Profane video stokes Aussie prime minister’s tensionsAgence France-Presse
SYDNEY – Leadership tensions within Australia’s ruling Labor party erupted Sunday with the release of a video showing ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd on an expletive-ridden rant about a Chinese interpreter.
The two-minute video, uploaded onto YouTube by a mystery user calling themselves “HappyVegemiteKR”, shows an irate Rudd trying to record a message in Mandarin and railing against the “dickhead in the embassy” who wrote the text.
“This f—— language, he just complicates it so much. How can anyone do this?” Rudd shouts, slamming his fist on the table in front of him.
Rudd was ousted as leader in a shock party-room coup in June 2010 by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who scraped back into power at elections and is now badly lagging in the polls.
Speculation has intensified in recent weeks that Rudd, currently Australia’s foreign minister, is preparing to challenge for the top job.
He denied there was a leadership challenge on but said a suspicious person would question the “unusual” timing of the video’s release, given that it was shot several years ago when he was still prime minister.
Such out-takes footage was usually destroyed but Rudd said the video in question had clearly been archived by the prime minister’s office or some other government department. Gillard’s office denied leaking the footage.
Rudd also insisted that he was a changed man and had learned to be less controlling and to consult more broadly – two key criticisms that saw him lose office.
“As to whether (I have) changed in any fundamental way, that’s a judgment for others to make, but I’ve certainly reflected a lot in the past several years,” Rudd told Sky News.
Gillard admitted that the tensions were hurting her government.
“This kind of focus over the last few weeks means it’s more difficult for me to be out there explaining to people what’s happening in our economy,” Gillard said.
She refused to entertain hypotheticals about her leadership and said it was an “incredible privilege” to lead the country.
But there are now open divisions within the party, with one Labor MP calling for Gillard to stand down Sunday and another condemning Rudd as a “prima donna” who had been “comprehensively rejected” by his colleagues.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon urged Rudd to focus on his portfolio, saying he had left Labor with “a lot of challenges” and Gillard was a better leader.