Kevin Michael Rudd became the 26th Prime Minister of Australia in November 2007, after defeating John Howard (Prime Minister from 1996-2007) on every possible “likeability” rating known to modern politics. Rudd’s prime ministership started with a Bieber-esque frenzy as he apologised to indigenous Australians and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. He deftly navigated Australia through the GFC by spening money like there was no tomorrow to beat the global downturn.
Yet his ego was writing cheques his party couldn’t cash – from policies like Building the Education Revolution to the failed roof insulation scheme, the spending spree with which his government attempted to sustain economic growth was revealed to have done some harm, not just economic good. This truth exposed his autocratic approach to cabinet decision-making (his inner circle was nicknamed the “Gang of Four” – a kitchen cabinet that comprised Kevin Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner).
Like the disapointment that was Sex and the City 2, it appeared that Rudd had over-promised and under-delivered. His opinion polls took a dip and the Liberal party got a new leader in Tony Abbott. Rudd, feeling the pressure, dumped his troubled Emissions Trading Scheme policy. Having called climate change “the great moral and economic challenge of our time”, this move left voters questioning what he really believed in or stood for. His popularity kept sliding and in a move to improve the Federal budget position (as well as his own), with little-to-no consultation, Rudd announced that he would introduce a super-profits tax on the mining industry. This tax would effectively force mining companies to pay 40 per cent of their profits to ensure the community received a more consistent share in the returns of Australia’s non-renewable resources. Given the climate of economic uncertainty and Australia’s economic dependency on the resource sector, the industry, public and his cabinet turned and his leadership was made untenable by right wing factions in the Labor party.
Political correspondent, Bernard Keane, writing for Crikey, has perhap summed it up with brutal simplicity: “Rudd’s leadership was always based on his appeal to the electorate; while it’s easy to overplay his lack of traditional Labor background…Rudd’s only real strength was the perception he was a winner, and Labor was prepared to tolerate virtually anything from him as long as he remained a winner. His collapse in the polls removed that cover, exposing his micro-management, his office’s half-smart media management and his increasing political tone deafness to sceptical scrutiny”
Enter Julia Gillard.