Rare Swan in praise of Rudd

NINE MONTHS after Wayne Swan described Kevin Rudd as a Labor saboteur in a blistering attack at the height of the leadership contest in February, the Treasurer has paid tribute to the former prime minister for steering Australia through the global financial crisis.

Mr Swan marked the fifth anniversary of Labor's 2007 election win by attending a protest against state budget government cuts in Brisbane and said the government's biggest achievements in its half-decade in power had been its economic management, the roll out of the National Broadband Network, improvements to aged care and the introduction of the carbon tax.

The Treasurer, who said he believed Labor had laid the foundations "for another five years" in power, made a rare concession towards the leadership of Mr Rudd as a principal reason Australia avoided sliding into recession along with most major advanced economies.

"Over the past five years we've seen the most turbulent period in the global economy since the Great Depression," he told reporters.

"In that five years ... Australia avoided recession, most other developed economies did not....

"Our previous prime minister Mr Rudd made, I believe, very, very substantial contribution to ensuring that our country didn't go into recession,"

It was a far cry from the scathing press statement Mr Swan made just hours after Mr Rudd dramatically resigned from the foreign affairs portfolio in the middle of a February night in Washington in order to challenge Julia Gillard for the prime ministership.

Mr Swan wrote at the time Mr Rudd "has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop."

"The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues," Mr Swan wrote. "He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership, and now he undermines the Government at every turn."

Opposition leader Tony Abbott was also keen Labor's five year anniversary did not slip by unnoticed.

He issued a "charge sheet" highlighting what he called Labor's "policy failures" and said the "hope that many Australians felt on 24 November 2007 has been replaced with disillusionment in a government too focused on its own survival and not enough on the everyday concerns of Australians."

Mr Abbott said cost of living pressures, including massive electricity price rises, an influx of asylum seekers and four successive budget deficits, had characterised the government's reign. Mr Swan also used the media opportunity in Brisbane address further allegations in the ongoing Australian Workers Union slush fund fraud saga involving a former boyfriend of Ms Gillard saying the story was little more than the result of an opposition smear campaign fuelled by the recollections of a "crook".

The Opposition has vowed to pursue Ms Gillard in Parliament this week over the matter and says she has Prime Minister Julia Gillard has " legitimate questions to answer" over her connections to a the fund when she was a lawyer with Slater & Gordon in the 1990s.

Mr Swan said the story had little, if any, credibility because it mainly arises from the account of former AWU official Ralph Blewitt, who has admitted to engaging in fraud.

"This is a smear campaign which is not based on any facts and comes from someone who has admitted being involved in fraudulent activity," Mr Swan said. "I don't think anyone takes those statements with a grain of credibility.

"What we're seeing here is effectively a crook who has been joined by elements of the Liberal Party in a smear campaign against the prime minister."

The story was given fresh legs last week when Nick Styant-Browne, a former Slater & Gordon partner, raised questions about Ms Gillard's connection to a mortgage on a property bought by her former boyfriend and AWU official Bruce Wilson.

Mr Swan described Mr Styant-Browne as "disgruntled".

This story Rare Swan in praise of Rudd first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.