In the days of Kevin Rudd’s rise, The Australian’s late, great Bill Leak used to draw him as Tin-Tin. No doubt this was bullying of the very worst kind, ordered by Rupert Murdoch himself, that caused great psychological harm to poor Kev and his family and weakened the fabric of the nation. Not that we heard it at the time.
If it wasn’t for the colour of his beard today Johannes Leak could draw Rudd as Captain Haddock, given his propensity for intemperate outbursts and accusations. We’re not suggesting for a moment that the former prime minister, like the Captain, is on the sauce. No. He doesn’t have that excuse.
This morning, dear Kev was pouring his little heart out to a Senate Committee chaired by Sarah Hanson Young on Teh Great International Rupertian Conspiracy, a sinister plot he has been uncovering with help from people who Tweet more than 50 times a day and consider using the hashtag #COALition to be a powerful and profound political statement.
“Everyone’s frightened of Murdoch. They really are. There’s a culture of fear across the country,” Rudd claimed.
“The truth is as prime minister I was still fearful of the Murdoch media beast,” he continued. “When did I stop being fearful? Probably when I walked out of the building in 2013.”
Now, let’s go back to those Tin-Tin days. If there’s anyone who’s launched themselves into the Lodge in our 120 years of federation by being a media tart, it’s Kevin Rudd.
That didn’t just involve his double act with Joe Hockey on Sunrise. It involved a great deal of sucking up to News Corp and Rupert Murdoch himself.
Did we hear any complaints about those Tin-Tin cartoons? Of course not. Rudd was great mates with the then editor in chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, who he knew from Mitchell’s time at the helm of The Courier-Mail.
Not only did the Oz editorialise in favour of Rudd at the 2007 election. Rudd acted as godfather to one of Mitchell’s sons.
To top it all off, a veteran News Corp hand was approached about becoming Rudd’s chief of staff after his election win.
The “culture of fear” appeared after Rudd had settled into the saddle as prime minister, in 2008 — and it came from his office, not the News Corp bunker in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
Rudd’s young staffers were notorious for their conduct. Arrogance is only part of it. The approach of these young men to the media played a key role in driving a veteran woman journalist from the Gallery.
Indeed, relations between the Rudd office and the Gallery reached such depths that they plucked a female reporter one of the wire services and placed her on the media team, so she could do the daily tours of the Press Gallery with the spin de jour as one of them.
It didn’t work. Worse, there was constant talk drifting our about Rudd’s micromanagement, dysfunction and the disagreeable manner in which he conducted himself.
The Australian sent a senior out of towner, Tom Dusevic, down to Canberra to investigate. He produced a detailed, influential report for The Weekend Australian late in the first half of 2008 revealing how Kevin Rudd, prime minister, was an entirely different character to the one Australians had thought they were electing.
Things were never the same for poor Kev. Score one against News Corp.
Fast forward to late 2009 and the emissions trading scheme. Rudd had a friendly Liberal leader in Malcolm Turnbull and detailed negotiations were underway, but he still had to twist the knife every question time about Coalition difference and dissenters.
Infuriated, those dissenters revolted against Turnbull, replacing him with Tony Abbott.
Coalition support for the ETS was gone and, in one of the most spectacular acts of bastardry and detachment from reality, the Greens — including Kev’s friend from this morning, Sarah Hanson Young — voted down the policy.
The political consensus was that Rudd would attempt to pass the legislation again early in 2010 and then proceed to a double dissolution in early 2010 over the ETS if it failed — and win handsomely.
Instead, in 2010 came the news that Rudd was withdrawing his signature climate policy. It was broken by, ironically, Leonore Taylor, now editor of The Guardian Australia, but then with The Australian. Score two against News Corp.
Rudd, of course, had called climate change “the greatest moral challenge of our generation” during the 2007 campaign. Now it was on the backburner.
His policy credibility was shot and political and personal judgement under fire.
We all know what happened afterwards.
The truth be told, Kevin Rudd is not a pleasant man.
News Corp helped reveal this to the Australian people, who reacted the way people do when sold a pup, but Kevin Rudd himself is responsible for his failure as prime minister.
Ever the narcissist, he still seems obsessed with finding someone to blame — and has used the entirely ugly and unreal world of Twitter to drum up a ragtag, ratbag army to try give his raging some legitimacy while soothing his shattered ego. That this might somehow be in the interests of democracy, media freedom, civil discourse or anything or anyone other than Kevin Rudd is simply laughable.
It’s pretty easy to see why he is our only prime minister to have been booted out by both the public and his own party.
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