The three former prime ministers were given the honour at Labor’s national conference in Adelaide, but Rudd was the only one in attendance.
He was triumphantly elected at the 2007 federal election, only to be dumped for Gillard in a 2010 coup, before he replaced her in another bitter coup in 2013.
“In the history of every political party there is a time for healing,” Rudd told the crowd in Adelaide today.
“For us to fully grasp the future we have to put to bed the disagreements of the past. And for us, that time has well and truly come.
“Let’s let history be the judge of these things.”
Rudd paid tribute to former Labor prime ministers, including Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, “and the very formidable Julia Gillard”.
He attacked the Liberal Party for its “rotten values” and News Corporation for what he said were constant attacks on Labor.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten paid tribute to Rudd’s achievements, including the National Broadband Network, increasing the aged pension, apologising to the Stolen Generations, and guiding Australia through the global financial crisis.
“There has been a lot of pain. But today I say to the conference it is time for healing,” Shorten said.
“To make peace with the past in the same way that we are united about our future.”
“And that is the only reason Therese and I are here today, to help beat Morrison, to help beat Murdoch and to help elect the next Labor government of Australia, a Shorten Labor government” – former PM Kevin Rudd’s speech at Labor conference pic.twitter.com/M6SNv3YTXj
— Alex Ellinghausen (@ellinghausen) December 18, 2018
When Shorten read out the names of the three prime ministers, Gillard got the largest cheer from the conference crowd.
Shorten said she will be honoured in person at a future event.
“We are better, we are stronger, and we are more confident and more complete when we extend to our former leaders and legends the respect they deserve, the gratitude they have earned,” he said.
Rudd also shook hands with his former treasurer-turned-rival Wayne Swan, who was recently elected Labor’s national president.
Therese Rein, Rudd’s wife of 37 years, was also given life membership of the party.
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