Julia Gillard

Rudd's downfall a lesson for all politicians

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 June, 2010, 12:00am

Kevin Rudd wasn't a bad prime minister for Australia. He had good ideas and enacted an impressive list of worthy programmes. Yet the fact that he was forced from office yesterday wasn't surprising. His inability to clearly articulate his policies, coupled with an academic and bureaucratic demeanour, meant he had to go.

Such attributes aren't acceptable in the pressure-cooker world of open politics in the 21st century. The media glare is constant; every word and each action is recorded, videoed and printed. A misstep, no matter how small, can soon be blown out of proportion. In just six months, Rudd went from riding high in the opinion polls to fighting for his political life.

The A$70 billion (HK$473 billion) economic stimulus package he formulated enabled Australia to comfortably weather the global financial crisis. Jobs were created and programmes that improved facilities in schools and put solar panels on the roofs of homes and offices to cut dependency on fossil fuels were good. But because Rudd is such a bad salesman, his efforts fell flat. Opposition politicians and the media quickly focused on criticisms, giving a bad odour to what should have been sweet success.

At other times, Rudd was overly ambitious. He leapt enthusiastically into high-profile schemes without first properly testing opinion. Australia was signed up to carbon trading, but he was forced to backtrack; a tax on mining companies - the immediate cause of his downfall on Thursday - wasn't properly thought through. It was inevitable that his deputy, Julia Gillard - the country's first woman leader, who is personable, likeable and has no trouble explaining what is on her mind - should be his replacement.

Rudd's rise and fall is a lesson for politicians the world over - our own fledgling ones foremost among them. Being charismatic or ahead in opinion polls count for little. Promises and commitments must be adhered to, no matter what. Every step of the political way has to be clearly and openly explained. To do otherwise is to invite defeat.