Monthly Archives: February 2012

THe Arbib Variations (6): Panic, Target, Shoot

Arbib, like some women of my carnal acquaintance, is trouble. He brought misery to Bob Carr, a Labor hero, who saved Labor in NSW, as he did to Kim Beazley, a Labor hero who saved Labor federally, and Graeme Wedderburn, the best backroomer since, probably, Bobby Kennedy, and Nathan Rees, the best Premier we had for only a short time, and by his Keneally coup cost State Labor twenty years of power. He had the itchiest trigger finger we have known.

Trouble is his job description. He cannot tell the difference between a problem and a crisis, and his only response to a crisis is a beheading. Kim Beazley got two names wrong in six months — MacFarlane, MacManus — and was thought by Arbib to be losing his mind and removed from Labor’s leadership when Labor was on 55. Nathan Rees got Labor up from 35 to 45 and was removed because this wasn’t enough and replaced by someone who got 32.

Why he is like this is not hard to imagine. Crisis is what he does. He knows little of Labor history or its brotherly-concensus traditions and he responds to each moment like a Middle Eastern warlord with targeted slaughter. And his latest slaughtered target was himself. Instead of resigning the Ministry like, say, Faulkner, and going moodily and thoughtfully to the back bench, to lick his wounds and ponder future policy, he is leaving Parliament altogether, and stirring up a true crisis that might bring Julia down. Little Mr Hyperbolical , you might call him. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! My child is weeping!

Over and out.

After The Oscars, A Few Thoughts

My predictions for the Oscars weren’t far off: I got Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Music Best Actress, Best Foreign Film and a lot of technical awards for Hugo right, but didn’t calculate on the impact of the novelty of The Artist which, though excellent, luminous, transporting, romantic, overwhelming and the rest of it, is in the end no more than a kind of party-trick, like High Anxiety or Ed Wood or Rope, or Peter Sellers declaiming in Laurence Olivier’s highfalutin quack the words of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ — and the Academy’s unflinching determination to deprive Scorsese, as they did Chaplin, Welles and Hitchcock, of an award for Best Direction in his lifetime. I’m seeing it again tonight with my daughter the puppeteer, and will complete, at long last, my glowing review of it in these pages.

Mike Rann professed outrage that no mention has been made of the only other silent film of recent decades, Dr Plonk, in which he played an Australian Prime Minister at the other end of a nineteenth century time machine amid a lot of pratfalling, arm-waving, dog-leaping and otherwise under-motivated hypermania slung together by Rolf De Heer, a project largely funded by the Adelaide Film Festival Film Fund on whose board I  sat when Dr Plonk came up. ‘Whom, in twenty years,’ I asked, nastily ‘has Rolf made laugh?’ No-one could think of a person or an instance but they felt because he had made Ten Canoes (and what a knock-down, drag-out, pants-falling, pie-faced comedy that was) he should be given his chance. After its joyless premiere I suggested he be exiled to Mildura, a town more his speed, and forced to make documentaries on cow-milking and fertiliser and undergo waterboarding once a fortnight until he learned the rudiments of cinema.

See in the meantime Hugo in 3D and Shame, two of the greatest films of our time. And A Separation, which does more than a thousand history books to explain what being a Muslim is, and the inticate network of honourable obligations by which its women end up with no option but self-sacrifice and self-obliteration, and the men are smashed too because they must provide and prevail, pay debts and earn money in a world in convulsion and are broken by their failure to do so.

I will complete my review of The Artist in the next few hours and ask you to read it.

Rudd Redux, No Way (10): The Asperger’s Explanation

My collaborator Stephen Ramsey who is writing the Murdoch miniseries Paper Tigers with me has made three documentaries on Asperger’s Syndrome people, the less serious ones and the more serious ones, and has this to say about Kevin Rudd:

If one wanted to truly understand Kevin Rudd, watching Doc Martin would be useful.

The fictional TV character in the BBC series is a brilliant technical doctor but cannot read how others are thinking or feeling, and therefore has absolutely no bedside manner, or ability to conduct a love affair. In one episode he is diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and referred to as an Aspie.

Like Doc Martin, clever nerd Kevin Rudd was bullied at school. He was a teachers’ pet. He didn’t mix well with the other kids – partly because he couldn’t read the unwritten rules of the schoolyard. He didn’t realise that the mission statements about fairness, truth, justice, excellence, etc, extolled in places like school assemblies are not the rules that really govern any institution.

No unconscious instinct told him that what governs groups are the hidden agendas of tribal coherence, solidarity, clubbability, team loyalty and so on: don’t dob in a mate; close ranks; don’t rat; don’t leak. These are the various glues that keep a community together and its hierarchy intact. Such things are invisible to someone like Our Kev, who, like Doc Martin, is basically an intractable outsider.

Having a one track mind, thinking in black and white, being out of touch with gut instinct, having no weather vane about the feelings in the room, make it hard for a politician with Aspergers. But this doesn’t mean they can’t be leaders. Dr Michael Fitzgerald at Trinity College Dublin is a psychiatrist who studies political leaders of the past, and believes Hitler, Napoleon, and Ireland’s DeValera were all Aspies, despite their lack of empathy for their colleagues.

When Tony Abbott became leader, it would have been a nightmare for Prime Minister Rudd. Abbott the pugilist would have appeared to Rudd like the bully Flashman in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Suddenly the old wounds would have been opened. Abbott’s own inner Flashman would have reared up, and he would have attacked, dog like, the Kevin cat before him.

Before Abbott, Rudd’s commitment to refugees (Schindler and his hero Boenhoffer were ‘people smugglers’) and commitment to combating climate change (the greatest moral challenge of our time) were apparently ironclad articles of faith. As soon as Abbott attacked these ‘core beliefs’ with hearty ferocity, Rudd’s ‘solid’ idealism crumbled, and he was revealed as a cringing coward.

To many of his previous fans, he now appeared a fraud. As Abbott recently argued, Rudd is someone who talks loudly and carries a small stick – all hat and no cattle.

The Arbib Variations (5): The Carr Comet, Falling

1.45 pm

I just ran into Mark Arbib in Aussie’s, taller and handsomer than I expected. His big eyes assessed me. I had just called him ‘a crablouse on the pubis of the Party belatedly insecticided and good riddance’ and he may well have read this and formed a plan for my future. Just before that I called Bob Carr.

Some things can’t be said. But he was to appear in a press conference with the Prime Minister about now after his appointment as Foreign Minister.

But Smith wants it, and won’t budge.

If Carr had it Labor would be on 51 two-party preferred by Thursday.

I am so very, very angry.

Gillard, whom I liked for a week, has decided that the factions will no longer steer and menace her and so it will be Smith whose contribution to the science of hair care outweighs in her mind all other considerations, like Australia’s reputation in the world and Labor winning next year and staying in office till 2032 when I will be ninety.

3.17 p.m.

More information is coming in. Smith, Swan and Gillard colluded in the exclusion of Carr when Dastiyari mooted it, fearing he would outclass them. Mundine will get it in part because it is fifty years since the Coalition first flaunted an Indigenous Member of Parliament, Neville Bonner, and Labor hasn’t found one yet, and in part because of the photo of the PM under the armpit of a headshaven goon escaping a riot of elderly war-painted blacks on Australia Day gave a racist tinge to her administration she lately finds uncomfortable.

And so it goes, and so it went, that we will have twenty years of Tony Abbott that a Carr Foreign Ministry would have prevented. For appearance’s sake, as ever with this Prime Minister.

God help us all.

The Arbib Variations (4): Bob Carr, And Victory

11.05 a.m.

I’ve just been told Bob Carr has been offered Arbib’s vacancy and has asked to be Minister For Foreign Affairs, a job he has coveted since his early twenties. At sixty-four he is the same age as Hilary Clinton is now and Dougas Hurd was when he was last the UK’s Foreign Minister, eight years younger than Lord Home on his retirement from that post and six years younger than John Foster Dulles, who formed the modern world, when he died in the saddle in 1959.

If it is so arranged Labor will be on 50 percent two party preferred by Thursday and the Abbott-Rudd-Murdoch-O’Shannessy-Salusinski-Laurie-Oakes-Onrolling-Big-Lie strategy in ruins.

It would be a good idea to boot out the double-dealing Thistlethwaite as well, and put Wedderburn, who is tenfold owed it and was lately promised it (by Arbib) in his place and given Finance. And a similar exercise mounted that uplifts, overnight, Beazley to the Senate in Western Australia and into Defence, the only job he ever wanted, and for four years triumphed in. And similar Senate spots for Beattie, Bracks, Clare Martin and Mike Rann.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
A child that’s crying in the night,
A child that’s crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.

The Arbib Variations (3): To Bind Up The Nation’s Wounds

Fran Kelly and Michele Grattan said Arbib’s assertion that he was helping heal Labor’s wounds by resigning from parliament ‘makes no sense’ because he was pivotal in the ascension of Gillard, a good thing rather than a bad thing, surely.

They forget that he was pivotal also in the beheading of Kim Beazley, a great man, and the exalting of Kevin Rudd, a divisive weirdo, and the kneecapping of Nathan Rees, a potentially great man, in a tactical catastrophe that lost Labor 12 percent of the vote, two party preferred, and power for twenty years in New South Wales.

And the betrayal of Graeme Wedderburn, promised the Senate, the most capable backroomer since Mike Rann, whom I picked as a future Prime Minister and so named in Goodbye Jerusalem in 1996. It is not known by me how many others of immense talent he similarly stifled, or cut down.

I ask anyone who knows these things in detail to write in, and name names.

Many of his wounds will never heal, but it is right of him to confess he inflicted them, even as a vague generality. He has been, in my view, a crablouse on the pubis of the Party which is now belatedly insecticided, and good riddance.

Or perhaps you disagree.

The Henderson Wars (11): Gerard, Gough And The Big Lie

Gerard understands the Karl Rove tactic of the Confidently Asserted Untruth (CAU) very well. This morning in his column he says the Dismissal diverted attention, alas, from ‘the disaster that was the Whitlam Government’.

He does not say if he approved of the Dismissal — the stealing of a dead man’s vote, the appointment by Joh Bjelke-Petersen of a demented Labor renegade to a democratically achieved Labor Senate seat, the holding up of Supply when a vote on it for or against would have meant it went through, the participation of Murdoch in the persuading of the closeted homosexual Kerr to sack Whitlam suddenly without informing, as he was constitutionally obliged to, the Queen — and he does not say why the Whitlam Government was a ‘disaster’. He simply asserts that it was, knowing that, at this distance, younger people will tend to believe him if he says it confidently and firmly.

I ask him what Whitlam policies he thinks were disastrous. The withdrawal from Vietnam? The recognition of China? The ending of the Birthday Ballot? The ending of conscription? The invention of Medicare’s precursor Medibank? The slashing of tariffs? The imposition on the nation’s youth of the horror of free universities? The ‘from little things big things grow’ treaty with the Aboriginal people? The appointment for the first time of an advocate for women? The idea that women should get equal pay? The legalisation, under certain vigilant circumstances, of abortion? The decision to buy back, for four billion dollars, of all of Australia’s mineral wealth? The appointment of Sir John Kerr? The giving of money to Catholic schools?

It is my belief that Gerard now agrees with all of these measures except, perhaps, the abortion one. Yet he calls the Whitlam Eyra a ‘disaster’. On what grounds does he do this? I ask him to reply. If he cannot, I will take his wily silence as an admission that he is practising the Rove/Goebbels ploy of the Big Lie. A disaster cannot be a disaster without component explosive ingredients. What are they?

I ask again if Gerard has been right about anything. No-one in thirteen weeks has come up with an instance. There seems to be none. In millions of words, Gerard has not predicted, accurately, anything, or given an opinion that any civilised people now agree with.

And I ask again the smh to sack him and give me his job.

The Arbib Variations (2): And The Winner Is …

I’m told it will be Warren Mundine. Because the Liberals have a black member, and Labor doesn’t, and never has.

Is this a good way of choosing a Senator? What other groups should be represented, regardless of their individual talent? Diabetics? Emphysemics? Stand-up comics? Tongans? Pygmies? Jehovah’s Witnesses?

This kind of thinking gave us Kristina Keneally — a female fundamentalist Catholic American graduate in feminist theology, the first such Australian politician, ever. She displaced a male Anglo-Celtic former garbageman, greenkeeper, athlete and English literature graduate then on 45 percent and scored 32 percent. But she ticked a lot of boxes. And lost a lot of seats. As a shrieky female American accent — Palin, Keneally — tends to do.

If it were Noel Pearson I would have no worries: a great orator, jurist, community organiser and thinker. Or Mick Dodson. But Mundine instead of Beazley or Kirby or Wedderburn? Really?

What is the upside of choosing the worse in place of the better?

Is there any?

Just asking.

As I Please: The Arbib Variations (1)

It would be good if Arbib’s vacated Senate seat were to be offered to (1) Beazley; (2) Wedderburn; (3) Maxine; (4) Nathan Rees; or (5) Geoff Gallop, now a resident of Sydney. All have paid their dues and would be superb ministers. Failing that, it could go to Plibersek, her seat to Faulkner, and Faulkner’s to Michael Kirby.

Any of the above would add two percent to Labor’s vote, bringing it up to 49.

And we could win from there, easily.

For my definition of ‘arbib’, see The Santorum Variations (1) in these columns.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (12): Day Of Decision, The Gathering Storm, Print The Legend

7.50 a.m.

Having been told by Martin O’Shannessy that the Labor vote was at its highest in a year and Labor had picked up a million votes since November Fran Kelly said, ‘If  Julia is unable to get the Labor vote up from where it’s flatlining in the low 30s there’ll be another challenge for sure.’ Or words to that effect.

She had just been told that was Labor was on 35 and had gained 400,000 votes in a week which was elsewhere called ‘catastrophic for the party’, and she said this. Flatlining. Which just goes to show how even our best reporters print the legend, the Murdoch Big Lie, automatically, robotically, religiously, now as never before.

They look at the spin, and at last year’s headlines, and never what is happening now. They have been fed this horseshit line that Labor ‘cannot now recover’ from a situation where their base vote is a million votes BETTER than Howard’s in August 2001 and must go down in a shambles, very soon; very, very, very soon. Because this leadership crisis has been a disaster for Labor, it has, it really has. Even though its vote has been steadily climbing during it.

Labor’s base vote was 38 when they won, with difficulty, government. Their vote today, in their ugliest week in years, is 35; or, if you add the margin of error, 38: the number they won with last time. And even Fran Kelly, even Cassidy, even Uhlman, are going along with the Murdoch line that Labor is drowning in a Slough of Despond from which they will emerge only as grey, enslimed and bug-eyed corpses.

Can they not count? Or are they mesmerised by a habit of mind and utterance that comes pretty close to brainwashing?

Just asking.

9.37 a.m.

At Aussie’s with Joel and Rhys we agree it should be called The War of Albo’s Tears, after Albo’s ‘outburst’, and it really could be called that, reminded us of how serious it all was, and of the Labor Party’s primal position in our history. David Marr drops by, and seems miffed when I suggest his use in his Rudd piece of the new verb ‘ratfuck’ distorted, hobbled and ended, probably, our genial democracy with its consequence of a Hung Parliament which is ruining us all. He leaves; and we shake our heads in wonder at the continuing unchanged youthful wit and beauty of this eighty-eight year old man. ‘It’s the gay life style,’ Rhys avers. ‘Nah,’ I say. ‘Nivea cream.’ Rhys reminds us proudly of a piece he wrote about Marr and his ‘flamboyant rage’. I bless him for this new thought in the world.

Rhys then proposes to take us up to Rudd’s room to observe with him what he calls ‘the last rites’, but I fear to do this. Rudd, whom I have called in verse and prose a cunt and worse, might respond with similar expletive irritation and cause Joel, my vigilant hairy defender, to punch his nose and break his glasses and thereby gain him sympathy votes in caucus.

We piss, and make our way, with difficulty, to the indoor potplant area, among old faces (Grattan, Riminton, Wright) and the long, long legs of miniskirted six-foot blushing blondes who seem the next stage of human evolution, pushing microphones into the faces of their peers and asking them such penetrating questions as ‘Is this another victory for the Faceless Men?’ Heather Ewart tells us how yesterday in the makeup room a kidney stone began to pass out of the vast cloacal hinterland of Piers Akerman and how he got, in dreadful pain, through Insiders bleeding internally and sweating profusely and being dabbed down by giggling nurses and talking in his delirium admiringly of the Wharf Revue, and was taken on a stretcher to a hospital where he nearly died.

This cheers us up a great deal. I recall how Randolph Churchill had been urgently relieved of an internal growth which proved ‘not to be malignant’ and how, on hearing of this, his close friend Evelyn Waugh had called it ‘A typical triumph of medical science, to find the one part of Randolph that was not malignant, and remove it.’

(A further piece on the events if this drab, epic day will be orinted tomorrow, Wednesday, in The Drum Unleashed)

Rudd Redux, No Way (9): The Second Muldoon/Ellis Conversation

Joel pulled up outside the Paragon Cafe just as the phone rang. It was Rhys, in traffic, on his way to see Albo, and late now.

‘Do you feel a great foreboding? he asked.

‘Yes, I do,’ I said, ‘in the last hour in particular.’

‘Albo says we’re all fucked.’

‘Fucked, you say.’

‘I do.’

‘The Rudd people, or …’

‘The Rudd people. The party. The parliament. The democracy.’

‘Well … more will happen than just the vote.’

‘Where are you?’

‘Entering the Paragon. In Goulburn. Joel’s with me. As always.’

‘As always.’

‘What is to prevent Rudd, after his defeat, and it is a defeat …’

‘I know. I know.’

‘What is to prevent Rudd, after his defeat, from refusing to take his seat in the House, and not being there when the No Confidence comes on?’

‘Nothing.’

‘That’s what I thought.’

‘Nothing at all.’

‘Would he do that?’

‘He could. What motive does he have for turning up in the chamber? And hearing himself comprehensively excoriated, once again, by his usurper?’

‘No motive.’

‘None at all.’

‘None whatever.’

‘Which makes Abbott Prime Minister by  5 pm. ‘

‘Or Turnbull.’

‘Ah. Hadn’t thought of that.’

‘A simple vote in the party room could install him..’

‘And with Oakeshott’s vote…’

‘Oh dear.’

I sat down in a cubicle with Joel. It all seemed foredoomed. Rhys’s voice grew melancholy. I could hear the traffic all around him,

‘It was wrong of her to bring this on.’

‘It’s in her nature,’ I said. ‘She strives to do  the wrong thing always. You can bank on her.’

‘A minister resigns. She thanks him very much for his service…’

‘Puts in Smith…

‘Where he used to be…’

‘Where he used to be.’

‘And Kelly at Defence …’

‘Where he wants to be..’

‘But no, she brings on a spill.’

‘And brings the whole card-castle down.’

We talk for a while about Gillard’s ongoing serial foolishness, a subject we agree on. It’s remarkable we still talk at at all. I put the case that the momentum moved against Rudd when people saw his triumphalism, his mild-mannered messianism on the Mall just after they saw Albo breaking down, and hating himself for breaking down, in a great apprehensive swither of sorrow for his lifelong love the Labor Party, a momentum that accelerated after Hawker, a mere lobbyist, said the Prime Minister should stand down.

It was as if the Rudd people didn’t care, didn’t give a fuck, how many lives they ruined — all the public servants who lost their jobs, or had to fight to keep them, when Rudd without warning resigned, for instance — just so long as this rich man’s heady roulette game continued. We said a few more things, agreed to meet in Aussie’s at 6.30 or 7 and rang off. I had a rare rump steak so big that Joel ate half of it and I dozed uneasily on the drive through the lengthening dark to Canberra, my left leg twitching, the Wharf Revue songs throbbing through my head. The man…..who speaks in Mandarin is back/To save the day.

Would there be a Labor government on Tuesday? The odds seemed fifty-fifty.

Rudd Redux, No Way (8): The Summing Up

I doubt if Kevin Rudd went to Barcaldine, a town in Queensland sacred to the Labor movement, in his first fifty years. I doubt if he has read a book on the Labor movement, John Faulkner’s True Believers, for instance, Crisp’s Chifley or Day’s Curtin, yet. He will, however, have read a good deal of the Bible and perhaps forty books on the Christian martyrs. He will have read more books about the Ming Dynasty than about the Labor Party.

It is not too surprising therefore that he behaved in office more like Herod the Great than Mick Young, more like Mao Zedong than Ben Chifley. He didn’t really know where he was. He was unfamiliar with the territory. He believed he could choose and sack his ministry as he wished, and if his ministers wanted to know what he was doing, it was none of their business. No Labor leader ever had the power he arrogated to himself, but he didn’t know that, he’d read no Labor history. His information, his instincts, his training and his predisposition were those of a bureaucratic manoeuvrer. To him the word ‘enemy’ meant people in his own party, not Howard’s. He gave Howard’s top ministers jobs that could have gone to his former colleagues. An ‘enemy’ was not Malcolm Turnbull, he was Beazley, Swan, Shorten.

His connection with the Labor Party is vestigial. He feels he is above all that. He believes he is Chosen in a way that is at least in part insane. It is tragic that real Labor people like Albo are falling beneath his harrow. He is the party’s worst news since Evatt, and has something of the pale glow of Billy Hughes about him. ‘I am waiting, Mr Speaker, for the crowing of the cock.’ He may be on the cross benches soon, devising in his restless jet-lagged mind a new party with Katter as his Deputy, or open to offers perhaps from his fellow cradle Catholic, Prime Minister Abbott or his fellow Anglo-Catholic, Prime Minister Turnbull.

He is not a Labor man, and never was.

Or perhaps you disagree.

As I Please: Bombing Afghans In A Good Cause, Eleven Years On

The bombing in the Interior Ministry in Kabul, in theory the most secure building in the country, was the work of a young man employed there, al-Jazeera thinks, in reaction to the burning of some Korans by inattentive Americans, and may soon push all foreign troops out of there.

