Tag Archives: Kevin Rudd

Labor, heal your hate

A Writer’s appeal to progressives.

I WAS reminded recently about the depth of hatred that courses through the Australian Labor Party, by a friend who admitted she is a ‘hater’ in the Paul Keating tradition. Her special kind of venom is reserved for Kevin Rudd.

She’s not a lonely hater, far from it. Plenty of others rail on Facebook about Bill Shorten’s shortcomings as an opposition leader, with a vitriol bordering on hatred.

Still another camp exists – the Julia Gillard haters – especially those in the Deep North who won’t ever forget what she did to their Kevin.

“Imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet.”

In an arc from Whitlam’s sacking, to Keating’s toppling of Hawke and Gillard’s of Rudd, a ripple of Labor-red retribution runs through the left-leaning party and its followers so pervasively I wonder why anyone ever agrees to lead the rabble.

Whenever a Rudd or Gillard hater comes out of the woodwork, a rarely expressed question forms for me: If you hated (insert whichever Labor leader you like) so much, why did you vote for them?

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? Did all the Rudd haters vote for John Howard in 2007? Did all the Gillard haters vote for Tony Abbott in 2010? Does the hate exist before these people lead the country, or does it develop later?

Maybe with all my questions I’m missing the hate’s purpose. Is Labor’s pulsating hating principle some kind of energy source to help progressives ‘take it up’ to conservatives?

LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).
LABORING THE FRIENDSHIP Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, 1991 (Photo: Peter Morris).

If so, it’s not working. Since Paul Keating was popularly elected in his own right, all hate seems to have done for the party is truncate ALP leadership regimes. After acrimony borne of fundamental internal divisions, they collapse after about three years in power.

At its best, Labor’s ability to hate moves mountains. It toppled Work Choices, John Howard’s attempt to obliterate the workplace standards delivered to this country by the Trade Union movement.

Labor’s hatred of Malcolm Fraser’s meddling in Medibank ushered-in Medicare, one of the defining ALP social reforms.

And then there is just about everything Gough Whitlam did with his single-handed hatred of conservatism, from fault-free divorce to laws allowing home brewing.

All these were fine, upstanding examples of collective hatred directed at Labor’s common enemies.

Thanks to many in the Australian media we get regular encouragement for our Labor hate. For every David Marr and his revelations about ‘Rudd rage’ there is a Michelle Grattan calling for Julia Gillard to quit.

Some make no secret of their contempt. Chris Uhlmann springs to mind, whose Rudd hatred became patently obvious at the press conference the day KRudd became Prime Minister for the second time.

Someone – perhaps Kevin – had asked the ABC to televise each journalist as they asked their questions, an interesting angle which seemed to keep the media nice.

“Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?”

When it came to Uhlmann, he turned Rudd’s embryonic policy on asylum seekers into war with Indonesia in a heartbeat, long before the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders ever hit the airwaves.

An attempt to shape the news, make the news, or just throw Rudd off? Whatever it was, the Rudd haters must have loved it, but it took a non-hater to see it.

I’ve had my own hate happening, I admit. The night of the 2007 election my husband and I watched the ABC, and once it became clear Howard was out, I said to Richard: “Why can’t we have her as Prime Minister?”

“Who, Julia Gillard?” he said.

“She’s very well spoken, she’s well turned-out and I like what she says; and she’s not religious.”

We shrugged and went to bed, happy the conservatives were defeated.

Apologies to the Stolen Generations, the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and an approaching price on carbon necessarily preceded the wave of legislative changes that impacted very positively on our household, when Kevin Rudd kept his election promise and changed over 100 laws that discriminated against same-sex-attracted de-facto couples in Australia.

Nevertheless, I celebrated on the day Gillard became Prime Minister, not because I hated Rudd, but because I felt Australia had grown up a little. Naively I thought others would see things the same way, but when I saw people upset at the news, genuinely confused and angry, I thought shit, this isn’t good.

So I turned my thoughts to the possibility this new atheist leader in a de-facto relationship would usher in marriage equality, since she seemed to understand the need for choice when it came to relationships, right?

Wrong.

Because she never explained her anti-marriage stance on an issue of equality, I hated Julia Gillard, for a while.

But I still voted for her. I would have voted for her again in 2013. Instead I voted for Rudd, even though it was boring as heck that he got back in, and it did no-one any good, but I wasn’t ever going to vote for the alternative.

Which makes me wonder: Did a whole stack of ALP Rudd haters actually vote for Abbott at the 2013 federal election?

To keep your ideology away from power to spite them … now that is hatred.

IT'S TIME to busy the hatchet, but not in one another's back ...
IT’S TIME to bury the hatchet, but not in one another’s back.

I say it’s time to heal your hate, Labor supporters. That means marrying Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard into one awkward, stumbling, problematic but progressive six-year relationship which saw great social advancements – from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to record numbers of women in cabinet – all of which is being swiftly undone while we keep hating one or the other of the leaders who brought it all into being.

To encourage you in your hate healing, imagine what you’ll do when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd eventually bury the hatchet. If Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser could find common ground after all that went down between them, it’s entirely possible for Gillard and Rudd to come to terms with the position each put the other in.

And remember, both of them gave you something, and that is not reason to hate, it’s great cause for hope.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

This article appears in Michael’s eBook Creating Waves: Critical takes on culture and politics.

The rainbow football

UnknownA Writer writes No Fibs.

IN July 2013 I started contributing to independent Australian news site No Fibs, a journey which began with the controversial issue of marriage equality.

The 2013 federal election was yet to be called, but former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had toppled Julia Gillard and done something totally unexpected – he’d come out in support of same-sex marriage.

