Interview with Malcolm Farr on The PM Years

This article is extracted from Malcolm Farr’s article on

Aussie politics ruled by a ruthless culture where you are taught to ‘kill the bloke in front of you’

MALCOLM Turnbull was knifed in the back as part of a ruthless “catch and kill” culture that is rife in Australian politics.

AUSTRALIA’S unprecedented bout of prime ministerial removals is being blamed on a generation of ruthless party apparatchiks and a “catch and kill” culture.

Members of Young Labor and Young Liberals had been “all taught that the way to get ahead was to kill the bloke in front of you, catch and kill your own,” former prime minister Kevin Rudd told today.

“And finally, these folks are now senior cabinet ministers and senior leaders within our respective parties.

“And it brings a culture from the youth wings of these parties into mainstream politics that frankly is new.

“I was never in Young Labor, and I doubt that Turnbull was a Young Liberal,” apparently excusing himself and his Liberal counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.

Kevin Rudd is an expert on leadership ousting, both as victim and perpetrator.

He has outlined his version of the coup which saw him replaced in 2010 by his deputy Julia Gillard — whom he subsequently counter-couped in 2013 — in a second book of memoirs released today, Kevin Rudd: The PM Years (MacMillan).

He is ready for history to judge his heavily-footnoted recollections against the contrary accounts by foes Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

Mr Swan, for example, today referred to a passage noting his absence from a Rudd New Year’s Eve party in 2009, which the then prime minister saw as the start of a campaign against him.

The former treasurer said there was no snub or sinister cancellation. He and wife Kim hadn’t accepted the invitation because it had arrived just five days before the party, and they had already made other plans.

However, there were issues other than social no-shows at stake in that period, including disagreement over tax reform and reduction of carbon emissions.

Mr Rudd says his book deals not just with the leadership challenges but also the consequences.

And he says he knows the solution to the extraordinary turnover of PMs.

It’s what he calls the Rudd Rules which he introduced and which he says provided “a big speed bump” to slow challenges to the party leader.

They require a series of ballots involving rank-and-file and the parliamentary caucus. In October 2015 the new system saw Bill Shorten defeat Anthony Albanese to become Labor leader.

“Given where Shorten’s been in various polls in that period of time there would have been clearly moves to get rid of him,” Mr Rudd said.

“But he’s been able to bank on the rules (for five years of stability) and focus on, frankly, the party‘s message and its policies, and I think done a good job at that.

“Meantime, we’ve had three conservative prime ministers, for God’s sake. The Tories should adopt the Labor rules.”

Mr Rudd also condemned the rising power of “factional barons” who manipulate the ambitious Young Liberal and Young Labor graduates.

“And we’ve seen now as big a factionalisation of the Liberal Party as we’ve seen historically in the Labor Party,” he told

Mr Rudd also rejects “the cult of the opinion poll and the fortnightly reign of terror it rains down on the political class as it’s either ecstatic joy or existential collapse — nothing inbetween”.

He also attacked the role of media “king makers and breakers”, and maintained his hostility towards News Corp, owner of