WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Kevin Rudd pays a return visit to Nambour State High, where he graduated as dux in 1974.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Kevin Rudd pays a return visit to Nambour State High, where he graduated as dux in 1974.

The rise and fall of Kevin Rudd

KEVIN Rudd seemed to arrive from nowhere.

"I'm Kevin Rudd and I'm here to help," he told Australia as he became the country's first social media prime minister.

The self-professed nerd had carefully groomed a profile as a guest on Brisbane ABC radio and a commercial national television morning show.

He showed energy and intelligence as he jousted in good humour with Peter Slipper, who he had met at university, and Joe Hockey.

He used phrases and words from another age, like "jolly well", "fiddle-faddle" and "fair shake of the sauce bottle".

It was quaint and unusual. Online, he would be dubbed K-Rudd, probably by political enemies, but he took it up as a badge of honour.

His media persona helped to launch what would become the Kevin07 run into the Lodge.

It would displace one of Australia's most popular and longest-serving prime ministers, John Howard.

Mr Rudd and his self-made millionaire wife, Therese Rein, started appearing going to church hand-in-hand with their family.

In Queensland, he had famously used his own money to fight a plan to have Brisbane Airport flight paths directed over his inner-Brisbane electorate of Griffith.

By 2005, seven years after he first won his Queensland seat, Mr Rudd's star began to rise in Canberra.

He publicly railed against the Australian Wheat Board, and helped to uncover that the AWB had had secret, kickback-riddled deals with Iraq at a time when the United Nations had imposed international trade sanctions.

It was an embarrassment for the Howard government.

The rise gathered pace.

Labor needed a fresh face, and none seemed fresher than "young Kevin's".

Beneath the surface, it was a different story.

Inside the Australian Labor Party, he was not a member of a faction. MPs without the hefty support factions offered in Caucus were condemned to the back benches. Mostly.

But Mr Rudd was never all he seemed.

"Kevin has flaws, yes," former premier Peter Beattie, a former political foe, said this week. "But we all have flaws...

"He wants to get things done, and sometimes he forgets the people who he needs to help with that ..."

Mr Rudd has described himself as "a very determined bastard".

"He's a total bastard," Mr Rudd's most bitter enemy, former Labor leader Mark Latham, crowed this week.

Intellectual and solitary, Mr Rudd is single-minded.

He used his maiden speech to accuse then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of lacking leadership, only to find himself cold-shouldered by the minister in the parliamentary corridors and dropped from the diplomatic invitation list.

Mr Latham and Mr Rudd's mutual dislike began in Mr Rudd's first year in parliament. The Queenslander aggressively defended the Labor Party after Mr Latham described it as lacking policy and intellectually bereft.

By late 2006, Mr Rudd, with Julia Gillard as his deputy, stormed to the leadership.

The Rudd juggernaut powered into government in 2007, assisted in part by the Howard government's controversial WorkChoices industrial relations policies.

The pace picked up to a blur.

First on Mr Rudd's agenda was apologising to the Stolen Generations.

Next, in the warm glow of international spotlights, came the signing of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The government then tried its hand at an "education revolution", and put into place laws to support a National Broadband Network.

Although Mr Rudd has remained a strong advocate for the ALP, he was always on thin ice.

His bumptious style in Canberra, inside the party and out, meant his support depended more and more on his popularity.

That slipped as the Rudd government struggled with the 2009 global economic crisis, implementing programs designed to inject money into the economy.

Though the policies were sound, they were put in place in a hurry, essential detail often lacking.

The Rudd government was dealt a second blow when the opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who supported introducing an emissions trading scheme, was ousted by Tony Abbott by just one vote.

As the workaholic Mr Rudd tried to come to grips with mounting problems, reports began to emerge that he was a "control freak" with a short fuse who was prone to targeting staff.

Then, after the government failed on several occasions to have its emissions trading scheme set in law, Mr Rudd made an error.

After trumpeting the importance of fighting climate change, he announced the government was dropping the legislation.

His popularity began to slide.

When a lightning backroom coup replaced him as PM in 2010, Mr Rudd was rocked.

As he emerged ashen-faced from the party room, he said, "What just happened?"

His fate, and probably the fate of the party, was set.

His re-emergence as leader earlier this year was more a final bow than a serious attempt at a return.

He did what the ALP wanted. Labor's losses were minimised.

Mr Rudd paid dearly, hounded by unfair News Ltd reports that even yesterday were still baying.

His last contribution, however, may have been the most important of all for his beloved ALP.

He put in place rules that could help Labor become more relevant, more connected, to Australians.

And his resignation this week was less a shock than a progression.

But there is no doubt that it was time for the 56-year-old to zip.

RUDD-O-FILE 1

All about Kevin Rudd

A Virgo, he was born on September 21, 1957, at Nambour General Hospital.

The youngest of four children, he spent his childhood on a dairy farm at Eumundi.

Six weeks after treatment for injuries received in a car accident Bert, his father, died from a septicaemia infection contracted in hospital. Kevin was 11.

His mother, Margaret, and her young family were evicted from the share-crop farm.

The family, while searching for a home, slept in a car before finding temporary accommodation.

Schooling began at Eumundi Primary School. After his father's death, with the help of the Catholic Church, he spent two years boarding at the Marist Brothers College in Ashgrove. He then came home and went to Nambour High School.

Labor MP and former treasurer Wayne Swan was two years ahead of him at Nambour High, one of the cool kids and school captain. They were not friends

Kevin graduated as dux of the school in 1974.

A love affair with all things Chinese started at the age of 10 when his mother gave him a book on ancient civilisations. After high school, he hitch-hiked south down the coast to Canberra where he enrolled at Australian National University and studied Chinese language and history.

He is fluent in Mandarin.

He was posted to Beijing as a junior diplomat in the mid-1980s with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

RUDD-O-FILE 2

All about Kevin Rudd

He and his entrepreneurial wife, Therese Rein, have three adult children: Jessica, Nicholas and Marcus.

Jessica, a published author, has rejected suggestions she may follow her father into politics.

Mr Rudd became chief of staff to Queensland opposition leader Wayne Goss in 1988 and helped guide the ALP to government after decades in the wilderness during the Joh Bjelke-Petersen years.

He earned his first political nickname, Dr Death, after cutting back and restructuring the Queensland public service when head of Goss's Office of Cabinet.

His first tilt at federal politics failed when he lost a bid for the Brisbane seat of Griffith in the 1996 election that wiped out Paul Keating.

Between elections, he ran his own business as a Chinese consultant for Australian firms.

He won Griffith with a 2% swing away from the sitting Liberal in 1998. He increased his majority with every election until this year's.

Other nicknames he has been given include God Botherer, Pixie, the Professor of Foreign Policy, Harry Potter and Heavy Kevvie.

Online, he is typically called K-Rudd.


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