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"Rudd Fell due to Inability to Communicate"


Nov 14, 2010
Reaction score
Adelaide, South Australia
Political Leaning
Slightly Liberal
Op-ed from The Australian (this is part of the article, click to read it all):

AMID the torrent of explanations devoted to the downfall of Kevin Rudd, one issue cannot be escaped.

Had he been a better orator he'd most likely still be prime minister.

Having become Labor leader and then prime minister by pitching himself beyond the Labor caucus to the true believers on the Australian Left, Rudd not only failed to keep his followers inspired, he seemed to go out of his way to deflate them, starting with his plea on the very night of his victory to calm down and have a cup of tea and an Iced Vo-Vo.

I wasn't the only one to find it dispiriting. There were alternatives. For instance, having achieved the goal he'd set himself - of climbing from Everest base camp to government in under a year - he could have told the watching millions that Labor had just planted the flag of progress on the top of the very highest summit. Imagine the roar it would have received, and the energy it would have generated.

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Time after time, Rudd was warned by senior commentators and his own supporters to drop his long-winded, technocratic speaking style. The low point came when an editorial in The Australian gave him "0 out of 10 for delivery" for an address to the National Press Club and told him to peer beyond the lectern to the glazed looks in the audience.

But he ploughed on until there was no one left listening, which was a shame, because he actually had a lot left to say.

And therein lies an irony, because Rudd will be remembered mainly for a great speech: his uplifting apology to the stolen generations. It made him loved as few prime ministers before him. With more consistency of effort and style he may have held on to his followers.

There's a certain amount of truth to this. Who could forget The Chaser's 'In Due Season' song, parodying the 'Yes We Can' song by writing its equivalent about Rudd? (song itself starts at around 1:40 if you want to skip the banter about Obama)

I agree with the article... to a point. The inability of Rudd to capitalise on Australia not going into recession during the GFC was partly due to his inability to communicate. I agree that he had good ideas and as someone with an education in politics how he expressed himself really got to me- however I don't expect everyone to have the same sort of world view that a politics major has.

In addition to his inability to communicate, I will place the blame on a few factors:

1- The inability to shake the 'bad economic managers' tag. Beazley bungled in 1998 and 2001, handing over the label of good economic managers to the Liberal party without even putting up a decent fight. While getting through the GFC with a negligible level of debt should have caused Labor to get rid of it, a combination of poor communication and waste in government programs managed to put that monkey right there onto Labor's back. Ugh.

2- Flip flopping on the CPRS. This was just farcical and it continues to haunt Labor as Gillard flounders.

3- The RSPT. Why oh why would you go into an election with a tax increase? On the industry that you credit with not only getting Australia through the GFC but also provided the 'Big Boom' of 1999-2007? Stupid. This again was due to poor communication, but by this point nobody was listening anyway.

4- Their Hospital plan. Well, I wish this was more unpopular. What a dumb policy.

5- The Education Revolution. A small tip: if you try to revive the ghost of Whitlam, perhaps the best thing to do is to actually do something revolutionary, like Whitlam did. Putting the results of a Federally mandated test on the internet and underfunding a laptop scheme just looked pathetic.

6- New South Wales Labor, Victoria Labor and Queensland Labor. They are bad governments- why would you want to associate with them?

So yeah. For me it's not difficult to see why Rudd was eventually knifed, and the bad air has followed them into the minority government, colouring people's perception as Gillard tries desperately to herd cats.
I tend to agree with this. The problem with Rudd, and Gillard for that matter, is that neither has any charisma whatsoever. They do not stir the emotions of the Australian public. The Rudd/Gillard government has consistently demonstrated its coyness, its technocratic managerial style and its preoccupation with opinion polling, and it almost always cedes the political agenda to the Liberals on account of its poor organisational abilities and lack of capacity to communicate the decisions that it gets right.

Thanks to these deficiencies, the Government is constantly on the back foot, losing ground to both the Liberals and the radically worrisome Greens who have suddenly been afforded a major policymaking position within the Government.
I disagree that charisma is a big factor. The last PM with charisma I would argue was Hawke, because he has the 'common man' air (despite being a Rhodes scholar... but I digress). The biggest factor that caused Howard to be such a long term PM is that he was strong willed (and I've heard similar murmurs about Bush). From the waterfront dispute onwards (since his government was in a malaise before that) he was always on the front foot, pushing what he passoinately believed in. When I disagreed with him, I still respected the way he fought for his policies, regularly winning over those who were indifferent or undecided. You pointed out the government's coyness, and this is certainly a big factor.

Labor is also behaving too much live its state counterparts. State politics seems to attract second grade politicians, and the public in general is tiring of them. If you look at recent elections it speaks for itself, and the only reason why Labor (barely) won in SA and Tas is due to the ineptness of the Liberal party machine which is devouring itself slowly and will only win government by default (see the upcoming NSW election and the next SA election). Of course I highly doubt the libs will behave any different than the Labor politicians the replace, and we'll see what's happening in WA repeated nation-wide. Because of this, dissatisfaction natrually flows from state Labor (where people feel somewhat frustrated) towards federal Labor where there is more of a choice and variety available to them. This, of course, manifested itself in the last election with the Greens getting their first HOR seat.

Labor lost in 1996 because they alienated their working class base by appealing too much to the middle classes (with Keating obsessed with the arts, reconciliation, the republic etc- not that they're unimportant, but Labor's base cares more about keeping their job). The Greens risks causing the same problem for Labor now, by constantly derailing Labor's momentum by bringing up issues that haven't politically matured enough yet. Bob Brown is aware of his majorly increased power, I wish he would keep a steady head and be more cool and calm (like he is when the Greens have the balance of power in the Senate). Otherwise he'll deliver a Liberal government- and it's not likely they'll ever make a deal on the sort of issues he likes.
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