April 28th 2007


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: East Timor election: what's cooking?

EDITORIAL: Implications of East Timor's election

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Kevin Rudd's character under scrutiny

OVERSEAS TRADE: Wheat-growers back single-desk selling

MANUFACTURING: Japan still shows the way

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Easter and the media / Literacy, and all that / Anzac Day / Jews and Muslims / Pre-Budget ruminations

DAVID HICKS AFFAIR: Media's blind eye to Hicks treason

THE COLD WAR: How Moscow framed Pope Pius XII as pro-Nazi

GREAT BRITAIN: Why Britain is no longer great

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION: Lottery players fleeced for $100 million

ETHICS: New safeguard for vulnerable patients

HEALTH: Married gays die 24 years younger

OBITUARY: Dr John Billings (1918-2007) and the Culture of Life

AS THE WORLD TURNS: The unmarriage revolution / Unexpected outbreak of morality / Mediocrity on the march / Children recruited to spy for Big Brother

Antidotes to narcissism (letter)

Problems with surrogacy (letter)

Politicised public service (letter)

Bell tolls for national icon (letter)

CINEMA: Spartan sacrifice that saved Greece

BOOKS: WHY POLITICS NEEDS RELIGION, by Brendan Sweetman

BOOKS: BACKS TO THE WALL: A larrikin on the Western Front, by G.D. Mitchell with Robert Macklin

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CANBERRA OBSERVED:
Kevin Rudd's character under scrutiny




News Weekly, April 28, 2007
The federal Opposition leader's apparent hypersensitivity to criticism is not a promising start to his leadership.

Kevin Rudd's plan for becoming Prime Minister was to adopt a small-target approach similar to that used by John Howard in the lead-up to the 1996 election.

The problem is Mr Howard had already been in public life for 22 years, had been Opposition leader during the 1980s and, before then, had had a long stint as Treasurer in the Fraser Government where he acquired the ironic nickname of “Honest John”.

He also had a solid career-long interest in economic and industrial-relations policy reform.

In short, Mr Howard was a known quantity; Mr Rudd was not.

Every politician must have a “story”. Mr Howard's was that of a goofy boy growing up in lower middle-class Sydney, working weekends pumping petrol at his father's garage, and listening to Robert Menzies in parliament on radio.

Apprenticeship

Paul Keating's was the Bankstown boy made good, the precocious NSW Labor Right teenager, who served his political apprenticeship at the feet of the Great Depression premier and hater, Jack Lang.

By contrast, the public's impression of Mr Rudd has been built pretty much on hundreds of 10-second television and radio grabs on the esoteric subject of foreign affairs.

It has been helped of course by a regular stint on the highly-rating Seven Network morning television program, Sunrise.

Certainly, Mr Rudd has always sounded intelligent, earnest and possesses a knack of not talking down to people. But little has been known about the man or his ideas.

Since becoming leader, Mr Rudd has tried to fill in some of the gaps by painting a picture of his tough childhood in Queensland, including an episode when his family was evicted from a share-farm after his father died.

Non-Queenslanders have also learnt that Mr Rudd held a high position in the Goss Labor Government.

The problem for Mr Rudd was that his memories of his childhood were not shared in their entirety by other members of his family.

This is not to say Mr Rudd was lying, because all childhood memories are cloudy and prone to exaggeration. But Mr Rudd's over-reaction to media questions about his childhood reveals much more about his character.

Similarly, Mr Rudd has emerged very badly from the Anzac Day “false dawn” affair after he beat up on news outlets for daring to suggest his version of events was wrong.

Over recent weeks it emerged that Sunrise had concocted a plan to broadcast an Anzac Day dawn service from Long Tan, featuring Mr Rudd and Liberal minister Joe Hockey.

The only problem was that the “dawn” service was to be brought forward to the pre-dawn darkness in Vietnam so that Channel 7 could profit from the peak ratings period in Australia.

In other words, the dawn was to be a false dawn in the name of ratings, and Vietnam veterans were naturally dismayed.

Mr Rudd's office was told of the Seven Network ruse, but Mr Rudd later denied any knowledge of it.

In fact, we now know that quite a lot of people in Mr Rudd's office knew about the Seven network's “false dawn”. They did not tell Mr Rudd, nor did they see it as an issue.

Ironically, the public learnt of the knowledge inside Mr Rudd's office through e-mails to staff.

This was exactly the method Mr Rudd used to prosecute the Howard Government's “knowledge” of the AWB scandal.

Mr Rudd has since been accused of having a glass jaw - a politician capable of dishing out but not of taking it.

It is still early days, but Mr Rudd's apparent hypersensitivity to criticism is not a good start to his leadership.

Fortunately for Mr Rudd, public antipathy towards the Howard Government's WorkChoices laws is so great that Mr Rudd's early stumbles don't seem to be making the slightest dent in his popularity.




























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