THE AS­SAS­SI­NATED PM

Kevin Rudd be­lieved he was do­ing a first-rate job as Prime Min­is­ter and planned on serv­ing at least an­other term. His deputy, how­ever, had other ideas

Men's Health (Australia) - - Mind - Kevin Rudd was Prime Min­is­ter of Aus­tralia from 2007-10 and again, briefly, in 2013. The sec­ond vol­ume of his mem­oirs, The PM Years (Macmil­lan, $45), is out now.

I woke up that morn­ing [June 23, 2010] know­ing the gov­ern­ment had its chal­lenges, but we’d had our chal­lenges for a long time. We’d been ahead in 86 of the pre­vi­ous 87 opin­ion polls. And I was ready to head off to the G20 sum­mit in Ot­tawa. So, for me, it was a nor­mal day.

I’d heard ru­mours af­ter Ques­tion Time that Ju­lia Gil­lard had gone off to con­sult the face­less men of the fac­tions. At 7pm, one of my staff told me that the ABC had just re­ported Gil­lard was about to un­leash the dogs of war. She ar­rived in my of­fice and an­nounced it was on. So there was no warn­ing.

The thing was, in Fe­bru­ary of that year, I’d taken her to one side and said, “You know, I don’t want to be around for­ever”. I wanted her to be­come the first fe­male Prime Min­is­ter of Aus­tralia through a smooth han­dover. But she, in the great Shake­spearean tra­di­tion, saw op­por­tu­nity arise.

At first, you are in shock and you are numb. And when the numb­ness fades there is an acute sense of pain that is dif­fi­cult to de­scribe. There’s also a sense of em­bar­rass­ment: not many peo­ple have to en­dure their ex­e­cu­tion so pub­licly.

Af­ter a time the phone stops ring­ing and you are alone. Then arises the ex­is­ten­tial ques­tion: who am I? If you’ve been in pol­i­tics for a while you can iden­tify a range of per­son­al­ity types. One of them is the bit­terand-twisted type: this per­son has ei­ther never had their tal­ents recog­nised or they’ve been slighted some­how and dream of their re­venge. I re­gard this as a waste of emo­tional en­ergy. And so I was deeply con­scious of that dan­ger, both psy­cho­log­i­cally and, in my case, the­o­log­i­cally: it ac­tu­ally poi­sons the soul if you’re not care­ful.

The re­sponse is not to deny anger or the feel­ings of be­trayal. But you also con­tex­tu­alise, which means un­der­stand­ing you’re not Robin­son Cru­soe. If your pur­pose for en­ter­ing the po­lit­i­cal process is mov­ing the dial on so­cial jus­tice, then there are mul­ti­ple means by which you can con­trib­ute to that end be­sides be­ing Prime Min­is­ter. This be­comes the psy­cho­log­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual frame­work for nav­i­gat­ing these con­vuls­ing emo­tions.

An­other part of the process is tak­ing a clear-eyed look at your­self. Be­cause all of us have these two re­al­i­ties of what we think we’re do­ing ver­sus how we’re per­ceived. What I dis­cov­ered was there were folks who, when I asked them a ques­tion in cabi­net, felt it was a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to catch them out on a ques­tion of de­tail, where to me I was sim­ply want­ing cabi­net to hear why some­thing was be­ing rec­om­mended. We’re all in­di­vid­u­als with foibles. But I lis­tened care­fully to the likes of John Faulkner, who’s ob­served PMS from Whit­lam to the present, and his point was that these cri­tiques of style were a re­flec­tion of a pre­cious-petal age.

Be­com­ing For­eign Min­is­ter was fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant to mov­ing on, be­cause af­ter the shock and hu­mil­i­a­tion you ei­ther throw your­self back into work or risk dis­ap­pear­ing into a vor­tex of self-re­flec­tion. Writ­ing my lat­est book, too. I did not en­joy writ­ing it – re­liev­ing your own death is an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But it also gives you a sense of clo­sure.

And yes, I found for­give­ness. When I run into these coup­meis­ters, they kind of slink from the room. My ap­proach –

“AF­TER THE SHOCK AND HU­MIL­I­A­TION, YOU THROW YOUR­SELF BACK INTO WORK”

and it’s not just chutz­pah – is to greet and em­brace. What I find when en­gag­ing peo­ple like that is that they can’t com­pre­hend that you wouldn’t want to get square, be­cause that’s how they op­er­ate. The apho­rism is true: you can for­give and you’ll never for­get. The con­se­quence for me is that I will end up, and have ended up, as less trust­ing. But it’s im­por­tant not to al­low that to con­sume you.

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