Friday, December 01, 2006

Challenger Rudd

One of many many joys of working for Canberra Times in Parliament House is that I get to write parliamentary stories. I've done a profile of Kevin Rudd for tomorrow's paper - quite possibly Australia's next Prime Minister.

In an earlier year I used to produce Sunday Profile on the ABC so I found this interview an invaluable source of quotes.

The profile is below. I don't think I quite captured his competence and his intellect, nor his Christian faith, but I feel that in the 500 words available I captured something of him:

Kevin Rudd remembers well the moment that set him on the path to politics and now perhaps Australia’s Prime Ministership.

Aged just ten, he was sitting on a horse with his Dad at the gate of their dairy farm at Eumundi, about an hour north of Brisbane.

As he told ABC radio: “I was sitting at the gate of the property and looking down the road coming in from town and he said, ‘Well Kev, have you made up your mind yet?’ Like I'm about ten years old at this stage and I thought, ‘I'm not sure what you mean Dad’, and he said, ‘Well you're coming to that fork in the road’, and as a ten year old you look down the road and you see no fork, you don't know what the hell he's talking about. He said, ‘No have you made up your mind - the big choices in life, is it going to be beef or is going to be dairy?’”

Kevin Rudd says at that moment he discovered a big interest in China.

He obtained a first-class honours degree in Chinese from the ANU and jokes that he was “effectively unemployable other than by the Department of Foreign Affairs”. But he probably knew what he was doing. Getting to Canberra got him closer to politics and working for the Department kept him there (apart from time away serving in Stockholm and Beijing).

Kevin Rudd had joined the Labor Party while in high school in 1972 after seeing Gough Whitlam on television. His father had died in a car accident three years earlier and his mother and all four children had been evicted from the family farm.

“Being evicted actually was the harder bit because we were share farmers, we didn't own the property, so we buried Dad one day and got tossed off the property virtually the next with nowhere to go and no assets because you don't own a house if you're a share farmer. My mother had to retrain as a nurse to bring us up so she has semi-hero status in my life,” he said.

In 1988, while overseas with DFAT he applied for a job with the then leader of Queensland’s Labor Opposition Wayne Goss. Goss made him his Chief of Staff and they rode into office in 1989, ending 32-years of National-Liberal Party rule.

By 1996 he was one of Queensland’s top public servants running the Office of Cabinet, but frustrated. “I wanted to be able to speak out, to contribute to the national political debate and if you are a public servant or you are an advisor, you cannot,” he said. He stood for Labor in the election that brought John Howard to power federally and lost. He was successful 1n 1998.

Promoted to the front bench just three years later he says he got there by ability rather than by making friends. “I have a pretty basic view that is you go out and you do your job to the best of your ability the future tends to look after itself.”

He’ll discover that future on Monday.