Kevin Rudd served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister (2007-2010, 2013) and Foreign Minister (2010-2012). Kevin married Thérèse Rein in 1981. He is a father to three (Jessica, Nicholas and Marcus) and a grandfather to two (Josie and McLean).
Kevin was born in Nambour, Queensland and grew up on a farm nearby in Eumundi. After attending high school in Brisbane, Kevin went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) with first class honours at the Australian National University. It was here that his fascination with China began and he started learning Mandarin.
After university, Kevin joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, where he worked as a diplomat and received postings to Stockholm and Beijing. He returned to Australia to become Chief of Staff to Wayne Goss in the Queensland election campaign of 1989 and took on the role of Director-General of the Cabinet during Goss’ time as Premier. Kevin entered Parliament in 1998 after winning the seat of Griffith located in South-East Brisbane.
Kevin successfully led the Australian Labor Party to victory in the 2007 federal election after 11 years of in Opposition. While in office, Kevin’s government set into motion major reforms in domestic policy areas such as health, education, industrial relations, social security and infrastructure. He led Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, reviewed by the IMF as the most effective stimulus strategy of all major economies. Australia was the only major developed economy not to go into recession. On 13 February 2008, Kevin delivered the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in Australia and committed to ‘closing the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Kevin was also very active on the international stage where his considerable experience in foreign affairs assisted him to pursue numerous major policy achievements. These include making advances on climate change action, his role in the establishment of the G20 and diplomacy in moving towards an Asia-Pacific community through multilateral bodies such as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN and APEC.
Since leaving Australian politics in 2013, Kevin has continued to engage in international affairs. He has been appointed to many prominent roles such as a Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Distinguished Statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Distinguished Fellow at both Chatham House and the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Currently, Kevin serves as President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, a “think-do tank” dedicated to second track diplomacy to assist governments and business on policy challenges within Asia, and between Asia, the US and the West. In 2015, he was appointed Chair of Sanitation and Water for All, a UNICEF-supported organisation working towards universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation. He is also Chair of the International Commission on Multilateralism and Chair of the Board of International Peace Institute's Board of Directors.
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION - ASIA AND THE WORLD
Kevin has been personally active in most major global institutions. From his beginnings at the Australian National University, Kevin reinforced his knowledge of Chinese language and culture through further studies in Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing. He has been to China over 100 times and is viewed as a leading sinologist featuring regularly on the BBC, CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox News and the ABC as an expert commentator on East Asian affairs.
"There is nothing determinist about international relations. We decide on our futures between nations; just as we decide our futures between ourselves." - Intelligence Squared debate, 14 Oct 2015
His time at the Department of Foreign Affairs gave him great insight into the workings of the international system and as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, he was active in regional and global foreign policy leadership. His first official act as Prime Minister was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and he worked throughout his time in office to promote global action on climate change. He was a major player in establishing the G20 and worked to ensure Australia had a seat at the table of the leading global economic decision-making body. His government also saw Australia’s foreign aid budget increase to approximately $5 billion, making Australia one of the top ten aid donors in the OECD at the time. Kevin was also a driving force in expanding the East Asia Summit to include both the US and Russia in 2011, having in 2008 launched an initiative for the long-term development of a wider Asia Pacific Community. Kevin also advocated strongly for Australia’s successful bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-14.
"I remain an optimist about the UN’s future... I am inspired by the extraordinary contribution of the women and men working in the field today who are dedicated to this institution’s future and to its values." - UN address, October 2015
In his role as Chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, Kevin led a review of the UN system. He was also on the panel for the UN Secretary General’s report entitled ‘Resilient People, Resilient Planet’ prepared for the Rio Plus 20 Conference in 2012. This was among the first UN reports to recommend the development of the sustainable development goals.
At the Harvard Kennedy School he completed a major policy paper ‘U.S.-China 21: The Future of U.S.-China Relations Under Xi Jingping’ and he delivered a lecture series titled ‘China under Xi Jinping: Alternative Futures for U.S.-China Relations’, published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Kevin is also a member of the Comprehensive Test Ban Organization’s Group of Eminent Persons
As President of the Asia Society Policy institute, Kevin has spoken at length about China under Xi Jinping and recently has focused on approaches to managing China’s relations with the West, particularly the US, as its power and influence expands. He also comments frequently on the tensions on the Korean peninsula.
PEACE, SECURITY, AND COUNTER-TERRORISM
Kevin has a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, and he has worked to understand the type of practical intelligence, security and social intervention strategies that are most effective in dealing with this threat to the entire international community.
As Shadow Foreign Minister, Kevin helped lead the Australian Opposition Government's campaign against Australian participation in the invasion of Iraq. He stated explicitly in parliament at the time that the US decision to invade Iraq was in violation of the UN Security Council and created dangerous precedents for the future. He also argued that the Iraq invasion could not be justified on the grounds of "counter-terrorism." When elected, he withdrew Australian forces from Iraq.
As Prime Minister he led a re-definition of Australia's role in Afghanistan, including Australia's particular responsibility for Uruzgan Province. In Afghanistan, the Australian presence not only trained the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army, but also undertook large scale programs in: the education of women and girls, the building of mosques with schools attached, basic health care and improving road infrastructure.
Kevin is the Chair of the International Peace Institute's Board of Directors, a think tank dedicated to promoting the prevention and resolution of conflicts between and within states by strengthening international peace and security institutions.
Through his current work, Kevin tries to explore how changing dynamics in the international sphere will affect security issues and emphasises diplomacy’s role in bringing about peace.
