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Marr discusses Rudd's 'angry heart' -

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Broadcast: 07/06/2010

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Author and journalist David Marr speaks with Kerry O'Brien about the making of the Prime Minister
and his collapse in public support.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The Rudd persona has been something of a puzzle from the time he became
Labor leader then giant killer of Australia's second longest-serving prime minister, then the PM
with the most sustained popularity since public polling began and now the Labor leader struggling
to avoid the tag of leading his government to Australia's first one-term government since Scullin
in the '30s.

Award-winning author and journalist David Marr has spent the past three months or more trawling
back through the public record and through many private conversations in search of the real Kevin
Rudd, culminating in a feisty dressing down by the subject of his interest. The result is a
fascinating and challenging account for the Quarterly Essay published today, and I spoke with David
Marr in our Sydney studio just a short time ago.

David Marr, you've observed that after two and a half years in office, three and a half from when
he became Opposition Leader, after millions of words written since he emerged from the Labor pack,
as you put it, Kevin Rudd remains hidden in full view. What do you mean by that?

DAVID MARR, AUTHOR & JOURNALIST: He's there, but he's so hard to read. It's so hard to tell what
the real Kevin Rudd is, who this real person is in there.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now why is that?

DAVID MARR: Well I think the answer is because he very carefully disguises that real person and the
real person is a very angry person. Now, anger doesn't disqualify himself from high public office,
but I think he's driven by very old angers, and when they're released - and I seem to remember you
saw a little of this recently ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: I'd put the emphasis on little. I didn't think it was much at all, to be honest.

DAVID MARR: You see the real thing. Don't you feel that there, when the anger starts, you feel in
the presence of the real person, and I certainly did when it happened to me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In your one-on-one access to Kevin Rudd for the essay, as opposed to all the
trawling you did around other people, a long walk on the beach at Mackay I think followed by dinner
or vice versa ...


KERRY O'BRIEN: Left you observing, "He's a politician with rage at his core, impatient rage." Now
what prompted that observation?

DAVID MARR: We'd had a terrific sort of, I suppose, three hours, maybe four hours, a very generous
amount of time he gave me, and most of it was off the record, so I can't actually say what he said.
But I can say that he was incredibly interesting, very, very interesting about his own life, and
all of that material is all through the essay. We had dinner, and that was on the record, and as he
warned me, it would be stiff, and it was stiff, but it was on the record, gave me some very good
material. And afterwards, when the night was essentially over, he asked me, "So, what's the
argument of your essay?" And, it's a grown-up moment; the Prime Minister has asked you and I felt
that the only thing to do was a candid reply and I told him what the argument was. I went through
some of the contradictions of his life that I was exploring, and he was angry, very, very angry.
Now we get into the off-the-record part, I can't tell you what he actually said, except to say that
he was vivid and eloquent; he was the most himself that I saw him at any time. And I, curiously,
enjoyed that experience very much, about 20 minutes of being ticked off by him. No swearing, no
stamping, none of that. I put it at about 3.8 on the Richter scale.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But was that enough?

DAVID MARR: And it was illuminating.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But was that enough for you to observe that he has anger at his core. I assume
there's gotta be more than that.

DAVID MARR: Not enough. Not enough. That's what brought it together for me. When you see the - when
you know of the fact that behind closed doors there is a lot of rage in his office, that there's a
lot of - there's a lot of cold rage and hot rage in his office. When you look at this pattern of
his life, when you look at the kind of angry determination from the time he was a kid, from the
time he was 15 or 16, to rescue himself from this predicament that, you know, the bad hand that had
been dealt him and his mother and siblings back then, you see this kind of implacable
determination. And what makes sense of it is anger. What makes sense of the way in which it's
personal, implacable and pursued relentlessly? Anger makes sense of it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've quoted one social researcher's observations of him that, "People warmed to
Rudd quickly, but the affection hasn't deepened. The feeling is we've been on lots of dates, but we
haven't got to the next level." Now what sense do you make of that?

DAVID MARR: Well, that was some months ago. That was sort of four or five months ago, people were
telling the MacKay research outfit those things, and it was a liking of the man, but not being able
to get a proper bead on the man. Now since then, indeed in the course of me writing this essay,
public doubts have turned to quite a strong public hostility, and that occurred over the last few
months. I don't think people are talking about going on dates anymore.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You talk about the large number of people who've worked with him through his various
roles over the years going way back. Politicians, staff, bureaucrats who "loathe the man". Is there
a pattern to the loathing?