For a while I have called Afghanistan a ‘missionary war’. We are there to bomb the Afghans into treating their women better. We will liberate and empower all females there by killing their husbands and orphaning their children. This is literally the reason given by men as intelligent as John Faulkner. We must kill these religious fundamentalists to persuade their widows and sons to a better form  of religion, Mormonism, say, or Jehovah’s Witnessism or Episcopalianism, hoping the dead men’s brothers and cousins will understand we mean well and are killing children on our midnight raids unintentionally, and not try to kill us in return, or assassinate our translators after we leave.

It is appropriate therefore that it will be some inadvertent Koran-burning that forces us out of there. Religious priorities brought us in, and religious priorities will boot us out. It is also appropriate that we are in there also to stop terrorists being trained in Afganistan, and we are doing this by training the terrorists ourselves. Once trained, they turn on their tutors with pump-action guns and hand grenades or, as in Kabul yesterday, suicide-bombing gear.

We are training the terrorists ourselves. And this is good because our main war purpose now is telling the Taliban how much power they will have after we leave. And the more of their cousins we kill the more likely they’ll be to do what we say when we leave. They’re the Taliban. They’ll surely keep their word. We just have to kill a lot more of them, widowing their wives, before we leave, to convince them of our good intentions, and make them keep their word.

None of the above is exaggerated. It is official policy. It is how we win the hearts and minds of the Muslim people. That and paying them five hundred dollars a year for killing their cousins for us. We know it makes sense, and so do they.

Only a country with three hundred years of slavery at its back could believe this nonsense. Like all racists, they imagine the colonised people are like stubborn pet animals. They will come around to our way of thinking if we whip them enough. Of course they will. We’re the free world’s leaders, and the whipping and chaining are the way we prove it. And the inadvertent killing of children in the midnight raids on the wrong houses. And the torture and random execution of young men who may be Taliban, the ones we’re negotiating with. We have to shoot a lot more of them. How could you not welcome our presence here? Why would you have any other opinion? You’re only slaves. Animals. Colonials. You have to learn to love us. Or else. Heel.

And it’s a pity.

Rudd Redux, No Way (7): The Moral Argument.

Watching Albo cry made me realise the basic argument against Rudd, to wit, that he doesn’t deserve it. He’s bruised or wounded or wrecked the lives of Beazley, Faulkner, Debus, McMullan, Mike Kelly, Duncan Kerr, Maxine McKew, John Della Bosca, Natasha Stott-Despoja, Graeme Wedderburn, Bill Henson, Albo and half the bureaucrats he kept up all night assisting him in his crazy quest for sub-clauses to no avail, and everyone, absolutely everyone, at the 2020. He gave plum jobs to Nelson, Costello, Downer and Fischer and not a dollar in compensation to the Stolen Children. He terrorised children on the Oceanic Viking. He kept our troops in Afghanistan (how crazy that seems this morning).

Sensing speaking talent in McKew and Shorten, MacMullan and Kerr, he barred them from Question Time. He gave Defence to Faulkner, a pacifist, instead of Mike Kelly, a famed army lawyer and frequent war hero. He gave Debus, a passionate defender of boat people, the job of locking them up. He failed to investigate the Howard Government’s gift of 293 million dollars to Saddam Hussein, or to put anyone in gaol for it. He asked no advice of Hawke, Whitlam, Keating, Button, Beattie, Bacon, Carr or Barry Jones, and relied instead on young staffers with no experience. He made Garrett, who believes no theatre event should be subsidised, Minister for the Arts. He ignored Garrett’s warning that pink batts might kill people, accelerating their installation. He continued the persecution of David Hicks.

He refused to see some Ministers for months on end. He held most legislation up with midnight-to-dawn nitpicking. He terrified most people who worked for him with his coldness, aggressiveness, unforgiveness, foul mouth and grudges, and wrecked with long hours of baseless growing panic their private lives. I asked Timmy Gleason why he himself stayed up so late. ‘Didn’t want to go home to his wife,’ Tim guessed.

And, oh yes, he sabotaged his own party during an election, causing it to lose between three and thirteen seats and control of the House of Representatives. He seems not to know what the Labor Party is, and so successfully blurred its meaning that many young people fled to the Greens.

His view that he should be Prime Minister again because he’s more consultative now does not address the massive harm he has done to good people, some of whom (Beazley, Faulkner, Kerr, Kelly, McMullan, Macklin, Shorten, McKew) would have made better Prime Ministers than him, and the Indigenous people whom he chatted up with his Apology and then ignored and left in unequal misery.

He should have been sacked from the ministry long ago. He is a good communicator but a cruel, cold, careless person with no particular belief in anything but a personal God who looks after him, for some reason, and finds him more deserving than Kim Beazley.

If he gets less than ten votes on Monday he should be deselected.

In my view.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Rudd Redux, No Way (6): The Rupert-Rudd-Bruce-Albo Axis Of Evil Stuffs Up Big This Time

Albo’s moving speech about Labor and what it meant to him was honest in its every manly snuffle and its every curse of the Tories and all of his anguish at the present fratricidal confusion and was meant as well, I was told an hour ago by somebody very close to him, to provide a bridge, a meeting ground and an honest broker between the Ruddites and Gillardites and a big tent they can come back into with their flies unbuttoned, as well as a leash on Rudd in the aftermath of his abysmal spifflication by the numbers. Albo like a fool imagines Rudd can be controlled, not yet knowing that a madman will always do what he will, he has a clockwork necessity to do so, and cannot be reprogrammed, switched off, kneecapped, admonished or assuaged.

This was shown in Rudd’s interview in the Mall in what he likes to call, blood-curdlingly, ‘Brissie’. He used the word ‘humbled’ a couple of hundred times, beaming arrogantly, in much the same way as Murdoch before the House of Commons: as a tactical adjective, a chess move, a hatful of glass beads, a lollipop smilingly proffered as evidence of his warm humanity that fell on the ear as unwelcomely as Thatcher’s quote from St Francis of Assissi on the steps of Number Ten when she was first elected, where there is hatred let me sow lahve, where there is injury, pahdon, and so on. Where Albo was like a bleeding, baited bear in cage, Rudd was like a much-petted cat on a windowsill, purring and arching his back, and licking himself all over. Hawker should tell him he mustn’t do ‘humble’ ever again, and strike the word from his lexicon.

Murdoch’s false Newspoll this morning and his possibly accurate Galaxy a few hours before has proved, however, a tactical disaster for him and his grovelling Brisbane minions. For it showed that Labor can win. On 47 with Gillard at its head and needing only 49 to rule in coalition with Greens and Independents, it can win without a change, probably; and win easily with Shorten, Smith or Plibersek as its master and commander and a May Day budget surplus at its back.

This means the whole Big Lie strategy, so obediently followed by even Uhlman, Crabb and Cassidy, that Labor is irretrievably fucked, is now in ruins. For Labor can win. They can actually win. They’ve picked up a million votes since December and the present fracas hasn’t damaged their vote at all. Labor can win. And who is the person best able to sell their policy success? Well, that’s not too hard. And it isn’t the man who brought us wool-batts over Garrett’s protests and killed, some would say, those poor young men.

And Labor can win in Queensland too. You can’t get to 47 without a big Queensland vote. A vote of 47 means Newman loses and Katter wins a seat or two. And a vote that includes young people, the ones who admire Bligh the defiant pekingese in her muddy jeans crying ‘We are Queenslanders!’, might be as much as 51.

Rupert is losing everywhere lately. The hundreds of millions with which he bankrolled the Tea Party and its lunatic spruikers Palin, Bachman, Huntsman, Gingrich, Perry, Paul and Santorum will not now deny his adversary Obama a second term in the White House and may see him, Rupert, under enhanced interrogation in Guantanamo and on a treason charge for bugging, if he did, the 9/11 heroes’ widows.Thirty of his Pommy cronies are going to gaol, probably, and James his son for sure. And his latest protegee Rudd will get, oh, twenty-five votes on Monday, or fifteen, or nine, and so it goes.

It’s possible Rupert is losing it for chemical reasons, viagara, hair plugs, or whatever.

But he’s had a terrible week, and is flogging Sky News round the clock into pretending it’s been a good one.

He should look on that 47 percent and despair.

Rudd Redux, No Way (5): Rudd’s Vision, Oops, Where Did It Go

It’s now pretty clear that Rudd who touched down yesterday and with a thunderous calm announced that the country was doomed and only he could save it from itself has no ideas at all on what he would do about it.

He proposes to let caucus choose his Cabinet and each of them impose their own visions on their departments. He promises to consult more and, presumably, sleep more. And, apart from going back on the carbon emissions deal, that’s about it.

I’ve written elsewhere of how much like a provincial bureaucrat he is. This is a demonstration of that blinkered, self-absorbed, self-admiring quality. His main purpose, his main purpose in life, is to wrong-foot, discomfort, thwart and anger his adversaries. He will keep them waiting, for no reason. He will refuse to see them for months on end, for no reason. He will cut dead people he owes favours, just because he can. He will freeze out people who have contradicted him. See James Button’s piece in the Financial Review this morning on how he did this to hundreds and hundreds of people.

And at the heart of this was no purpose, no vision thing, at all. He doesn’t care much what happens to the country. He’s rich as Croesus, and has no personal worries, just so long as the drugs keep the new aorta throbbing. He was supposed to help sort out Syria, but Julia was unkind to him, so he quit his job in mid-mission and came home in a dudgeon to unseat and punish her.

How like a classic bureaucrat from C.P. Snow or C.Northcote Parkinson he is. All office manoeuvre and protecting his patch and diminishing his rivals and no agenda, no vision at all. ‘He believes in nothing,’ Beazley his mentor says in these pages and how right he was.

And how wrong Faulkner, Hawker, Arbib, Gillard, Crean and Feeney were to uplift him and bring down Beazley. How wrong they were. How stupid they were. He is within an inch now of destroying the party — for no good reason — and though they see the error of their ways Faulkner and Hawker are still pushing him.

Shame on them.

Apologise. Apologise, the lot of you.

Do it now.

Classic Ellis: Rudd, The Muldoon/Ellis Conversation

(from One Hundred Days of Summer)

Thursday, 12th November, 2009, 4.10 p.m.

I came down the back stairs of Parliament House with a shopping bag and a suitcase and waited among gloomy addicted smokers on the pebbled path outside it for the forceful, attractive, sharp-witted, unpunctual actor Rhys Muldoon, who had a cunning plan. He turned up fifteen minutes late and I got in, and we began our journey north.

‘Pity I couldn’t meet Nathan Rees,’ he said.

‘He’s busy. He thinks people are plotting against him and he likes to stay vigilant.’

‘Are they? Plotting? Against him?’

‘Nah. The Telegraph keeps assuring us the votes are there for Frank Sartor, but in my assessment Frank is not even sure of his own vote most mornings till he’s had a black coffee.’

‘I’ve heard worse. I think they’re after him. I think they’ll strike soon.’

‘You’ve heard worse, have you? Well, you’re wrong. Why were you six hours late?’

‘I had to be in Melbourne. And I’m doing something with the Prime Minister. So I had to be in Canberra too.’

‘What are you doing with the Prime Minister?’

‘Can’t say.’

We passed over the Bridge in silence, heeding a sign saying Newcastle.

‘You should make friends with the Prime Minister,’ he said.

‘He should make friends with me.’

‘He’s a good bloke. I know him.’

‘I know you know him and you’re wrong.’

We drove north in a darkening mood, on a journey I didn’t need. Rudd was proposing to be ‘tough but humane’ – a phrase that made as much sense as ‘sadistic but motherly’ – with some Tamils fleeing massacre in Sri Lanka and wanting, as one would, to live in an Australian suburb rather than an Indonesian concentration camp, and they were refusing to disembark from the Oceanic Viking because they didn’t trust him, and neither would I. ‘Tough but humane’ indeed. It was a phrase that better fitted a Death Row prison and a lethal injection in Texas uncommuted by Governor Bush, and what was the point of it? Whom did it help?

‘Whom does it help?’ I asked.

Rhys was patient. ‘It helps Labor convince the Howard Battlers, who defected and voted for them, voted for them just this once, that Rudd is as border-protective as his patriotic predecessor.’

‘And he’s not?’

‘Of course he’s not. He’s just using the vocabulary. He’ll let them in.’

‘Won’t they notice?’

‘Well, they could.’

‘If they’re going to notice, what’s the fucking point?’

The Hawkesbury Bridge went by, and some of the loveliest scenery on earth, which I ignored.

‘There’s a phrase I heard,’ I said, ‘from one of my son Jack’s friends, a wild young fucker called The Alamo, Liam Kennedy. “The difference between men and women,” he said, “is men are about outcomes and women are about procedure.” And Rudd is about procedure.’

‘He’s a bit of a girl?’

‘Yes.’ I’d said it now. Rhys lit up, smoked out the window. ‘He holds enquiries into the possibility of sending a note of protest to the UN against the Japanese murdering whales. Beazley would have sent in helicopter-gunships and sunk the fuckers.’

‘He wouldn’t.’

‘Yes, he would. He wanted to send in the navy into Suva Harbour when Rabuka staged his coup in 1987. Kim would’ve been different.’

‘You should get over Kim. You’re still grieving.’

‘I’m grieving more now. We’re in trouble.’

The silence grew and festered as we neared the turnoff to Maitland.

Rudd Redux, No Way (4): The Latest, False Newspoll And The Silence Of Stirton Deconstructed

At 6.30 at Wayne’s for my peanut-butter-sandwich breakfast I find there are other polls, all showing Rudd a winner. Only one of them, Newspoll (of course) is a pack of lies, with only 346 respondents (why not 446? or 246? the minimum is 1,000) TWO weeks before the challenge, but the others seem, well, about right.

But they contradict all the headlines about Labor being doomed. The all have our oldest party on 47 percent, or 400,000 less than they won with (or tied with) last time, a number a good campaign could make up easily, and another Labor leader (Smith, Shorten, Plibersek) might already have under his/her belt as leader.

The Financial Review shows Abbott preferred to Gillard 47-46 (shock horror) and Rudd … not leading Abbott at election but preferred to him, by 58-38, the Meltdown-busting PM I suppose outscoring (shock horror)  the innumerate sweat-stained bicyclist and bride-deserting former priest.

But all these numbers show not a Labor Party exploding into flying chunks of meat but gaining ground: 34 percent now not 28 as it was in December, a million vote gain. And the leadership ‘soap opera’ (God, I wish I’d said that) losing no votes at all.

Which means Rudd’s cry of crisis, debacle, immolation, gotterdammerung, zig heil is precisely as jet-lagged, sleepless and mad as one might expect from this vengeful, foolish little man. The new vision he came back with is his own disempowerment. You elect the Cabinet, he says to Caucus, you allot the ministries, and I’ll just … I’ll just … fume. Vote for me. I WON’T INTERFERE. I’m the New Kevin. Trust me. I’m Kevin, I’m .. from Queensland, I’m here to help. Let us pray. Where’s my fucking tea.

The Nielsen poll in the smh, an always honest one, shows Abbott ahead of Gillard by 1 percent on Thursday night, which would mean the reverse I would think by Friday night after her lovely, fiery, spirited performance in the courtyard that morning. But it does not show Smith versus Abbott, Shorten versus Abbott, Plibersek versus Abbott, Albo versus Abbott (Albo seems to be running), nor how well a party led by any one of them would go against the Coalition.

This is an utterly remarkable Murdoch-led series of totally useless statistics, unprecedented in world history, that has for a year or more concealed from us who might run against whom and how they would do in that contest. It is like, in a way, the agonies Saddam Hussein must have gone through on election nights, wondering whether to give himself 97 or 98 percent in the final, official, fabricated count.

Who is paying whom to conceal these figures? These important, nation-changing figures? Can even the virtuous Stirton be on the take? I will never believe it.

O’Shannessy I could believe it of, especially after this morning’s bodgied-up Newspoll, taken a fortnight ago with 700 too few people to make any sense at all out of even the octogenarians they rang at home on those hot and flooded summer days. But Stirton? Never.

Perhaps there is some other explanation.

I wonder what it is.

Rudd Redux, No Way (3): The Galaxy Poll Deconstructed

In sure proof that Labor is doomed and about to be binned by history the Murdoch papers have a Galaxy poll showing Labor winning.

The 49 percent two party preferred it would get under Rudd means Independents and Greens could keep the doomed party in power. Which means yesterday’s headlines — Labor Tears Itself Apart, Dinner Before All Hell Broke Loose — are already redundant, and Labor could win outright, with a bit of campaigning, an absolute majority.

Under Gillard, Galaxy says, it would get 46 percent, two party preferred. Under Rudd it would get 49.

Let’s assume this poll is honest, and the 1020 people rung at home on Thursday, a late shopping night, and Friday, a drinking night, were representative of the people under forty who usually vote Labor as well as the people over sixty who usually vote Coalition. Let us assume Rudd would get three more percent more votes than Gillard.

…. Well, it’s hard to see a Rudd factor anywhere in any of this.

Let me explain.

Gillard lost three percent by saying she was an atheist. She probably lost another another one percent by not being married. And another one percent by seeming to be a scheming, disloyal female. This means Rudd, a male, Christian, married, loyal fellow (of course he is, stop laughing up the back there) should be on 51 percent. And he isn’t. Why isn’t he?

And here we once again see the usual Murdoch cheat. No other candidate is on the map. Though this is unprecedented in world history, no third candidate is being measured for his/her public appeal, or his/her ability to beat Abbott in an election. There is a deal, surely, between Murdoch, Rudd, Newspoll and Galaxy that this should be so, this silence, this hugger-mugger.

Because it is absolutely clear from this Galaxy poll that other candidates would do better than Rudd. And Labor is now in no great trouble at all.

Swan, a Christian male Queenslander with children, would get 52 percent. Shorten, a Christian husband of a Queenslander with children and great communicative powers and policy precision, would get 53. On these Galaxy figures. Prove that I lie.

And a Rudd candidature would depress the Labor vote. More so when Gillard, Roxon, Shorten, Combet and Plibersek refused to serve with him, and it comes out that he refused Peter Garrett’s counsel of caution on the roof-batts that killed those poor young men, if that is what he did.

It may be that Labor is in fact in no great trouble at all, with or without Gillard.

I say this because Galaxy obviously asked questions this week about the Queensland election, and got a result that Murdoch has not chosen, thus far, to publish. One that shows, perhaps, Katter’s party on 14 upercent (my guess), Campbell Newman not winning his seat and the election up for grabs. Because Abbott’s innumeracy has come home to roost, and a budget in surplus in May will destroy him.

And the Rudd Factor of no great substance at all.

More so now that Rudd has said he would give up his Cabinet-choosing powers to Caucus if he was again Prime Minister.

This is roughly saying he would not be Prime Minister at all.

Make me Prime Minister. And I promise not to be Prime Minister.

How mad that seems. How like the hectic, tyrannous, chaotic loser they booted out.

How nice it will be to have him back. Powerless, gagged, and fuming.

And so on. So it goes.

Prove that I lie.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (11): The Rudd-Rupert Axis Of Evil Reassessed And Reconsidered

It’s reasonably clear why Murdoch is backing Rudd’s move to bring Chaos Theory and insomniac fury back into federal governance, as is evidenced by his coverage of the Nambour Phantom’s vengeful rampage in the Courier Mail this afternoon, or it is to me at least.

Rupert needs a place to be unextraditable from when the Delaware authorities come after him for being the CEO of a company that corrupted, or sought to corrupt, foreign officials like Scotland Yard, and Col Allen’s friend Rudd would as PM be more likely to give him sanctuary than Gillard who hates News Limited’s daily tantrums against her government and hourly sliming of its ministers. So he’s backing Rudd, and backing him now especially, when he can do major damage to Labor in Queensland, distracting attention away from Bob Katter, who might otherwise steal seats away from the LNP and form, perhaps, a Katter-Bligh coalition. So he’s backing Rudd, and backing him heartily, and may have a deal with him, with many clauses in it.

How do I know he’s backing Rudd? Well, you have to read the verbs and nouns in The Courier Mail in its first reaction to his announcement that he was standing.

‘Kevin Rudd,’ it says, ‘he will take on Julia Gillard at a party room leadership (sentence unfinished).

‘The vote will take place on Monday as he tries to make a comeback as Prime Minister.

‘Mr Rudd said the Labor Party was “heading for the rocks at the next election.”

‘Mr Rudd emphasised the achievements of his government between 2007 and 2010.

‘He emphasised … He spoke about …. he said … tries to make a comeback …

He is ‘Mr Rudd,’ not ‘Kevin Rudd.’ He ‘said’, he ‘emphasised’, he ‘spoke about’. It was not an ‘outburst’ or a ‘dummy-spit’ or ‘a declaration of war’. He did not ’round on’ or ‘rail against’ or ‘denounce’ or ‘pull the pin’. He was not a ‘renegade former minister’ or ‘Julia’s nemesis’ or ‘ the Labor Party’s problem child in an act of political terrorism.’ What he is doing is not ‘political payback’ or ‘sweet revenge’ or ‘turning back the clock’ or ‘yesterday’s man in full dummy-spit mode’.

The verbs and nouns are all neutral, as they never elsewhere are when the Murdoch papers write of acts of revolt or defiance by left-of-centre politicians anywhere in the world. We do not read, ‘Looking haggard and angry after a long flight and a quarrel with his wife, renegade minister K. Rudd in a desperate attempt to undermine Julia Gillard and regain the Lodge from his detested usurper began a lengthening diatribe of imagined wrongs and delusory past achievements that showed evidence, some said, of emotional instability.’ We read something much more like a press release from Buckingham Palace. The King is back. Long live the King.

This grovelling obeisance to an old splenetic foe by the embattled octogenarian mogul’s craven Brisbane minions (see how easy it is) should be looked at in the context of his recent troubles in England and America. His creation the Tea Party has failed him, and Fox News failed to get up a candidate that can beat Obama. This means Obama, who detests him, will be able soon to come after him. And when the inevitable arrest warrant arrives from London he will be extradited now as he would not have been under President Palin, Huntsman, Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Romney, Paul or Santorum.

Unless, of course, he is in Australia at the time, and Prime Minister Abbott or Prime Minister Rudd refuses to send him back to what is now his country, the United States, or to the UK, where he is or will be or may be wanted for questioning in the next six or seven months. Rupert is scared now, and needs a powerful friend, as never before.

