Jessica, Nicholas and Marcus. The author acknowledges his debt to the editors 'who had to deal with the full, daily and detailed dimensions of the author's predisposition for bucketloads of programmatic specificity'.

Returning to Australia when Malcolm Turnbull's hold on power is looking tenuous and when Labor in opposition is starting to look a credible alternative, Rudd hopes that his account of political ascendancy 'will encourage the next generation of progressive political leaders to don the armour, enter the arena and write the next chapter in our history — a history not just for the few, but the many'.

Rudd and I have been friends for more than 25 years. In the early days, our relationship hit a rocky patch when I had the temerity to tell him that his proposal for prompt legislation for Aboriginal land rights in Queensland by the Goss government in 1991 would not be well received unless there were appropriate consultations with Indigenous communities. Having received advice from Aboriginal leaders like Marcia Langton and Noel Pearson, he had advised the premier Wayne Goss to legislate promptly so as to avoid political haemorrhaging.