Roxon calls Rudd a 'bastard'
Former attorney-general Nicola Roxon slams former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while giving the John Button Memorial Lecture in Melbourne on Wednesday.PT1M10S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vnkt 620 349 October 17, 2013
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Nicola Roxon has supplied a 6000-word answer to a question Kevin Rudd sometimes asked his colleagues – why does she hate me so much?
Labor has been as fervent in denouncing Rudd for the past three years as it was silent in acquiescing him in the preceding three years.
The former health minister in Rudd's government, now out of politics, said that while ''Kevin always treated me appropriately and respectfully'', she was ''frustrated beyond belief by his disorganisation and lack of strategy''.
Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd embrace Nicola Roxon after her valedictory speech. Photo: Andrew Meares
She cited examples. Many details are new, including her explanation of why Rudd's drive to reform hospitals bogged down.
''The real tragedy,'' she says, ''was that despite over 100 visits to hospitals . . . we had not been able to pin down Kevin to use [his] focus and phenomenal interest to move the debate, to test out our ideas, or even to resolve some key areas of contention (like the takeover of hospitals question, that Kevin favoured and I did not).''
Roxon presented her John Button Memorial Lecture to set out 10 tips on how to run a government. The lesson from her hospitals example: ''Good governments run best with good diaries.''
The tips are a constructive attempt at a ''lessons learnt'' exercise for future governments.
Perhaps her best summary of Rudd's governance problem was this: ''In 2007, Kevin was great at cut-through, then struggled at follow through.''
But while some detail is new, the information that Kevin was a ''bastard'' and chronically disorganised is not.
Labor has been as fervent in denouncing Rudd for the past three years as it was silent in acquiescing to him in the preceding three years.
So what is new? Roxon, refreshingly, took some responsibility for the faults of the Rudd government in which she was a cabinet minister. Roxon explained that Rudd would avoid for months and even years bringing to the cabinet some of the biggest issues of his government for resolution:
''In retrospect, many of us, me included, should have insisted on bringing on these discussions anyway, demanding strategic decisions be made by cabinet early enough to be useful.''
Roxon, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and the other cabinet ministers were not children or helpless bystanders. Roxon is right to accept some responsibility, and to concede that there might have been a pathway other than the sudden and irrevocable destruction of a prime minister.
But otherwise Roxon's speech is actually an illustration of the central problem that beset Labor in power for six years. One of her 10 tips is to ''keep yourself nice'' – to avoid personality politics and abuse. But the element of her speech getting all the attention is where she has done exactly this in her critiques of Rudd.
And this was Labor's central problem in power. It could never transcend the overweening ambitions and burning personal hatreds in its own ranks. And none of them was wholly innocent. The key question is not so much why they hate each other, but why couldn't they contain their feelings in the interests of their party and the country.