And is deluded enough, as he was when he touted Sarah Palin for President, to imagine he can get this one up. Or by his candidature so undermine and whiteant the ALP as to cause an Abbott government when someone — Thomson? Oakeshott? Wilkie? Slipper? Rudd? — crosses the floor.

Prove that I lie.

Classic Ellis: Beazley on Rudd

(From And So It Went)

Wednesday, 15th August, 2007, 6.10 a.m.

I wake early, and brood on my encounter with Rudd in the hall. Hi Bob, how are you? Why did I not simply go with him into his office, and talk? I recall an earlier time in his vicinity, and what followed.

FLASHBACK, Tuesday, 27th March, 2007, 4.25 a.m.

Drove to Canberra and entered, in good order, the Leader of the Opposition’s office. Tim Dixon greeted me cheerfully, and we talked. Eventually he said, ‘Have you seen Kim?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘I didn’t much feel like…you know…invading his misery. Witnessing it.’

‘No, no, he’s fine. C’mon, I’ll take you round.’

And he took me round long corridors to see him. I was expecting a warm puddle of grief, but no. ‘Brother Ellis!’ he shouted. ‘Mate!’ He was the vast Falstaffian mountain of cheer and resolution I’d always known.

He proposed lunch in the Members’ Dining Room, on him. And so it came to pass. We talked of movies, the Middle Ages, the lunacy in Iraq. Eventually I said:

‘Do you have a view of…Rudd?’

He gave one of his big share-misery laughs. ‘Ah, you and I are the last of the warriors, Ellis,’ he said. ‘This has been a victory for middle management.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Yes, I see.’

‘He’s brilliant, he’s brilliant, and in this game that doesn’t hurt. But in the end, in the end, in the bitter end, he believes in nothing.’

‘That’s not right,’ I said. ‘I mean, he said to me once, “people think I’m a God-botherer, but I’m only a small-’g’ god-botherer really.”‘

‘Which means he believes in nothing!’ Beazley shouted ebulliently, closing the subject and sitting on the lid.

We roistered for an hour and a half, when Beazley said, ‘I’d better make an appearance in the House. Otherwise they’ll think I’m sulking. Which I am!’ He laughed and went.

Rudd Redux, No Way (2)

8.50 am

Emotional Truth is the name of the game she’s currently playing; the name of his game is The Royal Cock-Tease. Discuss.

It would be wrong to compare his descent from the clouds to the opening shots of The Triumph of the Will, but it would be right I think to say he’s conducting an American-style campaign (like that of, say, Rick Santorum) in an ill-chosen country. Hear ye, hear ye, the Simple Answer To All Things is on the tarmac, and will for a brief sad moment reflectively answer questions. But a few words first on my Second Coming. Pay attention, up the back there. Pay attention. You’ll be sorry if you don’t. Let us pray.

He was wrong to use the phrase ‘faceless men’, a Big Lie that stirs great loathing in Labor historians, but he doesn’t know any Labor history so hell, why not; it’s not the Labor Party I’m talking to, it’s the People. He has the mannerisms of a taller and handsomer man with a deeper voice. He said ‘Shock and Awe’ too, as any dumb-bum so placed would, and thus demonstrated what a small-time provincial bureaucrat he is, one who stares each morning in a magnifying mirror, admiring his tooth-job and subtle facial surgery.

His jet-lag is now sitting in for what used to be his intelligence. The paranoia that takes you over in that condition is now his world. You don’t say Shock and Awe or ‘faceless men’ to any Labor voter, ever. It’s like saying ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ to a Jew.

It’s wrong to speak of these things as being a political mistake, because he’s barely a politician at all. He’s an addicted, practising bureaucrat, with imperial longings. I quote from Suddenly, Last Winter.

7.50 a.m.

The Canberra traffic jam approaches, red lights and sauntering pedestrians in rain, some with umbrellas, some not, unmoved it seems by the nation’s convulsions just up the hill but careful of the teeming wet.

‘Rudd’s most revealing comment,’ I say to Joel.

‘Oh yes,’ he says apathetically, tired as me.

‘”I have been Bernard,” he says, “I have been Sir Humphrey. I have been the Minister. And I am the Prime Minister.”‘

‘So?’

‘All his role models are bureaucratic. He’s a bureaucratic Bonaparte, careless, like Sir Humphrey, of the elected government’s priorities and very careful of his own. He’s in no way a democrat, he’s a …’

‘Crypto-fascist?’

‘Well … maybe.’

We miss the turn and circle Parliament House, so well described by my drunk old friend Sir James Killen as ‘a Salvador Dali painting of a melting billiard table sliding slowly down a hill,’ and parked at last (at last) in a vacant patch of bitumen beyond the television vans and broadcast dishes clustered in the grey cloudy damp of early morning.

The story continues below, in The First Coming of julia Gillard, if you want to read on. And the characters, and the charactersation, are the same as now.

Rudd like Gillard has no sense of what has gone before in Labor history, how the leadership battle of 1969 was not between Whitlam and Calwell, his predecessor, but between Whitlam and Cairns, his Left faction adversary, how Hawke once defeated left Parliament and did not come back, nor hang around the Ministry like a bad smell, nor did Keating, or Beazley, or Dunstan, or Bannon, or Carr, or Rann; defeat was defeat, game over, go home. How it’s only in the Liberal Party they come back — Menzies, Peacock, Howard, Kennett, Barnett — because the Liberals lack dignity and, to be frank about this, talent. And if Gillard is a problem the battle should be not between her and another ministerial failure, but her and a ministerial success: Shorten, Combet, Plibersek, Roxon, Smith, Albo, Jenkins, Kelly. How the Gingrich-Is-Back-And-He’s Mad-As-Batshit model doesn’t suit this party, or this country.

But here he is, oblivious of all that, beaming, jet-lagged, surgically corrected, ambitious, mildly messianic, and quietly crazed as a two-bob watch. He doesn’t say what rivals he would punish, or what legislation he would rescind and replace with better legislation. He behaves as if bad things had happened to the nation, shocking things that must now be corrected, cauterized, redeemed. But he doesn’t say what they are. Like a Tea Party candidate, he wants to cancel the whole shebang, every bit of it. While retaining the present ministry, of course, and being this time ‘more consultative’, while demoting the world’s best Treasurer and the party’s best communicator Shorten to Parliamentary Secretaryships for Cheese and Sea Slug Surveillance, or whatever.

It’s wrong to say he’s barking mad, but he’s in adjacent territory. He mistakes the dance for the inner music. He knows the words, but not the tune.

1.50 pm

At lunch with Carl Green, a Gillard speechwriter, Damian Khalabji, a Gillard staffer, my sonnetee Viv, who works for Albo, and Damian Spruce, who is writing The Year It All Fell Down with me and Ramsey and used to work for Debus, I predict Rudd will not run. He has done this twice before. He cannot bear the numbers, and does not want to see them demonstrated. As Eliot said of mankind, he cannot bear too much reality.

3.05 pm

No; he’s standing. And the mischief he so loves to extrude and brandish continues. A good test of what he is up to is whether or not Murdoch styles what he said in the last few minutes an ‘outburst’. If he does not, Murdoch is behind him. Of course he is. Of course he is. And two days after he is again Prime Minister, if that happens, and it won’t, we will see a Murdoch headline WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT SCORES in the Courier Mail, and rumours that his marriage is in trouble, in the usual crooked Murdoch way.

What is he paying Bruce Hawker, I wonder. A million dollars? Could be; could be. I remember in the first days of the Rudd leadership Bob Hawke over a red wine ruminating on how much money Therese had, and how much this would, must, have helped an aspiring Prime Minister, allowing him limitless overseas travel, and trips around Australia to the homes of allies and waverers, meals on yachts, nights at the opera, lavish parties in gothic ballrooms, and the rest of it. And Bruce Hawker, the big fish, working for him now. Instant credibility. How much did that cost? And how’s it shaping?

4.10 pm

How much does Rudd know? The reaction to the Bill Henson photo — which lost him, overnight, the entire Arts Community and his fond friends Cate and Andrew — suggests he’s an articulate philistine, like many religious Queensland provincial graduates of faraway universities who marry a girl they meet in a prayer hgroup.

Did he come to the Playwrights’ Conferences, held every year in his residential college, Burgmann, in Canberra? Never saw him there. Did he bone up, like so many Labor people, on the American Civil War? Did he study the Roosevelt administration? The Civil Rights campaigns and marches of Martin Luther King? Did he identify as a cradle Catholic with Jack or Bobby Kennedy? None of this rings true. None of this feels like him. Would he have seen a Wharf Revue? Of course not. Why do I say ‘of course not’?

Well, it’s because he’s, frankly, not one of us; or he doesn’t seem to be. He seems for instance not to know, or not to know much, of Labor’s history here in Australia, like Faulkner and Howes and Shorten, or of the great political movements of the last two centuries of the West, like Beazley and Carr and Jones and Button and Whitlam. Has he read a book on the French Revolution? I doubt it. When John Button died he skipped his funeral and viewed instead Cate Banchett’s new baby, something he could have done any time. Is this a Labor man? Don’t think so. Would Trotsky skip Lenin’s funeral for a vodka-and caviare party with Diagilev? Don’t think so.

And this is part of the worry we all of us feel about Rudd by now, that he’s not one of us, that he’s a cuckoo in the nest, a stranger; or one of those ominous angels who come to Sodom to warn Lot’s daughters the Great Doom is nigh. He has the menace of a Jehovah’s Witness at the door, or a character out of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy who may be there in the cafe to murder you.

6.45 pm

He’s began to call himself ‘K. Rudd’, a sure sign of hovering insanity, as in Richard Nixon’s last drunk days before his resignation: Did Nixon do wrong? No, Nixon was innocent as charged.

It seems Albo is running and may be Prime Minister by Monday night. Nothing else explains his refusal to go one way or the other.

If it happens it will emphasise the amazing Murdoch New Rule that only someone who has been Prime Minister can run for that office again. Faulkner, Shorten, Plibersek, Smith, Swan, Roxon, Combet, though all better performers than Gillard or Rudd, were disqualified by Murdoch from standing; and his craven pollster O’Shannessey refused to measure how well any of them would do against Abbott. Unprecedented in world history, this has been unremarked for over a year by every pundit in the land. It’s like saying only Abbott and Howard can stand for Opposition Leader; all other candidates are ineligible.

Since Rudd in his press conference has no ‘outbursts’ or ‘dummy-spits’ but merely ‘says’ or ‘emphasises’ things, according to the Courier Mail, he is clearly Murdoch’s candidate, in my view. Did they meet this week in America? Did they have a skype conversation? What was that conversation about?

We have a right to know.

As I Please: The Oscar Possibilities

It will be a split field, I think, as it was in the year when Reds won Best Director and Chariots of Fire Best Film. Which means Scorsese’s Hugo will get Best Director, Havanicius’s The Artist Best Film, Woody Best Original Screenplay for Midnight In Paris, Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March, Streep Best Lead Actress for The Iron Lady (it should be Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs but there you go), George Clooney Best Lead Actor for The Descendants (a role he should not have stolen from Paul Giamatti), Best Support Actor for Ken Branagh in My Week With Marilyn and Berenice Bejo for Best Support Actress in The Artist. A whole swag of technical awards will go to Hugo but Best Artistic Direction To The War Horse, Best Makeup to Albert Nobbs, Best Costume Design to Anonymous … Best Music is a mystery. John Williams for The War Horse, maybe.

It’s ridiculous Ben Kingsley wasn’t even nominated for Hugo, and Gary Oldman was for Tinker Tailor, Norman Mailer or whatever the fuck it was called. A hat-rack in horn-rims I called his performance, accurately. The actual best male performance was by Peter Mullan in Tyrannosaur, not that it matters, it hasn’t been Scotland’s turn for thirty years, and the best female supporting performance, far and away, by Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous. Best Foreign Film will go to A Separation, as good a drama on human relationships as there has ever been, as good as a play by Arthur Miller.

I haven’t seen Moneyball and I hate The Tree of Life irrationally, so I may be wrong in every particular.

And so it goes.

Classic Ellis: Lindy Chamberlain on Trial, 1987

In the dock Lindy Chamberlain, erect, resolute, drab-voiced, her face thinner now that she was out of gaol, and more like a ravaged Judy Garland, with the memorable, magnetic, defiant, ash-black eyes that assured, I judged, both her media stardom and her initial conviction, carefully answered her earthly tormentor, word by word, hour by hour, with the same embittered precision that I recalled in other Adventists in my childhood and my youth, when I was one of them. God’s peculiar people, we called ourselves with pride.

Some things about her were different: her eyeshadow, plucked eyebrows and light lipstick would not have been tolerated in my day, not in a minister’s wife, but the tone, the sharp and weary tone, in which crushing logic, cold distance and martyred resignation contested for supremacy, was very familiar. God’s peculiar people. And you will be tried and convicted in those latter days, but the bullets will melt in their muzzles and the padlocks dissolve on the prison gates, and the Lord descending will summon you up to be with him in the clouds and dwell with him forever and ever in that golden city of light.

Martyrdom was built into our expectations then, and I guess I embrace it still. Adventists could easily see her trial as a foretaste of the final Persecution, when the righteous will be tested for their faith, and her courage as their example. They could see her too, very easily see her, as a female Christ accepting and embracing punishment on behalf of all those women who had had abortions, killed a child in their womb, and loathed themselves for committing that primal sin. Such women I noticed were the ones who were always most convinced of Lindy’s guilt, because they shared it. And she, like the Adventist saviour on Calvary, took away that fraction of their self-loathing which they then awarded to her.

In the ordinary courtroom as usual proceedings were civil, tense and absorbing. The dashboard bloodstains that were not blood. The scissor holes in the jacket that may or may not have been fang holes. The forensic tests destroyed. The dingo tracks that were dog tracks, or were they? The baby’s cry in the night that was heard by all, or was it? How many camels could dance on the point of a needle, or was it angels? What a welter of psychological and theological inexactitude she summoned into being, and what a tidal swamp of journalistic prurience and myth and gossip and race memory she conjured up by that one cry, ‘A dingo’s got my baby!’ If she had merely said, ‘My baby’s gone! Someone’s taken my baby!’, none of it would have happened. Nor would it likewise if she had been the agnostic wife of a supermarket manager, for agnostics, as we know, are sane, and supermarket managers’ wives do not kill newborn babies, or they own up if they do. Or they do it decently, six months before, on Medicare, like civilised human beings.

No weapons, no body, no motive, no opportunity …Being of sound mind … Did cut the throat of her healthy child, and then wear twenty years in chokey rather than cop a plea of post-natal depression and get three months. Of course she did. She was an Adventist. An auslander. A moral savage. God knows what they do in those little wooden churches. ‘I’ve seen her eyes,’ Brett Whiteley said to me, ‘and she’s evil, man, she’s evil.’

I took my little daughter Jenny to the courtroom the second time I went. She was six and three quarters then, exactly Azaria’s age, and she didn’t like Lindy much, but she thought her innocent, and got very bored in an hour. I tried to imagine Lindy’s burden, that death and that blame, for all of Jenny’s lifetime, and I couldn’t. Poor little woman, to be so mocked and buffeted by a God so cruelly taunting. A dingo’s got my baby; someone’s taken my baby. Let’s print take two, shall we. No, no, too late. Too late.

It’s possible Azaria’s alive, of course, and in the uncertain care of some lone madwoman, black perhaps, whose own baby was once wrested from her by the caring white authorities, perhaps, one moonlit night when she was drunk. But it’s probable she’s dead and buried under sand somewhere to preserve the reputation of some half-breed German Shepherd, loved by its owner, loved like a child.

Lindy’s lack of grief on the following day, and Michael’s taking of pictures, was normal of course in Adventists. A baby that dies goes forth out of life without knowing sin and will of a certain arrive in heaven. Her parents, if numbered among the righteous, will see her there in heaven, and rejoice that she died untainted by sin. On the day of my sister Margaret’s funeral we all played cricket. We knew that Marg was all right, and would make it through the pearly gates. I wish I had such certitude now; Lord help my unbelief.

Religious persecution does not cease. It only finds new excuses. That Lindy suffered for her faith and nothing else is evidenced by the fact that they let her go home between her trials, go home to her other children, who should logically have been in danger, and to her second baby girl, the one born after Azaria, who should logically have been in mortal danger — from a mother who without motive and without cause had slaughtered her elder sister in the front seat of a car.

But they knew the kids were in no danger. They knew she hadn’t done it. They knew that Michael would not have gotten her pregnant if she’d done it, and he must have known.

They knew that she was innocent, entirely innocent, and they also knew that she had to be punished. The reasons went beyond the reach of words.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (10) Rupert’s Numbers And The Laws Of Fraud

It is my belief that Rudd will not stand on Monday, and if he does he will get no more than 15 votes out of 103.

The question should then arise of what level of fraud was committed by Murdoch’s people when they published on Saturday lists adding up to 116 of Rudd supporters (44) and Gillard supporters (52) with Darren Cheeseman passionately favouring both of them and Jenkins and Bradbury in columns that were dead wrong and splenetically denied.

Is publishing false figures fraud? Should gaol follow?

Gaol follows when, say, mineral discoveries are overstated by listed companies. Gaol follows what is known as insider trading, when those with inside information act on it criminally fudging or fabricating figures. Should gaol now follow the fabricated numbers of Murdoch’s partner-company Newspoll if it proves that Katter’s party now has 14 not 4.5 percent and the Queensland election is a toss-up not a wipeout?

How long can these avid Murdochists stay out of gaol now so many of their English cousins are being daily herded into it?

Just asking.

It is fraud too for the Murdochists to say that the government is now dysfunctional, and nothing is being done. No legislation has been cancelled or held up and two hundred and fifty bills have been passed. I ask The Australian reporters which laws were aborted, which negotiations abandoned, which reports binned, and how many hours a day lost by Ministers hitting the phones to shore up support for Rudd or Gillard. If it is over twelve minutes per day on average I would be surprised.  It is the equivalent of the time spent in the toilet and not significant in a fourteen- or sixteen-hour day.

The Murdochists are therefore daily libelling their nation’s elected rulers and should be sued or gaoled for it.

And, of course, for saying that the lizard-like stowaway Campbell Newman is bound to be elected even to parliament when it is nearly impossible that he will be.

Discuss.

Rudd, Dwindling

7.10 am

Once again, a quote from And So It Went, page 77, prophetic as always.

Friday, 1st December, 2006, 12.05 am

‘Rudd hasn’t got the numbers, has he?’

‘He’s got five votes, that’s all,’ said Lou, and Karen nodded. ‘I don’t know what this is all about.’

‘Kim’s confident, is he?’

‘Oh yes.’

‘Quite confident,’ Karen added.

‘I’m very confident,’ Michael said firmly.

Were they cracking hardy? It didn’t seem so. Rudd was known as a loner, a leaker, a workaholic with no political friends and few caucus allies. Yet on Wednesday Phillip Adams at the Chifley play said Rudd had the numbers, and he’d had them for six months courtesy of Mark Arbib and was waiting from the moment to spring them. Bob Carr was at the play too and said it was a tragedy for Kim but it was probably so.

Two Fridays ago moreover at a journalists’ banquet in Glebe where guest speaker Rudd gave an uproariously funny speech that was roughly entitled ‘How I And Gareth Arrived At Long Last In North Korea And What Befel Us There’, a ‘dream ticket’ of Kevin and Julia was being mooted excitedly with pamphlets and ribbons to my disgust.

And so on. So it goes.

….The most remarkable feature of this extract is the date at the top of it. Six years ago it was known Rudd was ‘a loner, a leaker, a workaholic with no political friends and few caucus allies’ who made fun of his colleagues, in this case Gareth Evans, in front of journalists.

And yet they took this chirpy tapeworm on, and rolled Beazley on the very morning of his disabled brother’s death when Labor was on 54 percent two party preferred, and refused when I asked him to take on Beazley, the greatest Labor figure of his generation, as Shadow Defense Minister, ending his career. And some of them this morning believe he’s changed his spots, he’s learned his lesson, he’s more consultative now.

And the first thing he’ll do is sack the world’s greatest Treasurer.

Among the many things one could say at this point is that a thing threatened is always different from a thing done. Throughout 1975 it was well known as an intellectual proposition that Kerr could sack Whitlam and it seemed to many of us an amusing, even sexy scenario that Fraser, we knew, would not dare try on. But when it happened it had the impact of the Titanic sinking, or, for some of us, me, for instance, Pearl Harbour. The Rudd-Gillard facedown, similarly, while it was just an hypothesis, seemed an amusing new board game, or barbecue stopper. Now it’s a seismic event, like Fukushima, that can sunder our democracy, and give Abbott the Lodge for twenty years and end the Labor Party altogether.

It may turn out to be less serious than that. Rudd will dwindle in the next few days, and as more and more of his treachery and sleepless, feverish cruelty to those who had helped him (Debus, McKew, McMullan, Faulkner, Kerr) comes out, it will bump up Gillard’s approval rating a bit and, curiously, push Abbott’s down because his grinning schadenfreude will seem ungentlemanly, more Simon Legree and less Mr Darcy now. Rudd on Monday will get fewer than ten votes, and a search will begin for an alternative to Gillard if, as is expected, Queensland is lost and the Labor base vote fumbles and havers and footles around the middle thirties.

And who will be Foreign Minister? Beazley is a nice thought; he could be given overnight Mark Arbib’s Senate seat, and Arbib the auteur of the brief Rudd Reich packed off to Washington where he could learn from Rick Santorum and Barack Obama the difference between good leadership and bad, and the importance of good policy, not a small thing, and the usefulness of holding off a bit before the knife is wielded and Aslan slain. And the rest of the Ministry could stay as it is.

9.20 am

‘The rules of the universe have been suspended now that I am here among you’, the unstated belief of the classic Asperger’s loner, and that early mild-mannered mad fucker Jesus of Nazareth, is vividly evident in what Rudd has lately, stupidly tried on; and they include rules like the following:

(1) You do not like General Gordon Bennett resign your overseas post in mid-battle leaving others to do your work, and do this without consulting or informing your commanding general.

