Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin

Kevin Rudd began his bid to remain the member for Griffith—Labor’s safest Queensland seat—with a visit to a primary school, where he told the waiting pack of national journalists that during this election campaign he would speak only about local issues and would leave the big-picture issues to others.

This declaration was treated as big news by most of the so-called "old media" as well as on Twitter. Rudd retains the tens of thousands of Twitter followers he had when he was prime minister. He is a unique backbencher.

The only way he could concentrate only on local issues is to shut up most of the time. Shutting up most of the time is now expected of every backbencher on both sides of politics. If they are lucky and trusted by the campaign organisers, they are given permission to repeat that day’s talking points.

Can these rules apply to Kevin Rudd?

Like virtually all political leaders in the immediate aftermath of defeat, especially prime ministers, Rudd looked diminished physically, as if being politically assassinated by his Labor Party colleagues had resulted in him literally shrinking. Perhaps it was simply that the trauma caused by rejection and humiliation had caused weight loss. Perhaps the weight of defeat pressed down on his shoulders.

All of this of course is understandable. That’s why it is expected that defeated prime ministers – perhaps even opposition leaders – will leave parliament at the earliest opportunity and retreat into a period of private mourning. Kevin Rudd has decided, for reasons that are a mystery – unless you attribute to him base motives like a desire for revenge not just on Julia Gillard but on the Labor Party – to grieve in public.

He has decided to do so during an election campaign and while running for re-election, promising all the while that he will do everything he can to help the government win the poll. This is almost the stuff of tragedy, for the fact is that the best thing – indeed the only thing – Kevin Rudd could have done if he wanted to play a positive role in this campaign was to announce that he would not recontest the seat of Griffith and retreat into private grief.

Rudd, unless he is totally devoid of self-knowledge and incapable of reflecting on his motives for standing again for Griffith, must know that his vow of silence on issues beyond those directly relevant to his constituents is untenable.

What’s more, he must know that for more than a month he has committed to remaining publicly silent, even as he gets about his electorate, a wounded man, pained smile and forced bonhomie there for all to see, politically dead and yet somehow managing to pretend he still has a political pulse, as Gillard and other Labor ministers—all of whom he appointed—trash his legacy and his policies.

When she was asked recently whether Rudd had a point when he said that he had been elected by the Australian people and that it was for the Australian people to decide his political fate, Gillard said that in Australia’s parliamentary system prime ministers are not elected by the people, but by their party colleagues.

She is right. The people who elected Kevin Rudd in 2007 were the people enrolled to vote in Griffith. But what cannot be denied is that a large number of Australians feel like they voted for Rudd. This is entirely understandable. Given the way election campaigns are conducted, given that local members are now invariably silenced for the duration of election campaigns, it is no wonder that many Australians feel they were denied the chance to deliver their verdict on Kevin Rudd, prime minister.

It has been reported that Barack Obama, when told that Rudd had been deposed, referred to Rudd’s demise as a coup d’etat. It is likely that a reasonable number of Australians, even if they had come to believe that Rudd was a political dud, feel that way.

Rudd must know all this. He must know that his decision to recontest Griffith inevitably means that the manner in which his demise was engineered will likely remain a live issue for the duration of the campaign.

He must know that he will be a sort of walking, talking, bleeding wound for Labor, and Gillard in particular, even if he manages to remain a say-nothing local campaigner for the next month. And the chances of him doing so are next to zero. Surely he knows that as well.

Certainly Gillard knows it and the Labor campaign machine knows it. In politics, as in life generally, tragedy comes in different guises and revenge can be taken in many different and subtle ways.

There are unconfirmed reports this morning that Rudd will be offered a United Nations role as a senior advisor on climate change. If he is offered such a job, and if he really wants to move on beyond grief and revenge, and if he truly wants to do what he can to get the government re-elected, he will not recontest Griffith.

Read Michael Gawenda's previous election commentary piece here.

