RBA Board’s Corbett Says Rudd Damaged Labor in 2010 Election

Reserve Bank of Australia board member Roger Corbett accused Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of damaging and destabilizing the Labor party and praised opposition leader Tony Abbott days out from an election.

“In my view, Kevin Rudd is a leader that has been really discredited by his own conduct,” Corbett, who is also chairman of Fairfax Media Ltd. (FXJ), told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last night. “Here’s a man that really has done the Labor Party enormous damage, destabilized it and is now wishing to present himself to the Australian people as a prime minister.”

Senior Labor party figures have accused Rudd of leaking against predecessor Julia Gillard after he was ousted in June 2010, triggering a plunge in her poll ratings that resulted in the closest election in Australia since World War II two months later. Rudd denies leaking. Abbott’s opposition led Labor 54 percent to 46 percent on a two-party preferred basis ahead of the Sept. 7 election, a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper this week showed.

Rudd’s alleged leaks “had a terrible effect upon Labor and probably put them into a position that they needed to enter into coalition with the Greens, which was a very limiting factor,” Corbett told ABC TV’s Lateline program.

“His colleagues sacked him because they judged him to be incapable as prime minister,” he said. Shares in Fairfax have fallen 87 percent since Labor was elected in November 2007.

‘Free Country’

The comments are “a matter for Mr. Corbett,” Rudd told Channel 9 television today in response. “It’s a free country, anyone can say what they like.”

Corbett, a former chief executive officer of Woolworths Ltd. (WOW), was appointed as one of the six non-staff members of the central bank’s board in 2005 by the then Liberal-National coalition government and reappointed by the ruling Labor party in 2010.

The central bank yesterday left the benchmark interest rate at a record-low 2.5 percent after 2.25 percentage points of reductions since November 2011 to help rebalance the economy as a mining investment boom wanes.

The RBA declined to comment. Under the code of conduct for board members, the central bank’s website says: “Members, who in the ordinary course of their activities outside the Bank have occasion to discuss economic matters, will do so on the basis that the views so presented are personal or affiliated with another institution, not the Bank.”

Corbett said Abbott will probably be a “pretty good prime minister because he is a very sincere, nice type of human being.” He said the country certainly needs “clear and good leadership” for the economy in the period ahead.

Greens leader Christine Milne, whose party currently holds the balance of power in the Senate and helped Labor form a minority government in 2010, said Corbett’s timing was wrong.

Business leaders should express their views “at the time, not wait until they think there’s a certainty in terms of who they think is going to be in government,” the ABC cited her as saying on its website. “They then, by their remarks, guarantee themselves access, that’s exactly what goes on through the corporate sector.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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