(2) You do not accept from a Prime Minister a high office of state and swear loyalty to that Prime Minister and begin immediately to undermine her, or him.

(3) You do not challenge a sitting Prime Minister during a hard-fought state election that one of your colleagues may be already losing.

(4) You do not refuse for months on end to meet face to face with some or any of your Ministers for even ten minutes claiming you are ‘too busy’, and then keep your staff up until 5 am rewriting speeches you then bin, discard, and never come back to, shouting if someone refers to them.

(5) You get more than twenty hours sleep each week. You do not visit four countries in five days. You do not say in those countries the first fool thing that penetrates the swirling fog of your jet-lag.

(6) You not tell, say, Andrew Wilkie you will go one way on problem gamblers, and then tell Clubs Australia you will go the opposite way.

(7) You do not give your Party’s best two communicators, Maxine McKew and Bill Shorten, jobs that prevent them from speaking at Question Time, in fear that they will perform better than you will.
.
(10) You do not put a man who passionately favours mercy to boat people in the job of locking them up, after promising him the Attorney Generalship if he comes out of retirement to contest a seat that only he can win.

(11) You do not offer a former Minister for Justice the Parliamentary-Secretaryship for South Pacific Sea Slugs And Snails and thus drive him at 56 out of politics and thus lose Bass to Andrew Wilkie, and all the trouble in the world.

10.58 am

Gillard’s press conference was a remarkable one and showed us for the first time in years the spirited, intelligent, combative, attractive and likeable person that so many ministers and members have stuck with in stormy times and were loyal to even after she, effectively, lost the election with an utterly incompetent campaign.

Here, vividly and disarmingly, displaying three times the IQ of her previous incarnation, the Barry Humphries act, the Leak waxwork, the wooden drinking bird that has been for nineteen months passing itself off as a mysterious, crow-voiced clockwork personage supposed to be she. And I for one have changed my opinion of her chances at an election and will be, hereafter, less heated in my abomination of her every word and deed.

12.50 pm

All that has happened is evidence that both Rudd and Gillard are living still in an age that is past, the Age of Politeness, the Age of Secrecy, the Age of Corporate Cover-up. It was possible in the world they grew up in to keep things dark, and to pretend a hated colleague was well liked and respected by people who thought him the very Devil. But now, when phone cameras show murderous riots on Syrian streets and men under torture in Abu Ghraib, and Murdoch buggings and Assange hackings reveal the vile things public figures and ambassadors say of their opposite numbers, and shows like The Ides Of March and The Thick Of It and Tim Gleason’s forthcoming series The Campaign reveal in detail how political backroomers really behave, a new way of talking, and answering questions, needs to be devised. One that s sounds more truthful.

Obama has got it about right; and Shorten showed on Monday night how the truth, or most of the truth, can be unveiled, or hinted at, or not denied with grace.

The most amazing throwback to earlier times is the Murdochist assertion best summed up in the headline POLITICIAN SEEKS EARTHLY ADVANCEMENT SHOCK HORROR. All politicians would like to be Prime Minister, and so would I, and so would Bruce Hawker, and Phillip Adams, and Alan Jones and it’s pointless, contemptible, intellectually insulting and deeply unsettling to deny you have no such thoughts or future plans. It should be part of the good manners of our civilisation that it is never asked. A formula of words — Ah, yeah, sure, but not this decade — should be contrived, and repeated.

5.52 pm

I remember once planning to co-write with Richard Neville a book called The Ego Trip: Ten Case Histories, about, as I remember me, Mick Jagger, Billy Graham, Germaine Greer, Marlon Brando, Teddy Kennedy … the list runs into the sand. We talked about what they all had in common, and we decided the first sign of the ego trip was unpunctuality. Because it was your way of asserting your importance over all other human beings. You could make them wait.

How well Rudd fits the archetype. He would keep army generals waiting for six hours and then cancel. Just to show he could.

The nicest story I heard today is of what he did in the hours before his 1.25 am press conference at the Willard Hotel. He drank a lot of good red, I am told, with Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA. And Leon told him, blow by blow, how they hunted down and assassinated Osama Bin Laden.

It greatly impressed him. And he drank a few more red wines. He took a bottle back to the hotel. And in the hours thereafter, jet-lagged, sleepless, drugged with pills that keep his aorta from leaping out of his chest like the little squawking beast in John Hurt’s chest in Alien, and full of fine red wine, with a simple blue biro, planned, with care and cunning, the assassination of Julia Gillard.

And, at 1.25, called a press conference.

I know I fucked up as PM, he said. That’s why you must make me PM. I’ll be inclusive this time. And I’ll sack the world’s best Treasurer. Hic.

What a strategic genius. What a war leader.

Vote for him.

Rudd Redux? No Way

5.50 pm

I said a few days ago in a piece in these pages on the fatal flaws of Rudd, Gillard and Abbott that for Rudd there was a point where arithmetic ended and God began, and like most godbotherers this faith in his destiny would do for him. I said in a piece eighteen months ago that jet-lag and sleeplessness could be the end of him. I have called him in other pieces an ungrateful cunt, a tyrannous pest, an uncorrected Asperger’s patient, an insipid prima donna and an egocentric sadist who, like Hemingway, ‘never forgave a favour’. And so it goes, and went, maybe twenty minutes ago.

He imagines he will be back, refreshed, like Churchill, from two months in the wilderness and in the Lodge again in June but he is finished. He should have had a single-malt whisky and milk and slept it off. But he believed his mood was too important for that, as losers do. And here we are, in corrosive debacle, with Abbott one flounce-out from the Prime Ministership, observing and assessing this pernicious twerp, this worst news for Labor since Evatt.

He sacked, demoted, misplaced or thwarted Beazley, Debus, Faulkner, McMullan, McKew, Duncan Kerr and Shorten, all Prime Ministers-in-the-making far more capable and eloquent than he. He taunted Turnbull, his greatest ally, into oblivion and lost thereby his carbon legislation and his Copenhagen glory. He offered Beazley not the Governor-Generalship, as Hawke did Hayden, nor Defence, which he craved and loved and shone in, nor even the US Ambassadorship, which he offered to Carr first.

He got a thousand good ideas at the 2020 and accepted only two of them, both of them his own. He missed John Button’s funeral to greet Cate Blanchett’s baby. He abandoned the long-held Labor habits of collegiate consultation, policy development in a process respected by both Caucus and the party membership, and convivial comradeship within the cabinet and the outer ministry for the adoring servility of abashed young men, who in turn grew sick of his pointless hyperactive post-midnight indecision and petulance, like everybody, and in dozens walked out on him.

It is time for Gillard and Crean and Arbib, whose numbers put him in, and Bruce Hawker and Phillip Adams who encouraged him to overthrow Beazley, the noblest intellect in parliament and the finest Labor orator since Whitlam, to apologise to the nation for imposing on it this petty little hyperventilating fuckwit when a great man was not only available, but in the appropriate office, and on the verge of power, and Labor on 54 percent.

More later as the news breaks.

8.02 pm

He resigned, he said, because in part of ‘public attacks by faceless men’, which makes one wonder what drugs are keeping his aorta in. Public men are not faceless men. Faceless men are not public men, they are secret men. There are therefore no public attacks by faceless men. His use of the old, drab, fraudulent phrase and the clear, high-vaulting, mother’s-boy self-esteem with which he uttered it is a measure of how silly he’s getting lately.

It’s only about him, and the wrong done him. The wrong he did Beazley, and is doing Anna Bligh, doesn’t come into it. Me, disloyal? Me, lurking in the shadows and intriguing by stealth? No way. It’s so wrong of you to say that. Look, I stuffed up as Prime Minister, I know that. And that’s why you have to make me Prime Minister. Because I’m better now, and I know what to do now. Sack the world’s best Treasurer for a start.

I know a few organ transplantees, and this beaming megalomania is a fairly common symptom, a drug effect. And the drugs that plug the organ in can addle the judgment. Paul Cox, whose liver transplant I am currently dramatising, believed under the operation drugs that he had become the universe for a while, and then that he was living in sixteenth-century Venice, but he got over it, and functions ably now. Kevin has not yet, I think, made a full recovery from the universe illusion, and the strange idea that no other politician has talent or deserves a go. To say ‘I fucked up, elect me’ is not the best of slogans, but he believes it, and that’s the way he plays it: eyes firmly in the mirror, a slim smile playing on his cherry lips.

10 pm

Sky News swears Rudd’s numbers are growing, the ABC that his numbers are dwindling. His characteristic irresponsibility and carelessness of the lives of others are shown by his abandonment of important conferences, the drop-kicking of his Washington duties to Beazley, the man he displaced, the calling of a press conference at 12.38 am, and another at 5 am, and the sacking, effectively, of his loyal, exhausted, hard-working staff at a minute’s notice, distorting and diminishing and deranging their lives and, not that it matters, their children’s lives.

I’ve suggested to a couple of high-placed friends that Beazley be made, immediately, Foreign Minister and be given a Senate seat by Friday and the extruded Senator (Arbib? Faulkner? Thistlethwaite?) be given Washington. Rudd clearly thinks he can do the job, since he’s bequeathed it to him, but he might be shocked to find him in it so very soon.

And himself on the back bench, without a feather to fly with.

He will be finished politically by Friday, by the look of it. The story of how Garrett warned him about the pink batts, and how he, Rudd, ordered him to ignore the dangers, and how people died, and how Garrett took the fall for Rudd, and the obloquy and the humiliation and the stain, and the shame of the dead, if this story is true, will end his credibility forever and reduce his votes on Monday if he stands to single figures.

If the story is true.

We choose our friends from among those we don’t have to lie to, and Rudd has for too long forced good men and good women to tell lies about him, saying he was a team player, and a top bloke, and the rest of it. And by this proved he was no friend of the Labor Party. And, as Swanny said so energetically and angrily tonight, never ever had been.

And so it goes.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (9): The Campbell Newman Odds Revisited

Yesterday’s revelations that Rupert’s List of parliamentarians defecting to Rudd was innumerate, incompetent or fraudulent (some names were in all three columns and a caucus of 103 added up in the Murdochists’ parallel universe to 120) mean, or could mean, that the Newspoll and Galaxy numbers for Queensland are worthless.

Their client is Murdoch, and he knows what he wants to hear: that Katter’s impact is negligible, and the strange goanna-like stowaway Campbell Newman, the first Opposition Leader without a seat in world history, will get the first 8 percent swing away from Labor in Queensland history despite his brother-in-law being wanted for questioning and waterboarding by the FBI.

Well, it could be so; Queensland, Bob Menzies once murmured, is different. But if the Newspoll figures are as wrong as the Rudd-Gillard figures in Rupert’s List, and why would they not be, then Labor is on 48 percent two party preferred and likely to form with some Katterites and Independents a coalition government.

The Newspoll figures are likely to be wrong because they were taken, for the first time in world history, over thirteen days not three (why?), and on hot summer days during floods and storms when a lot of younger people were not in the house to take the call, a lot of students were on holiday or lifesaving or boating or bushwalking, and no mobile phones were rung. The Galaxy figures are likely to be wrong because the sample is too small, and, once again, the younger voters were likely to be out of the house, on the beach, on a boat, at a 3D cinema with their children.

No correspondence has come in from either of these polling organisations denying error or fraud or corruption and this is very suspicious. It can only be assumed, though I may be wrong, that their sampling methods are dodgy, and their raw figures too revealing to put on the table, and Katter’s party scoring in fact not 4.5 but 14, and the whole election outcome uncertain, and the Campbell Newman Phenomenon a beat-up; like Rudd’s numbers in the Murdochist flagship on Saturday, now dwindling as Doug Cameron begs that he not be sacked as Foreign Minister.

Rupert is fond of cheating, as he did in Florida famously in 2000, declaring for Bush when 500,000 votes were still to come in. Would he be any different now? And would Newspoll give him what he wants?

Let us see the raw figures, the time of the phone calls, the age of the respondents, and the rest of it.

And prove me wrong.

Katter at 14 percent, I’d say.

Prove me wrong.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (8): On The Meaning Of ‘Distraction’, This Week And Hereinafter

In the Australian editorial this morning it is said the Rudd matter is ‘driving the rest of the government to distraction and seriously inhibiting the ability of the administration to function effectively’. It is not said what legislation has been held up, what treaties, negotiations or wordings of bills ‘inhibited’. This is because there are none.

It is best we look at the arithmetic of these things. Does anyone believe Bill Shorten, say, cancels meetings with union officials or corporate CEOs or activists for the disabled because he is thinking about the leadership? How then is he ‘distracted’? Does anyone believe the Prime Minister does not turn up and give speeches on the days she is meant to because she is shoring up her numbers in Cabinet? How then is she ‘distracted’?

This is one of those right-wing fictions that look plausible in the lives of others, but never in one’s own. When I was waiting for my father to die I still went on with the work I was doing, making a film about Aboriginal cricketers touring England. When Bob Hawke’s daughter was being treated for heroin effects she could have died of he was still an effective, gregarious, vote-winning Prime Minister. When John F Kennedy’s son Patrick died he continued to negotiate the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Russians.

And a whole government is ‘distracted’ into uselessness by Kevin Rudd swearing in Chinese? Really? Really? They are certainly distracted a couple of times a day, for maybe as long as twenty minutes. But paralysed? Unable to make basic decisions? Unable to function? What evidence is there of this? Give examples.

It is part of what I used to call the puppetisation of public figures by the Murdoch press. Prince Charles was nothing more than a leering adulterer absorbed by his beloved’s tampons when he was not communing with lettuces. Bill Clinton had no more than the next blow-job in mind. The fact that a politician, as Bill Shorten showed last night, can have a complicated and nuanced reaction to a number of interlinked and opposed and abrasive things and address them all in his mind when he is supposed to be ‘distracted’ into inactivity and policy stupour is never admitted by the Murdochists whose article of faith is, was and ever has been that left-wing figures are hysterical mad fuckers who can’t keep their dick in their pants or think straight or eat a pie without chundering.

Or, in Kevin Rudd’s case, involve himself in any task without losing his temper. The Youtube film of his exasperation at his own inability to master and read aloud with accuracy an over-written text in Mandarin, and his response to that incapacity in words that all men use when frustrated repeatedly by a task they did not choose or like, effectively stifled all chance he might have had, not necessarily a big one, of regaining the Prime Ministership with an act of technological betrayal and journalistic prurience like the one lately used on Gordon Brown, who used the word ‘bigoted’, accurately, in a private conversation with his political staff in a moving car.

What did for him was not the swearing, though his unlined porcelain choirboy face did not really suit the uttered expletives as much as, say, Bob Hawke’s face might have done. What did for him was his cancellation at the end of the film of a six o’clock appointment because he was no longer in the mood for it. It brought back all the changeable angry chaos of his administration, his unwillingness to delegate, inform, beseech, cajole, say thanks or stick to an arrangement, and all those midnight-to-dawn rewrites, to hectic deadlines, of speeches never given or even referred to again. It brought back the tyrannous pest they had booted out for the very good reason that he was a cunt, and behaved very badly, and very ungratefully, and very cruelly, with no good purpose, towards everyone around him, and everyone who had helped him rise in the world.

A measure of how big a cunt he is, and how incompetent a politician, is the absolute certitude that his first act as PM would be to sack the world’s best Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and Labor’s best communicator, Bill Shorten.

Think about that for a minute.

Murdochism’s machinations are getting as incompetent as Rudd’s of late. They had 120 members in Labor’s caucus when there are 103. They put some names in Rudd’s column, Gillard’s AND the Undecided. Who, one might ask, with a nod to Kevin, is rat-fucking their minds? Their tiny minds? Who?

Rupert, is it?

Of course it is.

As I Please: How to Fix Greece, Fairly Quickly

It is puzzling that some economic people believe a reduction in the income of all Greeks will help them pay their debts. It should be reasonably clear to a ten-year-old that less income means less taxes and less money paid toward debt reduction. So does sacking people from public service jobs and putting them on what is left of welfare.

No, what must happen is what happened in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. There were two currencies, the rouble, which was worthless outside its borders, and the dollar, which tourists brought in and purchased luxury items with. With the rouble you bought food, vodka, cheap clothes, theatre tickets and the like. With dollars you bought silk stockings, perfume, jewellery, stereophonic radios and Beatles albums. Sometimes a dollar got you a hundred roubles, or, if you cared to risk gaol, eight hundred forged roubles.

This could be duplicated in Greece by retaining the euro but also returning to the drachma and making it unexportable. Certain nominated goods could be purchased by the drachma: basic foods, some medical supplies, ouzo and the like; and stays in tourist hotels, restaurant food, guided tours and the like by the euro.

This would ensure that all the tourism-related jobs were retained, and many people would not starve or riot or go on welfare. It would also attract tourists in great numbers to the cheaper prices. The drachma could be given a notional value of say a fifth of the euro, and the debt paid back in that currency over ten or twenty years.

It would have to be decided how many drachmas to print. But a government gift of sixty thousand of them to each employed citizen or small business person would kick-start the new economy and reduce a lot of despair, proud starvation, prostitution, drug manufacture, and the like.

The advantage of this scheme is it has been road-tested successfully not just in the Soviet Union but in the European Communist Bloc and many Asian tourist places, like Bali where you paid the equivalent of nine dollars a week for a boarding house room and meals. It has been tried before. It works.
Demanding people pay more and more debt with less and less income does not work, obviously, and it is really surprising it was ever proposed.

Or perhaps you disagree.

The Henderson Wars (9): Gerard’s Good News Of The Second Coming

No-one has yet written in quoting an instance of Gerard being right in the last forty years. He is wrong again this morning.

He says that Labor’s low vote federally — 47 percent two party preferred according to Nielsen, the honest pollster, the other serves the wishes of the criminal innumerate Murdoch who on Saturday said Labor had 120 caucus members not 103 — is due not to leadership troubles but to their crazed views on climate change. He said that if Shorten or Faulkner or Beazley or Beattie or Rann or Wran or Hawke or Plibersek or McKew were Prime Minister Labor’s vote would be the same.

This is patently insane. Gillard’s proud atheism has lost her three percent, her shafting of a Queenslander one percent, her marital status one percent, her hatred of gay marriage one percent, and if, say, Plibersek, presently a suckling mother, were Prime Minister and all her policies Gillard’s, the two-party-preferred Labor vote would be 53 and Labor likely at election to have a majority of thirty-two.

Gerard’s odd view that climate change is not a big threat and those who believe in it lose votes derives I think from his bizarre birth cult Catholicism, which holds that a dead man whose blood he drinks on Sundays will come back soon and burn the planet to cinders before resurrecting five billion human corpses and forcing lions and vultures to practise vegetarianism and the humans to sing his praises by night and day on a green, unpolluted planet created from the ashes of the old in a city of glass by a crystal stream among choirs of angels and resurrected grandparents all now thirty-four years old but no longer married to each other or drinking alcohol. It is not known why Gerard believes this nonsense but he does, and it interferes with his view of the likelihood of the world ending in any other way.

It is hard to see why he is employed and paid eighteen hundred dollars a week when his guiding beliefs are so insane, though it must be said that Fairfax employs David Marr and Mike Carlton also, who show every sign of atheistic sanity, moderation and human sympathy. Perhaps he is there for balance, to provide lunatics with solace in a fast-dying newspaper in the hope that some lunatics will buy it on Tuesday and derive comfort from it.

A better policy, surely, would be to employ me at half his wage for a month or so, to see if the Tuesday circulation improves. I have a track record of getting most things right. I opposed, for instance, the recent WMD war which Gerard  supported calling George W Bush this millennium’s Winston Churchill and correctly predicted the outcome of twenty-nine elections within three seats and the exact margin of Tony Abbott’s victory over Turnbull (two votes, one disputed) when most experts were predicting Hockey by twenty.

I again ask anyone to give an instance of Gerard being right, and Gerard to debate me on any subject, anywhere, in front of any audience he invites.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (7): The Queensland Big Lies Two Days Later Amended

Rupert’s List without apology now has Plibersek in Gillard’s camp and Cheeseman in one camp not both, Gillard’s numbers at 51 not 46, Rudd’s at 31 not 36 and Undecideds still at 21; which means Rudd has to win them all to win by one, an impossibility. Which means the challenge is over. Not that the Murdochists would say that, of course. But on Rupert’s own figures it means nothing less.

What a grubby, slithery, lying bunch they are. On pages 6 and 7 their morphed Orwellian language continues. Bligh ‘spruiks’ her policy of half the mines’ income for education under the smallest headline on the page, outweighed by the headline Federal Brawl Upsets Labor Campaign. Ah yes, those brawling, unstable mad lefties, so much madder than Sir Russ or Sir Terry or Sir Joh. The Labor campaign has been ‘thrown into upheaval’, we are told, by the Rudd resurgence that now, on Rupert’s numbers, cannot take place. Slim Margins Make The Task Easier For LNP, we are told, and a statewide swing of 4.6 is all that is needed, and none of the old Hansonite 23 percent will go, apparently, to Katter’s Australia Party and mess things up for them. Of course it won’t.

Of course it won’t. How could it. Newspoll has Labor on 42 percent, two party preferred (though five parties can win seats), and Galaxy, even better, on 40. Both polls are funded by Murdochists and are totally honest. Though Murdochists pay policemen for information they would never pay pollsters for false information; at that they draw the line. Sure they do. Sure they do.

Is the Newspoll false information? Of course it is; just like Rupert’s List on Saturday was false information. If I were to poll Queenslanders at home in daytime in Queensland in February I would get 58 percent LNP too. If I were to ring mobile phones I would get 50, because most of the voters under forty years of age would be out shopping or surfing or fishing or watching their kids play cricket in the summer heat and such voters, voters if that age, favour Labor. And I would get 14 or 15 for Katter’s outdoorsy party as they mustered cattle or drove trucks to Birdsville, not 4.5. And if I were to ring like Galaxy those at home on a hot weekend like the one just past, I too would get 60 for the LNP, 40 for Labor, nothing for the Katterites, and a wipeout.

But Galaxy and Newspoll mysteriously don’t ring mobile phones. Of course they don’t. For then they would get news that Rupert, an old, scared man who’s lost America now to Obama and will soon go to gaol, didn’t, very much didn’t, want to hear.

