Kim Beazley: Kevin Rudd’s 24-hour media obsession

Paul Keating was a dominant media performer but how would he have gone in today’s frenetic 24-hour news cycle?

Not a problem, said Kim Beazley, his deputy prime minister.

“Paul would have been in his element but would not have let the media dictate the day’s play,” Mr Beazley said.

“We were conscious of the fact that you didn’t have to talk to journalists every day and you had to have something to say when you talked to them.”

But in a surprisingly frank attack on another Labor prime minister, Mr Beazley said Kevin Rudd’s government “atrophied” because he was obsessed with getting media coverage.

Mr Beazley, who was his predecessor as federal Labor leader, accused Mr Rudd of an “inability to focus” on government.

“Rudd was impossible,” Mr Beazley told a media conference held to launch the cabinet papers last month. “He was impossible again when he became prime minister, because of his inability to operate other than on the basis of one story a day.

“He just couldn’t govern on that basis. His government atrophied. In no small measure it was the product of an inability to focus on getting things done instead of getting a story done.”

“[All federal] governments since have been rather like that anyway.”

Mr Beazley attributed Mr Rudd’s obsession with the media to his having served his apprenticeship working in Queensland for then state Labor premier Wayne Goss, where “they only think of the day’s news”.

Mr Rudd replaced Mr Beazley as leader in December 2006.

Mr Beazley was answering a question on whether or not the Keating government would have been able to sustain such a deliberative policy process in today’s frenetic 24-hour news cycle.

Media man: Kevin Rudd was ruled by the 24-hour media cycle, said the man he defeated for the Labor leadership Kim Beazley. Photo: David Mariuz

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