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Interview with Kevin Rudd -

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Interview with Kevin Rudd

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Labor leader Kevin Rudd joins me now. Kevin Rudd, if, as a general proposition,
there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's definitely no such thing as a free dinner with Brian
Burke, is there?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, as I said quite some time ago now, last week, Kerry, I made an error of judgment
when it came to those meetings and that dinner with Mr Burke back then and, with the benefit of
20/20 hindsight, I wouldn't have done it. I've accepted responsibility for that and said I made a
mistake. It would be interesting if the Prime Minister would accept responsibility for some of the
mistakes he's made over the years as well.

KERRY O'BRIEN: If you are as experienced and as ethical as you would like us to accept, how did you
allow yourself to be in this man's company, let alone to be seen in his company?

KEVIN RUDD: As I explained the other day, a long standing friend of mine is Graham Edwards. We
entered Parliament together. He's a Vietnam War veteran, when I go to Perth I stay with him. He
asked me to meet for coffee and breakfast with Mr Burke and my view and it's a mistaken view was
simply that any person, a white collar criminal who's done a crime and done their time, they should
be readmitted to society. It was a mistake, I accept that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: This wasn't just the fact that he served time in jail, was it? It was the smelly
history of WA Inc and its lingering aftermath. Questions of judgment, it is a question of your
judgment, isn't it you heard the Prime Minister say again today you aspire to the highest office in
the land, you need sound judgment for that office?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, as I said, I'm old enough and ugly enough to admit when I got something wrong,
and I think it would be good if Mr Howard would do that on other great questions of policy across
the country, the Iraq war, children overboard, the whole question of $300,000,000 worth of bribes
being paid to Saddam Hussein all on Mr Howard's watch, and no one ever having to fall on their
sword. But I need just to say this, Kerry, on the core charge of Mr Howard against me, which is
this, that I asked Mr Burke to support me to remove Kim Beazley from the leadership of the Labor
Party and for me to replace him that is absolutely false. I mean, let's just get real about this.
Mr Burke has been a life long supporter of Mr Beazley, fact one. Fact two, Graham Edwards, my
friend, a continuing life long supporter of Mr Beazley until the very end of last year. If Mr
Howard's thesis is real, let's be honest about this - this is nearly a year and a half before the
ALP leadership ballot at the end of 2006. And, by that stage, I've got to say, if Mr Howard's
argument holds any water, or Mr Costello's, if Mr Burke is so central to all this, why am I not
meeting him regularly during the course of 2006? It doesn't stack up, nor does his allegation that
I owe Mr Burke some debt or some obligation. I mean, for goodness' sake, I didn't ask him for
money. There was no fundraising, no business proposition, nothing of that sort whatsoever. Do I
need a business lobbyist in Perth? I could walk into any business I like in Perth, that wasn't the

KERRY O'BRIEN: He wasn't just a business lobbyist. He was very, very influential within the Labor
Party and the issue of Kim Beazley's leadership was around at that time. I just wonder whether, in
all of these meetings and, particularly, the dinner with Brian Burke and others, you say the
question of leadership, you don't recall the question of leadership being raised. Surely it would
have been a perfectly natural thing for anyone at that dinner, including yourself, to have said,
"How do you think Kim's going?"

KEVIN RUDD: Look, what I said the other day was there was a general conversation about national
politics, right across the table. That's as you would expect on an occasion such as that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But can you rule out that the issue of Kim Beazley's leadership, that is, how he was
travelling as leader, was raised or not?

KEVIN RUDD: What I've said, I can't recall that. But I've also said that it's quite possible that
those sorts of questions were raised. But on Mr Howard's core charge, which is this, you, Kevin
Rudd, were obtaining from Mr Burke his support to remove Kim Beazley as leader of the Labor Party
and for you, Kevin Rudd, to replace him, that is an absolute falsehood, and Mr Howard knows it. And
his other charge, by the way, which is that I've been engaged in some sort of cover up I mean, for
goodness' sake, these questions were asked to me by the 'Australian' newspaper in November last
year, and on the record of the national daily is plainly printed that I've said there that I had
meetings with Mr Burke. Now, if Mr Howard and Mr Costello thought it was such a crushing matter of
national principle, why did they not raise it then? Three weeks after that, I became the leader of
the Labor Party. Why didn't they raise it then? I'll tell you why they're raising it now. It's
because there is a mood for political change in this country. Labor has been up in the polls in
recent times, they are worried and they've decided to use the high office of Prime Minister to run
a personal smear campaign against yours truly to take some paint off us, and I predict they will.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you absolutely rule out, or do you acknowledge, that leadership was an issue at
the time you went to Perth and had that dinner with Brian Burke? And do you totally rule out that
your own ambitions for leadership, whether in the next six months or 12 months, were in your mind?

