Kevin Rudd, the man once described as “deeply flawed”, “disloyal” and “increasingly erratic”, was inducted as a life member of the ALP on Tuesday, along with his successor Julia Gillard, amid calls for Labor to heal the wounds of the past.
Leader Bill Shorten told delegates on the final day of the ALP national conference that Labor must heal the disputes of the past to honour its former leaders.
“And we are better. We are stronger and we are more confident and complete when we extend to our former leaders and legends the respect they deserve,” Mr Shorten said.
“There has been a lot of pain. But today I say to the conference ‘it is the time for healing, to make peace with past in the same way that we are united about our future’.”
Former PM Rudd then took to the stage, amid applause, to acknowledge Ms Gillard, a woman he once described as “ice cold” and having “torn open his heart”, after she deposed him as PM.
On Tuesday, Mr Rudd called her as “formidable”.
“Friends, Bill has just said in the history of every political party, there is a time for healing,” he said.
“For us, to fully grasp the future, we have to put to bed the disagreements of the past. For us, that time has well and truly come. That is why I am here.
“Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”
Greatly honoured to receive lifetime membership of the ALP today, along with FPM’s Paul Keating & Kevin Rudd. Always proud to be Labor.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) December 17, 2018
Mr Rudd noted that the ALP’s leadership rule changes meant what happened to him would not happen to another Labor PM.
“As Bill also said, we have learnt a few things from the past as well. The rule change that we brought in back in ’13 has given us stability of leaderships that last five years,” he said.
Mr Rudd’s speech was watched by ALP president Wayne Swan, who once said: “The truth is that Prime Minister Rudd was deeply flawed”.
Mr Rudd also referenced their shared history – both worked together in the Queensland government.
Mr Rudd then launched a brutal attack on News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch, who he courted while PM.
You know Murdoch, it is not a news organisation, it is a political party. Ever read what they say? It is just like a political party.
“Our movement has the audacity of hope to stand up and say, ‘We don’t accept your ideology and your commercial interests. We actually revile against them’,” he said.
“That is why they hate us so much. That is why they hooked into Bill. That is why they hooked into Julia. That is why they hooked into me. That is why they hooked into Paul. That is why they hooked into Bob … Because we represent a threat to their core commercial and ideological interests.
“There is a simple message I have for Rupert Murdoch: You don’t own Australia. Murdoch doesn’t have Australia as his own personal belonging. This country belongs to the working men and women who build Australia.”