Oz PM Rudd gets an “F” for language

September 22, 2009

As the U.S. Congress roils over use of the word “liar” against President Barack Obama, Australia
is in uproar over the prime minister’s use of the F-word.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, once a diplomat, was this week forced to defend his “robust” language used against a group of unhappy junior lawmakers in his own centre-left Labor Party while slashing back their official pay entitlements.

“I don’t care what you f**kers think!” Rudd told the backbench group, which included three women, in a private conversation later leaked widely to newspapers.

Rudd, talking to reporters ahead of a meeting of G-20 group leaders in the United States, said he had only been making his point clear to members of his own union-based party.

“I think it’s fair to say that consistent with the traditions of the Australian Labor Party, we’re given to robust conversations,” he said. “I make no apology for either the content of my conversation or the robustness with which I expressed my views.”

Unlike in Washington, where standards of political behaviour are closely entwined with ideas of respect, Australia’s parliament functions with a rough-and-tumble unthinkable in the
United States, but which can still raise eyebrows.

Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, was notorious for the parliamentary vitriol he unleashed, famously describing the upper house Senate, now frustrating Rudd’s climate change agenda, as “unrepresentative swill”.

Keating, once dubbed the “lizard of Oz” by British tabloids after touching the Queen, lashed various opponents as “a shiver waiting for a spine”, “brain-damaged” or “a dead carcass, swinging in the breeze”.

The Europhile leader sparked an international incident when he called then-Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad “recalcitrant”, refusing to apologise even when faced with trade sanctions.

But even Keating could not compete with the brief but spectacular opposition leadership of Labor’s Mark Latham, who called the ruling conservative government of John Howard a “conga
line of suckholes” when it came to close ally the United States.

In a shock jibe aimed at Howard’s immigration minister Philip Ruddock, a member of rights group Amnesty International but tough enforcer of border protection laws, the fiery Latham sparked
outrage shouting “Hand in your badge, Adolf”.

Political watchers are divided over whether Rudd’s outburst will impact on his near-record opinion survey approval levels ahead of elections due next year.

Newspaper cartoons showed Rudd as a “F bomb” being dropped on colleagues, while the country’s Families Association said his comments were reprehensible, accusing him of hypocrisy running
counter to his preferred “angelic” image.

But in a country largely innoculated against blunt language, despite the increasing sophistication of its cities, most agree it won’t.

“The truth is that politics, whether it’s on our side or the other side, is a robust business where exchanges of views can sometimes be laced with less than polite descriptions. That’s life,” said Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner.

What do you think? Should politicians try to maintain a higher standard of behaviour, or is it okay to slip into the language of the street?

17 comments

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“As the U.S. Congress roils over use of the word “liar” against President Barack Obama, Australia is in uproar over the prime minister’s use of the F-word.”

Nobody here particularly cares about whether the P.M. uses the F-word. People probably find it funny, but to say that Australia is in uproar is absolutely ridiculous.

There is nothing wrong with swearing.

The issue is that the PM swears at work collegues, in order to bully them into doing what he says. Probably because of how powerless he feels in international affairs, dispite his claims to the contrary.

The worst thing is that this very image fits his party, and voters, quite well. And you can see that when even now, his supporters leap to his defence.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

I never heard John Howard swear. Perhaps that’s why he lost the last election?

Posted by Callum | Report as abusive

A real outback down under. Prefer a more civilized environ.

Posted by Nitin | Report as abusive

It must be remembered that the Australians’ chose this man to represent them, it’s called democracy. They knew what they were getting, and I’d be surprised to find any Australian who was surprised that another Australian uses the *u*k word.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

I’ve gotta say what an absolute load of BS this article is.. Australians dont care in the slightest whether our PM occasionally swears, even if it isn’t the guy we voted for ANON, so sad to be the minority :(
Swearing is VERY Australian and would only score you political points here for looking like a human. Rudd is not worried because he knows this as do the rest of the aussie public.
What a tretcherous and snivelling act to try’n dob the prime-minister in for swearing in a closed meeting cos he gave you a pay cut in a recession!

Nitin, I’d love to know where you’re from? And what does “a real outback down under” mean??

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Oh noes.

Looks like the ALP supporters elected a fraud and a bully :)

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

hah! no-one likes a pansy, that’s why your party didn’t get elected..
Sorry you didn’t get your way but whether it was K-Rudd or scared little Johnny Howard that dropped the “F-bomb” It’s only going to improve their popularity and you know it. If you just like whinging move to England where you won’t just be an annoying minority..

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Actually, Kevin got elected because he was willing to promise the world, and deliver nothing. And at least 5% of the punters fell for it. That was all.

As I said, the same negative qualities of Rudd are exactly what endear him to his supporters. Because those supporters tend to possess the exact same qualities.

Even in your offhand remarks, one can see the very qualities that probably mark an ALP supporter. You respond with personal insults the moment someone attacks your party.

Or perhaps you are just uncivil. Either way, it isn’t worth my time. There are plenty of Rudd errors occuring on a weekly basis to keep me amused instead.

Like giving stimulus payments to dead people. And promising to shock the international community to deal with global warming, the very same day he indicates he will make concessions to China and India. And an ETS that doesn’t actually reduce emissions. The list grows daily.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

indeed he shouldnt swear,and of course any other country’s leader, in other to prove to the people that they can control their emotion

Posted by sheilla minerva | Report as abusive

I loved it how the reporter first mentioned it to Rudd during a press statement. For a brief ten seconds, he sat there looking shell shocked as he realised what it was about. Then the smarm and spin took over. And now, as usual, he is overseas to give us some more time to forget his most recent blunders.

Posted by JoeyJoeJones | Report as abusive

[...] PM’s Language Raises Eyebrows lol Global News Blog ? Blog Archive ? Oz PM Rudd gets an “F” for language | Blogs | [...]

hahaha!!

1. Its not my party..
2. It is worth your time cos you just wrote 5 paragraphs about it.
3. Rudd never had these “qualities” as you so craftily put it until now.
4. It is these “qualities” that endear a politician to an Australian, not just their party. Because if you have been in the country more than 2 months you’ll know that swearing is like breathing to an Aussie.
5. I repeat go back to ye ole England you right proper whinging pom, they have much to complain about there!

We don’t stifle our passions in Australia, we let it out honestly and if you have a problem with that then have #%$*#@% fun with it, it’s your problem!!

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Ok, Brian. Perhaps it isn’t your party.

Perhaps you are just one of those people who support bullying others to get your way. And enjoy swearing at women and intimidating them. And you think these are Australian qualities.

As this is what Rudd did, and because you support what he did, this is the logical conclusion for me to make. And your responses only seem to confirm this.

Oh well. I have better things to do then bait a troll. It’s just that it is so damn tempting to do when you find them.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Is swearing really “bullying”? They are just words you know… What if I called you taco. Now, its your job to decide whether this offends you, or is simply funny.

Posted by chomp | Report as abusive

This isn’t about Rudd accidently slipping a naughty word and looking at the camera like a cheeky boy.

If you swear at someone during a conversation, when you seek to intimidate and force that person to do as you say, then this is bullying. And this is what Rudd did.

If you think this is harmless, then re-read the article. And actually pay attention to the facts.

Posted by F.O.I Friday | Report as abusive

If cursing at you is all it takes to make you cower and walk away, then maybe you should feel a bit more passionately about your cause.

Posted by chomp | Report as abusive

I think the issue is not so much how politicians behave in private meetings but rather how they behave in Question Time where their grandstanding and cheap political and personal shots are at the expense of informed debate.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive