Swan in rare 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, building 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 Mr Rudd's leadership as a principal reason Australia avoided recession, unlike most advanced economies.

''Over the past five years we've seen the most turbulent period in the global economy since the Great Depression,'' he said. ''In that five years … Australia avoided recession, [when] most other developed economies did not … Our previous prime minister Mr Rudd made, I believe, a 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 hours after Mr Rudd dramatically resigned from the foreign affairs portfolio in the middle of February to challenge Julia Gillard for the prime ministership.

Mr Swan wrote at the time that Mr Rudd ''has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader Labor movement and the country as a whole''.

''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.''

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was also keen to see that Labor's five year anniversary did not slip by unnoticed. He issued a ''charge sheet'' of ''policy failures'' and said the ''hope that many Australians felt on November 24, 2007 had been replaced with disillusionment in a government too focused on its own survival.''

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