So it seems my conversion to political nerd and hack continues... I heard Kevin Rudd was giving a lecture at LSE and decided I just had to go. Sad, I know. Not that easy it turns out, since over 1000 people applied for tickets within minutes of it opening, which puts Kevin up there with major rock bands in terms of ticket interest! At least he's a celebrity for being successful in the political arena, rather than vice versa.
Anyway, thanks to Rach I was able to attend and actually see the man whose name I wore in XXL pride last year, and who made so many people in a dodgy Wetherspoon pub deliriously happy one Sunday morning. The speech itself was as expected: talking about his policy agenda and how it ties in with the UK's, interspersed with some occasional Pom bashing (which was lapped up by the adoring 99% Aussie audience).
The themes of the speech that I found interesting were his acceptance of globalisation, and plan for 'middle-power democracy'. Clearly, governments can no longer ignore the global climate (whether it be in the arena of security, economics, or the environment, which he did note are not distinct areas any more), but it sounds like he may be biting off a bit more than little ol' Australia can handle. Solving climate change, fixing Afghanistan, combating terrorism... all worthy goals, but it sounds like Kim Beazley might be right (Rudd's pace can't be maintained: Beazley SMH 8 Apr 2008) - Kevin seems to be spreading himself too thin, and it might lead to mistakes (he did refer to the United Kingdom as the United States at least once during the lecture). On the other hand, it's good to see a leader who has aims and ambitions go beyond keeping the electorate happy until the next election.
The idea of Australia exerting 'middle power diplomacy' is an interesting idea. Without a roaring economy or rampaging defence force, it's hard to imagine people taking notice of what Australia has to say. But as Rudd points out, Australia is well placed to act as a 'knowledge broker' between the waning powers of the west, and the rising powers of the orient. There should be someone to provide advice on the growing pains of development, and perhaps a non-threatening voice with no real power agenda of its own is more likely to be appreciated than the 'bullying voice of western powers trying to cling to their position.' Whether or not Australia has the skills or people to manage such a relationship is another matter.
It looks like Rudd, and the Australia he now leads, are signing up for some Herculean tasks. It's good to have worthy goals, but I hope he, and Australia, haven't bitten off more than they can chew.