DAVID MARR: Yes, there is, there is. They talk of - they talk of completely unreasonable demands,
they talk of long hours, they talk of strangely scheduled appointments - I mean, 10:30 on a Sunday
night, but then he doesn't turn up till 1:30 on the Monday morning. They talk of a relentless
amount of work. Now, that's fine. But what Rudd lacks is the capacity every now and again to just
reach out and be human with people.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what about the Cabinet? What do you understand of the Cabinet process and Kevin
Rudd's hold on that Cabinet and how he's regarded by his Cabinet colleagues?

DAVID MARR: Well as I understand it, Cabinet doesn't really work any longer. There is - there are
Cabinet meetings, but Cabinet is for the most part presented with the decisions that have been
taken by what's now commonly called the "Gang of Four", which is Rudd, Gillard, Swan and Tanner.
And Cabinet is left - you know, there's obviously discussion, but there's not the kind of
free-wheeling discussion that is expected of the Cabinet process. It has become more and more
concentrated power and the administration of the country, more and more concentrated in Rudd's own
hands and in the hands of people very close to him. Now that would be OK, except another part of
his personality comes into play here, and there's the good and there's bad to this. I think he's a
decent man and I think he wants really decent outcomes for the country, but checking what is and
isn't decent is terribly personal, and so he therefore wants to have a personal view of almost
everything that the Government does.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So that's where the control freak ...

DAVID MARR: That's where the control freak ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: ... reputation has come.

DAVID MARR: And it happened in Brisbane when he was the principal bureaucrat for Wayne Goss, it's
happening in Canberra. It makes government really hard.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But by the same token, there's a contradiction between the young Kevin Rudd as Wayne
Goss's right-hand man in Queensland 20 years ago, as the architect of an impressive system of
governance as you saw it, and the picture of chaos that you and others describe in his office as
Prime Minister today. How do you reconcile the two and what form does the chaos take now?

DAVID MARR: Government in Queensland after all those years of the National Party was a collapsed
structure and Goss and Rudd between them with Glyn Davis and other people worked to re-erect a
structure of government in Queensland. And even people who despise Rudd say that he did that with
marvellous clarity. But in his own office, in his own surrounds, such is his personal attention to
detail, that things are held up and the schedule of moving work through his office, both in
Brisbane, and as I understand it in Canberra as well, is erratic. There's a combination of rush and
delay that doesn't necessarily produce really good policy outcomes.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You opened your essay describing Kevin Rudd behind the scenes at the Copenhagen
climate summit, levelling a stream of colourful invective at the Chinese for trying to wreck his
and Barack Obama's agenda.

DAVID MARR: Read it out. Kerry, read it out.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What did you learn about Kevin Rudd from Copenhagen?

DAVID MARR: Copenhagen means an enormous amount to Rudd. It is of course - the debacle of
Copenhagen is the moment at which public affection for Rudd began to fray. Until that time he had
been the most-loved political leader for the longest time we've ever had in this country. But
Copenhagen was a debacle. But it was a debacle that he threw himself into rescuing. Absolutely. He
slept for one hour in a 40-hour stretch and his foul language and his disappointment that he was
expressing to a group of people in Copenhagen was the result of immense frustration in that time.
But he tried his darnedest, and so much failed for him at that point. 'Cause this is the man who
believes he understands China, this is the man who believes in international diplomacy, this is the
man who set himself the moral task of addressing global warming and it all collapsed. And at that
point, with a new Leader of the Opposition, things began to unravel very seriously for this man.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You say that his drive to acquire power is extraordinary, but his instinct is to
hoard it rather than spend it. Now, in what demonstrable way?

DAVID MARR: Well, I have to say that that line was penned before I understood the dimensions of the
fight that he's having with the mining industry. I signed off on the essay as the fight began -
there's a little bit about it in there. But this is, I think, a very self-conscious demonstration
on Rudd's part that the forces that in a sense beat him on ETS are not gonna beat him this time.
It's the assertion - it's a very angry assertion, I think. The angry assertion of a man who wants
to demonstrate that he is unassailably running this country.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But if the figures are right, it could be his ultimate downfall?

DAVID MARR: It could be, it could be. But I think it's much too soon to write this man off.

KERRY O'BRIEN: David Marr, thanks for talking with us.

DAVID MARR: Thanks, Kerry.