Not for the Faint-Hearted
Pan Macmillan

Not for the Faint-Hearted

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In 2007, Kevin Rudd became only the third Labor prime minister since the Second World War, after Whitlam and Hawke, to win government from opposition. In doing so he also defeated, and unseated, John Howard, the longest-serving conservative prime minister since Menzies.

So who was the man behind the phenomenal success of the Kevin07 campaign? This Mandarin-speaking professional diplomat, committed Christian and self-described policy wonk, who grew up as the son of a dairy farmer in rural Queensland to become the 26th prime minister of Australia?

While journalists, the professional commentariat and Rudd's political foes have together felled forests writing about the 'real' Kevin Rudd, until now he has refused to provide any written response to his many critics. That changes with this volume, which takes us to his election as prime minister in 2007. This is the first time we hear from the man himself, in his own words, about what makes him tick.

With a level of self-reflection, and a capacity for sending himself up that is rarely seen in political autobiography, Rudd chronicles a childhood shaped by the love of his mother and tragically disrupted by the death of his father when he was eleven - an event that left the family without a home or an income, and which would foster in him a visceral passion for social justice, and the foundations of his own political vision.

He tells of his years as a budding China scholar, his many misadventures as a young diplomat in Stockholm and Beijing, his marriage to the remarkable Thérèse Rein and the centrality of his tight-knit family to both his private and public lives. He takes us through his years as Queensland's most powerful public servant during the days of the Goss government, and the soul-destroying moment of losing his first election to Federal Parliament in 1996, before finally prevailing through the maze of Labor factional politics to win his seat in 1998.

Rudd's account of the next nine long years in Opposition lays bare the inner workings of our national politics, including the absurdities of the factional system, the essential nature of Australian conservatism, and the arrogance of the Howard government, culminating in Howard's two greatest follies: the decision to take Australia to war in Iraq, and the introduction of WorkChoices. He also describes the monumental task of wresting office from a conservative prime minister who tried every trick in the book to hold on to power.

Rudd also carefully chronicles the evolution of his own deepest beliefs, values and political convictions over many decades, long before his entry to Parliament. He describes his book as 'an essay in encouragement' for those considering a public life who are committed to changing the world for the many, not the few, but are uncertain if they have the stomach for it.

This is an optimistic book, written with passion, conviction and insight. It is the first in a two-volume autobiography. It covers the unlikely rise of the 'boy from Eumundi' to the most powerful office in the land.

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