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I completely disagree with this article (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
Just because you lose the captaincy doesn't mean you are necessarily filled with bitterness and a desire for revenge against your team! I think Kevin is showing once again he has dignity and humility by staying on the team and continuing to represent his constituents. Good on him.
Why on earth Michael, would anyone offer Rudd such good advice? (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22.)
If it were accepted, the only ones to benefit would be those who, with Rudd, made and implemented the foolish policies which got Rudd to where he now finds himself.
Methinks Mr Rudd has been reading (or watching) Little Dorrit and sees himself as William Dorrit (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
The man cannot understand how he has arrived in the position he is in and seems to be hoping that through the efforts of his many Twitter believers he will once again stride the world's stage.
Michael Gawenda is correct, Kevin Rudd should not contest his seat (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22). But from what little we see in the papers that's probably what he is doing – running very close to dead.
No doubt in the future he will come out with more information about what he wants to do.
At the moment it seems that will probably be a UN position – just the organisation for someone with his abilities.
Given that the orders for Rudd to be axed came from unelected sources, and that he was the prime minister elected as Union Labor government leader in '07, I would, if I were him, not stand again for Labor.
But if by standing I damaged their chances of holding power then I too might carry on as he is doing (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
Also, it would annoy me to see my former deputy washing her hands of all the decisions she participated in as one of four inner cabinet members and often acting PM.
To hear her saying that she is 'moving on' and not wanting to look back at the mess, pointing her finger back at Rudd as she goes, does not give me any confidence in her character. Therefore I don't see her as being a worthy person to be Prime Minister of Australia. We may well have been better off with Rudd after all.
I used to live in Griffith (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22). When I moved into the electorate, I received a welcome letter from Mr Rudd's office with details about him, issues and a newsletter.
I remember seeing Mr Rudd sitting at his card table in Oxford St, Bulimba on the weekends. He was happy to have a chat with anyone who passed by. I'd sometimes sit down for a chat about issues and found him very congenial and well versed on local, national and international issues.
He used to write columns in the local rag. All in all, he was certainly a hard working politician who was interested in his electorate. I once emailed to ask for some information about privacy laws and his office contacted me within 24 hours to assist.
Whilst he was certainly a different figure to what Kevin the PM became, he was certainly dedicated. If he goes back to his old ways, then why wouldn't the voters of Griffith want him to stay on as their local member?
It's a bit rich for someone at the other end of the country to declare that he knows what's best for the voters of Griffith.
The Labor government would have been unelectable without Kevin in 2007 (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
Whilst technically he was voted into parliament by the people of Griffith, most swingers moved to Labour across the country directly because of Kevin. John Howard was once described as 'Lazarus with a triple bypass' – Maybe Kevin can be too. Kevin deserves the chance to be judged or supported by the people of Griffith.
I don't understand the point or reasoning of this article (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
Deal or no deal, Gillard did the only thing that would save her party from defeat. Liberal lost in 2007 because Costello failed to dethrone Howard. Why suffer the same misery?
If Gillard put her party before her loyalties and back room deals, is that not actually a plus? Isn't the fact that she saw the writing on the wall and took the matter in hand actually a plus?
I certainly admire Gillard as the Prime Minister determined to "move on" from the mess she, Rudd and others created. This is more responsible than Costello – the 'could have been, might have been, won't be' underachiever.
If Kevin wants to maximise his revenge he will resign after July 29 and before August 21. That way the Labor party won't be able to contest his seat. It will probably take that long for the job with the UN to come through. Indeed he might have even organised for that to happen.
Incidentally, Belinda Neal is also playing a strange game. I got a pamphlet from her in my mail box the other day. Lots of pictures of her and lots about all the 'wonderful' things she has done for the Central Coast but no mention of the Labor party anywhere. If she runs the probability that the Labor party could retain Robertson would reduce to near zero because she would probably outpoll Debroah O'Neil and there would be enough preferences to get Darren Jameson (Lib candidate) easily across the line.
