Australia’s new Prime Minister, and her predecessor

First of all I want to take this opportunity to wish Julia Gillard the very best for her new role as Australia’s first woman Prime Minister.  I’m personally delighted that a woman I admire so greatly – and with whom I have more in common than many – has ascended to the office of Prime Minister. I truly believe that Julia will be superb leader.  She has strength of will and a no-nonsense attitude that will collectively ensure she focuses on what matters and that she dismisses irrelevancies.  I am looking forward to a long and successful leadership of the Australian Labor Party and the country.

That said, I want to take a moment to reflect on the thoroughly decent man who was our most recent Prime Minister.  I was very sad to see Kevin Rudd’s speech at his removal from office.  There was a man who invested so much of his spirit and trust in the nation that had elected him in such a landslide victory in November, 2007. Kevin Rudd believed he had a duty to the people before any duty to his party.  There were problems in the recent past, but these primarily arose from his belief that the public were against the policies his party had forged.

He was clearly intensely proud of the achievements of his government – from his moments of triumph with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, to his efforts at reconciliation with National Sorry Day, and finally to his gentle, and decidedly human response to victims of the disastrous Black Saturday bushfires, Kevin Rudd wanted to do important things for the people of Australia, to facilitate a better life for all.

Of course, as is usually the case with leaders, he was tireless and obsessive, and his staff and colleagues probably found him exceedingly difficult. His temper was known and his attitude to members of public office or their staff was, at best, demanding.  His response to failure among such colleagues was witheringly perfunctory.  But these are common traits of a driven and self-made man. When an entrepreneur is passionate about their work, they pour their soul into it, and they don’t tolerate anything but the best that can be produced.  When such a man is elected to govern a nation, it is hardly surprising that he drives everyone around him to distraction and that his sympathy for anything but perfection is virtually non-existent.

I believe Kevin Rudd was deeply proud of his country and the intense work he poured in to his role as Prime Minister of Australia.  For him, being removed from office isn’t just humiliating, it is a loss which will generate a lasting and penetrating personal grief.  He will feel as though he has lost a lifetime of work. And I feel deeply sorry for him for that loss.

I believe history will look back on Kevin Rudd with great affection. He carried the ALP into government in 2007, and in his public role he was an impressive and diligent representative.  I was proud to have had him as my Prime Minister, and I hope that one day he will be able to accept thanks for the many good things he did during his time as the leader of a great nation.

Thanks Kev. I wish you all the very best.

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