Kathy Marks: He was just doing the right thing

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Julia Gillard's ex has been stalking her for nearly two years. Now he has not only promised to leave her alone, but has re-cast himself in the unlikely role of peacemaker.

"It's well past time that these wounds were healed," Kevin Rudd sternly told the media, perhaps forgetting that he had been picking at them incessantly since June 2010.

From now on, Gillard's predecessor and thwarted would-be successor plans to devote himself, he said, to serving those Australians who rely on the Government: the unemployed, the disabled, the sick, children, and "our indigenous brothers and sisters".

Before doing that, though, the former Labor leader, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister - now plain "Kevin Rudd, backbencher", as TV captions remind us - could not resist listing his achievements in public life, including "rebirthing" Australia's relationship with Europe.

Then, like a pop star accepting an award, he thanked a long list of people, including the "brilliant bunch" at the Australian Council for International Agricultural Research, which apparently does great work with seeds, along with Indonesia's Marty Natalegawa, France's Alain Juppe and other foreign ministers around the world, all "good friends" of his.

It sounded suspiciously like another leadership campaign speech, but no, Rudd insisted that he will toil tirelessly to help get Gillard re-elected. As for his decision to challenge her, it was a selfless one, really. "I believed it was the right thing to do," he explained.

Apparently channelling Anna Bligh, the hapless Queensland Premier trying to fight a state election campaign in the middle of all this, he went on: "I knew it would be tough, but I wasn't about to squib it. We Queenslanders are made of tougher stuff than that."

It was vintage Rudd - boastful, presidential, faux folksy.

And before gliding off, cheesy smile fixed in place, he thanked his wife, Therese Rein - "Love you to bits" - and his children, including daughter Jessica, who will be having a baby in May, he confided, and son Nick, who is getting married in April. Because he's big on family, too, you know?

Then it was Gillard's turn to front the media, and she began, somewhat unexpectedly, by picking up the "isn't Kevin great?" theme. Rudd had led Australia through the global financial crisis, apologised to the Stolen Generations, been "an amazing advocate of Australia's interests on the world stage" and chalked up "many other remarkable achievements", she declared. Phew, maybe this man should be prime minister? But Gillard quickly made it plain that she was back in charge, now that Rudd's little tantrum was over. And she said she knew that voters had "had a gutful" of the Kevin and Julia show - a show that had "at times been ugly".

"I can assure you that this political drama is over," the Prime Minister said firmly, in words addressed to Rudd as much as to the public.

In a gutsy and gracious performance, Gillard also dealt with the two issues she knew would be at the forefront of people's minds.

One, can she beat Tony Abbott? "I absolutely believe united we can win the next election."

And how does she feel? "I feel impatient. Because I want to get on with the job of building this country's future."

So for now, a truce. As one Labor MP was quoted as saying in yesterday's Australian: "I am sure we will all hold hands and sing Kumbaya for a while, until it all starts again. If the polls change in our favour, then we will keep singing Kumbaya, but the reality of that is very unlikely."

- NZ Herald

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