Is Newspoll another Murdochist fraud like Rupert’s List? And the headlines claiming Liverpudlians robbed corpses during the soccer stadium fire? Of course it is; or such, such is my guess. Why else does it have a CEO? Why does it have a CEO? What does its CEO do? Why was its latest survey 1227 people not 1337? Were a hundred respondents discarded? At what hours were the last hundred rung? And so on.

Why does Newspoll have a CEO? If the numbers are what they are and are never tweaked, what is he there for?

Tell, tell.

The actual figures now I suspect are Labor 33, Lib/Nats 36, the Katter Party 14, eccentric independents 4, informal 4 and Undecided 10. Which means Katter’s preferences are crucial, Bligh can win, and Newman can’t win his seat now his brother-in-law is wanted by the FBI.

It’s up for grabs, in short, and the Murdochists’ dirty tricks are coming home to roost as day by day their Big Lies are exposed.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Classic Ellis: The Second Coming of Julia Gillard

(From Suddenly, Last Winter)

Sunday, 5th September, 2010, 7.10 am

Great storm winds shake the house and bring down a tree we have loved for thirty years on the front lawn. The winds are as bad as any I have known. The very heavens protest at what is happening.

A change of government, perhaps.

9.10 a.m.

The little crippled butcher bird has not come this morning. She may have been killed by the storm.

9.25 a.m.

No, here she is.

What a big, demanding voice she has, trilling and ululating.

She has mouths to feed in this new urgent, rainy spring.

9.40 a.m.
A big earthquake in New Zealand of 7.1 magnitude has brought down five hundred buildings in Christchurch, some of great architectural beauty, ninety in the CBD, and made unstable a thousand others, high schools among them. Strong winds of cyclone force are buffeting the surviving tottery structures and may bring them down. The one person dead had a heart attack, but two others, gravely injured, may follow him into the ultimate question. And so it goes.

As in China in 1976 when both Mao Tse-Tung and Chou En-Lai died, an enormous earthquake shook Beijing. Gough Whitlam and his wife were there and Graham Freudenberg. ‘Did the earth move for you, dear?’ Gough asked Margaret in a famous cartoon.

What portents, old friend, what portents.

3.10 p.m.

An afternoon sleep with a hot water bottle and Kenneth Tynan’s Profiles, just in from the bookshop, a serial treasure of mine that I keep lending and losing. I read again, with pleasure, Ken’s best opening line.

What, when drunk, one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober.

How good is that. Put the words in any other order and they have no impact, or beauty, at all.

How good is that.

I read on, with familiar joy, his many delvings into Shakespeare in rehearsal and performance.

5.50 p.m.

Katter has had two meals in Brisbane with Rudd, an old fond friend and bookend, and heard out his bitterness with yelps of sympathy. If Rudd were still Prime Minister, Bob has just said, or implied, he would be in the Labor camp for sure.

I imagine Katter in a black cloak aghast on the turrets of Elsinore, and Rudd, a grave sere ghost, impelling him with bespectacled, burning eyes.

Rudd: If thou dids’t ever thy dear file clerk love —

Katter: (yelping) Oh…God!

Rudd: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder!

Katter: (beating his eyes with his fists) Murder!

Rudd: Murder most foul, strange, and unnatural!

Katter: Haste me to know’t, that I with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge!

Rudd: Adieu, adieu, remember me. (Exit)

Katter: (a dingo howl, a risen fist, a horse-breaker’s leap to the highest turret,) The time is out of joint! Oh cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

Monday, 6th September, 2010, 7.10 a.m.

A bright, cold morning with little flurries of wind. The lorikeets come and go. I attend to the news, and grow restive.

Oakeshott has spent the weekend in Canberra, sorting out and writing up the Three Amigos’ proposed new laws and parliamentary procedures. Windsor went home, and at an early, milking hour took a phone call from Fran Kelly.

‘Have you made up your mind?’ she asks.

‘No I haven’t, and there’s good reason for that. I really want to talk to the other two about the possible prospect of a seventy-five all. In which we might have to rethink our own thoughts.’

‘How much of a chance, do you think, are we for a seventy-five all?’

‘I don’t know how the other two are going to vote. So we’re going to put our cards on the table today. And we will know, and we will be able to go from there.’

‘So you’ve decided how you’re going to vote?’

‘Not until I talk it through. Because the main objective here is seeing if we can get to something that’s stable. If we can’t get to something that’s stable, we may well wind up back at the polls. And that’s why I mentioned seventy-five all.’

‘Would it be fair to say that at this point you’re more inclined to one side than the other, but you could shift if you thought the other two were going one way and therefore the number was needed to get stable government?’

‘Well, that may need to happen if in fact we don’t want another election. And I’ve spoken to both sides of the parliament and to other people, and they don’t particularly want another election. It may mean that people may be leaning one way, but they may have to come back the other way to get some stability into the system.’

8.40 a.m.

Coalition’s hope for power sinks, say the headlines at Wayne’s, Entsch tells Katter to hurry up. A cartoon has Swanny with a scratched face by a hospital bed where Gillard lies covered in bandages, her broken limbs up in the air and only her eyes visible. ‘You’re looking a bit better,’ Swanny says.

I chuckle a bit; and then it becomes clear what I should do.

11.10 a.m.

‘I’m going to Canberra,’ I tell Annie. ‘I’ll drive down tonight.’

‘No,’ she says. ‘You take the train.’
‘Okay.’

6.40 p.m.

And so it is concluded. We drive in silence through the Forest. We part at five-thirty outside Central. I listen to PM as the train pulls out and suburbs drift by and night comes on.

7.40 p.m.

I sleep for a while and wake and ring Rhys while we stop at Mittagong. He’ll be driving down, as before.

‘See you there,’ he says.

10.05 p.m.

Goulburn goes by in darkness. Bungendore. I fear the outcome, but I have to be there.

10.45 p.m.

The key is in the appointed place, which a button-push opens, in the Best Western Motel in Kingston in the cold and shivering dark. The flat-screen television shows me channels, but not the ABC.

I take two Aspro Clear, and soon sleep.

Tuesday, 7th September, 2010, 6.45 a.m.

By cab to Parliament House, the Reps entrance, with a driver upset as me at the loss of talent from government lately. A Labor supporter, he calls Nick Minchin the best of the others, ill-lost through an injured and addled son to the nation’s dialogue and governance.

6.52 a.m.

I dodge the cameras and at the front entrance go in sidelong and wait for Ben; the muzak is playing ‘Ring of Fire’. One of the Channel 10 girls from our night at the Penrith Panthers greets me breezily and signs me in. I get my new pocket knife through the machinery as I did the old.

7.10 a.m.

I get lost and ask directions to Aussie’s. The aged moustachioed guide, signalling right and saying left, gets me lost again.

7.15 a.m.

The corridors are empty. Only one visible human, a male cleaner in the Disabled Female toilet, looks round at me suspiciously. My footsteps on the polished wood floor. The sound of water in the marble fountain is loud, ominous, threatening.

7.25 a.m.

I attain Aussie’s, order a latte. There is only Chris Uhlmann writing notes at another table. He looks uncomforted. I recall him designating himself as ‘a barren man’ on The Drum a fortnight ago. I feel for him, avoid speech with him.

7.29 a.m.

The papers come to Aussie’s and I buy and read them. Reform deal clears way to end stand-off, headlines The Canberra Times over a picture of the Three Amigos (as they are now being called) drinking tea at Aussie’s and Bill Heffernan behind them listening closely. Lisa Vineburg, the vigilant bureaucrat who trawled through parliamentary computers and off her own bat, exceeding her terms of employment, accused Paul McLeay of porn and gambling ‘at inappropriate levels’, has been told to resign and has done so. Tony Crook has pledged his vote to the Liberals, meaning they can get there now.

7.47 a.m.

Chris Barrett is suddenly sitting down with me. Gauleiter-handsome, blond and unchanged from 1998 when he worked for Kim and nearly got him into power, he ask how my book is going. I give him a copy and he asks me to inscribe it. His colleague Jim says, ‘Write “you’re a cunt”,’ and I do this. Amazed merriment as two more Swan staff sit down.

8.05 a.m.

Swanny joined us, and I gave him a copy too. I inscribed it Unsung hero, as always. He seemed pleased by this. He looked up his name for a while, and read with approval.

‘Swanny,’ I said, ‘are you fifty-four?’

‘I’m fifty-six,’ he said, to my surprise.

‘You’ve been the right things at the right ages,’ I said, recalling how he and I worked in Kim’s office in 1996, as back-roomers when he was, what, forty-three. And now he’s Deputy Prime Minister. For a few more hours at least.

‘And I feel some mornings no more than forty,’ he added, with irony and despair.

‘At sixty-eight,’ I rejoined, ‘you get to feel like a teenager again.’

‘There’s no evidence, Bob, that you ever stopped,’ says Barrett, and laughter occurred.

I looked at him carefully. He was the one Rudd deputed to tell me I couldn’t speechwrite for Swanny, or anyone. He will do what’s necessary, I thought, in the way Richo did, and have a light jest about it.

‘There’s a great line from Arthur Miller,’ I said. ‘I was twenty before I learned how to be sixteen. I was thirty before I learned how to be twenty. And so on.’

‘It’s good,’ said Swanny.

8.15 a.m.

We talk about the campaign and I suggest that Rudd cost Labor eight days with his interventions, and each intervention cost us half a seat. Swanny looks around the room and then looks back at me and says, ‘I couldn’t possibly comment,’ like Francis Urquhart in House of Cards. ‘Take a look at The Australian’s front page,’ he says, getting up to leave, ‘it’s Murdoch’s last roar of pain.’

I buy it at Aussie’s and read it. Gillard mine tax to deliver $8bn less than forecast, it says. Smugglers feared Abbott victory. Crook backing for Abbott clears way for gang of three. Greens alliance threatens Aboriginal wellbeing: Pearson.

Noel Pearson, it seems, has called Abbott a ‘once-in-a-generation’ conservative: good on reconciliation, against Wild Rivers, drunken violence, welfare dependence, and so on. He can do good things for Indigenous people, he’s telling the Independents, and ‘carry conservative Australia with him’.

An interesting man, and by my reckoning our greatest orator. Peter Costello in his book speaks of sitting beside him on an aeroplane, and watching him absorbedly read Hayek. A good few of this lunatic’s fundamentalist views have penetrated, it seems, and it’s a pity.

8.17 a.m.

Amanda Lampe comes by, cracking hardy. ‘It’s like waiting for exam results,’ she says.

Christopher Pyne goes to the ATM, decides not to use it and goes away.

Where is Rhys? I need Rhys’s ebullient intrusive banter, to talk to these people.

8.20 a.m.

Jim has a bacon-and-egg roll which I didn’t know Aussie’s supplied, and he goes and buys me one too, on him. Then he goes away.

8.40 a.m.

The chairs are filling up. Fran Kelly, Michelle Grattan and Malcolm Farr are at the next table, talking thoughtfully. I can’t hear what they say.

Tony Windsor comes in with two friends and sits down.

He sits down in the same chair he was in eight weeks ago, on the day Rudd fell.

Dare I approach him?

Do I dare disturb the universe?

8.50 a.m.
To my amazement he looks up, gives a red-faced big smile, and invites me over.

8.54 a.m.

‘How are you?’ he asks me.

‘Well…I’m okay.’

I look at his beaming, red unreadable face. I cannot ask what is on my mind, or even go near the subject. So great is his charisma (and the word is well-used in his case) that I cannot even go near the subject.

‘Bruce…Hawker,’ I say, clearing my throat, ‘your cousin…’

‘Yes?’

‘Do you know him well?’

‘No, not really. His father I saw a bit of. He was a genuine eccentric, an interesting man. Always researching things. No practicality though. Couldn’t put a cap on a petrol tank.’

‘Hawker’s research,’ I said, ‘brought seven Liberal Ministers down, and put Bob Carr in power.’

‘I know.’
I realise he was a National once, and this is not a good place to go.

‘He’s a capable man,’ he says. ‘We haven’t been close. He sent one of his children to my sixtieth birthday party. Just last week. And today is my mum’s ninety-third birthday.’

A National, I think. Can’t disappoint mum today.

I tell him EG Marshall might have played him in a 1950s movie, and Lee J Cobb, Edward G Robinson, Jimmy Stewart and Brandon De Wilde the others. He seems contentedly amused by this. But then I say, the way you do, that this is the way a democracy should be working, and I speak of Edmund Burke and his address to the electors of Bristol.

‘Yeah, others have made that comparison,’ he says. ‘Well…’

And he gets up and goes away.

What have I caused?

This is awful.

9.15 a.m.

The first buds of spring are on the courtyard trees. A lot of people sit under them, smoking.

At the television, which can’t be turned up, a woman swears the Liberals ‘are confident they’ve got Katter and Windsor. It’s Oakeshott that’s going the other way.’

‘I don’t think they’ve decided,’ I say. ‘I think they’ll work through it this morning.’

‘Nah,’ she says. ‘The Liberals are home.’

I text Rhys: just had a long talk with Tony Windsor, where were you?

9.58 a.m.

I go towards the toilet in the Senate wing and see a man wrestling with a koala in the courtyard, with a crowd of people watching.

His view is the koala should go up a eucalyptus branch he has with him but the koala prefers a real tree, one growing in the courtyard.

He climbs up the tree after it and wrestles it to the ground and puts it in a box while old women shriek with dismay.
This is Endangered Species Week, it is explained to me.

He then gets a Tasmanian devil out of a box and it gets away too.

I go and piss and come back and he’s holding a python and a woman is screaming hysterically.

10.05 a.m.

‘It’s a parable,’ I say to David Marr of the endangered species. ‘It’s called Taming the Independents.’

David Marr is convinced that he may have ruined Australia, or saved it perhaps. ‘It’s now like it was with Harradine and the Wik legislation. He had to be persuaded clause after clause, and genuine argument was happening, and he passed it because he heard good argument. It’s a great day.’

He was in London, he says, when the Gillard news came through. ‘And the catch-phrase all over England that day was deliberately barren.’

‘What’s the line-up?’ I ask.

‘Oh, seventy-five—seventy-five,’ he says airily. ‘Oakeshott’s deciding, deciding as we speak, if he’ll go with the other two or not.’

10.17 a.m.
Faulkner comes by and greets me. ‘I’ve just read in your book,’ he says, ‘that you think I don’t like you any more. This wrongly implies two things: (a) that I’ve altered in my liking for you, and (b) that I liked you in the first place.’

10.20 a.m.

Bill Heffernan comes towards me with a plate of cereal. ‘This is the answer to everything,’ he says. ‘A village in Mexico which eats only this has no heart disease, and no diabetes.’

‘Sounds good,’ I say.

‘I’m planning to live to be a hundred,’ he says, with menace, walking on and eating it with a spoon.

10.25 a.m.

‘It’s the Liberals, the Liberals for sure,’ avers the resident hobbit Don Dwyer.

‘No, it’s not,’ I whimper in pain.

‘No, no, look, it’s happening.’

10.40 a.m.

I see Albo receding with a can of Coke in his hand.

‘Don’t resign!’ I call after him. ‘Don’t resign whatever you do!’

‘Pardon?’ he says.

‘Test it on the floor of the parliament!’ I shout. ‘They won’t vote out a government.’

He looks at me quizzically. ‘Yes, they will,’ he says. ‘They will – or they won’t.’

And he walks on.

10.52 a.m.

I go back to my table, which Don Dwyer is minding for me.

‘If Abbott wins today,’ I ask, sitting down, ‘what happens to Gillard?’

‘Oh, I’m sure she’d carry on as Opposition leader,’ he says cheerily. ‘There’s no-one else primed to take over the job. It would be different if there was somebody else primed and ready.’

‘I reckon Shorten will be Opposition leader by April Fool’s Day.’

‘He’s coming from a long way back. I know you know him, but he hasn’t been a Minister or a leading figure.’

‘I know. Rudd hated him. He would have been the number two pretender if Rudd hadn’t diminished him…I don’t know.’

‘I think he’s carrying a lot of baggage these days…I think the three Independents will go with Abbott because they are, deep down, Tories. They’ve all got a Country Party or National Party background. And in Bob’s case, a long history of conservative politics and so it would be very difficult to spend the rest of their life explaining why they went with the Bolsheviks. No, their National Party background will come to the fore. Nuh.’

11.20 a.m.

Rhys arrives at last, looking haggard.

‘Where were you?’ I ask.

‘Ah, I had a long night last night.’

‘Carousing?’

‘Carousing was only the start of it. I got to bed at six, woke at seven-thirty, and drove and drove and here I am. It looks like we’re done.’

‘Done? What do you mean, done?’

‘Oakeshott and Windsor are going back and forth between the two leaders.’

‘And Abbott will always up his bid?’

‘Always.’

I tell him about the koala and he thinks I’m lying. ‘There’s no koala there. Look.’

‘There isn’t any more.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

11.50 a.m.

He goes to chat up the Independents, all apparently friends of his, and see what’s happening. Ashleigh Gillon goes by and I remember the Disney bluebirds he spoke of. An interesting fellow.

Noon

The Sky News ribbon is alleging the three Independents will be announcing their decision at two-thirty, then it’s changed to three.

12.10 p.m.

Everyone I speak to is sure the Liberals are home.

And I realise it’s up to me.

It may be too late, but it’s up to me.

12.30 p.m.

I walk the half-mile of polished wood floor to Swanny’s office and ask to see Chris Barrett. I’m told to sit and he’ll come out soon.

In five minutes he is standing in front of me, looking suspicious.

‘Look,’ I say, ‘there’s one deal they’ll come to.’

‘Which is?’

‘Offer them a year each as Minister for Regional Affairs, with a fixed and copious budget to spend as they will. That way they won’t be tainted with the full extent of a Labor government and they can get things done in their area.’

‘In which order?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Who’s on first? To coin a phrase.’

‘Let them decide.’

He paused, looked down and then looked up at me.

‘We can do that. We can do that. Thanks.’

1.30 p.m.

I go back and find Don and we go to the staff canteen and I buy a salad. Don went to school with Bob Katter who, he tells me, is not Afghan but Lebanese, and speaks of the difficulty Bob is in occasionally, concealing his ethnicity.

‘Some years ago a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, David Leser, was writing a profile on Bob Katter for the Good Weekend magazine, and shortly before it went to proof he had a call from Katter pleading with him not to refer to his Arab background, his Lebanese street-merchant background from the 1880s. And Leser said, “Oh no, Bob, I’m a Jew from North Sydney and you’re an Arab from North Queensland. It shows our wonderful multiculture Australia.” And Katter said, “I know all that bullshit, David, but I’ve told the Kalkadoon tribe north of Mt Isa that I’m one of them and I certainly don’t want to get speared.”’

1.50 p.m.

We are back at the television and Katter has declared for Abbott. The other two are having a press conference without him at three.

Clearly the ghost has stirred him to enact revenge.

2.10 p.m.

Rhys was there when Katter made the announcement in his crowded office. ‘I went for North Queensland,’ he explained with invective passion, ‘I went for my tribe, my homeland, that’s who I went for. And it’s a pity a few other members of parliament didn’t do it as well.’ Then, feeling a bit cornered, he said he wouldn’t vote to oust a Gillard government if it was already sworn in and doing good work.

‘He’s having two bob each way,’ says Don. ‘The Katter safe bet. It’s a tradition.’

2.14 p.m.

I find Hawker in the hallway, and put the three-consecutive-Ministers idea to him.

‘It’s good,’ he says. ‘But Katter’s defected.’

‘You can bring him back.’

‘Okay, I’ll try that.’

And he walks on, texting as he goes.

2.25 p.m.

Windsor has just arrived at Aussie’s and he sits down with me.

I’m tongue-tied again.

We talk, I think, of our favourite movies.

He looks really happy though, and approving, somehow, of me.

I’m too shy. I’m just too shy.

2.40 p.m.

They won’t let Don Dwyer and me into the big room where it’s happening and then a guard recognises me and he says, ‘He’s all right, he’s been here before.’

‘On every such occasion since the fall of Gorton,’ I say gratefully, and we go in, Don with a pass that qualifies him.

3.04 p.m.

We sit in the third row and wait.

The room fills up. Rhys sits in front of me, texting. ‘Why weren’t you there with Katter? It was fantastic,’ he says.

‘I was saving the country.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’

‘I was.’

Three o’clock passes. We wait some more.

At about 3.06 there are lots of lights flashing outside the door beside the stage, and Oakeshott comes in and says, ‘Where’s Tony?’

No-one knows where he is.

3.06 p.m.

There’s a long pause. Oakeshott looks at his watch.

This could be it.

‘Oh well,’ says Oakeshott, and he gets up and does a soft-shoe dance like Fred Astaire. ‘Keep the good folk amused,’ he says, dancing on, and smiling goofily.

What a wonderful country this is.

3.08 p.m.

The flashing lights resume outside the door and Windsor comes in looking red-faced and undecided.

Then he gets up and says he’s supporting Labor, and gives good cogent reasons.

3.32 p.m.

At about three-fifteen Oakeshott gets up and says, ‘And, as in the Agatha Christie classic thriller, then there was one.’

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, he says, ‘would be both good Prime Ministers, there is no question about that. And if anything that has made this decision all the more difficult for me and I think on behalf of both of us and for Bob as well, a more difficult decision. They both, in this parliament where it will be a different parliament, will contribute fantastic things for this country. And I hope whichever way this ends up going that they renew their friendship, they talk and they do work together as much as possible in the national interest. It does matter.’

3.45 p.m.

He goes on for a while, his stance awkward and shuffling, his voice like that of Tom Long, the youthful clerk-of–the-court in SeaChange, and it seems he will never get to the point. Every now and then he says ‘we’, and it’s probably all right, but maybe it’s not, you never know, he might mean Katter, and twenty-seven minutes pass while he articulates the enormity of his passionate indecision, and we all wonder if there’s a dreadful punch line coming.

At a certain point, however, about halfway through, I text Annie who has interrupted her TAFE class to listen to it with her restless, impatient students: It’s okay, I say, 3.18 p.m.

3.55 p.m.

It’s over.

