The changing face of Kevin 24/7


Kevin 24/7 Kevin Rudd has grown enormously over the past three years. But a mystery remains. Either we never knew the real Kevin or he has changed significantly.

Public office carries with it enormous possibilities for personal growth. It can bring it the confidence that can transform any personality. It can bring the media publicity that shows some personal qualities to the world as well as the media spin that hides others.

With growth comes change. Rudd appears to have changed as his status has changed. If not we are coming to know the real Kevin as he emerges into the limelight. It is worth recalling how far he has come in so short a time.

He was relatively unknown as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was ambitious, but still far from the leadership. He had withdrawn from the contest against Kim Beazley in early 2005, after Mark Latham had resigned, because he had so few supporters.

Rudd had a profile that needed building, but he was already known as a media tart willing to take part in any media interview. He was already Kevin 24/7.

One area in which he began to build an independent profile was on matters of religion. He came out publicly as an Anglican believer in the ABC Compass program 'Kevin Rudd and the God Factor' early in 2005. This put flesh on the bones of the technocrat. In October 2006 he published his now famous article 'Faith in Politics' in The Monthly magazine, naming Dietrich Bonhoeffer as his hero.

Rudd was still regarded primarily as a policy wonk and bureaucrat. But he was growing. He decided to become a regular on Sunrise, the Channel Seven breakfast program, and was a great success in that relaxed, jokey environment.

The next step was beating Kim Beazley in December 2006. He still had fewer supporters than Julia Gillard. But he was electable whereas Gillard, from the Left and a woman to boot, was not. So Rudd claimed the top spot.

Few thought that Rudd was any more than promising. But by the first opinion poll he was a mile in front and stayed there. The Kevin 07 phenomenon had arrived.

Rudd the Opposition Leader generated biographies which filled in important gaps about his family, academic and diplomatic background. However there was still a lot more to know about him.

Some said he lacked warmth. That is why one response to the strip club affair in New York was that it would humanise him.

Rudd the campaigner was sure-footed and articulate under pressure. He was also incredibly disciplined and organised.

But Kevin 07 ended his campaign with a wooden and self-absorbed election-night speech. Supporters took a deep breath and hoped 2008 would be better. And so far it has been.

Kevin 08 is almost a different man.

He has allowed his new ministers room to move. He has taken some holidays. He didn’t interfere when Stephen Smith and Wayne Swan had responsibilities to undertake on foreign affairs and the economy respectively. Reporters even criticised him for his low profile. He went to Bali and he’s just flown again to East Timor and now to Papua New Guinea. But others have had a chance. Gillard has taken advantage of several opportunities to be Acting Prime Minister.

There have also been chances to see a more relaxed Rudd. He has moved into the Lodge with his family. He and Therese Rein have attended St John’s Anglican Church in casual mode. The successful parliamentary Apology was accompanied by lots of stylish, friendly gestures to his guests. He is a good mixer and the 'Hello, I’m Kevin' approach works well.

There is still more to learn about Rudd. Is the person we are getting to know the same one his colleagues rejected out of hand three years ago, or has he grown that much in such a short time?

Prime Minister of Australia

John Warhurst John Warhurst is Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University and a Canberra Times columnist.



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Existing comments

Pre-election Kevin stated that the one-off payments for carers etc. should be in the budget, not a one-off payment. The media has stuffed it up.
Rob | 12 March 2008

Your article reinforced my nervousness about Kevin. Notwithstanding the positive actions of his new leadership, the awful guff about Carers has upset me, plus the delayed response thereto.
Judith Banks | 12 March 2008

I live in the marginal seat of Paterson (NSW). Kevin Rudd visited us in 2004 during Latham's dash (read crash) to the Lodge. The 'I am Kevin Rudd, and I am from Queensland' intro levelled the room. He then went on to speak about issues in a way we could understand. Clarity and focus were evident. This guy has what it takes, I thought.

I watched him more closely after that meeting, TV interviews, comments on current affairs, on ABC and commercial stations. He never changed, always focused and clear, in whatever he was talking about.

He has not changed. His colleagues
rejected him because he was honest, open, focused, and worked hard. Something they had not been used to. He has lifted the Federal Parliamentary scene like no other in recent times.
lesley a | 12 March 2008

I have watched our PM closely whenever and wherever I could since 2005. I have corresponded with him and have correspondence from him, the only politician who answered and no rhetoric. He is not a saint but a thoroughly decent human. It is a great pleasure to call him our PM. All will not be perfection but I am absolutely relaxed about leaving the running of our country in his capable hands. A feeling I have not had for a decade.
Ilona Goor | 14 March 2008

The reality is that the media saw Howard lite while the rest of us saw an intelligent and compassionate human being who could mend the hate and division caused by Howard. We were right.
Marilyn | 31 March 2008


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