It was a surreal experience to watch you in tears on television today. It reminded of a day in '91, when another Labor PM cried at press conference having being ousted by his party.
You came to my attention a few months before you toppled 'Bomber' Beazley when you wrote about Faith in Politics. You lauded Dietrich Bonhoeffer for resisting totalitarian power and offered a vision of Australia that matched his integrity:
'The time has well and truly come for a vision for Australia not limited by the narrowest of definitions of our national self-interest. Instead, we need to be guided by a new principle that encompasses not only what Australia can do for itself, but also what Australia can do for the world.'Little did we know that you would soon be in a position to make Australia the light on a hill you dreamed it should be. I was in Parliament House the day you became the Opposition Leader, and started you meteoric rise to power. Your high numbers in the polls was matched by the higher moral authority you took in the campaign, annihilating The Coalition.
Your election on my 23rd birthday seemed to offer Australia a fresh start, as we emerged from several long years under the Howard Government. Kevin07 very quickly turned into Kevin 24/7, as your punishing workload delivered: an apology to the stolen generation; ratifying Kyoto; workplace reform; a briefly more humane response to refugees; leading the nation through the GFC; attempted tax and health reform; an 'education revolution'; withdrawing troops from Iraq; social inclusion; an increased regard in the community of nations...all in two and a half years.
But it all started to unravel when your rhetoric - well actually when your rhetoric became incomprehensible and bore no resemblance to the visionary oratory of 2007. Your government backed down on core election promises like climate change and refugees and that new federalism you once promised. You had seemed so unassailable, but with a rabid new leader on the other side of the treasury benches the polls turned against you. And so did your party. Out-flanked by the factions you had banished on your accession to the top-job, your were whacked by your deputy and a fellow Nambour boy; a wasted PM.
It happened very suddenly didn't it? I'm sure you feel it was sudden. How is it that the outrage over 1975 hasn't prevented the backroom party hacks from removing the elected PM?
So it is that I sit here tonight with a familiar melancholy feeling looking over a letter a received when I was seven. I hope you too enjoy spending more time with your family.