It’s been sheer agony like (I suppose) Rudd’s unstoppable apologia with blinked-back tears in the Prime Minister’s Courtyard seventy-seven days ago and it’s suddenly, if that’s the word I want, suddenly over. Two good men in an ordinary room with unpretentious language and immense good intentions and greatness of heart have altered forever our national story and made our democracy better.

They’ve restored that freedom of speech which Rudd and his ignorant slim young Gauleiters had for too long stifled.

They’ve brought back Australia again.

A wonderful thing Oakeshott said, in an answer, of this great and noble experiment. ‘This is going to be a cracking parliament. It’s going to be ugly, but it’s going to be beautiful in its ugliness.’

What a fine phrase that is. Like all world-altering clusters of words, it means nothing, and everything.

4.05 p.m.

‘It might have been me that made the difference,’ I said to Rhys who was smoking in one of the courtyards and waving at clusters of tourists who were waving back at him, the celebrity.

‘It might,’ he said. ‘It was close.’

‘These are good men.’

‘They are.’

‘Do you know where Gillard’s announcement is?’

‘Of course.’

4.10 p.m.

We are proceeding thither when we come upon a small gathering in another courtyard. It’s Bob Brown murmuring a few words in his lovely voice to a half dozen reporters, and he says, ‘We Greens commit to making this new government work. We’re committed to making it an innovative period of government, and I look forward to working with them. There’s been a sigh of relief from everybody that at least a decision is made. I think it’s the right decision. I congratulate them, and Bob Katter, for having gone through such a long process, and wish them all well. I look forward to working with them.’

He takes questions, and one of them is mine.

‘Is this the fork in the road?’ I ask.

His face alters into a great joyous smile and he says, ‘When there’s a fork in the road, you should always choose the exciting one.’

A journo takes umbrage at this. ‘There’s no evidence,’ he says, ‘that Australians want an exciting federal government, is there?’

‘If you think Australians want a dull federal government,’ Bob replies, ‘I’ve got no evidence about that. I think people do prefer excitement.’

4.30 p.m.
We’re in the Labor Party Caucus room and Gillard keeps us waiting again. Eventually she comes in, and she’s clearly been crying. But she smiles, and lifts her head, and all the computer chips are in place, and she says:

‘Can I say we live in a lively and a resilient democracy – and it works. We have democratic institutions and conventions that work well at the most important times when they’re put to the test by the Australian people at an election…Throughout this process of forming a new government we’ve been open with the Australian people. To quote Rob Oakeshott, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and we’ve agreed to far-reaching reforms that make me as Prime Minister and our government and how it functions more accountable to the Australian people. So, let’s draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in. Let our parliament be more open…’

At this point someone in the room groans, ‘Fu-u-uck’. Some around me later allege it was me. You may say that, Matty, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

She then goes on to speak of ‘forging a new paradigm’.

This means, I am told by The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, ‘to shape by heating in fire a new grammatical inflection.’

Which is just what we fucking need.

4.55 p.m.

Don has gone home and Rhys and I look at the portraits of the Prime Ministers lined up in the usual place.

‘Notice something?’ I ask.

‘No. What?’

‘Whitlam’s eyes.’

‘So?’

‘They’re the wrong colour. His real eyes are blue.’

Rhys looks at the portrait’s soggy brown eyes.

‘But he chose this portrait.’

‘I know.’

5.25 p.m.

We go to Abbott’s press conference and admire his grace, unscripted eloquence and what I guess must be called his heroic stoicism.

‘I congratulate Prime Minister Gillard for being restored to office,’ he says. ‘For our country’s sake, I hope that she can be an effective Prime Minister in this term of parliament. For our country’s sake, I hope that the Labor Party can provide a better government in this term of parliament than it has over the last three years. For our country’s sake, I hope that the Labor Party can rediscover the soul that has been so lacking, particularly over the last half of the previous government.’

And so on, without notes, most eloquently. He seems a good, deserving man. He says he hopes he will not go down in history as the best Opposition leader never to have become Prime Minister. Asked several times if it will be henceforth a kinder, gentler Opposition, he eventually says, with care, ‘My intention if the government does well is to give credit where it’s due. If the government does badly it will be held ferociously to account. Now, you won’t be surprised if as an Opposition leader I tend to focus more on what can be done better than what had been done well, because that will be my task.’

The word ‘ferociously’ registers, and is noted down, and that is the end, after half a day, of the vision splendid of a gentler, kinder, sweeter parliament. We have been warned.

7.20 p.m.

Events after this became surreal.

The building emptied almost instantly and, seeking an alcoholic drink, Rhys and I found Aussie’s closed, and the canteen closed. I rang Shorten’s office and Matt said there was, he thought, some beer in the office fridge. Rhys went down to his car to recharge his iPod, or something, and I loitered by the marble fountain amazed at the echoing emptiness about me.

Then Hawker came towards me with two of his most influential colleagues, Simon Banks and Mark Nolan, looking chipper.

‘We are the real Three Amigos,’ Hawker said. ‘And our work here is done.’

And he walked on, chuckling and texting.

I made my way to Shorten’s office, texting Rhys the good news of the beer. Matt greeted me, and I asked if Shorten was in. ‘Sure,’ he said, and I went into Bill’s office, and he was on the phone shoring up his future. He gave me his big lighthouse smile and with a hand-gesture bade me fuck off. I went out, and in the fridge found two beers only, Cascade Premiums, awaiting me.

‘Can we drink these?’ I asked Matt.

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Help yourself.’

Soon Rhys was amongst us and we sat and sipped and talked. Then Rhys went outside to make a phone call and ran, physically, into Rudd.

Rudd looked at him enigmatically.

‘How did you respond…to the outcome?’ he asked.

‘With…mixed…feelings,’ Rhys replied. And they both fell about laughing.

In the office, meanwhile, Bill emerged and asked who owned the laptop.

‘Rhys Muldoon,’ I said.

‘Rudd’s man.’

‘Indeed.’

He looked at the half-drunk Premium. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is the last free beer he gets from me.’

Immediately Rhys was in the room, and I introduced them, assassin and corpse’s friend, and their big smiles flowered matily.

‘Good to see you,’ Shorten said.

8.20 p.m.

Shorten falsely swore he’d join us at the Realm a bit later and we finished our beers and went down in the lift to the car park.

It was full of drunk and fighting old men in war medals and their worried, nagging wives.

One of them had locked knees and couldn’t move. Rhys tried to pull him to his feet and probably crippled him. He was weeping, and his drunken wartime comrades growling at him. We moved on and got in the car. Reality goes into overdrive sometimes, I thought.

We got to the Realm and immediately encountered, three inches away, Bronwyn Bishop, smiling at us crazily, like Luna Park.

‘Good to see you,’ Rhys said.

10.50 p.m.

Beers, double vodkas and ciders wash down the excellent Italian sausage pizzas we then eat in the Realm and we talk of things. I read him Tynan’s essays on CS Lewis and WC Fields. He reads out the one on Garbo. He agrees with me that this, for him, has been a great life-experience. We talk about people we love and drink a toast and share a man-hug. Soon he leaves to join Kevin Rudd in his new, small, rented Canberra house for commiserative conversation and a further beer or two.

On the pub television are images of Abbott and Gillard among conscript veterans of two wars, uneasily, fraternally, patriotic and chummy, as required. As is required in politics.

It’s been a long day.

11.20 p.m.

I take a cab to the motel and go in. The television isn’t working again.

And I think, again, as I did at the end of The Things We Did Last Summer, my first political book, My God I love Australia. And my God I love elections.

The Only Blonde In The World: Simon Curtis’s My Week With Marilyn

Notting Hill meets My Favourite Year meets Me And Orson Welles meets An Affair To Remember meets Roman Holiday meets State And Main meets Cabaret meets Extras: how could it fail? But it fails. It really does. It will make a lot of money, but it fails.

Declaring my interest, I and Denny Lawrence took ten years (during which our audience died) to write Intimate Strangers, a play whose main characters are Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and Noel Coward, set in August 1956 like this film, during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, like this film, whose script looks like it was written by somebody who had read ours, or who had seen it in a
rehearsed reading directed by Greta Schacci in London a year ago.

It is based on the memoir, now much tarted up, that Colin Clark, son of Kenneth Clark of ‘Civilisation’, published in 1993, which I read back then, about his time as a third assistant on the film and his acquaintance — now upgraded to affair — with Marilyn, six weeks after her wedding to Arthur Miller.

Did Colin schtupp the white goddess when he was 23 and she 30 though all her known lovers were older men during her honeymoon? Well, maybe. Our researches suggest there was trouble with Miller who did indeed fly to New York to see his daughters leaving Marilyn pregnant (and, as always, ectopically challenged) behind and in the mood for a solacing sexual episode but Olivier’s memoir suggests it was with him: ‘My marriage was in danger,’ he says. Did she also fit Colin, as it were, in ? Well, maybe. In his book we read of him being sucked off by a male school friend in the back of a London cab; and maybe his mood changed when Marilyn confronted him nude. Maybe; maybe so.

But what happens in the movie is so Hollywood-formula and so far from some, not all, of the facts as to make one doubt the whole story. The star-crossed lovers go to Windsor Castle where Derek Jacobi shows them some Leonardos; they go to his old school Eton where besotted schoolboys swarm around her; they go naked swimming and it’s cold in the water and he rubs her down. His diffident attitude is like Michael York in Cabaret; the day out is like Roman Holiday; the Jacobi episode like An Affair To Remember. At one point she dances, sexily, for some applauding pedestrians; something Marilyn, shy as a rabbit, never did. At another, Dame Sybil Thorndyke (Dench) tells Marilyn what a great screen actress she is, beguiling her into getting some lines right for a change. In actual fact Sybil, a true professional, always on set at five a.m., was appalled like Olivier when Marilyn drifted in drugged in the early afternoon, though she did tell Colin ‘that little girl knows more about screen acting than any of us.’ She would never have told Marilyn; she was too English for that.

And the big lie that Larry gave up film direction after this debacle is unforgiveable. He strove for years to get his Macbeth up, and would have directed Francis The Talking Mule if he had been offered it, so keen he was to make money and provide for his copious, ever-expanding dynasty. He even played Big Daddy on television, and MacArthur for the Moonies, and appeared on stage posthumously for a fat fee as a hologram in Zeus, the way one does if one is filled with hubris and rapacity and casting-couch lechery and fatherly guilt and immortal longings as Larry was always.

There is so much factually wrong in this film. A tall, ugly woman plays the petite and lovely Vivien Leigh as a sane complaisant constant wife, when she was mad as batshit, under electric shock treatment and pregnant to Peter Finch at 43, miscarrying in the second week of the shoot. This miscarriage is awarded, insanely, to Marilyn, to give her something to do, and Colin some bloodied sheets to ponder, feigning sudden adulthood, or something.

The dialogue is clunky, and smirched, I would guess, by a big American rewrite. The whole premise, I don’t want to be Lord Clark’s son I want to be in movies, so like the ‘Gotta Dance’ number in An American In Paris, is not just unfactual (his father got him the gig and encouraged his career choice) is very Noo-York-Noo-York, and Colin’s later career, which was never in Hollywood, where having porked the divine MM would have given him great cachet, but in Europe making documentaries, it’s so thoroughly out of tune with probability that even the geriatric Orpheum audience noticed, and, as the expectable plotline cranked through its gear-changes, began to grow restless; not least because the great love of her life, Arthur Miller, the American Century’s foremost playwright, is sidelined into a snaky begoggled cuckold and a sort of slim-gilt Charles Ryder, slumming, moved into his bed.

Branagh, though, is superb as Olivier. Male, priapic, smouldering, narcissistic, demonic in his drive-for-glory, a man who is not fully himself until he has got a false nose on, this is the Larry we wrote and he will see the script, by God, eftsoons, if he has not already, there are two or three of our lines dragged in or alluded to and somebody must have seen it. Many of his lines are witty and he will get the Oscar for his delivery, that immortal quack-and-thunder that so many imitators get wrong, though Rhys Muldoon, in our version, was very close.

And … Michele Williams’ Marilyn. She seemed ideal in prospect; but the large wide eyes, the full, parted mouth, the breathy singing voice, and, most unsettlingly, the fabled big rounded bottom were each replaced by something smaller, and the miraculous white glow, the radioactive intimate charisma everybody spoke of, which black-and-white film could perhaps have supplied, as it did in The Artist, was absent also, alas. The original casting, lost in the wash, or do I mean lost in translation, of Scarlett Johanssen would have been fine. The decision to top-and-tail it with Marilyn singing in a voice nothing like Marilyn’s in presumably a nightclub, which she never did, was disastrous. Eddie Redmayne as Colin is very good, like a handsome, questing, diffident weasel, Zoe Wanamaker as the flatterer-from-hell Paula Strasberg, superb, and very like Judith Anderson’s perfect hectoring lesbian witch, Mrs Danvers, in Rebecca.

The script by Adrian Hodges, brother I guess of Gillard’s destroyer, is a tenth as good as ours. The director, Simon Curtis, a BBC second-rater, leaves out, as we did not, the scene where schoolboys in midsummer moonlight sing under Marilyn’s balcony while she and Arthur watch naked from behind a curtain bewitched by English romantic politeness; and what a fool he is. He mentions it as dialogue only; our dialogue, as it turns out, the bastard; what a cinematic loss.

A lot of people will see this muddlewitted movie and not quite regret it because of Branagh and Wanamaker and in some scenes Williams (she gives good blithe drugged fragility), and Emma Watson as Colin’s girlfriend, but the subject deserved better; and got it, of course; as our play’s Off-Broadway New York reading in April and subsequent production, if there is one, hopefully will show.

See it if you will, and the hell with you.

As I Please: On The Right Of Rudd To Say ‘Fuck’ On YouTube And The Fatal Flaws Of Him, Gillard And Abbott

I sat among children enjoying the ‘fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-it’s-only-a-word’ song in the South Park movie believing the world had changed five years ago but I did not reckon then on Murdochism’s eagerness to revive old shibboleths and impose them on the unwary.

‘Fuck’ can occur on the ABC, the national broadcaster, in The Thick Of It, The Slap, The Chasers and Rake and any radio reading of Philip Larkin’s most famous poem but not in the mouth of our national leader, because of rules fabricated by the right-wing media which no-one actually believes in but always gives voice to, fearfully, on demand.

Every Australian over two hears the word about once a week, everyone over ten, indeed, hears the word ‘motherfucker’, an incitement to incest, at least once a day. The weird idea that politicians alone among human adults must not use these words is another Murdoch dirty trick, a new rule proffered as if it was an old one.

For JFK was famed for his ‘salty language’ and suffered no harm for it. Gough Whitlam used the word frequently in my hearing, and so did Paul Keating once when he said, famously, of a political wife he disdained: ‘Couldn’t get a fuck on a troopship coming back,’ and Bob Hawke pretty constantly, at no more cost to his voter base than Rudd sustained at the strip-club, and even the prim Kim Beazley a couple of times in my hearing.

So what is going on here? Well, it’s a shrewd use of a half-memory of Rudd’s horror at a Bill Henson photograph (he was shown it with black strips over the nipples without warning and had no option, after the strip-club, but to react in the way he did, against apparent pederasty not in favour of it) and his habit of giving press conferences outside of wooden churches on a Sunday, and it implies that he’s a hypocrite.

If one were to go deeper into the meaning of all this, it would grow more interesting. Because for Rudd as for all practising Christians there is a point when arithmetic ends and God begins. He literally believes that if he has, say, 35 votes in Caucus and needs 52, faith and prayer will supply the deficit. And if they don’t, he will swear about it. Swearing occurs when you don’t get what you want, and it has no other cause. Swearing occurs when God has failed you. Rudd, like Job’s wife, is cursing God when he swears; or God’s new vicar on earth, YouTube.

This belief in God’s intervention in his vote-getting is, I would think, Rudd’s fatal flaw. And it raises the question, what is Gillard’s, and what is Abbott’s, and if they are greater flaws than Rudd’s.

Gillard’s is pretty plain, and it was not seen in her until she was Prime Minister. It is her instinct, when asked a question, to ask herself, ‘What is the lie I can utter in reply to this?’

She was different when she was Deputy. She was joshingly, playfully truthful, or half-truthful, what was called in earlier times ‘a good sport’; and she changed, changed utterly after she became Prime Minister, into a kind of Gloriana of Mendacity, a Big Sister whose face on television is no longer trusted, admired, or feared.

It is worthwhile comparing her in this regard with her great ally Bill Shorten. His response to any question is to ask himself, ‘How much of the total truth, the complex, difficult truth, can I reveal here without sustaining political harm?’ He gets past ninety-five percent, as a rule, more than almost any other living politician. Similarly measured, Combet would get to ninety percent, Roxon and Plibersek to ninety-one, Brown to ninety-two, Katter to ninety-three, Windsor to ninety-four, and Rudd to (not a low score) eighty-three. Gillard’s score is below forty; and this is what people hate about her. She seems to be lying, or spinning, or slithering around reality all the time.

On this measure Abbott is a curious mix. He is very truthful about his own emotions and his own state of doubt and self-amusement and self-disgust and pre-confessional Catholic guilt, but absolutely false about policy. He does not want to drown children at sea, but he says he does, or says he will ‘turn the boats around’, however leaky they are, which means pretty much the same thing. He says he is passionate about the mining tax, but he doesn’t give a stuff about it.

His fatal flaw is his impatience. He wants every ball to be an ace. He wants to win every hour of the day, and bring on an election before the Swan Budget proves him innumerate with an actual surplus and leaves him nowhere to go. His timetable is two months not two years and this, and his sleeplessness, back-ache and early rising to go jogging is killing him.

And so it goes.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (7): The Cheeseman Conundrum And Murdoch’s New War On Arithmetic, His Last Crusade

12.20 pm, Saturday, 18th February, 2012

It has just been pointed out to me that on page 2 of the Weekend Australian there is a list of Gillard supporters and a list of Rudd supporters and Darren Cheeseman is on both of them.

The Murdochists’ growing inability in these latter days of Empire to get their story straight (as when Rebekah Brookes told the House of Commons that ‘of course we sometimes paid the police for information’, and James put his hand over her microphone and sweatily gabbled, ‘Just to clarify that, Mr Chairman…. ‘) is evidenced once more in this massive typo, and shows how likely are the other names on what I suppose must be now called Rupert’s List.

What a cack-headed, grubby bunch of slithering dills they are entirely. The numbers, Gillard 46, Rudd 36, and Undecided 21, add up to more members than Labor has in Parliament, for Christ’s sake. How scared and tired and smelly they’re getting. They know Rupert will be under indictment soon, and their own jobs in jeopardy, and they need an Abbott government as fast as ione can be cheated into office. By this, the Cheeseman Effect, they show how crazed and smirched and blithering they are.

And so it goes.

6.20 pm Sunday 20th February
L
Cheeseman has declared for Rudd and and Plibersek on Insiders for Gillard, pretty much, making two on Rupert’s List wrong thus far. Garrett who took the fall for Rudd on roof-batts after warning him of their dangers would be a certain Gillardite or Undecided, and … the others look plausible, especially Mike Kelly whom Rudd would have given Defence and Gillard made Minister For Cheese. That puts it at 47-j35 -21 with Rudd needing to pick up 17 of the 21 Undecideds to just get over the line; even on Murdoch’s wishful figures it’s a hard ask.

If it’s to be brought to a head on Monday, 28th, it will mean an inconclusive Gillard victory, and continued Rudd eructations from the back bench, or a compromise candidate Gillard stands down for (Shorten? Crean? Plibersek? Albo?); or a third aggressive, uninvited candidate, probably Smith.

Or a Rudd victory; and, I suspect, a quick election after a good Budget he can possibly win; and a cleansing thereafter from the Cabinet of his many tormentors and an end to the influence of any and all of the Independents, including Wilkie.

It’s hard to see the Gillard numbers holding. Slipper; Thomson; Oakeshott; or Cheesman could vote for a No Confidence motion and Quentin Bryce ask the man who made her GG to try and form a government. Or her son-in-law Shorten. Or, failing him. Tony Abbott.

Hard to see it ending well.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (6): The Queensland Big Lies

‘All of Murdochism all at once’ is a fair description of page 10 of this morning’s Weekend Australian. Newman Set To Rout Bligh In Landslide, says a headline, Katter Fails To Gain Traction, Labor’s Last Chance Is Washing Away, and Keating Unleashes over an ugly photo of him and Anna Bligh holding hands and stumbling, apparently, up a stairway.

And then there is the Newspoll: Katter’s party not mentioned by name and the fiction ‘two party preferred’ adding up to 58-42 (‘based on the preference flow of the March 2009′ when there were five parties contesting, and 1227 interviews not on three days but twelve, just so the numbers come up right, a sampling never done before in world history but appropriate here in Queensland, to conceal the dire fall in Newman’s numbers in the last week); and 6 percent ‘refused’ or ‘uncommitted’ of those at home and not out on the paddock or the boat or the beach with a mobile phone.

And even then the published figures make no sense. Labor’s 30 plus the Greens’ 9 plus 3 of Katter’s 4.5 plus a third of the ‘others’ plus a third of the ‘uncommitted’ add up to 46 not 42 which a good campaign and some shrewd Katter firebombs could win it for Labor, tightly.

But none of that, of course, none of this mere arithmetic, afflicts ‘the Murdoch will to fight,’ as a Wharf Revue soliloquy has it, the Murdoch will to cheat where necessary, and even where unnecessary, an election getting close; like the Bush-Gore-Bush-Florida one of 2000 and the Bigotgate-Brown one of 2010.

A few pages on we see Murdochism working hard again. Charlie Chaplin may not have been a ‘Soviet spy’, it alleges, in the war years when the Soviets were fighting on our side and dying in millions for our cause, and he may not, shock horror, have been born in England, shades of Obama. On the same page we learn under Obama’s Dirt Squad Aims For Santorum the startling news that the White House is looking at Santorum’s legislative record — not his private life — to see if they can show him to be a Far Right eccentric, which he is, and unelectable, which he is. ‘Obama’s Dirt Squad’ is up there confidently asserted as if it were a given, though it has never been postulated ever before, and as if the Murdochists’ dirt file on Obama (alien, Muslim, pal of terrorists, predatory homosexual, grubby Chicago politician, disengaged academic, policy naif) had never existed. The Democrats have dirt files; the Murdochists do not. The News of the World was closed, it seems, for no reason.

Thirty Murdoch loyalists will come to trial in England soon, and Rupert himself be arrested this year, under Delaware laws against corrupting foreign officials, and his fumbling pleas that he is decrepit, addled, misspelling his twitterings and otherwise losing it may work to keep him out of the slammer; or not.

But in these dog days of his eminence and world influence it is plain his verbal hoodlums are stepping on the gas, and pumping more and more fraudulence into the Australian political process, and we will see what we will see.

A narrow LNP victory, I predict, by two or four seats, Campbell Newman not gaining his.

And Murdoch, himself down for the count, pushing one more ally back up into office.

Classic Ellis: Vale Andrew Symonds: A Hero Killed By Correctness

Andrew Symonds bowed out of first-class cricket this week, his end having been assured three years ago when he was discovered drinking a schooner of beer, an unforgiveable thing to do, at a football match when he was supposed to be off it. He was a coffee-coloured man whom Political Correctness found to be of interest, always. Of this, and of them, and of our nation’s great loss of a majestic, mutinous talent, I wrote on the fifth of January, 2008, in Unleashed:

Nothing Andrew Symonds does surprises me any more. He’s our best all-rounder since Keith Miller but he’s behaved really stupidly in this case, and he should like Warne, I guess, be banned from Tests for a year, or else be made to listen to Alexander Downer sing Gilbert and Sullivan standards unaccompanied for half an hour. And his confederate Steve Bucknor should be fined a hundred thousand dollars and required to take an eye test. And Ricky Ponting should be breath-tested for hubris before each game. I refer them to the phrase ‘It isn’t cricket’ and what it means.

It means that when you’re out, and you know you’re out, you walk. It means that if you give a man out and the camera says you were wrong, you call him back. It means that if you know your enemy is coming on to bowl, you don’t appeal against the light for this reason only. It means, above all, you don’t report anything said on the field to any official whatever the rules of the day. And it means if you win by a combination of all of the above, you apologise for winning and say why you’re sorry you won.

It also means (let’s spell it out) that if you unjustly escape being given out when you were out, you don’t gloat; you don’t brag, as Andrew Symonds foolishly did, about having cheated and having wrongly survived.

I saw every minute of the second Test in person or on television and most of the larger minutes replayed six or seven times and believe me, Symonds was out at 30, Dravid not out at 38, Ponting was out at 17, and the difference this made, of no more than 260 runs that were thieved from India’s lead, would have seen their victory assured by Saturday night, and what Harbhajan said, in the context of cricket, as cricket has always been played, meant nothing, nothing at all.

Let me quote from page 1 of Alex Buzo’s great book Legends of the Baggy Green.

‘It was the fourth day of the fourth Test in Antigua on a windy May day 2003 and Rannaresh Sarwan was heading for his first century against Australia. Hoping to focus his thoughts on other topics, bowler Glenn McGrath greeted him at the non-striker’s end with an enquiry. “What does Brian Lara’s cock taste like?”

The beanpole paceman then waited for an answer. Sarwan, loyal to his leader, responded, “I don’t know, ask your wife”.

As an attempt to introduce a more savoury note into the conversation, this was a failure. “If you ever fuckin’ mention my wife again, I’ll fuckin’ cut your throat out,” shouted McGrath, towering over the Indian-descended Sarwan and pointing for emphasis.

There followed a complaint about sledging to the umpire… by McGrath.’

But neither man was suspended, as I recall, for three Tests because of this exchange though the story was soon well known. Is the epithet ‘monkey’ somehow worse, more vile, more offensive than the above? Let’s look a little closer at the English language and its usage.

Political cartoonists are allowed to make bears, rodents, King Kong, Gollum, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck out of politicians and are never sent to gaol for it or laid off work for weeks. The phrase ‘the lying rodent’ was used of John Howard and ‘Wile E. Coyote’ of Peter Costello without legal penalty.

I compared Wally Grout, the wicket-keeper, to a wombat in 1968 without imprisonment, and the perfect Anglo-Australian Michael Charlton compared Wes Hall to the Abominable Snowman in 1960 and was allowed to continue on air and to front, in fact, the first Four Corners for years thereafter.

And Harbhajan called Andrew Symonds a monkey and may lose his honour, his career, his livelihood and Ponting keep what he winningly calls his ‘integrity’ because of what was called by him a racist epithet and reported to the umpire and the Board.

I have some knowledge of racism in cricket, having made a film called Dreaming of Lords about an Aboriginal Test Team going from empty stadium to empty stadium in England, and having seen neither hide nor hair of these brilliant young men in any State side thereafter. Bradman, it seemed, didn’t like Blacks, and his successors were somewhat of this mind as well.

Is the word ‘monkey’ racist? Or does it more or less adequately describe a man with a dark face, big white painted lips, addled rust-coloured corkscrew hair and a clownish agitatedness that adds to that first, impulsive, slanderous impression?

He looks a bit like a monkey to me, just as Bucknor looks like Morgan Freeman, Ponting like a fugitive Afghan boat-person, Sharma like a fraught greyhound, Stuart Clark like a white cockatoo, Gilchrist like a King Charles spaniel and Brett Lee like the young Tab Hunter. My wife didn’t know that Symonds was black, and agreed he looked like a monkey before she knew he was black. Should she be charged with racism as well? And in what way should she punished? And for how long?

The whole truth of it, I fear, is that Symonds is one of the world’s finest cricketers, one of the best of all time, but is not, I fear, if I may put it this way, gingerly, with caution, what we used to call a ‘gentleman’.

And he now and then avails himself of the chance to, I won’t say cheat, the language is struggling here, but bend the rules, tweak the ancient traditions a bit — letting Dravid be given out unprotesting, for instance — and he, yes, also, now and then, in some lights, does look like a monkey; in the same way as, in some lights, Winston Churchill looked like a bulldog, a vile aspersion if I ever heard one. And Jack Kennedy, as was remarked at the time, looked like Bugs Bunny. And Charles de Gaulle, as was remarked at the time, like an imperious poodle.

The entire French nation, come to think of it, were once called ‘cheese-eating surrender-monkeys’ by no less than Homer Simpson without the teeniest hint of racism ever imputed to the epithet. Cultural revulsion yes, but not racism. And the world’s cartoonists, moreover, have many, many times portrayed George Bush as a chimpanzee and were never called racist for this repeated insult either.

I am by a useful coincidence a member of the Primates, a luncheon club of drunken rogues and reprobates that includes Bill Leak, Warren Brown, Richard Fidler, Bruce Venables the actor and popular novelist and Meredith Burgmann the politician, a monthly gathering dedicated to the acclamation of ape-like, exuberant, uproarious behaviour, and we lately, contentiously, after much close-reasoned argument, part-funded the purchase of an orang-utan by Taronga Zoo. And some of us think the orang-utan should have drinking rights at our secret venue.

So at our next meeting, ever the diplomat, I shall propose that Andrew Symonds be asked to come in his stead.

And sink a few schooners. Tell a few jokes. Sing a few songs.

And learn how true gentlemen behave.

…And, ah yes, what to do about it?

Rudd should ask Ponting to say that in his view the Second Test was drawn, and to try at least to withdraw his charge of racist abuse and say he might have misheard it. And Rudd should invite both teams to Kirribilli House to meet the Primates and have a few jars.

I’m sure this won’t happen. And it’s a pity.

Classic Ellis: The Alan Joyce Poem

Beweep the fate of Alan Joyce,
Who had, poor lad, no other choice.
‘Oi could not wait another year,
Loik Estragon and Vladimir,
For Godot to come and discuss the matter,
So Oi, loik me hero, Mahomed Atta,
On Saturday after a Guinness or two -
It seemed the sensible t’ing to do -
Aimed all my planes at the world’s economy,
Lest poilets and stewards t’ink they could dishonour me,
And so spifflicated the Melbourne Cup,
And the Balance of Trade; who dreams that up?
And the weddings and funerals and celebrations
That mostly enhance the joy of nations:
There’d be none o’ that: Oi pulled the plog,
Oi sank a Guinness, and shot me dog,
Oi kicked me old secretary, and knocked down the walls
(For that’s what it’s loik when Destiny calls),
Oi slept on the floor, and pissed out the winder,
Oi didn’t feel well, me tongue was loik tinder,
Had a Prairie Oyster, and went on the telly.
‘There’ll be no backing down!’ Oi told Fran Kelly,
Speaking in Gaelic, she seemed a bit puzzled,
Oi then refused to speak to a media muzzled,
Oi moved on then to the Tullamore Dew.
It seemed the sensible t’ing to do.

But, before all this, Oi doubled me wage,
And thus allayed the mounting rage
Of those who t’ought me underpaid,
Until they had their flights delayed.

And me phone has stopped ringing, here’s a how-do-you-do.
Oi suppose it’s what  happens when you crash, or crash through.

And Oi’ve been elected the Fool to Meself,
Snd Oi’ll be the richest man on the shelf.
Oi hope you recall me, and stand me bail.
Oi’m just a dim Paddy; well meaning.’ Wassail.

The Silence Of The Williamsons (6)

I again ask David Williamson if he is ‘Bob’, or ‘Bob’ to say who he is.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (5): The Enforced Lie

‘Outburst’ is another Murdochist word that is used on Labor or Left politicians but not on Tory ones. Labor politicians have ‘outbursts’. Liberal ones have ‘disagreements’, or ‘propose alternative policies’, or ‘issue clarifications’. All the verbs and nouns used on the Left imply mental instability. Labor politicians never merely ‘say’ something. They ‘spit the dummy’ or ‘rock the boat’ or ‘further evidence leadership tensions in a recent outburst’, or ‘shake the party to its foundations’.

This is all very carefully done, as was the assertion that Gordon Brown (showing mental instability) shouted at his staff — all the time, it would seem — and had an ‘outburst’ in the back of his car about a ‘bigoted woman’ that eight days later lost him office. Though he murmured the word, it was reported as if he bellowed it. Though it was a private conversation, it was reported as if he had shouted it through a loudspeaker at Wembley. Though it was accurate, it was greeted as if it was unforgiveable.

Another Murdochist dirty trick which all media outlets use now is the Enforced Lie. So you have no leadership ambitions? No. Not now, not ever? Not now, not ever. You’re a hundred percent behind the present leader? A hundred percent. Do you like Mr Rudd? We work as a team. Is he a good team player? He’s fine.

By these means it is shown that politicians are false and devious and hide their feelings when they have no choice but the Enforced Lie. Instead of admitting, and assuming, and taking for granted, that all politicians have leadership ambitions and all parties have divisions, factions, policy disagreements and backstage karguments, the Murdochists evince surprise, and shock, and awe, when these commonplaces are even rumoured let alone revealed. A politician seeks promotion, wow. Who’d a thunk it.

No such amazement greets a corporate power-play. James moves to displace Lachlan, astonishing; sinister; is Newscorp tearing itself apart? Is it High Noon in the Murdoch boardroom? You never hear it reported this way. Alan Joyce mad? Unthinkable. The question never arises. Alan Joyce is acting appropriately in a difficult situation. He is not drinking heavily, or fighting with his male lover. He has the country’s interests at heart.

The Enforced Lie also means a politician, in the wake of his first untruth, is likely to fabricate another. Have you ever thought of not getting back into surplus this year? No; never. Was the Education Revolution a mistake? Of course not, it’s a tremendous success. And more and more they are made to seem subhuman, robotic, dumb or crazy when they have no other choice but to say what they say, defend their track record, defend their leader.

There actually ought to be a law against this, as Clarke and Dawe implied so skilfully last night. Why not ask questions on policy, and the future of the nation? Does it matter that much who enacts, or touts that policy? We plan to murder all the Jews! Yes, but is Reichsmarshal Goering after your job? Do not distract me from this, the Final Solution! Has he got the numbers, do you think? Do you think your job is safe? My plan is to kill six million! You’re evading the question, aren’t you, mein Fuhrer, are you getting sufficient sleep?

‘Leadership tensions’ are code, like everything else, for mental instablity. Sane parties don’t have leadership tensions, mad parties do. There were no ‘outbursts’ from Hockey, for instance, when he was seeking the party leadership. Outbursts are what Labor people do. And was he ‘destabilising’ his leader’, Malcolm Turnbull? No, he was ‘bringing on a spill’ to ‘resolve the leadership question’, a very different thing.

This is a slightly subtler version of what O’Reilly and Hannity do all the time: evince outraged amazement that these madmen in the White House want free medical care for poor people. Are they out of their minds? Are they crazy? They must be.

‘Said’ is a good word. I see no reason for using another.

Do you?

As I Please: A Chinese Meal With Significant Others

To the Wharf Revue last night and The Golden Century afterwards with Wedderburn, Muldoon and Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson and a talk till after midnight.

Assange may well not win, she says, his unusual, quirky plea for the Swedes to come to him not he to Sweden to assist with their enquiries into charges not yet made, and America may yet confect new retrospective laws, whatever they are (they can’t be treason, he’s not American) and put him for twenty years in a federal prison — not Guantanamo, it’s too visible now — where he will rot, go mad and suicide, maybe, and recede from human memory.

I argue this won’t happen in this, an election year. Obama would not risk the ire of Ellsberg and the Hollywood Left, he wouldn’t, he really wouldn’t, I argue. But she is very gloomy. She’s as beautiful as a film star, country-town Australian, working class, a Rhodes Scholar. A bit like Sharon Stone.

Wedderburn, a political insider, is amazed Assange did what he did, a thing so utterly dangerous. He likes the danger, she says. I show her the wikileaks poem. He’d like this, she says. I’ll show it to him.

We then talk of Gillard’s immediate reaction when the Swedes came after him with ‘sex by surprise’ and the punctured franger and the rest of it, which was not to defend a threatened Australian overseas as she would, say, Schapelle Corby, the drug fiend, but to say ‘he’s broken the law’, though of course he had not, and she was a lawyer and knew he had not. I put the theory that Gillard, like the fabled figure Coggins in Parkinson’s Law, is the one in the office who always gets everything wrong, and is therefore the most valuable person in the office because she so endlessly, reliably errs. Whatever she recommends, you do the opposite. And that will be always the right thing, the perfect thing, to do.

We talk of things I suppose I shouldn’t reveal, about what Rudd, Muldoon’s co-author, will do now in the next few days. On my way home in a cab later I get an email from a Labor insider who says there’ll be a challenge on Thursday March the 1st which Rudd knows he will lose but will serve his purpose, to wreck his displacer and ensure her end. This seems to me about right. Jennifer asks if Gillard might be retained as Deputy. Muldoon is explosively amused.

A curious, accidental, half-prophetic, oddly tender, searching interlude. I’m going tonight again for the seventeenth time to the Wharf Revue with Jennifer (if she comes) and Viv and Nathan Rees who will enjoy the sultry ‘Kitty Keneally’ number I am sure, and Fred Hollows’ spare widow Tracy, who bore him a son called Ben we used to take on our Christmas holidays.

If you go to the Wharf Revue you meet people, and things happen. It will play a week in Melbourne soon and you should see it, if you have any brains at all.

But why should I think you do.

And so it goes.

More later.

As I Please: How To Solve Everything, Very Simply

In an unshared sleeping compartment on the night train to Melbourne after a day’s work on our Luna Park musical as Goulburn went by and the palely fading dark drew in it occurred to me how to fix everything in the world, very simply.  I wrote down some figures and on my Motorola did the basic calculation. It was this.

We pass a law declaring all money owed on a family dwelling is now halved, and all rents reduced by a third, and the rents cannot go up again for at least ten years without the permission of an ombudsman or a specially convened commission of enquiry with a judge at the head of it, at a local, state or federal level.

If we did this it would add add between a hundred dollars and three hundred dollars each week to the money spent by citizens with jobs: on holiday-planning, theatregoing, shoe buying, gift giving, second-hand books, piano lessons, eating out, white-water rafting, horse riding, dog owning, trips to Tasmania and so on, and bring down unemployment by one or two percent.

It would mean university students could spend more time studying and young couples living together could escape each other now and then. It would mean fewer mothers would have work, more children could be conceived and born, and grow up with a backyard to play in. It would mean thousands of small businesses would not now go bust, and fewer numbers of bright young women not be forced into prostitution, striptease and drug muling. It would mean a better world.

What is there against it? Well may you ask.

It would slash the big banks’ profits by billions, and annoy some shareholders. It would enrich the mutual societies. It would make it harder to get some money from overseas borrowing institutions. It would shock the IMF. It would reduce the earnings of real estate agents. But…

It would mean ten million Australians weren’t skint any more. It would mean they had a life, and not just a sickening scramble for sleep and mincemeat from week to week. It would mean more children saw their mothers from time to time, and their grandmothers, who could now afford to come by train or plane and see them. It would mean more days at the beach, more Christmas dinners with the extended family.

Why not do it? Well, it’s possibly never been suggested before. It would help out Greece, and all those poor Irish fools with big, empty apartments to pay off in a tourist economy wrecked, as all economies are, by real estate prices and their sombre Chekhovian shakedowns.

Is it constitutionally impossible? Don’t think so. Governments in wartime can seize land, conscript builders and miners and factories and build and sequester whatever they want. They have reserve wartime powers to control prices, and this, God help us, is the economic equivalent of war.

It would be popular with ninety-eight percent of the people, and whichever party brought it in would be re-elected with thumping majorities for a hundred years.

I put it on the table anyway, for table talk. If there’s something terribly wrong with it, please let me know.

Or, as we say in this neck of the woods, discuss.

Classic Ellis: The First Coming of Julia Gillard

(From Suddenly, Last Winter)

8.10 a.m.

There is frost on the grass as we disembark, though the rain has stopped, and trudge up the hill beneath the big preposterous building. Ben Ruse on the phone says, ‘I’ll be out in a tick to sign you in.’ We sneak past the waiting reporters - ‘You’ll just say something stupid,’ Joel predicts - and wait at the desk for Ben. Then Duncan Kerr turns up and signs us both in. ‘This is my giant Nubian servant,’ I say of Joel, whose woolly, unshaven, shabby appearance suggests a smack addict or suicide bomber. We are given our clip-on ‘Unaccompanied Visitor’ cards and urged towards the invigilating machinery.

As always I sneak my Swiss Army knife past the X-ray device (putting it in my jacket pocket beside the mobile phone whose silhouette it therefore shares) to show it can be done. We get lost in the corridors and keep asking questions; we both have a near psychotic incapacity to arrive on time at the simplest destination.

Incompetence, I decide, is a larger problem than some of us believe. Bush in Iraq, Obama in Afghanistan, BP in the Gulf of Mexico; New Labour privatising the railways and, after many train crashes, nationalising them again; Rudd failing to note that a hundred and forty houses were going to burn down if careless or crooked tradesmen availed themselves of his roof-batt largess, are only random samples of the incompetence that, in the age of CEOs, imperils, impedes and harasses us all. Phone enquiries redirected to bemused Bombay PhDs; editorial writers unable to distinguish ‘rein’ from ‘reign’; economists surprised that child labour persists on the Subcontinent which gains by this ancient and persistent form of slavery a trade advantage; politicians as smart as Whitlam who believed that ending all protectionism would help, not smash, our economy; police who believe that chasing stolen cars and killing innocent infant bystanders is a useful thing to do: all these opinions are thought to be expert, or just, or useful, by decent, incompetent citizens who nearly always get it wrong. Not the least of these is Julia Gillard; discuss.

8.40 a.m.

We get fractiously lost in the corridors and, asking directions, make our way to Aussies coffee shop whose queue is half a mile long and Joel despondently joins it. The Independent member for New England, Tony Windsor, is seated at a small round table, his tanned stern face unsuggestive of his first cousin Bruce Hawker, and I quickly sit and talk to him.

‘How do you read it?’ I ask.

‘Well,’ he says in an accent too flatly rural for the imperial Roman face it comes from, ‘I’m sensing a drift away from Labor in my electorate. Which was never Labor, of course, but it’s an interesting symptom.’

‘Is it…Emissions Trading Scheme-related?’

‘It’s character-related. They can’t believe Rudd changed his opinion so totally. We’re simple folk up my way,’ no irony gleamed in his eyes, but it was there, ‘and we like to be able to take a man at his word.’

8.50 a.m.

The coffee queue is impossible and Joel urges me to stifle my pangs and rush off to ‘wherever it’s happening, man’. We encounter Don Dwyer, a constant beaming chirrupy presence, the Jiminy Cricket of the fringes of Canberra politics, who phones me news of political debacles when they occur
.
‘It was a very exciting night,’ he says. ‘They weren’t just walking with their cameras, they were running. And the mood around was, don’t go home, don’t go home. This is history.’

8.55 a.m.

We gather among the usual suspects (Michelle, Fran, Coorey, Farr, Tony Wright, Heather Ewart, Karen Middleton, but not David Marr who is watching mortified a live feed in a London hotel) observing blue-clad security persons move up and down and Simon Crean approaching down a corridor. The thwarter of Beazley, mentor of Latham (he made him Shadow Treasurer), the numbers amasser for Rudd and Gillard, he looks a bit pale and sullen but focused once again like a fox on a hen. Plibersek comes by, smiles vaguely and goes in and then Rudd with a melancholy Faulkner, like Lincoln approaching Gettysburg, and a shattered Maxine beside him. Gillard in heavy make-up soon after, steered by hard-faced young warriors eager for earthly advancement, Wayne Swan serenely beside her. Then Stephen Smith ashen and fucked in a truly beautiful suit. ‘Good morning, good morning,’ he says. ‘Nice to see you.’ Then Shorten who looks away, determined land scared, and moves inside.

9.20 a.m.

They’ve been in there a long time. I need a piss and eye without hope the pot plant; Joel shakes his head. Tony Wright asks how the Beaconsfield film is going. ‘Good,’ I lie. ‘We’ve got a director.’

‘That’s not right, is it?’ Joel asks.

‘Keep it down,’ I say.

9.22 a.m.

We wait, and wait some more.

