Family leaps to Rudd's defence
JUST two years and seven months after being elected Prime Minister of Australia, former Nambour High student Kevin Rudd's reign is over.
Once polling as the country's most popular leader in its history, Mr Rudd yesterday fell on his sword rather than contest a party room leadership battle he could not win.
He went in to face his demise without even the support of former high school colleague and Treasurer Wayne Swan, who had arrived grinning triumphantly at the shoulder of new Labor leader and now Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard
But if the media, public and sections of his party were surprised by the speed of the bloody caucus room execution, not all members of his extended Sunshine Coast region family were as unaware.
While Mr Rudd's sister Loree, a Nambour nurse, didn't “want to talk about it”, his uncle, Kevin De Vere of Gympie said he had been expecting the day for the past two and half years.
Mr De Vere said it was clear very soon after the 2007 election that while his nephew had won the nation's confidence, “there was friction within the camp”.
The farmer said he started receiving calls from Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast within three months of the election from people describing themselves as journalists who wanted to know what he thought of Julia Gillard as a future leader.
Mr De Vere said the question would be slotted in with others about Mr Rudd's home life and upbringing.
“It was quite bizarre,'' he said.
“Why would they ask me? How would I know sitting up at Gympie. I took it then there was friction within the camp. Now I see little Swanny lined up with Gillard.”
Mr De Vere said his nephew would be disappointed but would “get up and go again”.
“He didn't have it easy as a kid. After his dad was killed when Kevin was 10 my sister went back to nursing to educate him even though she had breast cancer,'' he said.
The outgoing prime minister yesterday choked back tears as he listed among the achievements of his government the setting up of 20 regional cancer centres across the country.
“It is the biggest investment in cancer services Australia has seen,'' Mr Rudd said.
He also became emotional when mentioning the recent establishment of a National Organ Transplant Authority.
“I have an aortic valve borrowed from someone else,'' Mr Rudd said. “It tends to focus your mind and heart.''
Long-time Labor member on the Sunshine Coast and former state member of parliament Ray Barber said a complex number of factors had played a hand in yesterday's decision to dump Mr Rudd.
“The polls have been scary for marginal backbenchers for months,'' he said.
“I expect this will signal a change in the style of governance and increased Cabinet inclusiveness.
“A lot of people (in the party) were already barracking for her (Julia Gillard) and she comes with that in her favour.”
Mr Barber said the party now faced a huge task going into the election which would be held depending on Ms Gillard's reading of the electorate and party advice.
He said neither the Coalition nor Labor could rely on the large vote now parked with the Greens but that those preferences would eventually flow somewhere.
“Both sides need to pitch to the undecided voters. Neither side can count on them,'' he said.
Former Labor candidate and now Sunshine Coast councillor Debbie Blumel said the events of the past two days had come as a complete surprise.
She said the decision was very much a question of style over substance with the government already having a two-party preferred four per cent lead before ramping up its re-election campaign.
“Abbott's own appalling personal polling would suggest the government would be returned,'' Ms Blumel said.
She said the issue for Labor seemed to be more fundamental than any short-term polling that showed support slipping for Mr Rudd.
“I observed in Canberra last week that there seemed to be problems (within the party) with his style rather than substance,” she said.
“The electorate will be shocked to think a prime minister so popularly elected could be deposed so suddenly. I don't think the public saw this coming. There was no hanging offence.''
However, despite potential adverse public reaction, Ms Blumel remained confident the government would be re-elected.