Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 10, 2021

The Case for Courage, by Kevin Rudd

This year, Monash University Publishing has launched a new series called In the National Interest, authored by experts in various fields.

In The National Interest books will reflect on the issues of the day: leadership in modern politics, pandemic politics, Australia’s role in the region, and the relationship between the public service and the government of the day. However, while the answers are often complex this new series will add evidence and nuance to debates all too often rendered simplistic. In The National Interest will offer serious general readers evidence-based arguments that spark informed debate on the issues that matter.

The Case for Courage by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is one of the first seven in the series. It argues that courage is not a feeling, it’s a decision to act, and that Australia needs to act courageously if we are to deal with the many problems that confront us as a nation.

Over much of the last decade, Australia’s democracy has been slowly sliding into disrepair and despair.  Our major national policy challenges go unaddressed.  Our economic future is increasingly uncertain.  And the country is becoming palpably more corrupt as we drift down Transparency Internationals’ Corruption Perceptions Index.  (p.1)

Rudd argues that we should not be distracted by the usual reasons: the declining calibre of the political class, the polarisation of politics, and the Balkanisation of debate through social media.  The Murdoch media monopoly is a cancer on our democracy, and as anyone who’s paying attention knows, he is calling for a Royal Commission into Australia’s media landscape and half a million Australians have signed his petition.  In the first chapters of this little book he makes a convincing case for reform of our media landscape and for its urgency.  The politics of anxiety, fear and anger crowd out and overwhelm our natural sense of optimism, enterprise and generosity of spirit.  

(And even if you don’t read the Murdoch Press, it still sets the agenda.  Why do you think the ABC is running headline stories about an an American celebrity interviewing a couple of royals completely irrelevant to Australia and its interests?  It got the Royal Commission into Aged Care off the front page very quickly, eh?)

It is, BTW a decade since I reviewed Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay, Bad News, Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation.  The depressing thing is that much of what Rudd has to say in these early chapters is nothing new, only more so.  The latter part of the essay, however, is a call to action.  Rudd argues that Australia needs to tackle five big challenges:

  • the need to radically reinvent our long-term growth model, given the impact of the global technology revolution on Australia’s future economic competitiveness;
  • the impact of climate change on sustainable economic development;
  • the ability of working families to stay afloat amid deep economic crises and declining social equity;
  • the rise of China; and
  • the management of future global pandemics.  (p.53)

Each of these challenges is explained with a big-picture plan for management.  It’s quick and easy to read, and it’s optimistic. You can watch Rudd talking about it at the National Press Club (which he prefaced by attending to ‘the age of the end of male sexual entitlement’):

Author: Kevin Rudd
Title: The Case for Courage
Series: In the National Interest
Publisher: Monash University Publishing, 2021
ISBN: 9781922464156, pbk., 91 pages
Source: personal library, purchased from Monash University Publishing $19.95







  1. An interesting new series, a kind of marker in time of issues of the day, century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes… it’s similar in concept to the Little Books on Big Ideas series that I’ve reviewed occasionally. I like being able to read it in under an hour, so I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What will it take to wake the populace? The corruption is becoming normalized and the denial is increasing. I cannot remember feeling so dispirited since TheThatcher/Reagan era and the surge to the right in this country. It’s a terrifying prospect more of the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must admit that even though I’ve been following the news… everything from the sports rorts onward, I was surprised to learn about the index. I looked it up: in 2019 NZ was 87, and we are 77, that’s -8 since 2012 i.e. since the ALP lost office.

      It’s one thing not to like a government’s policies, and another thing entirely to see that they are actually corrupt.


  3. I love the phrase – the Balkanisation of debate through social media – I plan to reuse it often! Although, I fear I will have to explain to too many people what Balkanisation means.


  4. Hmmm, sounds an interesting new series Lisa. Like you I like these little books approaches, though I don’t seem to manage to read even those very often!


