Labor colleagues may have blasted Kevin Rudd as ‘a psychopath, a micromanager, and a control freak’ but Anthony Albanese wouldn’t have been one of them.
The prime minister’s staunch defence of Dr Rudd as he appointed him ambassador to the US on Tuesday is just his latest time he’s stuck up for his old mate.
Growing up in parliament together, Mr Albanese elected in 1996 and Dr Rudd in 1998, the two men go way back as political allies.
When Labor finally returned to power in 2007, Mr Albanese was a key player in the Rudd Government, both as a minister and backroom player.
Mr Albanese’s most memorable show of loyalty during this turbulent period was an emotional speech in 2012 where he backed Dr Rudd over Julia Gillard.
Growing up in parliament together, Anthony Albanese elected in 1996 and Kevin Rudd in 1998, the two men go way back as political allies. Here they are in 2004
Despite a landslide victory in 2007, within three years Dr Rudd was wounded by policy failures and deeply unpopular among cabinet colleagues.
He was deposed in favour of Ms Gillard at a leadership spill Mr Albanese was bitterly opposed to for the incredible damage it did to his beloved Labor Party.
Despite being a strong Rudd ally and infrastructure minister, Mr Albanese was regarded as an honest broker among the chaos and Ms Gillard appointed him leader of the House.
Two years later, Ms Gillard was only governing with the support of the Greens and independents and despised by voters for her carbon tax backflip.
Dr Rudd was able to force a spill that February aiming to be reinstated as PM, putting Mr Albanese between a rock and a hard place.
Holding back tears, Mr Albanese explained his decision to vote for Dr Rudd in the upcoming ballot – largely to right what he saw as the injustice of 2010.
‘I have devoted my life to advancing the cause of Labor. I have despaired in recent days as I have watched Labor’s legacy in government be devalued,’ he said.
‘We have been a good government since 2007, under Prime Minister Rudd we advanced a great deal… we should be proud of our record and not undermine it.’
Mr Albanese then lauded the many accomplishments of the Gillard Government, particularly as most of them were achieved during minority government.
‘Over recent days I have had a difficult decision to make… I’ve consulted friends, colleagues, family members… last night, on talking to family I came to a decision,’ he said.
He revealed he rang Ms Gillard and informed her he would vote for Mr Rudd at the leadership ballot, despite opposing a spill taking place at all.
When Labor finally returned to power in 2007, Mr Albanese was a key player in the Rudd Government, both as a minister and backroom player (pictured with Mr Rudd and treasurer Wayne Swan)
Mr Albanese said he frequently argued against the ‘predicament’ Labor now found itself in, and against colleagues whose attitude to a spill was ‘bring it on’.
‘I believe that the past few days have done damage to our party, there’s no doubt about that,’ he said.
‘I argued against this sort of action before – on the night of June 23, 2010. I believe the government’s difficulties can be traced to that night.
‘Labor is the party of fairness. It was not fair, it was wrong.
‘Monday’s ballot is the only opportunity I have to register my dissent with the actions of that night, and I intend to do so. I do so with a heavy heart.’
He implored his colleagues to cease the infighting so he could get back to ‘fighting Tories… that’s what I do’.
Julia Gillard (pictured) deposed Dr Rudd as prime minister in 2010, but despite being a strong Rudd ally and infrastructure minister, Mr Albanese was regarded as an honest broker among the chaos and Ms Gillard appointed him leader of the House
Mr Albanese said he offered Ms Gillard his resignation as leader of the House, but she refused to accept it.
‘She thanked me for the way that I had conducted myself and expressed confidence that I should remain leader of the House due to the loyalty and tenacity that I had shown in that position,’ he explained.
‘She said I would continue to have her full confidence if she was successful in Monday’s ballot.’
Dr Rudd said his friend’s speech brought him to tears.
‘There were very few dry eyes in the Rudd household this morning,’ he said.
‘Not just what he said about me, but about us as a movement, and the importance about owning all the good stuff we’ve done together, with myself, with Julia, the whole thing.
‘What Albo’s talking about today is binding hearts together and binding minds together for the future.’
Ms Gillard won the ballot, but kept Mr Albanese in his position until Dr Rudd defeated her in a second leadership challenge in 2013.
‘Albo is a great Labor man with a great Labor heart… I refused to accept his resignation… I can’t imagine a government I lead without Anthony Albanese in there beside me,’ she said after his speech.
With Dr Rudd back in charge, Mr Albanese was named deputy prime minister for the two months until the government was soundly beaten by Tony Abbott.
With Dr Rudd back in charge, Mr Albanese was named deputy prime minister for the two months until the government was soundly beaten by Tony Abbott
Dr Rudd largely faded from public view, emerging briefly as a candidate for UN secretary-general in 2016.
Then-PM Malcolm Turnbull refused to support Dr Rudd’s bid, a failure of bipartisanship Mr Albanese is still angered by.
‘When an Australian is a candidate for a position, we support the Australian candidate,’ he said in a 2020 interview.
‘I think that the behaviour of the current Coalition, in not supporting Kevin Rudd, was outrageous.’
Dr Rudd has spent the past few years preoccupied with a crusade against News Corp as payback for its vitriolic attacks on him during the 2013 election campaign.
His petition for a royal commission into the media giant’s influence in Australia has almost 500,000 signatures – the most of any submitted to parliament.
Mr Albanese has been very clear that he does not support it.
Sporting a scruffy white beard, Dr Rudd joined Mr Albanese on the campaign trail ahead of the May 21 election in his home state of Queensland
He also had to let his old friend down last year when Dr Rudd launched a covert bid to return to politics by contesting a Queensland seat at the election.
Sources told the Sydney Morning Herald he event went as far as commissioning a robo-poll of his appeal against Liberal MP Ted O’Brien, using Labor figures like ex-treasurer Wayne Swan and former premier Peter Beattie to obscure his involvement.
Dr Rudd was also said to want to debate Mr O’Brien in Mandarin, and paid for large newspaper ads promoting events and speeches he held in the area.
Mr Albanese had to personally talk his old friend out of throwing his hat in the ring so he wouldn’t become an awkward distraction in the campaign, the sources claimed.
Instead, sporting a scruffy white beard, Dr Rudd paused his News Corp vendetta to join Mr Albanese on the campaign trail ahead of the May 21 election.
The pair focused on Dr Rudd’s home state of Queensland, speaking to voters together and holding events in Brisbane.
As they barnstormed like old pals, the leadership hopeful began to get questions about whether Dr Rudd would be dispatched to Washington if Labor won.
‘Complete nonsense,’ he insisted. ‘Seriously, (the media) needs to get over the obsession.’
Not seven months after the election, the only surprising part of Dr Rudd’s appointment is that Mr Albanese ever bothered to deny it was inevitable.
So much so that the opposition hasn’t much protested his appointment, such are his impeccable diplomatic credentials.
Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia’s ambassador in the US was historically ‘close to, and carry the ear of the prime minister of the day’.
‘In appointing former prime minister Rudd, Prime Minister Albanese has personally chosen a friend and confidante, a former parliamentary and ministerial colleague, and someone in whom Mr Albanese clearly has faith and confidence,’ he said.