Kevin Michael Rudd (born 21 September 1957) is the 26th and current Prime Minister of Australia and federal leader of the centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP). Under Rudd's leadership, the Labor Party won the 2007 federal election on 24 November against the incumbent centre-right Liberal/National coalition government led by John Howard. The Rudd Ministry was sworn in by the Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, on 3 December 2007.
Rudd was born in Nambour, Queensland and grew up on a dairy farm in nearby Eumundi. Farm life, which required the use of horses and guns, is where he developed his life-long love of horse riding and shooting clay targets. His father, a share farmer and Country Party member, died when Rudd was 11 and the family was compelled to leave the farm under hardship. Rudd joined the Australian Labor Party in 1972 at the age of 15. He boarded at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane and was dux of Nambour State High School in 1974.
Rudd studied at the Australian National University in Canberra where he resided at Burgmann College and graduated with First Class Honours in Arts (Asian Studies). He majored in Chinese language and Chinese history, became proficient in Mandarin and acquired a Chinese alias, Lù Kèwén (or in ). Like most Chinese names given to westerners, Rudd's Chinese surname (Lù 陆) is partially based on the phonetics of his actual surname, Rudd (both possessing the vowel 'U' and the similar sounding alveolar lateral flap initial 'R/L') as well as being an actual Chinese name. Similarly, despite his Chinese given name (Kèwén 克文) closely resembling the official Chinese language transliteration of 'Kevin' (Kǎiwén 凯文), it is also a Chinese name in its own right. Rudd's thesis on Chinese democracy activist Wei Jingsheng was supervised by Pierre Ryckmans, the eminent Belgian-Australian Sinologist. During his studies Rudd cleaned the house of political commentator Laurie Oakes to earn money. In 1980 he continued his Chinese studies at the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. Delivering the annual Gough Whitlam Lecture at Sydney University on "The Reforming Centre of Australian Politics" in 2008, Rudd praised the former Labor Prime Minister for implementing educational reforms, saying he was:
... a kid who lived Gough Whitlam's dream that every child should have a desk with a lamp on it where he or she could study. A kid whose mum told him after the 1972 election that it might just now be possible for the likes of him to go to university. A kid from the country of no particular means and of no political pedigree who could therefore dream that one day he could make a contribution to our national political life.
In 1981, Rudd married Thérèse Rein whom he had met at a gathering of the Australian Student Christian Movement during his university years. They have three children: Jessica (born 1984), Nicholas (born 1986) and Marcus (born 1993).
Returning to Australia in 1988, he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Labor Opposition Leader in Queensland, Wayne Goss. He became Chief of Staff to the Premier when the Labor party won office in 1989, a position he held until 1992, when Goss appointed him Director-General of the Office of Cabinet. In this position Rudd was arguably Queensland's most powerful bureaucrat. In this role he presided over a number of reforms including development of a national program for teaching foreign languages in schools. Rudd was influential in both promoting a policy of developing an Asian languages and cultures program which was unanimously accepted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 1992 and later chaired a high level Working Group which provided the foundation of the strategy in its report, which is frequently cited as "the Rudd Report".
After the Goss government lost office in 1995, Rudd was hired as a Senior China Consultant by the accounting firm KPMG Australia. He held this position while unsuccessfully contesting the federal seat of Griffith at the 1996 federal election. He contested the seat again at the 1998 election and won.
A member of parliament since 1998, Rudd was promoted to the Opposition front bench following the 2001 election and appointed Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 2002 he met with British intelligence and helped define the position Labor would take in regards to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
There is no debate or dispute as to whether Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. He does. There's no dispute as whether he's in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. He is.
Well, what Secretary Powell and the US seems to have said is that he now has grave doubts about the accuracy of the case he put to the United Nations about the claim that Iraq possessed biological weapons laboratories - the so-called mobile trailers. And here in Australia, that formed also part of the government's argument on the war. I think what it does is it adds to the fabric of how the Australian people were misled about the reasons for going to war.
Rudd's policy experience and parliamentary performances during the Iraq war made him one of the better known members of the Labor front bench. When Opposition Leader Simon Crean was challenged by his predecessor Kim Beazley in June, Rudd did not publicly commit himself to either candidate. When Crean finally resigned in late November, Rudd was considered a possible candidate for the Labor leadership, however, he announced that he would not run in the leadership ballot, and would instead vote for Kim Beazley.
Rudd was predicted by some commentators to be demoted or moved as a result of his support for Beazley following the election of Mark Latham as Leader, but he retained his portfolio. Relations between Latham and Rudd deteriorated during 2004, especially after Latham made his pledge to withdraw all Australian forces from Iraq by Christmas 2004 without consulting Rudd. After Latham failed to win the October 2004 federal election, Rudd was again spoken of as a possible alternative leader. He retained his foreign affairs portfolio and disavowed any intention of challenging Latham.
