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In praise of Kevin Rudd

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COMMENTS

10 December 2010 10:48

You've got to hand it to the guy; he's resilient. How many of us could psychologically overcome the kind of repudiation Rudd has suffered this year, not only from colleagues but the media and now the US Embassy' It's been withering and intensely personal, and it's a wonder he's functioning at all.

But not only is Rudd functioning, he's kicking some goals. Kudos to him for putting the blame for the WikiLeaks scandal exactly where it lies: not with Julian Assange, but with the US Government and its appallingly lax information security. The US State Department evidently agrees with Rudd.

It's also worth praising a speech Rudd gave yesterday to the Bali Democracy Forum, a regional initiative launched by Indonesian President Yudhoyono in 2008 to promote democratic reform. (My thanks to reader Jim for pointing me to the speech.)

Rudd has been mocked mercilessly in Australia for his jargon-ridden speaking (and writing) style, but in Bali he rose well above that standard.

Australian politicians, as a class, seem reluctant to go for American-style 'elevation' in their speech-making. The lyricism that we know from Kennedy, Obama and Reagan sounds forced and insincere coming from an Australian.

Not that this is any excuse for the flat, lifeless speeches our leaders give, and the bulk of Rudd's remarks in Bali follow that template pretty closely. But in his concluding paragraph, he shows that an Australian politician is capable of making a speech that is stirring without being cloying. The Paul Kelly/Kev Carmody reference ('From little things, big things grow') is pitch perfect, and gives it a distinctly Australian edge. I would only detract points for the use of 'fundamental', a real verbal crutch for Rudd:

The modern history of democracies across the world is not a long history — barely a couple of centuries. There is nothing inevitable about democracy, nothing inevitable about the democratic project. There is nothing terminus about the democratic project. We all have to nurture and to build and to develop our democracies, always adjusting them to the challenges that we face in the contemporary world. So as we in Asia embrace this new century, what will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, this third century of modern democracies across the world, I have a thought for you. And that is that the global future of the democratic project will increasingly lie on our shoulders in this region. That is why Australia fully embraces the vision articulated this morning by President Yudhoyono — to turn this beautiful island Bali, this Bali Democracy Forum, into an icon for fundamental democratic values across Asia for the century that lies ahead of us. Mr President, as they say in Australia, from little things, big things grow. And so I believe in the future, when we look back on the significance of this forum in the decades ahead, we will fully appreciate its historical significance in upholding and spreading the democratic ideal across the vast continent we share. And history will judge us all; at the dawn of this Asian century on how we succeed in keeping the global torch of democracy alight.

Photo by Flickr user Catholic Westminster.