Kevin is a passionate environmentalist and a firm believer that climate change poses a real and present threat to humanity and our future. He has been active in leading Australia and the world in dealing with climate change and has rallied leaders from around the globe in rising to meet the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time.
Climate change was high on Kevin’s agenda from early in his parliamentary career. In his time as a diplomat, he was a delegate to a conference on eliminating substances capable of damaging the ozone layer, subsequently becoming the Montreal Convention. This had a profound influence on his approach to global environmental reform.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. Our choice will impact all future generations. This is, therefore, a problem which requires a global solution.”- UN Climate Change Conference, Bali, 12 December 2007
Upon assuming leadership of the Australian Labor Party, Kevin made climate change a core pillar of his policy platform. As Prime Minister, Kevin maintained the momentum of the climate change agenda, breaking new ground in policy as well as driving a shift in public perception on climate change. He ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2007, formally committing the government, under international treaty law, to reducing greenhouse gases and improving compliance and auditing of carbon emissions. In 2008, his government legislated for a 20 per cent mandatory renewable energy target. He represented Australia at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. There he co-drafted the Copenhagen Accord, produced by the conference’s key negotiating group, containing critical breakthroughs on committing countries to maintain global temperature increases to within a two degree centigrade limit.
EQUITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.” - Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples, 13 February 2008
Kevin is a resolute advocate for equality and justice around the world, for all people, in all walks of life. He has fought for equal rights for women, for Indigenous peoples and for marriage equality.
He delivered the National Apology to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous Australians on 13 February 2008, the opening day of the Australian Parliament that year. Witnessed by millions across the country, the apology was a vital step in healing a rift in Australian society and moving the country towards greater reconciliation.
In that speech, he committed future Prime Ministers to delivering annual statements to the parliament outlining progress in meeting the "closing the gap" targets he outlined in his original apology statement. These annual reports have provided a new level of transparency to what is truly happening in indigenous health, education, employment and housing.
Understanding that the apology was only a first step in healing, Kevin established the National Apology Foundation for Indigenous Australians (NAFIA) to continue the work of reconciliation and deliver justice to Indigenous Australians. To this day, Kevin marks the anniversary of the apology each 13 February by revisiting this powerful landmark occasion, and critically assessing the progress made in the annual closing the gap report.
As Prime Minister, Kevin was challenged on his stance on marriage equality, and he responded passionately that he would be taking steps to legalise same-sex marriage. Recognising the religious debates surrounding gay rights, Kevin reiterated that his stance had come after years of reflection in good Christian conscience - that we should seek to embrace the diversity and uniqueness in all of us.
“We need to see more women in positions of community and corporate leadership across the world” - Beijing, 2 April 2016
Kevin was brought up in a single-parent family after his father was killed in an accident when he was 11. Because of the discrimination he saw his mother having to deal with in rural Australia in the '60s and '70s, he has been a strong supporter of gender equality throughout his professional life.
While in government, Kevin took concrete actions to bring about real change for women and girls. He introduced Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme, giving financial support to lower and middle-income women after giving birth. He also increased child care support so that families could get 50 per cent refunds for their child care costs.
Kevin is also passionate about preventing violence against women and girls. As Prime Minister, he established Australia's first national anti-domestic violence strategy and a dedicated national council to support it.
"It is my gender – it is our gender – Australian men – that are responsible. And so the question is: what are we going to do about it?" - on domestic violence against women, Time for Action: The National Council's Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2009-2021, delivered May 2008
Kevin also brought about a significant increase in the representation of women at the highest levels of Australian politics. He appointed the first, and so far only, woman to serve as Australia’s Governor-General, the Hon. Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO. Women also made up nearly a third of Kevin’s second Cabinet, still an Australian record. Kevin introduced Australia’s first National Strategy for Increased Participation of Women in Company Boards, which included a database of “board-ready” women, aimed at ensuring all company boards were aware of potential female candidates. Kevin initiated a “women’s leadership and development strategy” which funded six national women’s alliances in the NGO sector to engage with governments both at home and abroad to overcome gender inequality.
In addition, while in office, he made international gender equality one of the ten core priorities of the Australian aid program. This directly led to significantly increased funding for maternal health, birthing kits, education for girls, increased female voter participation, enhanced women’s rights to land and inheritance, and a range of micro-finance initiatives to assist women starting up small businesses around the world.
The Rudd Government was one of the first funders of UN Women, and Australia's first Ambassador for Women and Girls was appointed while he was Foreign Minister, to help combat domestic violence in the South Pacific and elsewhere in the region.
SANITATION AND WATER FOR ALL
"We’re talking about the lives of millions of children." - Addis Ababa, 15 March 2016
Kevin believes that sanitation, water and hygiene are basic human rights. His appointment as Chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), enables him to deploy his skills, experience, and international expertise to solve this fundamental, yet widespread, challenge to humanity. SWA is a global partnership of over 100 governments, external support agencies, civil society organisations and other development partners working together to catalyse political leadership and action, improve accountability and use scarce resources more effectively. It is supported by UNICEF and other partners to work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal number six, universal access to clean water and sanitation.
During his time in government, Kevin developed a deep understanding of the challenges faced by millions of people around the world in finding access to clean water. He noted that sanitation, water and hygiene were areas of critical urgency, affecting the poorest people around the world, and especially women and children. A lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation not only poses serious health risks that take countless lives, but also causes economic turmoil and significant gender inequality.
"The time is now right to focus on the unfolding water crisis. Not just the humanitarian angle, but also the impact on national security arising from water scarcity." - Davos, 21 January 2016