The festival of Kevin is not over yet
It was organised as a celebration of Australian car makers but the 250 people in the Great Hall of Parliament House found themselves witnessing a reunion of Veterans of Labor Leadership Wars.
A big chunk of the event became what one attendee called “a festival of Kevin”. Kevin Rudd that is, of course.
What was designed as a rousing salute to the automotive industry had to share the focus with anti-Gillard comrades-in-arms uniting on a stage, and in videos.
And the partial takeover of the event underlined that Kevin Rudd has not been completely dismissed as the next leader of the parliamentary Labor Party, and that this is a view which exists – possibly even thrives – in some areas of business.
The usual round of deadlines said to have been imposed on Prime Minister Gillard before she is bumped from the leadership is starting again.
Latest betting is three Newspolls, and probably will be just as accurate as all the other deadlines set over the past 12 months.
However, there is a growing feeling within the ALP that the Government needs more than Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s personal unpopularity and the Coalition’s fragmented – and often inconsistent – economic policy to maintain dignity at the next election.
It might need a change of leadership. What no one can say is who or how this could be done. As long as that grey area exists, the stronger the pulse in Kevin Rudd’s leadership ambitions.
There are, in some Labor nooks, fond memories of his time as PM and they are being enhanced as they linger. Just as old soldiers block out the horrors of war and recall the good times of service.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers held their annual dinner last Monday night, on the eve of Wayne Swan’s 5th Budget.
Prime Minister Gillard couldn’t stay for the full program but agreed to give a speech and then apologise as she returned to Budget preparations. The organisers appreciated her turning up and understood the circumstances.
Industry Minister Greg Combet gave a speech as well.
But the evening was dedicated to one minister in particular, Kim Carr, now in charge of the Human Services port folio. Senator Carr had been a champion of the car industry.
He had wanted to continue to be that champion but his clashes with Ms Gillard and his support for Mr Rudd ended his chances. He was demoted.
Still, the industry wanted to show its gratitude.
He was asked who he would like to attend the dinner with him. Senator Carr nominated Kevin Rudd and Fairfax reporter Lenore Taylor, and they both accepted.
The evening’s program included two videos. Both featured Senator Carr. Equally conspicuous was Kevin Rudd. Julia Gillard was by comparison an extra in these movies.
One Labor figure, noting Mr Rudd’s Mandarin skills and the senator’s North Korean punning nickname, said: “So there was an Asian-language speaking despot, AND Kim Il Carr.”
Then Senator Carr gave an emotional speech in which he went over the policies he had attempted to deliver for the car industry, and the support he had received from one Prime Minister in particular.
“I want to make particular mention of Kevin Rudd, whose role in establishing the New Car Plan was critical,” he said, as reported by Ms Taylor in the Sydney Morning Herald the next day.
She also pointed out that the plan had included money for a green car innovation fund, but that Ms Gillard had taken its last $400 million to help pay for repair of flood damage in Queensland and elsewhere.
At the end of formal proceedings Mr Rudd and Senator Carr posed on stage, beaming for photographs as they inspected a cartoonist’s likeness.
Then this small Carr coterie left the event together into the night.
Ms Taylor reported, “It was the [former] Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd who stayed until the end…”
There is no doubt that Kevin Rudd is a stayer.
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