Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 07:22 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 07:22 | SYDNEY

Kevin Rudd and that Lowy speech


Sam Roggeveen


25 June 2010 09:46

Sid Maher and Patricia Karvelas wrote yesterday in The Australian:

 In contributing to Mr Turnbull's demise, Mr Rudd opened the way for Mr Abbott to take the Liberal leadership. The new leader adopted a hardline "no" stance to all of the government's key policies and Mr Rudd's strategy of attempting to co-opt his opponents to his cause was brought to an end.

There's a contradiction in this passage. How could Mr Rudd have simultaneously contributed to former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's demise and tried to co-opt him?

In November last year, Rudd's Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, was in detailed negotiations with the Turnbull-led Opposition to get a mutually acceptable Emissions Trading Scheme bill passed. Rudd chose that exact moment to give the most aggressively partisan speech he could possibly have delivered, and the venue was the Lowy Institute.

It was a full-throated attack on the Opposition's climate change policy. He said the Opposition was guilty of 'cowardice' and a 'failure of leadership'. Rudd even questioned Malcolm Turnbull's climate change credentials while Turnbull was risking his political future to help get Rudd's legislation passed.

The enduring mystery of that speech is, what did he think it would achieve? If Mr Rudd genuinely wanted Penny Wong's negotiations with the Opposition to succeed, how could this speech have contributed to a constructive atmosphere for those negotiations?

The truth is, Rudd did too little to co-opt Turnbull. Instead, he went out of his way to make it difficult for Turnbull to win over his colleagues on the climate change bill. That led to the rise of Tony Abbott, who killed all possibility of compromise on an emissions trading scheme. You can trace a direct line from there to yesterday's downfall.