It’s less than a week since Kevin Rudd took the leadership of the federal Labor Party and became Prime Minister of Australia for the second time.
This Report covers the changes, the new Cabinet, the record of failed policies, media and other reports on Kevin Rudd's leadership.
The final section is a comprehensive overview of the taking of the Oath of Office by the Prime Minister. Several questions have been raised - we address those below...
In the wake of the leadership change, a number of Cabinet Ministers resigned. At least five Ministers and a number of other Labor MPs have said they will not contest the coming election and will retire from politics. The latest of these is Simon Crean, a former Minister who was already on the back bench.
After all the talk of gender politics, some of Julia Gillard’s staunchest female supporters, such as Senator Penny Wong, deserted her in the name of ‘pragmatism’ (read report).
Kevin Rudd’s new Cabinet has now been announced and was sworn in early this week.
For a full list of Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries – and a list of those who have gone, see this article… Kevin Rudd's new-look ministry, ABC, 1/7/2013.
This is the first time that a Muslim has become a Member of the frontbench. Ed Husic, the Member for Chifley in Western Sydney, was sworn in using a Quran. (More in our next News Update.)
Article: New MP is first in Australia to be sworn in with Koran, The Australian, 28/9/2013.
Kevin Rudd’s record of failed policies
Many commentators in the media are reminding the Australian people about what happened the last time Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister – the failed policies and the increasing debt. Policies like the asylum seeker/boat smuggling, the carbon pricing, the mining tax – and going from a surplus to a huge deficit.
And some have reminded us that, in essence, Kevin Rudd’s policies are Julia Gillard’s polices and are (now) Kevin Rudd’s policies! See more on policies below.
Kevin Rudd as PM – how has it come to this?
During the last leadership challenge by Kevin Rudd, many Labor Ministers were highly critical of Mr Rudd and spoke about how Mr Rudd was unable to govern – a number of them have now resigned from Cabinet. The Liberal party is already running ads highlighting these statements.
Other Labor heavyweights are critical of the undermining that Kevin Rudd has engaged in – including Graham Richardson, Michael Costa (a former NSW Labor MP and Treasurer - on the Bolt Report last Sunday) who said Kevin Rudd is a ‘policy dilettante’, and former leader Mark Latham. Some refer to the ‘pragmatism’ of some Labor MPs returning to Kevin Rudd because they think they might save some seats although acknowledging that many of them can’t stand him – or as Michael Costa said, they ‘hate him’. Mr Costa noted this is about ‘personality, not policy’.
Mark Latham wrote, “The return of Kevin Rudd is the final hammer blow in the destruction of Labor’s moral code. The person who sabotaged its 2010 campaign is now its leader for the 2013 election. The message for young activists on the so-called progressive side of politics is clear: the way ahead is through dishonesty, treachery and cowardice. If they sabotage an organisation, ultimately, they will be rewarded with its leadership. They too, like Mr Rudd, can be the ruler of the ruins. . .”
Article: Rudd’s redux raised on ruins, AFR, 29/6/2013.
The stalking of Julia Gillard
This week a new book about the stalking of Julia Gillard by Kevin Rudd since she took over as Prime Minster. It has been written by former Canberra journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh.
Kerry-Anne, a left-leaning journalist who is extremely sympathetic to Julia Gillard, has also written an article outlining how Kevin Rudd conducted a campaign to regain the Prime Ministership. She writes, “A year after her ascent, the undercurrent had become so poisonous that Gillard was forced into fighting a ludicrous battle against a man who had been removed from office because he was incapable of governing, who was despised by the overwhelming majority of his caucus colleagues and, most importantly, whose return many feared would plummet the government into the same chaotic state that had prompted his removal….”
Article: In his sights: Covert Kevin's mission to get Julia, SMH, 30/6/2013.
Paul Sheehan writes in the SMH about the deposing of Julia Gillard and contends that Kevin Rudd wants to assert his power before the election, and suggests that the election is more likely to be later (possibly October) than earlier.
He also outlines the attempt by Kevin Rudd to portray himself as being ‘positive’.
His conclusion: “Having exacted his revenge, the restored Rudd is now busy peddling the myth that he represents a positive break from negative politics. The electorate already has enough contrasts to make a choice. The Coalition vows to stop the people smugglers, repeal the carbon tax, oppose gay marriage and curb union excesses. All that is needed is the election. Don't hold your breath.”
Article: Myth man is back on his throne, Paul Sheehan, SMH, 30/6/2013.
Back in 2010, Paul Sheehan wrote an insightful article about the failed policies of the Kevin-Rudd-as-PM era. It is essential reading if you have forgotten about the policies of the Rudd Labor government.
He began, “Rarely has a government promised so much, spent so much, said so much, and launched so many nationwide programs, and delivered so little value for money and expectation. Two years of Kevin Rudd has produced 20 years of debt, and most of it cannot be blamed on the global financial crisis. This alphabet soup is self-inflicted.”
The article has one item for each letter of the alphabet – from A for asylum seekers, B for Beijing, C for Computers in schools, D for debt and deficit….
Article: How Rudd the dud dropped Australia in the alphabet soup, Paul Sheehan, February 22, 2010, The Age, SMH.
Miranda Devine writes that Kevin Rudd’s “popularity was inversely proportional to how well you knew him. The clue to Kevin Rudd, I found, is to think of him as the hologram in Red Dwarf, a wholly constructed personality. He is KRuddMP, his twitter avatar (1.2 million followers, cheesy grin, flashing V for victory from the back bench, mobile phone in hand.) Kevin Rudd the person is invisible. You can’t get a handle on him like you would a human. You must rely on a forensic profile of his actions, following a trail of policy blunders and fractured relationships to construct a picture of the real Rudd. The problem for Rudd is that, before he was ousted in 2010, that picture was starting to come into focus, and his poll approval began to plunge. KRuddMP’s inflated self-importance had not translated to any achievements …”
Article: Allergic to KRuddPM 2.0, Miranda Devine, Daily Telegraph, 29/6/2013.
