04 April 2009

INTERVIEW - Bully Prime Minister Kevin Rudd labelled 'Kevin Rude' after mid-air outburst


PM - Friday, 3 April , 2009 18:10:00

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

PETER CAVE: The Opposition has dubbed him 'Kevin Rude' but the Prime Minister just wants to move on after apologising for making a female flight attendant cry.

Mr Rudd's outburst happened on a flight home from Port Moresby in February when he was served the wrong meal.

But the incident is just a minor distraction for the Government compared to the growing discontent over the new Job Services contracts.

Tonight the nation's peak welfare body has joined calls for an inquiry.

From Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: The bad critiques just keep coming for the Government's new Job Services Australia system.

The latest estimates from the job provider industry suggest as many as 2,500 people could lose their jobs after missing out on Government contracts to help the unemployed.

Now the Australian Council of Social Service has added to the criticism.

CLARE MARTIN: I think there are lots of parts of the process that, as we get to the day after the announcements, don't seem to have worked well at all.

HAYDEN COOPER: Clare Martin is the chief executive of ACOSS and former Labor chief minister of the Northern Territory.

She wants to sit down with Julia Gillard and talk about the tender process, which took contracts away from many not-for-profit church providers.

Ms Martin says putting the whole system out to tender at once was a mistake.

CLARE MARTIN: Well, it was interesting.

When they were put out to tender in the early 2000s by the then Howard government, the Labor Opposition was very critical and said 'This is very disruptive'.

But that lesson hasn't been learned for these tenders in 2009.

HAYDEN COOPER: Are you concerned about the treatment of the non-profit sector?

CLARE MARTIN: Even services, or especially services that had been performing well, that were a strong part of local communities, have seemingly lost contracts, and you know, my members are saying to me, 'We don't know why. We don't know why the process of actually informing us has been a very, very poor one. And we don't understand how it is that if we've been acceptable in the past, why now that we've lost out.'

HAYDEN COOPER: So should the process have placed more weight on an organisation's record in providing services, rather than on what they promised to achieve in the future?

CLARE MARTIN: The concern of taking a big chunk of the not-for-profit providers out is that you lose those kind of wraparound services.

At a time when Tanya Plibersek has got a homelessness strategy that is talking about the importance of wraparound services to those who are the most vulnerable, you've got the employment contracts doing the absolute opposite.

HAYDEN COOPER: Clare Martin supports calls by the Greens for a Senate inquiry.

But the Employment Participation Minister Brendan O'Connor is still defending the process.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: This is a difficult task.

It is a very large reform; it needed to be done.

The Job Network system was broken.

In fact, the sector itself told me that we needed to improve the employment services.

We listened to them and indeed we have now got a one-stop shop approach to provide services for jobseekers where they can go through one door to access the services they need, rather than going through up to seven.

HAYDEN COOPER: With the Prime Minister heading home, the fallout is sure to confront him too when he arrives.

But confrontations of a different kind have sidetracked the final moments of Kevin Rudd's effort to save the global economy.

Before leaving London stories broke of a Prime Ministerial outburst directed at a female flight attendant, during a trip earlier this year.

KEVIN RUDD: All of us are human - I'm human. I'm not perfect, you know... And as I said before, if I upset anybody on that particular flight I'm really sorry, I apologise for it.

HAYDEN COOPER: It turns out Mr Rudd berated the RAAF flight attendant when he was served the wrong meal.

Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott says he's not surprised.

TONY ABBOTT: I think that all prime ministers are at risk of developing a God complex.

It's just that Kevin Rudd has developed it very quickly.

Maybe he had a God complex before he even entered the Lodge.

HAYDEN COOPER: PM understands the Prime Minister prefers chicken or fish for dinner - not red meat.

And to some, that admission is more shocking than the outburst itself.

JOHN COBB: If I went without a lamb chop for very long, I would not be responsible for what my temper might get to, and I think that's the problem the Prime Minister's got.

Nationals MP John Cobb has offered Mr Rudd an excuse.

He says he needs more iron, because he's pale, anaemic and has that limp cabbage look.

JOHN COBB: All Australians, but particularly farmers and regional Australians, are concerned about the mental state of the Prime Minister.

But farmers probably understand why he might have anger issues or a mental meltdown while on a red meat-free diet.

And I am besieged by farmers and entrepreneurs and our chefs in Western New South Wales beseeching me to bring the Prime Minister out so they can give him not just a culinary experience, but put some colour in his cheeks.

Put some soul… put some iron in his soul.

Because they want the Prime Minister at the top of his game.

PETER CAVE: The National MP John Cobb.

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