    • Don’t worry, life will sort itself out for you soon…


      • Yes, I know … our trip to Melbourne was bitter-sweet. We had a lovely time and suddenly I realised we could drive home slowly as we didn’t need to rush back for Mum and Dad, so we took four days, BUT there was no-one to send pics of grandson to, no-one to send pics of silos to, etc. I’ve been so used to Mum and Dad loving to hear about our trips. (Who is more interested in us than our parents, eh?) It was sad, but I know you are right – and that we all go through it.


        • Yes, it’s an empty feeling. If one is lucky enough to have unconditional love from a parent, it’s a huge loss.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I meant to add that proviso as not all of us have that love, I know.


        • Hi Sue, I’m sorry you’re going through that. As you know, my Mum died when I was 20, and my father died when I was 32. It’s a strange feeling to have no parents left. A couple of my friends talk to me about visiting and caring for their mothers/fathers in aged care, and I wonder what it’s like to be this age and still have a living parent. It’s tough. I can’t help but envy my friends who still have their mum or dad, but I know the loss they will have to go through and that I at least have behind me. It’s strange. Take care of yourself.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That must have been really hard for you, Sue. I’ve never had extended family so I never missed that, but my parents seemed to be there forever…

            Liked by 1 person

            • I didn’t word that very well Lisa – I meant it was tough what Sue is going through – but thank you.

              I’ve been listening to Rudd’s speech with great interest but now I feel even more depressed!

              Liked by 3 people

          • Thanks Sue. I remember your telling me that about losing your parents. I do feel very grateful for having had my parents for so long. Strange how our lives go isn’t it … we can’t avoid sadness, can we? Loss and sadness have to come to us all some time, and we just have to cope with it when it does. I am sorry though when people lose their parents early.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds fascinating. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks these constant celebrity headlines are run by the media to distract the gullible public from the real issues…


    • There’ve been times when the only way I could see any real news was to watch the French editions…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was so relieved when I read your comment about the attention on the ABC to the Royals when the aged care issue disappeared – I thought it must be a deliberate move to get the report off the news Lisa! It’s so disappointing to see this happening, and alarming for those of us headed in the aged care direction! I wondered who/what was behind getting this off the media attention. Trouble is, I come across women all busy talking about Harry and Meagan and not at all interested in aged care, despite being in their sixties. I despair!


        • I know what you mean… it’s not so much that there are problems ahead… there always are, it’s that for our generation, we felt with some justification that we could change things. We formed grass roots movements and harnessed the power of others who felt the same way. There doesn’t seem to be the same energy now.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. This looks very interesting, Lisa. I loved reading your reviews of Quarterly Essays before. I have stopped following mainstream media these days because the news is not reliable and they serve particular interests. I would love some old-fashioned reporting of facts with the analysis separated from the facts, but that doesn’t seem to exist these days. It is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly so, Vishy. Everyone seems to have bought the idea that we need to know the news instantly, it must be 24/7 — when really, there is no good reason for that at all. We do need to know immediately if a bushfire is heading our way but we do not need to know immediately about natural disasters in other parts of the world. (Which, here, usually only means the US and the UK because that’s where it’s cheap and easy to get what passes for news now that there are hardly any foreign correspondents.) The result is that our news feeds are full of trivia endlessly repeated, poorly fact-checked and written by journalists pressured into immediate copy often to an agenda set by politicians and big business interests… when what we really need is journalism that helps us make sense of the news.
      I barely look at the daily news these days… I read long-form journalism like this, and sometimes books and I think I’m better off in every way.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. […] have a constructive relationship with China have been partly shaped by reading Kevin Rudd’s The Case for Courage,  this article in the Asia Society journal, and by my readings of the Australian Foreign Affairs […]


  8. Interesting book, well written with good insights. However, blaming all of Labor’s woes on the MurdockMurdoch press is a bit of a cop out. Labor has mostly abandoned its base and jumped into bed with the Greens making it effectively a hard left party, may do not like this even lifetime Labor voters. I’m a swing voter, I wouldn’t give you 10 cents for any of them, but if Labor is ever going to get back into power again whining about the media is not the way to go about it.


    • LOL Ron, this is not the place to debate politics. I just read the books and share what I think about them.
      But journalism is in a mess, there is no doubt about that.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: