Rudd finally goes—the modern day Hannibal.

by on 16 November, 2013


by Bertel Torsten in Canberra


Perhaps the greatest military strategist of the ancient world was Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who famously crossed the Alps—elephants and all—in 218 BC and invaded Italy routing Roman armies and never loosing one significant battle for fifteen years.

He was recalled to Carthage in 203 BC to defend the city state against the vengeful Romans but met with complete disaster and the ancient Mediterranean power was smashed to smithereens. It was said of Hannibal that he won the battles but lost the war.

Much of the same could be said of Kevin Rudd. His 2007 victory over John Howard, the most formidable conservative leader since Sir Robert Menzies, was a major triumph but when he was recalled to try and defend a tottering and shambolic regime, his previously sure touch deserted him. The ALP regime came crashing down as Carthage did—the vote nationally was the lowest in a century.

And when it came to quit Parliament, Kevin proved—for the final time—that he could be the utter bastard that so many of his former colleagues had said he was after the poll defeat. He gave his Leader Bill Shorten a scant ten minutes notice of his farewell speech because, it seems, he couldn’t trust him not to leak it.

Shorten was reportedly heard swearing and cursing Rudd as he left the Chamber and one Labor insider was quoted as saying, “He was furious.”

Yet Shorten has every reason to be thankful. It is Rudd’s own new leadership rules that he enforced during his brief return to the prime ministership that will ensure that Shorten cannot, in reality, be challenged before the next election. If Rudd ever entertained some fantasy about a third go as Leader, the realisation that his own rules made that impossible would be the supreme irony.

Predictably, there were the usual outpourings of affection and appreciation from both sides of politics, although many—including those from Labor ranks—sounded confected. His successor/predecessor Julia Gillard tweeted, “Best wishes to Kevin, Therese & their family as they embark on the next stage if their lives. JG” which wasn’t gushing affection or sincere best wishes. It wasn’t meant to be.

Most, if not all, public utterances from Labor people sounded like the sort of cursory comments people write on “Happy Retirement” cards for a colleague they hardly knew or didn’t like—things like, “Good luck Fred from Mary in Accounts Payable.” 

To the bitter end, Rudd tried to defend his legacy. It was he, according to himself, who saved the ALP from a cataclysmic defeat. It recalled his concession speech on election night in September—a self-justifying self-pitying rant that went on for twenty-two minutes, twice the time of Abbott’s victory speech.

PM Abbott said some nice things about his predecessor that, if not wholly sincere, did show good taste and a sense of occasion. However, when asked if his government would give Rudd ajob, he delivered a very quick and emphatic “NO”.

It is likely that the people of Griffith will have to trudge back to the polls for the by-election next February and the outcome is far from certain for the ALP.

The well-informed Chief Political Correspondent for The Age, Mark Kenny, has already written, “ALP hard-heads are conceding defeat is likely if the Liberal-National Party’s Bill Glasson runs again.”

And it is virtually certain that Glasson will run. On election night he said he would consider running again if Rudd quit and the LNP is praying that he will. An appeal for campaign donations has already been launched and the money is pouring in.

It was on election night that Rudd showed his natural arrogance by sneering, “It would be un- prime ministerial of me to say, ‘Bill Glasson, eat your heart out’ so I won’t.”  

The final result showed that Glasson scored 36,481 votes to Rudd’s 34,878—a margin of more than 1,600. A novice candidate against a sitting Prime Minister who managed to achieve a two-party preferred swing of 5.45%, Glasson is in a strong position for the by-election if he runs.

Front runners for ALP selection include left faction lawyer Terri Butler and former State MP Di Farmer who managed to lose her Bulimba seat which is in the very core of Griffith in the 2012 State election to an unknown LNP candidate. Previously Bulimba had been a rock-solid Labor seat since Adam was in shorts.

Rudd rides into the political sunset with an annual indexed pension of $155,000, an office, an official car and security arrangements.

It is a rather better fate that that of Hannibal who, driven into exile after the destruction of Carthage, finally took poison saying, “Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man’s death.”

Perhaps Kevin might reflect on those words before he tries a new career of being a commentator on the Labor Party or worse, more dead wood on the UN gravy train.

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