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'Rudd thuds' or 'A not so impassioned speech'

By James Rose - posted Wednesday, 28 November 2007

“Ok guys.”

It’s not Shakespeare is it? But that’s how our new PM greeted the nation: his first words in public as our elected leader. Standing there on the podium in Brisbane, hands up, palms out, like he was trying to hold back the passion surging from the floor. That was it. And it didn’t get any better.

What happened to the spirited oratory to inspire the people, the moving rasp in the voice broken by passion reaching to be heard above the surging throng, the rousing shimmer of words, the heartbeat resonance of cadence, the jarring impact of imagery?


Kevin Rudd’s first vocal public moment as our leader lasted about 25 minutes. The home boy thank-you section lasted nearly half of that, a little like a painfully extended Oscar’s award-winner’s speech.

The word “great” was the adjective of choice, as it might be in an essay for teacher written by a particularly earnest schoolboy - which our Kevin sometimes resembles.

Then there was the Howard eulogy and a few minutes to ponder John Howard’s “extensive public service to Australia”. Why do we need to bottle up our relief at the ending of an era some of us see as something like living in the wrong time and the wrong place? Why subject us to that? Let the euphoria break loose!

The body of the speech took us on a less than heartening tour of some of the English language’s collection of “Words to Numb an Audience With”, occasionally signposted by “Phrases That Don’t Actually Mean Anything”. There was “sacred trust” and “solemn pledge”; we were told it was “time for a new page” and that we lived in a country of “great (that word again) diversity”.

Things were slipping badly with the stultifying cry that the new government has an “agenda for work". Then it all fell with a thud with the memorably forgettable line that the new government will “prosecute the agenda for work for the nation” which landed among us like a body long dead.

I thought criminals were prosecuted, and that agendas were perhaps achieved (nice alliterative potential there) or seized (more aggressive), perhaps grasped (a difficult word in a speech however, especially with a dry mouth).


I am sure I am not alone in being moved only to the extent that my eyelids were moving ever downwards. By the time the new leader attempted to arouse us with his vision of the next era by launching bloodless nouns like education, health, climate change and water, infrastructure, work, economy and security, I was dribbling on the edge of slumber.

How about this for an alternative?

Friends, we stand here today gazing across a new landscape for our country.

As the sun rises, we can grasp the many issues that have driven the electorate and have informed this party, to the extent we have been presented the reins of government. We can see the minds of our children being developed in ways that give our society added intelligence and innovation, creating a society that is both clever and compassionate. We can see our centres of healthcare being supported and enhanced by giving the commitment and resources we know are needed. We can see our economy moving forward with the added bonus of being driven - not driving - the moral underpinning of our nation …

… And as Australia goes to work, we know that we will give each and every worker the chance to succeed and to be given the respect and dignity they all deserve …

… Friends a day has arrived in which we as a nation can move forward, when we can write our own history, a history that is ours, as a people, as a nation …

That’s a rough rendering, written quickly, but you get the picture.

What we had from Kevin Rudd leaves a very poor impression and left me and many others non-plussed. I didn’t vote for Rudd, but I hoped he would win.

Now, I wonder what we’ve got ourselves in for. We can only hope the fire that drove many of his supporters is not left a sizzling pile of ashes and that the country we hope for through him will have more fire and passion than these first utterings as our PM.

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About the Author

James Rose is founder of the The Kick Project, an Australian football and development-based not-for-profit.

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