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Burke meetings highlight inexperience of Rudd -

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VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The Prime Minister has sought to gain yet more mileage out of Kevin Rudd's
meetings with convicted criminal and former Western Australian premier Brian Burke. Mr Rudd has
dismissed the meetings as a mistake, but John Howard says that lack of judgment just highlights his
opponent's inexperience. Of course, it's an accusation he has used before, when he labelled Mark
Latham an L-plater leader during the last election. Dana Robertson reports from Canberra.

DANA ROBERTSON: As far as anniversary gifts go, the Prime Minister could hardly have chosen better
himself. 11 years to the day after defeating Paul Keating, he's relishing Kevin Rudd's first
serious misstep.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: It's more than just a free kick. It's more than just the politics of
the day. It does demonstrate a very serious error of judgment, a lack of experience on Mr Rudd's
part. He can hardly say he didn't know the gun was loaded, so to speak. He did know who Brian Burke

DANA ROBERTSON: John Howard is keen to portray Kevin Rudd's ill-advised meetings with the disgraced
WA Premier as the stuff of inexperience, harking back to his L-plate leader campaign against Mark
Latham. He's being ably assisted by his own side.

JOE HOCKEY (SUNRISE): I have been in politics longer than Kevin. You learn these things during the
course of your career and you have a political instinct that tells you you have got to avoid some
people after one meeting.

KEVIN RUDD (SUNRISE): Part of being tested for the question of leadership is this, admitting when
you get some things wrong, and I've done that.

DANA ROBERTSON: Kevin Rudd denies his meetings with Brian Burke were a deliberate strategy to curry
favour, as part of his guerilla leadership campaign against Kim Beazley.

KEVIN RUDD: These meetings breakfast, coffee and there was a dinner in the space of 12 months these
were back in 2005. The leadership ballot of the Labor Party occurred 10 weeks ago.

DANA ROBERTSON: But the man who introduced the pair appears to see it differently.

GRAHAM EDWRADS, LABOR MP (ABC RADIO NATIONAL): My view is Kevin Rudd is an up-and-coming star, he's
a bright young bloke. I was keen to push him through a number of areas in WA, to get him to know
the state and to get people to know him.

JOHN HOWARD: That is code in politics for promoting him as a future leader.

PETER COSTELLO, TREASURER: Why was Mr Rudd prepared to deal with such a man? I think the answer is
pretty obvious he wanted influence.

DANA ROBERTSON: Just two days after Mr Rudd had his fateful dinner with Brian Burke at this Perth
restaurant, Burke mate and WA union heavyweight Kevin Reynolds told the ABC's Stateline program all
about it.

KEVIN REYNOLDS: I know for a fact that he met with Rudd the other day, when he was here. That guy
has got - he is a future leader of this country and he sees no problem in meeting with Brian,
talking with Brian.

DANA ROBERTSON: 18 months later Kevin Rudd's playing up as a virtue the fact that he's not hiding
his Burke meetings, and hoping the voters see it the same way.

KEVIN RUDD: The Australian people will make their judgment about this over time, but I think the
important thing is you can duck and weave and pretend you were doing something else, I'm not in
that business. Cop it on the chin.

DANA ROBERTSON: But there's no denying Labor's taken a hit.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND, OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN: When you're looking at an election year, at some point you
have to put the mouth guards in and the liniment on, and this is the first occasion where we've
seen that occur.

DANA ROBERTSON: And it will be "game on" until election day.