Kevin Rudd: A volatile but polished politician

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  • Sunday, February 26, 2012
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  • SYDNEY, February 26, 2012 (AFP) - Seen as egotistical by certain colleagues, Kevin Rudd goes into a ballot for the leadership of Australia's ruling Labor party on Monday as the clear underdog but characteristically confident.
    That confidence is a trait that has underscored his career to date.
    Rudd was for years the darling of Australian politics before experiencing a rapid decline that saw him dumped as Labor leader in a brutal party-room coup by Julia Gillard in 2010.
    Party sources say he never accepted his relegation from prime minister to foreign minister and has always wanted his old job back.
    The speculation was confirmed when he sensationally resigned as the country's top diplomat in Washington during the week and announced his intention to reclaim the prime ministership.
    "I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected by them to become prime minister," he said, adding that if Gillard was in charge Labor would be crushed at elections next year.
    "Rightly or wrongly Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people and starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust."
    Rudd, who successfully underwent heart surgery last August to replace an aortic valve, made his bold assertion despite media tallies showing him likely to lose the party vote, which would see him relegated to the backbenches.
    Known for his volatile temper, the 54-year-old came from humble beginnings to lead the Labor Party and oust long-serving conservative leader John Howard by a landslide in 2007 to become prime minister.
    The fluent Mandarin speaker promised closer engagement with Asia, made a landmark apology to Australia's Aborigines for their treatment under white rule, and ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
    The assured, if bookish, leader unravelled Howard's harsh immigration policies and kept Australia recession-free throughout the financial crisis, something no other advanced economy achieved.
    With the opposition in disarray, Rudd consistently topped opinion polls in an enduring love affair with the Australian public, until the ardour cooled in 2010 and Gillard pounced.
    Rudd endured a tough childhood, forced to temporarily sleep in a car aged 11 when his family was evicted from their Queensland farm following his father's death in a road accident.
    He said that experience shaped the views on social justice that led him to run for federal parliament, where he was elected in 1998 at his second attempt.
    Before arriving in Canberra he was a senior bureaucrat for the state Labor government in Queensland and had a lengthy career as a diplomat, including postings to Stockholm and Beijing.
    He is married with three children and his wife Therese Rein is a millionaire businesswoman.
    In November 2007, he and Gillard together brought the Labor Party back to power in a landslide after 12 years in the political wilderness.
    The start of Rudd's downfall can be traced back to December 2009 when he failed to pass much-vaunted emissions trading laws, later shelving them until 2013 and badly damaging his credibility with voters.
    An immediate drop in the polls was compounded by a botched home insulation scheme that resulted in workers' deaths and a series of house fires.
    Rudd was further savaged in a very public dust-up with the powerful mining industry over plans for a new tax on resources profits which finally sparked his ouster
    Despite his dumping as prime minister Rudd remains popular with voters, consistently coming out on top as preferred leader ahead of Gillard, who is struggling in the polls.


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