The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was known to refer to his home state as the Socialist Republic of Queensland and union leaders as Neanderthals, writes Simon Benson in his new book, Betrayal, an extract of which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 31 May.
The book is a case study in political deal making and a warning to all Australians never to increase the power of the politicians in some form of politicians’ republic.
…secret politicians' deal…
According to another report in the Telegraph, the book alleges that Kevin Rudd tried to persuade NSW Premier Morris Iemma not to proceed with electricity privatisation in the State before the 2007 Federal election.
In a secret meeting during the 2007 APEC summit, the book says that Mr Rudd pleaded with Mr Iemma to delay plans to privatise the power industry over fears a union backlash would torpedo his 2007 federal election campaign.
This was especially relevant as his campaign centred on an attack on John Howard's industrial reforms, Work Choices.
"If you help me, I'll get elected and you will prosper. Work with me and, when the time comes, we can f … them [the unions] together," Mr Rudd is alleged to have told Mr Iemma in a meeting attended by two other senior Labor staff.
"Sometimes we have to save the [union] movement from itself."
Mr. Iemma says that he and Mr. Rudd agreed they would go to war with the union movement after Mr Rudd was elected if the State Government delayed its critical reforms. Those reforms would have helped pay for more than $20 billion worth of road and rail projects in Sydney. The former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa reluctantly went along with the secret Rudd-Iemma pact.
The question for constitutionalists is whether secret deals should be made concerning the governance of a state to give a party electoral advantage. This revelation will make Australians wary of politicians. Constitutionalists are bound to stress that in a politicians’ republic the influence and power of the political class will be substantially increased.
…claim deal not honoured…
Mr. Benson says that less than a year later, Mr. Rudd walked away from the commitment, and refused to step in to protect Labor MPs under threat from unions opposing privatisation.
According to the book, Mr. Rudd refused to accept several calls from the Premier before they finally spoke on 27 August. Mr Iemma said “I am asking you to support me on a matter of principle.”
"It's a state issue, I can't get involved," Mr Rudd is said to have replied.
A week later Mr Iemma was forced from office after his privatisation plans collapsed.
Mr. Iemma and Mr. Costa were interviewed by Alan Jones from 2GB on the Macquarie Radio Network on 31 May – readers may listen through this link. Mr. Benson was interviewed for the same network by Ray Hadley. Again, readers may listen through this link.
The lesson for Australians is to be wary of increasing the power of the political class, which will be the result of moving to a politicians’ republic.
Indeed Ted Mack, the respected independent republican, warned in 1999 that this was the intention of the republican movement in pushing the model which the nation and all states rejected.