Rudd still the phony, in his final speech

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians

Last night in the final, major speech of his political career, Kevin Rudd chose to speak of the values of the Australian democracy, and the great values of the Australian Labor Party – to avoid and deflect his own responsibility for his party’s defeat in the federal election.

Rudd did say, as leader, he accepted responsibility for the defeat, but his quick, glib delivery of that line revealed that he really didn’t believe it. It was a false acceptance of responsibility. He didn’t ‘cop it sweet’.

There were glimpses of authenticity in his speech conveyed through the quaver in his voice and pursed, quivering lips. It was as if, now that it was all over, he could let his facade slip a little, and show elements of his true self.

The adoring audience helped him maintain his composure in his last moments on the public stage. His doting, doe-eyed wife stood closely by him, giving him physical support. She had remembered the prior ‘final’ speech at Parliament House where Rudd had broken down and wept.  Then, he had turned to her for some rescue, for some spoken words that could be used to salvage the situation.

There were remnants of the 2010 speech, in this speech, with Rudd uttering  a few “I’m proud of the fact” statements. (versus the numerous iterations of it in 2010). However, that he stopped at three “I’m proud of the fact” statements revealed that the statements were just rote sound bites. That his heart really wasn’t in it. That he wasn’t that proud of himself.

Julia Gillard displayed dignity, in the final speech of her political career – and she will be long remembered for that.

In the final, major speech of his political career, Kevin Rudd chose to display misdirection and phoniness – and he will be long remembered for that.


In his speech last night as Prime Minister elect, Tony Abbott delivered a plodding, stiff, wooden, workmanlike performance. It seemed Peta Credlin – his chief of staff – had drilled and drilled Abbott in his delivery.  There was not an ‘um’ in earshot.

My read on Abbott’s delivery is that the more scripted the environment (as in this performance) the less ‘ums’ will be delivered. The more ad hoc the environment (for example, at an unplanned press conference with journalists grilling him) the more ‘ums’ will be uttered. Abbott is easily stunned, and becomes physically and verbally ill-at-ease, with unexpected interactions and encounters.

Unfortunately, over the next three years, our ears will be bored when the Prime Minister of Australia speaks. We’ll either get the wooden, plodding delivery with no ‘ums’, or the less stiff, ‘um-plagued’ delivery.

I suspect Credlin had also drilled out of Abbott any aspect of appearing triumphal. This was a positive. Choosing to omit his wife and daughters from the stage was curious. Maybe Abbott wanted to appear more masculine – without the women present – now that he was to be a leader of state.

Overall the speech lacked vision and a positive aspiration. Abbott referred again to the Menzies ‘we’re lifters not leaners’ comment, but his delivery of it was lifeless and rote. He still had to score points and remind the audience that he was going to stop the boats and end the carbon tax – even though campaigning now was over, and he had won the contest.

The speech appeared truncated as if Abbott wanted to get out of the limelight, and do something, anything – other than speaking.



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