MARK RILEY: In Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison has found a surprising candidate to launch his new book to US market

Headshot of Mark Riley
Mark Riley
The Nightly
4 Min Read
MARK RILEY: In Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison has found a surprising candidate to launch his new book to the US market.
MARK RILEY: In Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison has found a surprising candidate to launch his new book to the US market. Credit: Supplied /The Nightly

In the uncompromising cage match of politics, Scott Morrison and Kevin Rudd always appeared to be the fiercest of rivals.

They had their fair share of dust-ups over the years.

As a none-too-retiring former prime minister, Rudd regularly laid into Morrison for the things he did and didn’t do while he occupied the country’s highest office.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

There were barneys over the COVID vaccine roll out, Morrison’s approach to China and over the way he severed the French submarine deal to give birth to AUKUS.

Those exchanges over the subs deal are quite interesting to read on reflection as Rudd now assumes the lead role in negotiations with the White House to keep AUKUS on track for a new Labor Government.

Morrison, though, gave as good as he got.

He regularly ridiculed Rudd’s response to the global financial crisis as the gold standard of reckless economic management.

But behind the argy bargy of their public disagreements, there was something that bound the two men together on a plane beyond politics: their shared faith in God.

It’s a little known curiosity of our recent political history that in the years after he was dumped as Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd would regularly attend Christian fellowship meetings in Morrison’s office.

They were open-door affairs, regularly attended by such notable conservatives as Stuart Robert, Ken Wyatt and Alex Hawke.

Morrison reveals in his new book, Plans For Your Good, that on one of those occasions, Rudd spoke discursively about the motivations for his Apology to the Stolen Generations.

“Kevin shared with us his Christian theological framework for the speech,” Morrison writes.

“He had crafted the apology as a national statement of spiritual repentance.

“It was a prayer.”

Morrison recounts a conversation he’d had with Bruce Baird, his predecessor in the seat of Cook and a like-minded Christian mentor, shortly after Rudd won office in the landslide of 2007.

Baird told him that he might not agree with Rudd’s policies but “do not discount the fact that God can also work His purposes through him and his side of politics”.

Morrison says that despite his many clashes with Rudd over politics: “There was no doubt God used him powerfully to bring about the historic apology”.

Scott Morrison at Encounter City Church
Scott Morrison at Encounter City Church. Credit: Encounter City Church/Facebook

Knowing this religious connection between the two former prime ministers makes it a little less surprising that Rudd has agreed to officially launch Morrison’s book in the massive US Christian readership market.

The book is by no means your average political memoir. Far from it.

As I observed Morrison in our conversation for Seven’s Spotlight program on Sunday, it is essentially a love story.

It is a story of Scott Morrison’s love of God.

The depth of that love will be quite confronting to many of Morrison’s critics, particularly those of a more secular disposition.

For some, it will be proof positive of their claims that Morrison used the platform of a prime minister to proselytise.

But as someone who observed him at close quarters for the entirety of his prime ministership, I saw very little of that.

Having read the book I am now surprised that he was able to restrain himself from doing so.

He reveals that he started each day in the Lodge with a Bible reading, even before absorbing the overnight national security reports and media summaries.

He also formed a WhatsApp group of pastors he had encountered on his spiritual journey, conversing and praying with them regularly as he confronted the pressures of office.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaks at a ceremony in the Australian capital of Canberra, Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, where he issued an apology to thousands of impoverished British children shipped to Australia with the promise of a better life, only to suffer abuse and neglect thousands of miles from home. (AP Photo/Mark Graham)
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd speaks at a ceremony. Credit: Mark Graham/AP

In one of his communications with the group early in his prime ministership, Morrison compares himself to Moses holding his staff aloft and walking towards the raging waters.

In another, during the pandemic, he says he feels more like Daniel entering the lion’s den and finding his pathway out through the power of prayer.

At other times, he would take long walks with the family dog, Buddy, during which he would have loud and sometimes angry conversations with God about why he was being treated so unfairly.

Morrison says God didn’t “choose” him to be prime minister but acted through him during his time in office, just as he believed He did through Rudd.

They are beliefs that many Australians will find quite alarming, if not downright weird.

That is probably why Morrison restrained his spiritual urges and not allow his inviolable faith in God to dominate his public persona as prime minister.

He says, though, that his faith did allow him to do one thing that would undoubtedly infuriate his critics.

It gave him the ability to forgive.

And he says he has done that for even those he believes treated him viciously and unfairly.

It might also be a quality that he shares to some degree with Kevin Rudd.

That would go some way to explaining why the two former arch enemies will team up to sell Morrison’s book.

Proof, perhaps, that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 17-05-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 17 May 202417 May 2024

Shadowy South American crime figure at centre of alleged gambling scandal that’s rocked Aussie sport.