Dutton an 'idiot' for stoking war of words with China: Rudd

Kevin Rudd calls Peter Dutton's war of words with China 'declaratory bullsh*t'

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott attend the re-opening of Old Parliament House in April. Picture: James Croucher

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott attend the re-opening of Old Parliament House in April. Picture: James Croucher

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The former prime minister wants to see Australia take a more effective approach to relations with China.

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Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has labelled Defence Minister Peter Dutton an "idiot" over a series of inflammatory comments made toward China in recent years.

The Defence Minister's stoking of tensions with Australia's largest trading partner was "declaratory bullsh*t", the former Labor leader added.

At a book launch on Wednesday night, Mr Rudd said dealing with leader Xi Jinping's China was a "big challenge" for any government, but it was not helped by the inflammatory remarks made by Mr Dutton.

"Often an assumption on the part of certain politicians, like the idiot [Peter] Dutton, remain ... the more you shout and the more hair you stitch on your chest of a morning, ... the better your overall strategic circumstances with China and United States might be," Mr Rudd said.

"That's just declaratory bullsh*t."

Mr Dutton, since he became Defence Minister during a portfolio shuffle in March 2021, has likened the Chinese government to Nazi Germany in the decade leading up to World War Two.

He was also heavily criticised for comments made on Anzac Day, warning the country needed to "prepare for war" to preserve peace.

The comments have angered Chinese officials with the embassy in Australia accusing Mr Dutton of fanning tensions between the countries.

Mr Rudd cautioned the comments were aimed solely for the cameras and headlines in Australia and disregarded the overseas impact of his words.

"It's directed at an Australian domestic political audience," he said.

"It's not directed at the substance of an effective operational strategy of dealing with a real world challenge."

The signing of a fresh security pact between Australia's nearby Pacific neighbour, the Solomon Islands, and the Chinese government, revealed in March, has put national security front and centre of the federal election.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent Pacific Development Minister Zed Seselja to the archipelago's capital, Honiara, to gain assurances the deal would not allow a Chinese naval base to be constructed there.

Mr Rudd told TheCanberra Times after the Wednesday event the government's slashing of foreign aid to the Solomons, a lack of action on climate change and the stripping of funding to ABC's radio programming were to blame.

He said a "strategic vacuum" had been created as a consequence of the Coalition government's actions.

"[Labor] neither did any of those things, nor would have done any of those things," he said.

"That's why it's right to say it's the biggest national security failure by an Australian government since the war."

Defence Minister Peter Dutton at National Press Club in May 2022. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Defence Minister Peter Dutton at National Press Club in May 2022. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop, now the chancellor for the Australian National University, earlier agreed with her former political foe that China's assertiveness made the relationship more complicated, and the AUKUS signing marked a major shift.

But she said Australia should return to effectively managing relations in order to avoid "choosing" between China and the United States.

"I think that's what's missing now - the belief that you can manage these very challenging relationships. And you don't have to choose to the extent that it appears we have done," she said.

The former Labor prime minister, who has been deployed heavily during the election campaign to Sydney's western suburbs, said the federal government's approach to China needed a serious overhaul.

"The attention of an incoming government, be it Liberal or Labor, must be on the operational dimensions of an effective strategy, which has both military, economic, technological, people to people and the rest," Mr Rudd said.

"Rather than thinking that strategy equals pulling out the bullhorn, the megaphone every Monday morning at 9am, blasting it off on the front pages of the Murdoch rag, and assuming that that equals a strategy, which it does not."

The story Dutton an 'idiot' for stoking war of words with China: Rudd first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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