Kevin Rudd – has his leadership style really changed?
In a revealing interview, aired on ABC radio back in February 2012, Professor John Mendoza said he had quit as Kevin Rudd’s senior advisor on mental health because Mr Rudd's leadership was ‘dysfunctional, erratic and chaotic’. He also said Mr Rudd had been removed as the leader for his "own wellbeing": “The Australian public is now starting to understand that he (Mr Rudd) wasn't knifed in the back, in fact he was removed for his own wellbeing and the Government of the country had to function".
Media report of interview: Rudd removed from top job for own wellbeing, West Australian, 25/2/2012.
John Button, a former Age journalist and Kevin Rudd’s former speech writer, spoke out last February about the problems with trying to work with Kevin Rudd…
Article: Lest they forget what Rudd was like…, Vex News, 25/2/2012.
At the same time, Vex News ran a more extensive article on the situation regarding Kevin Rudd’s flawed approach to government.
Policy differences – or more of the same?
In the next few weeks Kevin Rudd will be trying to make some distinctions between the policies of Labor under Julia Gillard and his own policies.
Of course, many of these are very similar. On boat people – on a carbon price (a tax or an emissions trading scheme now?) – on mining taxes – on education ‘reform’ already operating under a ‘new name’ – and so on.
Within days of taking over the leadership of the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd was in the midst of controversy over his claim that the Coalition policy of ‘turning back the boats’ would risk confrontation with Indonesia – and even armed conflict.
He referred to ‘Konfrontasi’, a very controversial conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia in the 1960s (read about it here).
This drew wide criticism from the media, but Kevin Rudd insisted he was right and repeated the claim.
Of course, the Coalition has only ever said they would do so ‘when safe’ and only in international waters. Plus, when this same policy was implemented under the Howard government, they actually worked closely with Indonesia, with AFP officers in Indonesia, to help them stop the people smuggling trade (read about that in this 2004 article).
Much of the media was extremely critical of his remarks – as well as the Coalition’s Julie Bishop and John Howard.
Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, wrote,
“ON the eve of his first visit to Indonesia as a restored Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has repeated his appallingly irresponsible remarks suggesting that Tony Abbott's boat turnaround policy could indirectly lead to military conflict between Australia and Indonesia.
Over the weekend, Rudd said he stood by all his previous remarks, which compared Abbott's policies with those which led to the Konfrontasi conflict in the early 1960s in which Australian and Indonesian soldiers engaged in deadly combat.
He also once more canvassed the possibility of direct naval confrontation on the high seas between Australia and Indonesia as a result of Abbott's policies.
In 35 years of writing about foreign policy, I have never seen such irresponsible comments by an Australian leader.
It is unprecedented, and unspeakably reckless and foolish, for an Australian leader to airily canvass the idea of military conflict with Australia's closest considerable neighbour.
The fact that Rudd has repeated these remarks demonstrates they were not a mistake at last Thursday's press conference, but are a deliberate and considered strategy…”
Article: PM's remarks are grimly irresponsible, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 1/7/20133.
Taking the Oath of Office
In our report last week we noted that Kevin Rudd took an Oath of Office on the Bible and his other two Ministers (Albanese and Bowen) took an Affirmation.
Our main point was to distinguish who did what, as we are often asked this question!
A couple of points need to be made to clarify this situation…
Holding the Bible
It has been noted that Kevin Rudd did not actually hold the Bible whilst he read the Oath. Kevin Rudd had a Bible in his hand as he approached the table where the Governor-General was seated. He put the Bible on the table and took the Oath document with two hands and read it. The oath stated, “I, Kevin Michael Rudd, do swear that I will well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia, her land and her people, in the office of Prime Minister, so help me God.”
Some commented that he was not actually touching the Bible when he read the Oath.
Click here to view the ceremony.
The second point relates to allegiance to the Queen
The National Archives note that, in 2007, Kevin Rudd was only the second Prime Minister to choose NOT to swear allegiance to the Queen (the first being Paul Keating).
At the start of every parliament, all MPs must attest to their allegiance to the Queen – this can be an Oath (on the Bible) or an Affirmation.
Section 42 of the Constitution says, "Every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution." Section 42
The full Constitution - click here.
The Schedule to the Constitution sets out the form of the Oath or Affirmation of allegiance to the Queen said by Senators and MPs. (Read Schedule)
There is no constitutional requirement for the Oath of Office for the PM or Ministers to include this statement of allegiance to the Queen. In fact, there is no mention of 'Prime Minister' in the Constitution.
However, mention of allegiance to the Queen has usually been included by the Prime Minister in their Oath ‘by tradition’.
John Howard reinstated the statement of allegiance to the Queen in his Oath of Office as PM, but it was removed by Mr Rudd.
Taking an Oath on the Bible
Over the years, we have had people comment on whether Christians should take an Oath on the Bible.
A very interesting and comprehensive overview of Oaths and Affirmations, and the form of these from Federation to the present, including the type taken by various Prime Ministers and Minsters, was recently published on the federal Parliament website.
One interesting point was made that some MPs have chosen not to take an Oath on the Bible for theological reasons, citing Matthew 5:36-37 where Jesus says, ‘But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all… All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’
These aspects are all covered in this APH document:
Read Oaths and affirmations made by the executive and members of federal parliament since 1901