When Latham suddenly resigned in January 2005, Rudd was visiting Indonesia and refused to say whether he would be a candidate for the Labor leadership. Such a candidacy would have required him to run against Beazley, his factional colleague. "The important thing for me to do is to consult with my colleagues in the party", he said. After returning from Indonesia, Rudd consulted with Labor MPs in Sydney and Melbourne and announced that he would not contest the leadership. Kim Beazley was subsequently elected leader.
In June 2005 Rudd was given expanded responsibilities as the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security and, also, the Shadow Minister for Trade.
At his first press conference as leader, having thanked Beazley and former deputy leader Jenny Macklin, Rudd said he would offer a "new style of leadership", and would be an "alternative, not just an echo" of the Howard government. He outlined the areas of industrial relations, the war in Iraq, climate change, Australian federalism, social justice, and the future of Australia's manufacturing industry as major policy concerns. Rudd also stressed his long experience in state government, as a diplomat and also in business before entering federal politics.
Rudd and the ALP soon overtook the government in both party and leadership polling. The new leader maintained a high media profile with major announcements on federalism, climate change, broadband Internet and the domestic car industry.
Since 2002, Rudd appeared regularly in interviews and topical discussions on the popular breakfast television program Sunrise, along with federal Liberal MP Joe Hockey. This was credited with helping raise Rudd's public profile. Rudd and Hockey ended these appearances in April 2007 citing the increasing political pressures of an election year. On 21 October 2007 Rudd presented strongly in a televised debate against incumbent prime minister John Howard.
On 19 August 2007, it was revealed that Rudd, with New York Post editor Col Allan and Labor backbencher Warren Snowdon, had briefly visited a strip club in New York in September 2003. When he realised it was a strip club, he left. The incident generated a lot of media coverage, but made no impact on Rudd's popularity in the polls. Indeed, some people believe that the incident may have enabled Rudd to appear "more human" and lifted his popularity.
On the evening of 24 November 2007, some fifty weeks since Rudd became Labor leader, John Howard held a late night press conference conceding that the Coalition had lost the right to govern. Shortly afterwards, Rudd made his victory speech as Prime Minister-elect, saying he would "be a Prime Minister for all Australians." Labor's win was coined a 'Ruddslide' by the media and was underpinned by the considerable support from Rudd's home state of Queensland, with the state result recording a two party preferred swing of 7.53 percent. The nationwide swing was 5.44 percent to Labor, the 3rd largest swing at a federal election since two party estimates began in 1949.
The next day, Rudd announced he and wife Thérèse Rein would live in The Lodge, the Prime Minister's official residence in Canberra, and only use Kirribilli House while on official business in Sydney. As foreshadowed during the election campaign, on 29 November Rudd directly chose his frontbench, breaking with more than a century of Labor tradition whereby the frontbench was chosen by party factions.
Kevin Rudd is only the second Queenslander to lead his party to a federal election victory, the first being Andrew Fisher almost a century earlier, in 1910 (although Fisher had first become Prime Minister in 1908 when the Alfred Deakin government resigned). Queenslanders Arthur Fadden (1941) and Frank Forde (1945) were also Prime Ministers, but only for a short period between elections - in Fadden's case the incumbent Robert Menzies resigned; in Forde's case the incumbent John Curtin died. Rudd is also the first Prime Minister since World War II not to come from either New South Wales or Victoria; the last were Curtin (Western Australia) and Forde (Queensland) in 1945.
Labor governs with 83 of the 150 lower house (House of Representatives) seats. In the upper house (Senate), Labor holds 32 of the 76 seats. An additional seven votes are required to pass legislation, from either the 32 Liberals, or from the crossbench of 12, made up of five Greens, four Nationals and one CLP, Family First's Steve Fielding, and independent Nick Xenophon.
On 13 February 2008 Rudd fulfilled an election promise to apologise to Indigenous Australians for the stolen generation as the parliament's first order of business. The apology was well received, and most criticisms were of Labor for refusing to provide victims with monetary compensation. Rudd pledged the government to bridging the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australian health, education and living conditions, with changes to the narrow negotiation process in resolving native title issues and transparency in indigenous spending. Despite bipartisan support for the apology, two of Rudd's senior staff joined in on turning their backs part way through the Opposition Leader's reply. Rudd did not apologise for their actions, but said that he would require them to do so in writing.
Rudd began a 17-day international tour in March 2008, meeting with government leaders in the United States, Europe and China including US President George W Bush, presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton, spoke with Barack Obama, and met with Queen Elizabeth II and President of The People's Republic of China Hu Jintao. His knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and experience as a diplomat in China have been acknowledged by leaders, with US President George Bush stating that "It's clear when you talk to [Rudd], he is an expert on China. He also addressed students at Peking University, Beijing in Mandarin. In his absence Julia Gillard served as Acting Prime Minister, the first female to do so in Australia.
