Alan Duff: Cult of Kev, population ... himself

From public spat with this writer to UN delusion, there's no end to hubris.
Kevin Rudd's self-importance seems to drive every decision. Photo / AP
Kevin Rudd's self-importance seems to drive every decision. Photo / AP

The Australian media keep asking how to shut Kevvy up. This is ever-seething ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose latest public peeve is the incumbent PM Malcolm Turnbull who Rudd did the dirty on - again - by releasing private letters between them.

In the last five years being PM in Aussie has been precarious - Julia Gillard knifed by Rudd who got knifed as much by his own hubris as by politician mates; Gillard's turn for the knives and Rudd back in again, followed by Tony Abbott who got knifed by the current office-holder.

Rudd wanted to be head of the United Nations and thought he had Turnbull's backing. Turned out he didn't. Being an egomaniac, Rudd believes he would have made a great UN head. Many people think he wouldn't.

The Aussie media have had field days with Rudd and his strange personality: that intellectual arrogance barely concealed behind a tight smile and mirror-practised, warm-eyed look - false as it gets.

Deeper, there's an inner rage, a rumbling volcano. His sense of self-importance knows no bounds and he understands no rules in getting what and where he wants.

Your columnist experienced the man first-hand about 12 years ago at a conference in Coolum, a sort of a think-tank collection of Aussies and Kiwis. I was not impressed.

Most people who know me will say I'm a bit shy. The speaking occasion heightened that state. Conference participants were seated in a round-table formation of about 60 of us, surrounded by an audience seated arena-style. Each speaker stood and was unable to avoid seeing his/her live image on large television screens wherever he looked. Quite terrifying really. The trick is: Focus singularly on what you're talking about. Nothing else matters. It went better than I dared hope. A man I didn't know interrupted and it was obvious by his self-certainty he was going to hijack my presentation. His casual insensitivity really annoyed me. The rule was, with 60 speakers over two days, no interruptions, period. No applause.

The man destined to be Australia's Prime Minister proceeded to rip me apart, at least my arguments. To hell with that, if I didn't outdo him I may as well sit down in disgrace. Even with a displeased crowd against him, Rudd didn't blink as the words cascaded like some waterfall he'd designed to hit jutting rocks in a surprise spray, dive between stone contours like an invisible hand had briefly calmed the waters, then boom - you get the drift.

I now know that Rudd thinks any occasion is more about himself. I don't think it was personal; we were strangers to each other. Though he did refer to the book and movie, I believe he just saw an opportunity to blow someone out of the water. And damned if I'd allow that to be me.

I did tell him to shut the hell up and, in a different breach of house rules by my fellow speakers and the audience, the room erupted in applause for me. Clearly they didn't like Kevin Rudd, and being the last speaker before the lunch break I was surrounded by people congratulating me for giving it to Rudd.

Well, he went on to become Australia's Prime Minister and I, a bankrupt property developer, the family home lost, a stain on my name in self-exile in France. (Since recovered, thank you!) My antagonist wasted no time in throwing his weight around and not listening to anyone saying, "Just cool it, Kev". Hubris, of which Kevin Rudd is a terminal sufferer, took him down.

His colleague, Julia Gillard, along with a majority of Cabinet ministers, quite rightly shafted him. But she made the mistake of giving him the Foreign Affairs Ministry and, boy, did he play some Machiavellian games.

So cunning was Rudd he somehow managed to get back the prime ministership; you could have bottled his smirk and made a fortune with the world's haters. Finally, though, the Australian public woke up and kicked him out.

Quiet for a little while, he next tried to reinvent himself as head of the UN. A role that requires diplomacy skills he patently lacks. Kevin Rudd doesn't care about anyone but himself. He'd have soon messed up in the UN role. But such is his ego you can never write the man off. If only.

- NZ Herald

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Alan Duff

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