When I approached former Fairfax journalist and one-time editor of pioneer online news site Webdiary, and editor-in-chief of No Fibs, Margo Kingston, I felt in my gut that marriage equality was going to be pivotal election policy ground, and asked her why there was nothing on it at No Fibs.

In her generous, proactive manner, Margo asked me to step-up and write something for the site.

What’s interesting about this piece, written a year ago, is that not much has changed for marriage equality in the interim: it’s still a political football.

Even though the government has changed and we have a few more federal MPs who support same-sex marriage, the issue is still being booted up and down the field, waiting for a politician of any stripe to take the free kick this majority-supported human right will be.

SAVVY SENATOR Senator Sue Boyce shows the Senate what an equality conscience looks like.
SAVVY SENATOR The LNP’s Sue Boyce shows the Senate what an equality conscience looks like.

The chances of marriage equality in Australia.

SUPPORTERS of marriage equality in Australia would have been forgiven for thinking the issue was dead in the water under the 43rd Parliament.

We endured Tony Abbott’s predictable religious opposition. We winced at Julia Gillard’s incomprehensible atheist mantra against relationship freedom. We shed tears as Penny Wong assured us of a more enlightened tomorrow.

Then something happened which nobody predicted. Kevin Rudd, with one cogent blog post, became the highest-profile Australian politician, and Christian, to get behind marriage equality.

Before he was reinstated as Prime Minister, this news remained a hopeful anecdote. Now it’s fast becoming the point of difference which may wedge Rudd into a win at the ballot box.

Galaxy polling from last weekend indicates 11 per cent of polled Coalition voters would back Kevin Rudd and Labor at the election, based on his support for same-sex marriage.

So, what are the chances of marriage equality under the 44th Parliament?

“It does give you anxiety to know that holding hands in public is still considered by some to be a political act.”

In November 2011, at the ALP National conference, two things happened which defined the marriage equality credentials of the ALP. Support for same-sex marriage was adopted, but also a subsequent motion allowing Labor ministers a conscience vote should a bill come before parliament.

This double-edged sword was wielded in 2012, when the Government voted on marriage equality with their consciences, while the Opposition voted with Tony Abbott’s. The bill to amend the Marriage Act was resoundingly, and predictably, lost.

The ALP’s conscience vote on same-sex marriage cannot be changed at party level before their next national conference, which is why Rudd’s new front bench is busy saying Tony Abbott’s grip on his ministers’ views is heavy-handed.

So let’s look at Abbott’s stance. Despite the coming-out of his lesbian sister Christine Forster, Tony Abbott has remained unconvinced by her deeply held desire to see equality in her country, let alone within her own family.

The Abbott daughters talked about Dad’s outmoded opposition to it, and Christopher Pyne subsequently made suggestions that the Coalition party room would have no commitment for or against marriage equality, after the election.

Progressive voters, quite rightly, saw these as so many dangling carrots. When pressed, Abbott dismissed the suggestion there was a need to define marriage equality as an important issue for a potential Coalition government, citing how close his views were to Prime Minister Gillard’s.

Marriage equality never had less of a chance in Australia, until Rudd’s backflip.

Most of the religious themes of his blog post were lost on me.

As someone who gave a live submission to the Human Rights Commission’s 2006 Same Sex: Same Entitlements hearing, which was used by Rudd and his first cabinet to remove almost 100 pieces of legislation discriminating against same-sex couples, I knew he’d long had all he needed to understand that the case for same-sex marriage was already a human rights no-brainer.

TALK ABOUT KEVIN KRudd's backflip on marriage equality was a surprise.
TALK ABOUT KEVIN KRudd’s backflip on marriage equality was a surprise.

But it wasn’t what he wrote which held my attention, it was what he said at press conferences, stating a desire to end the “unnecessary angst” amongst a large proportion of the community.

It’s an interesting word, angst, but it’s a great description of the stasis an increasing number of same-sex couples endure while we wait for our leaders to sort out marriage equality.

We are encouraged into joint financial commitments, and all the customs and commitment inherent in extended family life, yet we are denied access to the fundamental legal and symbolic bedrock of loving relationships, if we find we want or need one.

It does give you angst to know that if something happened to your partner, through death or incapacitation, even a distant relative could make a case for financial gain, while you are left chasing statutory declarations warranting what a simple marriage certificate could.

It does give you anxiety to know that holding hands in public is still considered by some to be a political act, knowing that we should have secured marriage equality long ago in order to start the real work: changing hearts and minds, under the protection of full equality enshrined in law.

Kevin also did something which added to my confidence in him on this issue. He stood up to his sister.

Loree Rudd, of Nambour, Queensland, infamously ditched her ALP membership in 2011 when the party adopted same-sex marriage. She’s since renewed it, for obvious reasons, but her brother told her about his change of heart on the issue the night before he made it public.

If he explained it to her the same way as he explained it to us, I imagine Kevin reminded Loree that Australia is a secular nation in which religious conviction is secondary to social reform. That realisation, matched with his vocal reassurances to Australia’s same-sex community, is what you call leadership by any definition.

Newly minted Prime Minister Rudd and his Deputy Anthony Albanese have since affirmed their commitment to making marriage equality a reality in Australia, even suggesting alternatives if the Coalition remains unchanged in its opposition to conscience voting.

Despite many in its ranks making their support for marriage equality public, including self-proclaimed preferred Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, and Senator Sue Boyce’s decision to cross the floor and vote for it, Tony Abbott and the Coalition remain locked into opposition to same-sex marriage in Australia.

A clear choice has presented itself where there so recently was none.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.