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Few familiar with Rudd are shocked by his exit

By Scott Prasser - posted Monday, 28 June 2010


The sudden fall from grace of Kevin Rudd, his inability through lack of support to even contest the leadership, and the willingness of the Labor Party to dump a leader are unprecedented in Australian politics.

Indeed, Rudd's demise amounts to a dismissal almost as significant as governor-general John Kerr's dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, except that this time the execution was carried out by the Labor caucus on one of their own.

Rudd's end and the way it occurred is significant because it shows how fast moving politics has become in Australia, driven by the media and polling.

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It is significant that the Labor Party, once tolerant of unsuccessful leaders, is now so quick to sacrifice a prime minister who falters.

Rudd's end is also significant because he came to power on a wave of irrational hysteria from the Australian electorate and criticisms of the Howard government when Rudd and Labor had few real policy alternatives, beliefs and frameworks to offer in its place.

The real surprise for some who knew, experienced and observed Rudd when he worked for the Goss government in Queensland is not that Rudd has gone as suddenly as he came.

No, the surprise is that the increasingly questionable performance of Rudd as a prime minister and his government came as such a surprise to everyone else: the electorate, large sections of academe and other Canberra observers.

I warned about Rudd's “ruthless style” as head of the Office of Cabinet in Queensland under the Goss Labor government in The Australian on January 11, 2007.

Look to how he operated in Queensland and you will understand what he would be like in “Canberraland” as prime minister: that was my message.

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The script was there for all of us to see.

The insistence on control, the centralisation of decision-making, the impatience, the demands for more and more activity, the strains on the decision-making processes, the upsetting of ministers, the rush to implement without experience or knowledge or thought about how, were the very problems that weakened the Goss government and led to its unexpected rejection from office.

The script was there, but too few were willing to read what had happened in Queensland and to understand Rudd's real capacities and his limitations.

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First published in The Weekend Australian on June 26-27, 2010.



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About the Author

Scott Prasser is Professor of Public Policy and was Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University. Scott has worked previously in senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments and in several universities in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Recently, Scott co-edited with Associate Professor Nicholas Aroney and J.R. Nethercote the book Restraining Elective Dictatorship: The Upper House Solution? He has just written with Helen Tracey a report entitled Beyond Gonski: Reviewing the Evidence on Quality Schooling.

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