I understand the advice. I thought it would be a good idea for Mr Rudd to step down (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
But from my experience, Mr Rudd chooses his own path and makes his own luck. He's had a big setback. But expect him to chart his own way onwards. And expect the path to be positive and ambitious.
Can we even really imagine what it would be like to be Mr Rudd at this time? There would be feelings of shock, dismay, failure, betrayal magnified so many times (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
And he's not even given a few weeks warning and time to pull his socks up. Let him have some space to work out what he has to do in Griffith and in his career.
Like some others I disagree with the premise of this article.
(See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22)
Far too many senior politicians resign from parliament after losing their ministerial positions thus denying their more inexperienced colleagues the benefit of their own experience and, hopefully, wisdom. Many in both major parties do so between elections, thereby acting in breach of their compact with their electors to, health permitting, serve for the parliamentary term. At the least, such a resigning politician should have to pay for the unnecessary by-election. Therefore, despite my political opposition to Rudd, I applaud and respect his decision to continue in parliament (assuming he wins Griffith!). His experience should be of value in the future and one hopes will set a good example to others. One should also note that this Australian resigning tendency is not shared by other democracies which value the wisdom of their political elders. Think, for example, of Churchill, McCain, Edward Kennedy, de Gaulle and, in our own country in olden times, Menzies and Billy Hughes.
It is rare, or impossible, for any person, in any career to move inexorably forward and suffer no back step. Second chances are essential for the mistakes we will all inevitably make. Be it manager, supervisor or team leader, the majority come back, frequently within the same firm, are reassigned, maybe re-managed, and succeed. A few do not. CEO's never do!
I have a message for Kevin Rudd: there is no dignity in contesting the seat of Griffith. You must know in your heart that you lost the support of the Labor caucus through your own actions, lack of judgement and style of leadership. Leaders are born, not made. If you want history to remember you well, go quietly with dignity, be remembered for saying sorry to the Aboriginal people rather than lingering in parliament looking injured and grieving in public. If you stay on in parliament your decision to do so will be viewed as sad and pathetic by some, brave and heroic by a few and self-serving and destabilising by the rest of the Australian people. If you truly want to serve the Labor Party leave now with dignity to explore new pastures, such as the United Nations. And remember, the Labor Party does not need another Mark Latham!
If my vote were to get Kevin over the post, I would shift house! (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22.)
In protest, and irrespective of their beliefs, I hope every Griffith voter feels the same as I do. We elect our Prime Minister, so let us decide who it is.
Don't let the rod of iron rule. If we do, we are really going backwards!
Lorraine's message (See Just go, Kevin, Conversation contribution, July 22) may well represent the wishes of the Labor factional warlords who staged the coup – but Kevin is entitled to seek a fresh mandate from his local community to represent them in the national parliament.
Now that Kevin chooses to run as a candidate for Labor it is up to the Labor Party to decide whether he should be endorsed. His conducts will be judged by the Australian people and so will the behaviour of the Labor Party (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
I don't care about Rudd though I care that Labor is prepared to accept that an ex-PM can be offered a high profile UN job while still serving as an ordinary member in parliament (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).
What conflict of interest is there in all of this. Will he now be offered a 'senior' position in the cabinet if Gillard wins for the Labor Party?
This seems hypocritical and insulting to the Australian voter. And of course, the UN job would attract a nice fat salary and probably some extra pension entitlements.
A previous note in Business Spectator said that the Qld voters were no longer interested in Rudd and now loved Gillard. I wonder when Gillard's background – sexuality, politics, religion and seemingly non-existent policies – will be scrutinised to the extent that Abbott's have been.
A Newspoll today had 68 per cent of respondents agreeing that Kevin Rudd should be given the Foreign Affairs ministry. I have a feeling that the people of Griffith will overwhelmingly support their member and elect him again – because they, like most Australians, believe in the principles of fair play and not kicking someone when they are down (See Griffith is no place to grieve, Kevin, July 22).