Kevin Rudd comes out in favour of gay marriage. Photo: Glenn Hunt
During the week, Kevin Rudd did his best to continue that Australian tradition of former prime ministers wanting to seem more moderate out of office than they ever did while in the top job.
On Tuesday, the man who brought Labor out of the political wilderness and on to electoral victory by flouting his own conservatism suddenly became more open-minded and broad-thinking - at least on one issue.
Rudd let it be known that after much thought and some consultation, he had changed his mind about same-sex marriage and he was now OK with the idea. This is despite voting against it last year and speaking out against it strongly and often during his prime ministership.
Explaining the rationale behind his thinking, the former PM talked of the issue in terms of a personal journey as well as one Australia was taking. He thinks the nation is now mature enough to accept marriage equality while also allowing churches to maintain their positions on conducting ceremonies.
''I believe that surely Australia has grown up enough in 2013 for the secular state to have its definition of marriage and religious institutions and the Christian church to have their definition of marriage and for them each to be able to conduct their own ceremonies,'' he said during a doorstop interview the morning after writing a blog about his backflip.
It was all very reasonable and well articulated. Rudd made a good, logical case for changing his views and bringing them into line with those of many other Australians. He spoke in terms of having previously been a dinosaur on the subject and, within his family at least, being the ''Last of the Mohicans'' in coming to a different position.
But these are words Rudd would never have spoken while he was prime minister, or even when opposition leader. Such a position has long been considered way too sensitive to risk a prime ministership over. It is far easier to state a more compassionate understanding about the issue of equality when not trying to gain or retain an address at The Lodge.
Malcolm Fraser portrays a more compassionate and vocal persona than he ever did while prime minister. He, along with Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard and even Gough Whitlam, has not been shy in publicly commentating on issues long after leaving office.
Australians have come to expect such commentary from those who once led their country. And while some people call for the former leaders to butt out, often adding slurs about relevance deprivation, the advice is often wise counsel and it is always good spectator sport. It makes our political discourse more interesting.
But what makes Rudd's ''elder statesman'' contributions even more fascinating is that even though he is out of office, he is not out of Parliament. He is in the rare position of being a former prime minister (and one whose views are still of interest to much of the wider electorate), but not a former MP.
It is highly likely Rudd was being more than a little mischievous in expressing his change of heart on gay marriage. Particularly so with these words: ''I'm sure in the case of the Prime Minister she's arrived at her position of opposition to same-sex marriage as a product of her own conscience and her own deliberations, but that's a matter for her.''
That is the dilemma for Julia Gillard. She may have replaced Rudd as Prime Minister, but she can't replace him as a former prime minister. And former prime ministers can't be stopped from having their say - even if they are still in Parliament and languishing on the backbench.