Kevin Rudd. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Kevin Rudd. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

‘Absolutely nuts’: Rudd slams Shorten

FORMER Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd has bluntly rebuked his own party's strategy at the election, saying it was particularly unwise for Bill Shorten to campaign on changes to negative gearing and franking credits.

Speaking at a Canberra Writers Festival event this afternoon, Mr Rudd nominated three key reasons for Labor's defeat in May.

First, he said, the Australian people never warmed to Mr Shorten personally.

"They didn't like him or trust him," he said.

Second, Labor had exposed itself to devastating attacks from the government with its proposed changes to negative gearing and franking credits - the latter of which Scott Morrison successfully labelled "the retiree tax".

"I just think it's nuts. It's absolutely nuts," Mr Rudd said of Mr Shorten's decision to push those policies.

Third, he accused the "Murdoch media" of running an anti-Labor campaign. We should point out that News Corp Australia is the publisher of news.com.au.

Labor is currently conducting a review into its performance at the election, and new leader Anthony Albanese has indicated some of the party's more contentious policies could be scrapped.

Bill Shorten in happier times.
Bill Shorten in happier times.

Mr Shorten, for his part, has refused to be drawn on whether the negative gearing and franking credits policies should go, saying he will "give time" for the election review to be completed.

He has cast Labor as the victim of corporate interests, lies from the government and an "unprecedented" scare campaign.

"Obviously we were up against corporate leviathans, a financial behemoth, spending an unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars advertising, telling lies, spreading fear. They got what they wanted," Mr Shorten told his colleagues on May 30, the day Mr Albanese was formally endorsed as his replacement.

"Powerful vested interests campaigned against us, through sections of the media itself. And they got what they wanted.

"I understand that neither of these challenges disappeared on election night. They're still out there for us to face. It is important we face them with courage and honesty, with principle, and with unity."

Mr Rudd was mostly a peripheral presence in the campaign, but when he did speak he had nothing but praise for Mr Shorten and his policies.

He and Julia Gillard made a show of burying the hatchet at Labor's campaign launch in an effort to project party unity.

But that unity has fragmented somewhat since Labor's defeat.

Another of the party's former prime ministers, Paul Keating, slapped down Mr Shorten's excuses during an interview with 7.30 earlier this month.

RELATED: Labor's election excuses crumble

"Wasn't one of the lessons of the election campaign that oppositions shouldn't be brave?" host Laura Tingle asked Mr Keating.

"No. I don't think it is one of the lessons at all," he responded.

"If you are talking about the Labor Party and why it lost the election, it failed to understand the middle class economy that Bob Hawke and I created for Australia.

"So much of the Labor Party's policies were devoted to the bottom end of the workforce and the community, paid for by cuts in tax expenditures (i.e. tax increases).

"If the cuts in tax expenditures had have been employed in reducing tax rates then it would have been a big tax reform, and I believe a much more successful outcome.

"But instead of that the Labor Party was actually increasing the top rate of tax from 45 to 47 per cent, which of course you know, in public, I opposed."

The shorter version was that Mr Keating believed Labor had neglected the middle class in favour of a high-taxing agenda that was ultimately rejected by voters.

In other words, the policies were wrong.

Much like Mr Rudd, Mr Keating did not publicly criticise those policies during the campaign. Ten days before election day, in fact, both he and Mr Hawke signed a letter fulsomely praising Mr Shorten's agenda.

"While we are proud of the achievements of our governments, the baton of reform is being grasped by the next generation of Labor leaders," the pair wrote.

"Bill Shorten's Labor Party represents the most comprehensive and well thought through agenda any opposition has provided to the Australian people."

Paul Keating. Picture: Richard Dobson
Paul Keating. Picture: Richard Dobson

In Canberra today, Mr Rudd also warned Australia could face a recession next year, and he placed the blame for the government's strained relationship with China at the feet of Malcolm Turnbull.

Towards the end of 2017, when he was still prime minister, Mr Turnbull declared - in Mandarin - that Australia would "stand up" to China, should it attempt to meddle in our national affairs.

"Modern China was founded in 1949 with these words: 'The Chinese people have stood up.' It was an assertion of sovereignty, it was an assertion of pride. And we stand up, and so we say, they Australian people stand up," Mr Turnbull said.

"You could not pick a single more offensive phrase," Mr Rudd said today.

At the time, China said it was "astounded" by Mr Turnbull's remarks.

"It poisons the atmosphere of the China-Australia relationship and undermines the foundation of mutual trust and bilateral co-operation. We express strong dissatisfaction with that and have made a serious complaint with the Australian side," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Mr Morrison is currently in Vietnam, where China's repeated incursions into disputed waters in the South China Sea is a hot topic.

Last night, the Prime Minister took a thinly veiled swipe at China's actions - though he didn't mention the superpower by name.

RELATED: One telling word in Morrison's speech

"We share a vision for an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific neighbourhood," Mr Morrison told the audience of 100 business leaders and diplomats.

"An Indo-Pacific where we respect each other's sovereignty and independence because if we allow the sovereignty or independence of any of our neighbours to suffer coercion, then we are all diminished."

The key word there, coercion, had popped up earlier in the speech as well, as Mr Morrison described Australia and Vietnam as "partners for a stable, peaceful, prosperous and independent Indo-Pacific region".

"A region of sovereign, independent states, resistant to coercion but open to engagement on the basis of shared interests," he said.

The Prime Minister's choice of words, which echoed those the United States had previously used to specifically criticise China, was a clear signal.


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