Announced in July 2008, Labor proposed changes to mandatory detention. Unauthorised arrivals in excised areas will still be subject to mandatory detention and processed offshore. However, unauthorised arrivals will have their cases reviewed every three months, be able to access legal advice and be able to apply for an independent review of adverse decisions. Children, and where possible their families, will not be detained. The process will be scrutinised by the Immigration Ombudsman.
Competitive markets are massive and generally efficient generators of economic wealth. They must therefore have a central place in the management of the economy. But markets sometimes fail, requiring direct government intervention through instruments such as industry policy. There are also areas where the public good dictates that there should be no market at all. We are not afraid of a vision in the Labor Party, but nor are we afraid of doing the hard policy yards necessary to turn that vision into reality. Parties of the Centre Left around the world are wrestling with a similar challenge—the creation of a competitive economy while advancing the overriding imperative of a just society. Some call this the `third way'. The nomenclature is unimportant. What is important is that it is a repudiation of Thatcherism and its Australian derivatives represented opposite. It is in fact a new formulation of the nation's economic and social imperatives.Rudd is critical of free market economists such as Friedrich Hayek, although Rudd describes himself as "basically a conservative when it comes to questions of public financial management", pointing to his slashing of public service jobs as a Queensland governmental advisor.
In The Longest Decade by George Megalogenis, Rudd reflected on his views of economic reform undertaken in the past couple of decades:
The Hawke and Keating governments delivered a massive program of economic reform, and they didn't shy away from taking on their own political base when they knew it was in the national interest. Think tariffs. Think cuts to the marginal tax rate. Think enterprise bargaining. Think how unpopular all of those were with the trade union movement of Australia. Mr Howard, on the other hand, never took on his own political base in the prosecution of any significant economic reform. His reform agenda never moved out of the ideological straitjacket of the 1970s and 1980s. Think industrial relations. Think consumption tax. And think also of the explosion in untargeted welfare... When the economic circumstances change, and the demands of a competitive economy change, Mr Howard never adjusted and never took the lead when it came to new ideas. Look at climate change. Look at infrastructure policy. Look at education policy. Look at early childhood education. There's a mountain of economic evidence about the importance of those policy domains to Australia's future.
As shadow foreign minister, Rudd reformulated Labor's foreign policy in terms of "Three Pillars": engagement with the UN, engagement with Asia, and the US alliance.
Although disagreeing with the original commitment to the Iraq War, Rudd supports the continued deployment of Australian troops in Iraq, but not the continued deployment of combat troops. Rudd, in his role as shadow foreign minister had written a letter in November 2003 to Prime Minister John Howard offering policy ideas after the fall of Baghdad. Among his recommendations were a deployment of trainers for the New Iraqi army, and using the Australian Electoral Commission to help Iraq stage elections. However, Labor pledged in 2007 to replace 550 existing combat troops with new troops serving training and border security roles (possibly stationed in other countries around the Middle East), with a continued presence of over 1,000 Australian troops stationed in Iraq (in 2007, there were 1,575 Australian military personnel operating within Iraq). Rudd is also in favour of Australia's military presence in Afghanistan.
Australia's official declaration today that we will become a member of the Kyoto Protocol is a significant step forward in our country's efforts to fight climate change domestically - and with the international community.
In October, the then Prime Minister John Howard said that Labor's policy on climate change negotiations had no significant differences to the Liberals' policy. The Liberal policy was a 15 percent cut in emissions by 2020, whilst the Labor policy is a 20 percent cut in emissions by 2020.
I have a pretty basic view on this, as reflected in the position adopted by our party, and that is, that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In a conscience vote in 2006, Rudd supported legislation to transfer regulatory authority for the abortion-inducing drug RU486 from the federal Minister For Health to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, removing the minister's veto on the use of RU486 in Australia.
Rudd and his family attend the Anglican church of St John the Baptist in Bulimba in his electorate. Although raised a Roman Catholic, Rudd began attending Anglican services in the 1980s with his wife. Like John Howard, Rudd has addressed congregations of the Hillsong Church.
"Personal faith also provides a compass point for my life. It also therefore helps shape the view I try to bring to the public space as well."
Rudd is the mainstay of the parliamentary prayer group in Parliament House, Canberra. He is vocal about his Christianity and has given a number of prominent interviews to the Australian religious press on the topic. Rudd has defended church representatives engaging with policy debates, particularly with respect to WorkChoices legislation, climate change, global poverty, therapeutic cloning and asylum seekers. In an essay in The Monthly, he argued:
A [truly] Christian perspective on contemporary policy debates may not prevail. It must nonetheless be argued. And once heard, it must be weighed, together with other arguments from different philosophical traditions, in a fully contestable secular polity. A Christian perspective, informed by a social gospel or Christian socialist tradition, should not be rejected contemptuously by secular politicians as if these views are an unwelcome intrusion into the political sphere. If the churches are barred from participating in the great debates about the values that ultimately underpin our society, our economy and our polity, then we have reached a very strange place indeed.
He cites Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a personal inspiration in this regard.
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