Rock Star Rudd Drops in; ALL SMILES: Kevin Battles on and Tackles Tony

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Byline: Ron Goodman editor@mydailynews.com.au

WATCHING reactions as Kevin Rudd walks through a shopping centre is like watching people stumble unexpectedly across their favourite rock star.

Some rush up to him to say G'day, savouring their celebrity moment.

Others stand back and point out the Foreign Minister and former PM to their children in hushed tones and need encouragement to get closer.

What you don't see is heckling. Nobody wants to be the person giving Rudd a hard time.

aPeople are very kind. I find going around Australia that people are pretty warm, pretty embracing,a he says, nursing a flat white sitting with member for Richmond Justine Elliot at the Coffee Club at Tweed City Shopping Centre.

aAs Justine knows in politics you get your knocks, some you deserve and some you don't. But it's quite affirming when people say nice things to you and my overwhelming impression of the Australian people is that they are good folk.a

Rudd describes the Australian people as very practical when it comes to politics, but also more sophisticated than perhaps mass-media commentary gives them credit for.

aThe days are well and truly gone when you could just stand up on television and proclaim that you were going to solve every problem by two o'clock tomorrow afternoon,a he says.

aThat's absolute, unreconstructed beep, beep beep if you know what I mean.a

During the conversation and his walk through the centre Rudd is approached several times by well-wishers. When they ask how he is he smiles and says aI'm battling ona.

Most look like they can't believe their luck. Even small children, possibly with parental prompting, line up for autographs, and the ever-energetic Coffee Club staff manage to be excited by the chance of a photo opportunity while simultaneously maintaining their ultra-efficient customer service.

Few people ask about foreign affairs, but when asked why it should matter to regional Australians his answer is passionate.

aRight now so many people around the country are talking about what we're doing to prevent basically a million people starving to death on the Horn of Africa,a he said.

aI think the Australian people are still fundamentally generous. It's in our nature to not just look after number one but to look after other folks as well. …

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