KEVIN RUDD: I've got to say, this is virtually 18 months later that the leadership ballot for the
Labor Party is called. I mean, the bottom line is this, in those sorts of discussions about general
politics where you've got 20 or 30 people around the table, there's lots of to ing and fro-ing. I
can't recall all of that. I mean, you go to dozens of such meetings, boardroom luncheons around the
country, where national politics is discussed and I can't say to you precisely what occurred in
every part of the conversation.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've got a pretty good memory about most things.

KEVIN RUDD: If I asked you what was discussed at a dinner you attended 18 months ago -

KERRY O'BRIEN: But I'm not you.

KEVIN RUDD: I understand that, but it's just a human element. All I'm saying is, Mr Howard's core
charge is that I have used Mr Burke to get his support to remove Kim Beazley and for me to replace
him and I owe him, therefore, a debt of obligation and that I sought to cover that up, is an
absolutely, rolled gold falsehood and Mr Howard in his conduct of this political smear campaign is
worried about one thing - that is, conducting the next election on the basis of alternative
policies for the future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Looking at the political mood prevailing around the Labor Party at the time you went
to Perth, on August 1 the 'Age' had a story which raised the question, well, it actually said, "Kim
Beazley appears doomed. The ALP is wondering about Bob Carr." The 'Australian' on July 31,
"Beazley's road looks even rockier." And in fact on August 1, on that same trip to Perth, you
addressed a lunch, according to a story in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', "Labor's ambitious foreign
affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, has set out his economic vision, sought to lay down the values
shaping the party's approach to policy, continuing an image broadening program which could rekindle
speculation of leadership ambitions."

KEVIN RUDD: I think for a long, long time, Kerry, many people in the media and elsewhere have
described me as 'ambitious'. I don't think that's something which I'm Robinson Crusoe on in

KERRY O'BRIEN: But is it so far-fetched that John Howard might speculate you might have been
seeking from Brian Burke some patronage as a kind of godfather of the Labor Party in Western

KEVIN RUDD: That's just so far fetched. I mean, for goodness' sake, you get judged in this
business, politics, on how you perform, how you know your policy, how you convey a message
effectively through programs such as this. You're judged on a whole range of things. And, you know,
being judged on the basis of a dinner round table which involved Mr Burke and some businessmen and
that is going to provide you with some automatic legup into the leadership? That's just
cloud-cuckoo-land stuff. Mr Howard has classic negative politics, the politics of personal smear,
to be on radio in this country on five separate radio programs, I'm told, around the country today
rolling into me on the basis of a smear campaign. How about a discussion instead about alternative
policies for the country's future? He knows he's not winning that argument. That's why they've
flipped the switch to personal smear. And I predict that'll take some paint off, a fair bit I'd
imagine, and it will continue right through to the next election.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In terms of your judgment, again, you say when you met Brian Burke over the course
of 2005 you didn't know that the WA Labor Premier had put a ban on State MPs having contact with
Brian Burke. But your friend Graham Edwards, who was the middle man in your meetings with Mr Burke,
must have been aware about that ban, he must have known about that ban. It seems bizarre that he
wouldn't have mentioned the ban to you when he was setting up meetings for you with him?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, he plainly didn't and I think he made that point the other day in his statement
himself, that he didn't alert me to that. On the question of Federal MPs being included in that
ban, the core question

KERRY O'BRIEN: You must think poorly of him for not having told you about the ban?

KEVIN RUDD: I can't make a judgment about Graham. He's a decent bloke.


KEVIN RUDD: No, he's a decent bloke -

KERRY O'BRIEN: With respect, you can make a judgement. You have to make them all the time as the
leader of your party.

KEVIN RUDD: He's a guy who put his life on the line in Vietnam, he's a good bloke and I took him at
face value. I accept full responsibility for my decisions and, therefore, what I've got wrong, and
accept responsibility for it. Again, I go back to the challenge to Mr Howard. Just once, Mr Howard,
take responsibility for children overboard, for lying about the basis on which we went to war in
Iraq and for other critical things such as how we paid $300,000,000 worth of bribes to Saddam
Hussein. Not one ministerial resignation. You know why? This new standard of accountability was
invented on the run by Mr Howard in Parliament last Thursday afternoon with one objective in mind,
and that was to target yours truly. Well, I'll cop that, that's life. But it's just part of a
continuing campaign of negative politics.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Very briefly, last question, have you had any phone conversations with Mr Burke
apart from those three meetings?

KEVIN RUDD: I've said the other day in the press conference I gave last Thursday in Parliament,
that in the second half of '05 concerning a possible organisation of a meeting with journalists,
that there was some telephone contact at about that time, and that was a meeting I subsequently or
a gathering I subsequently declined to participate in. And beyond that, I've got no real
recollection of any other telephone contact.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Rudd, thanks for talking with us.

KEVIN RUDD: Thanks for having us on the program, Kerry.