2GB: Taking on the Faceless Men

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
BEN FORDHAM LIVE, 2GB
18 JUNE 2020

Ben Fordham
Nobody knows the power of Faceless Men. Like my next guest. They helped tear down his leadership 10 years ago. And can you believe it? There’s even a party this weekend to celebrate the anniversary of the coup, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins me on the line. Kevin Rudd, good morning to you.

Kevin Rudd
Good morning, Ben. Thanks for having me on your program.

Ben Fordham
Thank you for joining us. Labor and the Faceless Man, not much has changed in the last 10 years.

Kevin Rudd
Well, 10 years ago, you’re right about five or six Faceless Men, by which we mean heads of the unelected factions of the party got together and decided they wanted to change Prime Minister, a Prime Minister in my case democratically elected by the Australian people. And as you remember, Ben, you were around at the time, everyone woke up the next morning to discover that the Prime Ministership of the country had changed. That was because of the power of the Faceless Men. They come from factions. Factions exists in the Liberal Party as well. They are unelected. I think there are cancer on democracy. They need to be rooted out of both parties.

Ben Fordham
Why are there so many people in the Labor Party more interested in undertaking these ruthless power grabs, than changing the country for the better?

Kevin Rudd
It’s a funny old thing, Ben, when you actually have a look at some of the individuals involved who, as it were, aspire to becoming leaders of factions, they are usually talentless individuals in terms of ideas for the country, policies that will work for working families or practical things that give Australia a new vision for the future. And whether it’s in the Labor Party or the Liberal Party, those who engage in the skullduggery of factional warfare against one another are essentially talentless individuals who choose to get their power by this means, rather than going out and competing publicly and transparently in public debating stages about ideas, policy and visions for the country’s future.

Ben Fordham
There have been so many announcements over the years, Mr Rudd, when Labor heavyweights say ‘OK, we’re cleaning up the system, we are fixing this once and for all’. And it comes back again and again and again. So what needs to happen to fix it once and for all?

Kevin Rudd
I have a pretty simple approach to this which, is under our rules, and frankly under the Liberal Party’s rules, because they’re the other major party of Australian politics — and in New South Wales, that factional warfare between left and right, and moderates and the so-called right in the Liberal Party is very vicious — I have a simple proposal for all groups in Australian politics, which is that factions should be banned. If you remove factions, guess what, you remove the incentive for powerbrokers to accumulate their power by things like branch-stacking. So as long as we sustain factions within a political party, which are always meeting locally in the dark, then frankly, we’re going to leave these incentives in place for people to accumulate power. One final thought on that, Ben, was that one of the reasons the Faceless Men decided to act against me literally 10 years ago next week was that I removed their power to make appointments to the cabinet or the shadow cabinet. That is, their ultimate power lay in that, and as a consequence, their ability to influence other people. So once I took that away and said, no, that’s the job of the Prime Minister or the leader of the party, they went nuts, and ultimately, they sought their revenge by seeking a change in the Prime Ministership itself.

Ben Fordham
Some of these damaging recordings on 60 minutes were filmed in the office of a federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne. This morning in the Australian newspaper, are text messages that Anthony Byrne sent to a whole range of people where he describes a female Labor figure as a rat-f***r and a drunk, he puts to destroy a party powerbroker, Alan Griffin saying, I want his head cut off and then I’m going to urinate on his corpse. Speaking about one of Bill Shorten staff and he says, I’m going to cut that person’s head off. And when I asked Anthony Albanese, the current Labor leader on Tuesday about Anthony Byrne, this is what he said.

Anthony Albanese
[Recording] Well, Anthony Byrne, I know him, and I regard him as someone of integrity.

Ben Fordham
Would Anthony Albanese be regretting those words right now?

Kevin Rudd
Look, you got to understand, Ben. I’m in Queensland. I haven’t picked up this morning’s papers. I haven’t read what’s there about what has been alleged this morning. All I know is that when actions are taken against branch-stacking kingpins like Mr Somyurek in Victoria, guess what, the politics of retribution takes over. When you start to clean up the show, in terms of branch-stacking in whichever political party we’re talking about, it’s not for the faint-hearted. People are going to seek revenge. Now I haven’t seen those reports, but I’m sure there’s an element of revenge politics in it as well.

Ben Fordham
Mr Rudd, I was in Parliament House 10 years ago, the night that Julia Gillard came into your office late in the afternoon and I think she then went back to some of the Faceless Men and said, ‘Look, I’m going to give him a bit more time’ and they said, ‘No, you go back in there, and you tell him, you’re taking his office in his job’. That was 10 years ago. And now we find out that on the 10th anniversary, there’s a party coming up this weekend to celebrate the coup. Do you find that bizarre?

Kevin Rudd
Well, I find it genuinely bizarre that the president of the party, Mr Swan, would engage in this sort of celebration of an anti-democratic act. What happened on the night was basically as you said, there was no meeting of the cabinet, there was no meeting of the caucus, there was simply a meeting of the Faceless Men. They then met with Julia Gillard and as a result of that the coup unfolded and all within a matter of hours. And the power of the Faceless Men in political parties who head factions is their ability then to tell others what to do? So remember, on that night you had five or six men, and they’re always men, largely talentless individuals, who haven’t been able to get their own way. And this is a power in their hands as opposed to 120 members of the parliamentary party, the 50,000 members of the Australian Labor Party nationwide, not to mention the 20 million people then in Australia who voted in the election, which made me Prime Minister. It’s undemocratic, utterly undemocratic, which is why factions, whether in the Liberal Party or the Labour Party, need to be blown out of the water.

Ben Fordham
I appreciate you pulling no punches. And thank you so much for coming on.