Prime minister Kevin Rudd (right) and his then treasurer Wayne Swan
Prime minister Kevin Rudd (right) and his then treasurer Wayne Swan

No love lost between Labor’s local heroes

EVIN Rudd has written a withering attack on Wayne Swan and scorned the ALP's move to divisive "class warfare" political activism.

Rudd reckons Swan campaigned and won the ALP national presidency after leaving Parliament because he was suffering PRDS, or political relevance deprivation syndrome.

"He should have left the Parliament years ago," the former prime minister writes in Kevin Rudd: The PM Years (Pan Macmillan).

Rudd adds: "On assuming office Swan immediately began engaging in the national political debate, seeking to rekindle class warfare and remodelled himself as Australia's answer to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

"For a man who as treasurer sold out the mining companies on the mining tax, there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy on that score.

"Not to mention the fact that for the party to lead the nation, we must also bring large swathes of small business, the middle class and aspirational Australians with us.''

I don't share Rudd's political views, and began reading the book out of a sense of duty. But boy oh boy and fair shake of the sauce bottle, he can write. Compared to most political tomes that drop like stones into the literary pond, Rudd's memoir is a towering edifice to political commentary.

 

The depth of the rift between Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan is in sharp relief in Rudd’s new book
The depth of the rift between Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan is in sharp relief in Rudd’s new book

 

You can sense his personal catharsis as he methodically details the triumphs and treacheries behind the most turbulent period in Australian political history.

Rudd is critical of reporters at the ABC and Sky and this paper. But which political leader hasn't given journalists an uppercut at some stage? (It was a different story in the early years when our editors swam in Kevin 07's pool and when he dropped by our Bowen Hills HQ for a chat, just as ScoMo did last week.)

Rudd and Swan attended Nambour State High and, as good mates in the ALP, their careers prospered in the Goss years. However in the book Rudd says he saw "liquid hatred" in the eyes of Julia Gillard and Swan when he did the impossible and took back the prime ministership.

His negative observations of his old pal Swanny are many, with Rudd sensationally revealing he didn't want Swan as Treasurer from the very beginning.

"I had wanted to appoint Lindsay Tanner. He had the cerebral horsepower. Wayne Swan did not.

"Tanner was great on his feet in parliament. Swan was wooden. Tanner was an economist. Swan was a party secretary whose interests in numbers were more to be found in Newspoll than the national accounts. But Swan was clever."

 

Rudd says he saw ‘liquid hatred’ in the eyes of Julia Gillard (right) and Swan.
Rudd says he saw ‘liquid hatred’ in the eyes of Julia Gillard (right) and Swan.

 

A few pages later comes another dig: "Swan was not a significant policy contributor."

Swan and other factional chieftains Stephen Conroy and Mark Arbib "remained the most destructive forces within the party".

Rudd chronicles the internecine war within Labor and the late-night Gillard challenge in 2010 and a "rancorous" meeting of the Queensland Right, whose votes he needed to survive.

Rudd says Bill Ludwig, the national president of the right-wing AWU, authorised his son Joe, the senator, and "factional factotum" senator Bernie Ripoll to argue in favour of a change to Gillard. Rudd was hurt when his friend Con Sciacca, the AWU factional leader, "admitted to having worked behind the scenes to secure my removal".

He says Sciacca was "bitterly disappointed" when he declined to appoint him ambassador to Italy, "which he believed was his birthright".

There could not be a more telling paragraph. A prime minister believes he was toppled by a wealthy, cigar-chomping Labor lawyer and union powerbroker simply because he was denied a nice retirement gig.

Rudd's gift is that he is not a hater. He forgave Con and had reconciled their friendship not long before he died last year.

 

Kevin Rudd (right) and Wayne Swan didn’t see eye-to-eye.
Kevin Rudd (right) and Wayne Swan didn’t see eye-to-eye.

 

He describes Swan's former chief-of-staff Jim Chalmers, now the Member for Rankin, as "Swan's principal spear-thrower against me".

Chalmers, he writes, was the principal co-ordinator of "Operation Carpet-bombing" against him in early 2012.

Rudd regained the leadership of the party after successfully re-challenging Gillard in June 2013.

"(Chalmers') worst nightmare came to pass when I was returned to the leadership," he says.

"He feared I would kill his preselection." Chalmers flew to Canberra to beg "clemency".

"He broke down in tears in front of me," Rudd claims in the book.

"I simply said to him, 'Jim why don't you just learn from this experience that sinking a knife into someone's shoulder blades is not the way to go for the future.' "

Rudd did not block Chalmers' preselection, but warned him against being the "permanent apprentice to the faceless men of the factions", and added, "For God's sake learn something from all this. You're a young man. You have a big future."

 

 

Former Labor prime ministers (from left) Paul Keating, Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke
Former Labor prime ministers (from left) Paul Keating, Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke

Egos for dinner

KEVIN Rudd and his wife Therese tried to heal rifts between the three former Labor Prime Ministers "with giant political egos".

Thrice he invited Gough and Margaret, Bob and Blanche and Paul Keating and his partner Julianne Newbould to dine at Kirribilli. "I wanted them to know that as prime ninister I respected what they had achieved for the country."

At one dinner Gough pointed to the lawn where he discovered deputy prime minister Jim Cairns "in flagrante delicto as fresco" with a woman.

As the wine flowed Bob and Paul linked arms and soon were "laughing their heads off" about past battles against John Howard and one another.

"It was important to me to do what I could to hold the fractious tribe known as the Australian Labor Party together. Blessed are the peacemakers, I thought," writes Rudd.

David Barbagallo is amping up the spin cycle.
David Barbagallo is amping up the spin cycle.

Come in spinners

AS PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk moves to block media questions and make herself less accessible to journalists, her chief of staff David Barbagallo is on a hiring spree, offering more jobs to spin doctors and policy advisers.

He wants to set up a "pool" of talent across seven job categories in ministerial offices.

Labor's Cabinet ministers are making so many blunders they need all the help they can get.

An ALDI supermarket site in Rockhampton was abandoned after the J.M. Kelly collapse.
An ALDI supermarket site in Rockhampton was abandoned after the J.M. Kelly collapse.

Laws broken?

QUESTIONS are being asked about whether the Government played any part in the collapse of the J.M. Kelly building group. Member for Burleigh Heads Michael Hart told Parliament there was a trail of outstanding debts with dozens of unpaid subcontractors and suppliers.

The collapse has hit work on the Rockhampton, Mackay and Stanthorpe hospitals, and schools at Mount Morgan and Mackay's Eimeo Road State School. Hart questioned the due diligence undertaken by government agencies that approved the work.

"From an accountability perspective, what action has been taken by the responsible minister (Mick de Brenni)?" he asked.

"When were the concerns about the company first known by him?"

Hart said questions also arise about "the extent of the knowledge of the involvement of the Member for Keppel (Brittany Lauga) in this debacle".

He also asked, "What is the nature of the loan she has received for her home from a building company her husband was forced to resign from, and where does this sit with Labor's developer donation laws?"

He noted members opposite were quick to deny wrongdoing but he felt duty-bound to raise the concerns so the matters could be appropriately examined.

Complaints by contractors about unpaid bills of more than $2 million date back to 2015.

Our robotic future was foretold in the book and movie I, Robot.
Our robotic future was foretold in the book and movie I, Robot.

 

I am feeling rather smug today. I've been reading articles by technology experts who say traditional middle-class professions are about to be wiped out by robots and machines that can measure things more accurately than humans. No more farmers, no more bricklayers, no more miners, no more train drivers. 

Mercifully, there will also be fewer judges and magistrates because there will be a computer program able to assess evidence dispassionately and deliver more objective sentences that meet community standards based on opinion polling. What could be fairer than that? Goodbye unions. Machines don't strike - or take lunch breaks.

 

 

A group attending a robotics conference in the US went to watch a house being built brick-by-brick by a robot that was cleverly programmed to squirt the cement and even leave spaces for windows and doors. The group returned the next morning to see the robot complete its mission. It already had. The robot had toiled silently in the dark because someone forgot to turn it off.

In the UK this week the Ministry of Defence said it would not build robotic soldiers saying LAWS - Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems - were unethical. Defence chiefs likened them to chemical weapons. I must say I find it a little scary when defence chiefs talk about ethics. In Singapore this week the cops rolled out a robot vaguely resembling R2D2 (pictured) that patrols the footpaths.

And why am I smug? There will never be a program written to replace the work of an opinionated columnist. However, I am a little edgy about news from Lisbon last week. A science show heard computer chips will be implanted in the human brain within 15 years.

Striking teachers’ outrage appears to be selective.
Striking teachers’ outrage appears to be selective.

Irritant of the week

HYPOCRITICAL teachers who plan a protest strike against the Nauru detention centre. Where were they when Labor filled the camps?



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