Kieran Gilbert behind me tells the nation how it’s going, over blurred heads moving in the corridor. Abbott’s ratings have plummeted in the last few hours, he says. Tanner is still supporting Rudd but Swan has defected to Gillard, and features now in a ‘dream ticket’ with her. Gillard has seventy or seventy-four votes. Rudd was safe while his polling figures were up, but once they started falling he had no friends.

9.25 a.m.

‘What is it?’ I ask Tony Wright.

‘Rudd’s pulled out,’ he says, readjusting his mobile. ‘He’s not contesting.’

‘Julia? Or Tanner?’

‘Julia.’

9.29 a.m.

Journos around us, Rhys now among them, are thumbing their iPods. He won’t stay around, Peter van Onselen is saying. ‘He’ll resign his seat. He’ll be keen not to go down in history as a wrecker.’

‘What a bitch,’ says Joel. ‘This isn’t fair.’

9.41 a.m.

With the bovine, melancholy gait of pallbearers approaching an esteemed coffin, Dick Adams and Michael Forshaw, one vast and bearded, one resembling a worn-out wallet, came down the hallway and stood before us.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Forshaw said, ‘as Returning Officer of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, I wish to report to you that a special meeting of the party was held this morning at which the position of leader and deputy leader were declared vacant. The new leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, elected unopposed, is Julia Gillard. And the new deputy leader of federal parliamentary Labor Party, elected unopposed, is Wayne Swan. The next Prime Minister, the next Labor and the first female Prime Minister of this country will be Julia Gillard, and Wayne Swan will be the next Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.’

There was a babble of questions, most asking what was said.

‘Each of the people elected spoke to the Caucus. I don’t wish to canvass what they said. I will leave it to those members to report that. The meeting was conducted in a very orderly manner. I can say it was a very gracious speech by the Prime Minister and also by the new leader and the new deputy.’

‘Was there any display of hostility to the Prime Minister?

‘‘This has been a difficult time for the Prime Minister, it’s been a difficult time for the party. I’ll leave it to the Prime Minister Mr Rudd to make further comments. I don’t wish to comment other than to say that he led us to victory in 2007, a victory that was achieved when many people thought we would still be spending more years in Opposition.’

9.46 a.m.

Tanner comes out alone. Smith and Macklin, Gillard supporters, together. It’s the best possible result for Labor, van Onselen says. No ballot, no blood on the carpet. Harry Jenkins, the bluff-bearded Speaker, comes out and goes past me.

‘Pray for me, comrade,’ he says.

Debus, who could have been Prime Minister had he had the luck, goes by. Plibersek, red-eyed, in tears.

‘Rudd is going to the G20 tomorrow,’ says Rhys, ‘at 9.20 a.m.’

‘Maybe he could still go,’ I said, ‘and come back, and resign later.’

‘No way.’

The icecream-faced Ashleigh Gillon is wittering prettily on a nearby television, wondering if Julia will go to the polls soon or ‘establish herself as Prime Minister’ and go next year.

9.52 a.m.
Gillard and Swan are obscured from us by jostling cameras. They come towards us, in mid-shot, like faces on an ancient marble frieze. It seems that Rudd is behind them, but no, it’s Simon Crean, her mentor, keeping watch as always. They walk slowly, enjoying, or enduring, the moment.
‘I feel very honoured,’ she says to a gabble of questions, ‘and I’ll be making a full statement soon.’

9.55 a.m.

Rudd comes out in conversation with Faulkner and they go through a gauntlet of flashing cameras and leaping and stumbling stringers through King’s Hall and down a corridor to his office. Faulkner looks as always like the priest who accompanies the likeable murderer to the electric chair in Warner Brothers movies. They chat as they walk on, betraying no particular expression, as young fools yell, ‘Mr Rudd, to what do you attribute your downfall?’ and ‘What are your immediate plans, Mr Rudd?’, making sure they call him Prime Minister no longer. He goes with Faulkner, Maxine and his young people into his office.

10.02 a.m.

‘An hour and a half?’ says Rhys Muldoon, displeased. ‘That’s got vodka written all over it.’

10.11 a.m.

We got to Shorten’s office requesting vodka. Ben Ruse, unhappy to see us there, says, ‘We might have some whisky’ and comes back to Rhys’s loud annoyance with half-strength beer. Shorten is locked up on the phone and won’t talk to us. On their television Arthur Sinodinos, the smartest Howard adviser, comes on.

‘This is a remarkable day in Australian politics,’ he says, in a voice remarkably like Richo’s. ‘I think Labor have really panicked. Rudd will go down as one of the greatest self-inflicted wounds in Australia’s political history. I think they’re grasping at straws now. It’s very close to a poll. It’s always destablising for a governing party to change leaders so close to an election. I think the Opposition will argue, well, you’ve changed the leader but have you changed the policies that led to the problems that the party now faces? And I think that’s a dilemma they face. They’ve got a group of state-based apparatchiks who believe that you can transplant the state approach to federal politics, and so there’s a lot of focus on the latest opinion polling and focus groups. But what counts in Canberra, what counts in federal politics, is steadiness in policy and consistency over time, and there hasn’t been enough of that lately. Kevin Rudd has paid the price for that and Julia Gillard has been handed a poisoned chalice.’

Discussion follows on Gillard needing now to doff her crown as ‘the trade union leaders’ queen’, to reassert the Ruddock line on boat people and abolish the heinous tax on mining billionaires.

So, it being that sort of day, Albo moves to cancel Question Time.

‘I will propose that later this day,’ he says, ‘I would move a resolution suspending the sitting of the House until such time as the bells ring. I will agree on the time with the Manager of Opposition Business so that all members can be informed, and I will then inform the House, as such.’

‘Cancel Question Time?’ says Rhys. ‘We can’t cancel Question Time. We’ve got to see it.’

Ben Ruse brings him another beer.

10.42 p.m.

Arrangements are changing by the minute. It now seems Rudd, not Gillard, will have a press conference at eleven-thirty (you won’t have 07 to kick around any more, as Dick Nixon might say) in the Labor Party room. He hasn’t resigned yet, and is constitutionally able to advise an election if he wants to.

And Shorten’s mother-in-law constitutionally able to turn him down.

11 a.m.

Bill’s beer stocks are near exhausted and Rhys is drinking his own vodka. On Sky News the joyful virgin Ashleigh Gillon (every one of whose utterances is preceded by the unspoken word ‘gosh’) is asking the smirking Senator for Family First, Steve Fielding, what it was that did for Rudd in the end.

‘It was clearly Rudd’s leadership style,’ Fielding replies. ‘Quite clearly it was non-consultative, and I think that the Super Mining Profits Tax showed that lack of consultation. And the Caucus has got jack of it. And I think most Australians can see through the spin and a lack of substance in running a government, and this has led to his demise. It really is a leadership issue, it was a leadership style that was non-consultative and clearly it wasn’t going to last, and it has brought the Prime Minister down.’

11.20 a.m.

We skol our beers, thank Ben and hurtle forth and find after navigational hardship the Labor Party Room, in which the cameramen are already packing up and moving out. The Press Conference will be, we are told, in the Prime Minister’s Courtyard, immediately.

11.40 a.m.

A sterile grapevine overhangs, as in Gethsemane, the Babylonian windows of the stone exterior of the place of exit, or execution. What Joel calls ‘Stephen King clouds’ pass overhead. The amputated bosoms of Sumerian goddesses deck the lawn. There are two Australian flags above two microphones in the place where, like St Thomas More, the doomed will address with martyr’s eloquence the interested congregation.

A crowd is before us, but we press in close. Between bobbing heads I see him approach, his wife and son on either side. With a mild-mannered, half-mocking smile he says:

‘I was elected by the Australian people as Prime Minister of this country to bring back a fair go for all Australians, and I have given my absolute best to do that. I’ve given it my absolute all. In that spirit I am proud of the achievements that we have delivered to make this country fairer.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we kept Australia out of the global economic recession. I’m proud of the fact that, had we not done so, we would have had half a million Australians out there out of work. Because that’s what happened around the rest of the world.’

His dark-eyed son Marcus looks on with concern; his wife Therese looks more apprehensive; and he continues.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we got rid of WorkChoices and restored decency to the workplace. I’m proud of the fact that we started to build the nation’s infrastructure, including a National Broadband Network which I fundamentally believe will transform this economy in ways which we have yet to conceive. Fundamentally transform our businesses and the way in which governments operate, health services are delivered and the way in which education is delivered in our classrooms. The missing piece of twenty-first century kit for our country.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we have begun the Education Revolution. Three hundred thousand extra computers in classrooms, that’s a pretty big thing for a kid in a classroom who has never seen a computer on their desk before. I’m proud of the fact that we now have Trades Training Centres built to service every one of our nation’s secondary schools.

‘I’m proud of the fact that new libraries are springing up right across the country, often in schools which have never had a library before in their lives, or, in some places, have never had a new building built in their schools since the War.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we now have nationwide early childhood education. I’m proud of the fact that we now have a national curriculum for our schools, for every state of our nation and the Territories. I’m proud of the fact that we now have fifty thousand more university places, and the fact that we have invested so much more in our universities, in our research.

‘I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve reformed the health system, and now have a National Health and Hospitals network. When we look back on this in a decade’s time – and at the fact that we’ve made the Australian government, for the first time in our history, the dominant funder of our nation’s public hospital system – this will be seen as a very, very deep reform.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we are building twenty regional cancer centres right across our country. You know, if you go out there and people are suffering from cancer, it does alter your priorities.’
At this point his voice alters, and the pauses become longer.

‘Many of those folk have never had decent cancer services before. Never. And I was always stunned by the fact that people out there are three times more likely to die in the first years of their diagnosis through the lack of services. We’ve done something to change that, and it’s big. It’s the biggest investment in cancer services our nation has ever seen.

‘I’m proud of the fact – and some people have probably never heard of this one – that we have a National Organ Transplant Authority. As somebody who borrowed someone else’s aortic valve I feel a particular responsibility for that. There’s nothing like having a bit of somebody else in you, it focuses the mind and in my case also focuses the heart.’

Now he is near tears. His pain, his loss, his regret is hypnotic, involving, engulfing.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we’ve restored decency to the aged pension – it’s pretty important – making sure that people on the aged pension have some capacity for human dignity. An extra hundred dollars is the biggest increase in the pension’s history. I’m proud of the fact that we now have paid parental leave. It’s been a long time coming.

‘I’m proud of what we’ve done on homelessness. I’m proud of the fact that we’re on track to halve homelessness in this country through work like Common Ground, in which Therese is directly involved. I’m proud of the fact that we’re adding twenty thousand additional units of social housing. I can’t stand it when you go to places and there is literally no place at the inn.

‘I’m proud of the fact that the first thing we did in government was ratify the Kyoto Protocol. I’m also proud of the fact that we boosted the renewable energy target to twenty percent. I’m proud of the fact that we tried three times to get an Emissions Trading Scheme through this parliament, although we failed. And, if I had one point of future policy, it must be our ambition to pass a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme within this parliament – the one that follows, I mean – so that we can make a difference, a real difference, to climate change.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we now have, for the first time in the country’s history, a Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and for the first time in our history a basin-wide plan and a basin-wide cap on water.
L
‘Also proud of the fact that on the global stage Australia is now at the table of the G20. This is big for the country. When we look back on that in ten years’ time, having a place at the table when stuff goes wrong around the world is pretty useful. We lobbied hard and long for that. It’s a good achievement for Australia for the future.

‘I’m proud of the fact that we are closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Little things and big things: putting hundreds of Indigenous kids with scholarships into our nation’s leading boarding schools; backing such things as the Clontarf Academy, now twenty-two of them we fund around the nation, to get kids to school and boost their attendance by providing AFL training. I’m proud of the fact that we’re behind a commitment to create fifty thousand additional jobs for Indigenous Australians with the private sector, and I’m most proud of the fact that about here, we greeted the Stolen Generations.’

A long pause. The tears are visible now. Marcus wishes he was a thousand miles away. Two thousand.

‘As Therese reminded me, that was a big day. What I remember most about it, for those of you who weren’t here, was as the Stolen Generations came in from over there, they were frightened. Our job was to make them welcome. The Apology was unfinished business for our nation. It is the beginning of new business for our nation.

‘What I’m less proud of is the fact that I have now blubbered.’

Noon

All of us who were there underwent a similar feeling: the occasion was luminous, the language noble, the utterance honourable, the facts beyond dispute. And yet the speaker of the words, the fallen Prince, the saint brought low like Thomas à Becket by third-rate conspirators, was also a cocksure twerp who deserved his downfall richly. He had no right to the martyr’s crown of thorns he was bleeding under presently. He was a fucking cunt and a pest in fact and yet a humble upward-striving man of decency and probity and worth.

He thanked a lot of people, then, including his craven unsleeping incompetent staff, and said with a smiling sigh:

‘Now for the future. I will be dedicating my every effort to ensure the re-election of this Australian Labor government. It is a good government with a good programme, and it deserves re-election for all the reasons I have listed before, and many more besides. And they are a good team, led by a good Prime Minister – I mean Julia, not me. Because I’m still the Prime Minister, I think, for another quarter of an hour, so watch out, because we can still do things. Have you ever thought about this?’ A flicker of mischief passed over his beaming face. ‘I’m now not the leader of the Labor Party but…I’m the Prime Minister. Anything could happen, folks.’

We waited, with interest, for him to make a big announcement, but he did not.

‘As for serving the government in the future, I will of course serve it in any manner in which I can be of assistance. I will be re-contesting the next election in the seat of Griffith, and I hope the good burghers of Griffith are…understanding of my absence in recent times. Having said all of those things, what have I missed out? Therese?’

She looked at him with fond foreboding, with every inch of her big smile beseeching him to finish, now.

‘She’s always more succinct than me. And much better looking. The work Therese has done in the community is formidable. And whether it’s disabilities, homelessness, UNICEF. This is a very good person. A very, very good person. And one of life’s eternal mysteries is why she ever married me in the first place. She is a very good person, as are these fantastic kids of mine.

‘And having said all that folks, we’ve got to…zip.’ And he turned and he led them away through the big Babylonian doors into history’s forgetfulness.
And it was as painful an experience as any of us had ever endured. His son, of course, had endured much more. And soon they were gone.

An Englishman beside me said he’d heard that though Rudd knew he wasn’t contesting the ballot by midnight he didn’t inform his supporters of this. So they arrived in the morning defiant, and told the reporters why they were voting for him, and thus endangered needlessly their future careers.

‘What a cunt,’ Joel said. ‘What a cunt-act thing to do.’

12.22 p.m.

We were hurrying confusedly with the others to Julia’s press conference which was to occur almost immediately, following the puffing cameramen into doors, down corridors, past pot plants, past desks, past toilets, goddammit, I needed one, and not stopping.

‘Julia’s a fool,’ I raged. ‘A fucking fool.’

‘How’s that?’ asked Joel, not too interested.

‘She let him speak first.’

‘This is true.

‘And now he’s undercut everything she can say. With a record like that, why bring him down? What can she say? I bet Carl Green is rapidly rewriting everything.’

‘He’s not just a cunt, he’s a cunning cunt.’

‘Cunning enough to get where he is.’
‘And cuntish enough.’

‘A good new word.’

12.56 p.m.

We argued our way in, Joel yelling a bit, and sat at opposite ends of the front row, and saw Julia and Swanny come in.

She looked magnificent, and the speech went well, though I felt constrained to enrage world history by hissing her, just once. She thanked Kevin Rudd, acknowledged her share in the things that had gone wrong, emphasised her working-class upbringing, and the unchanging values of that sort of person she still held dear, implied that Australians had a right to suspect, just a bit, boat people, this was a democracy after all; and then, putting her stamp on things, and differing from Kevin, she said that Australians were owed a fair share of the nation’s mineral wealth, and:

‘We need to negotiate. We must end this uncertainty, which is not good for this nation. That is why today I am throwing open the government’s door to the mining industry and I ask that in return, the mining industry throws open its mind. And today I will ensure that the mining advertisements paid for by the government are cancelled. And in return for this, I ask the mining industry to cease their advertising campaign as a show of good faith and mutual respect.’

It was a zinger, a headline, a game-changer, a silver bullet perhaps. She can win it from here.

Or I think she can.

She really can.

2.30 p.m.

Question Time has been reinstated and Rhys believes we should watch it in the chamber. I tell him he’s a fool, we’ll have to queue and won’t get in.

‘Trust me,’ he says.

We end up getting lost and can’t even find the fucking chamber.

Then we do, and they point us to a queue of ten thousand school children, Malaysians and country visitors.

We go back down and find Don Dwyer and go to Jennie George’s office.

2.50 p.m.

When Julia enters the chamber and the Speaker addresses her as ‘the Prime Minister’ Rhys winces. ‘No,’ he says. ‘No.’ He puts his hands over his eyes.

Abbott gets up, and he has his ears back like a kelpie. Seizing the one chance he has, he says: ‘May I, Mr Speaker, offer commiserations to the Member for Griffith? A midnight knock on the door followed by political execution is no way that the Australian Prime Minister should be treated.’ He goes on to say that this is the first time an elected Australian Prime Minister has been sacked from office without a chance to go to the people. He leaves out of this plausible sentence Gorton, Menzies, Deacon and Barton. And Gough Whitlam of course.

Julia answers him well, and the old undiminished erotic contest between them strikes up, as it has before, and I say how good this is.

‘It’s the last time,’ Don says. ‘She won’t recall parliament. This is all we get.’

‘That’s unfortunate.’

‘That’s the way she’ll play it. Believe me, comrade. She will.’

3.30 p.m.

Jennie George’s partner Denis Lennen comes in shouting and evicts us. We didn’t watch her valedictory speech, he shouts, correctly, and we can’t use her fucking television.

3.50 p.m.

That seemed fairly argued and we watch the rest of it in a hall under two stairways, closely watched in turn by two security men.

‘What a horrible day,’ Rhys says.

Worst is the sight of Kevin Rudd in the back bench, looking precisely like a deflated yellow balloon. He turned up, amazingly. And so it goes.

4.10 p.m.

We go to Aussies and hang about but nobody’s there. We go with Rhys to a courtyard and watch him smoke and fulminate. Something seems over and it’s awful.

‘I’m going to The Lodge,’ says Rhys with finality and stamps out his durry.

‘Why?’ I ask.

‘To be with my friend. Come with me.’

‘No! I can’t.’

‘Yes, you can.’

‘I hate him. And he knows I hate him.’

‘Come anyway.’

‘No.’

‘Fuck you then, I’m off. This is history, and you won’t be there.’

He walks away determinedly.

I look at Joel and he looks at me. ‘What do you reckon?’ I ask.

‘Yeah, let’s go home.’

The UsuaI Murdoch Dirty Tricks (4): Reducing Fidel Castro

Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, helped Nixon to the Presidency in 1968 by inventing the ‘character issue’ to defeat the ghost of John F. Kennedy and, a year later, Teddy Kennedy. Another ghost, a living one, Fidel Castro, has lately written a book about his early years, and is making new friends, the way he does, in his eighty-fifth year. This is giving Ailes, and Fox News, trouble. Castro is different. How do we deal with Castro?What is Castro’s ‘character issue’? Does he have one?

Ales knows he can’t deny him his big achievements: the 98 percent literacy that was once 16, the great and famous free health service, the best doctors in the world, the free universities, the free food for everyone, the honeymoon bonus night out, the freedom of religion, the superb musical culture, the fine films, the working multiculture, and Fidel’s own astonishing survival, ninety miles from the most powerful enemy in the history of the world, of the forty-eight-year-old banana blockade and the twenty-seven assassination attempts and the six hundred assassination plans; nor the unfeigned adoration which eighty percent of his people, the people that stayed, still show for his rundown, ramshackle, generous, unauthoritarian non-democracy still inspiring all of South America and most of the counterculture of the West.

We can’t even say he’s particularly brutal when he executes in a decade fewer dissidents than Rick Perry does Blacks in a fortnight in Texas; and any ‘freedom fighter’ who wants to live in Florida he usually lets go there, by rubber-ducky, or pedalo, or kayak, or whatever, to join his gangster relatives and plot, once more, his murder.

So what are we to do?

Because Fidel if you look at him shapes up like a combination of Robin Hood, Judas Maccabeus, T.E. Lawrence, Davy Crockett, Indiana Jones and Clement Attlee. He has no money in a Swiss bank account, and he writes really well, and all his old mistresses still adore him, and the Mafia want him dead, and … what, so challenged by truth and legend, is Roger Ailes, and Fox News, to do?

Well, he does what he always does. He finds the telling detail and calls it a fatal flaw; as he did when he declared Obama to be a lofty academic, a grubby machine politician, friend of terrorists, a predatory homosexual and a fanatical insurgent Muslim with a false passport and a forged memoir, Dreams From My Father, Bill Ayres, the terrorist he ‘pals around’ with, wrote for him, things people didn’t know about him before, which they found out on Fox News.

And, well … Fidel talks too much, it seems; some of his speeches are six hours long. And this is unforgiveable. Though two million people, probably, survived infancy and got to adulthood and university and marriage and happy grandparenthood because of his human decency, this is unforgiveable. He talks too much. And though he’s by any count the most successful politician in a thousand years he talks too much, and he’s proved by this he’s nothing more, he’s nothing more, than … a prattling buffoon.

A six-hour speech? That’s as bad as a ten-hour innings by Tendulkar. Insufferable. Insupportable. How dare he?  How dare he live?

And thus it is that Fox News and Newscorp and SkyNews and Bolt and O’Reilly and Akerman and Hannity and Salusinsky reduce the politicians around them. They find an ordinary human characteristic, and pretend it matters. Evince shock at it. Amazement. Outrage. Roared up an air hostess did he? To the gallows with him. Off with his head.

Thus Adaminejad and Chavez and Strauss-Kahn and Latham are all buffoons. Not men whose talents put them at the top of their profession. Not men with an idea or two, like Allende or the Castros. Buffoons.

An extension of this is what was done to Castro. Hit-men were sent out by the CIA and the Mafia to kill him, and twenty-six attempts were unsuccessful. So Ailes and his people began to treat these attempted murders as if they were practical jokes. The exploding cigars. The poisoned wetsuit. The old mistress with a pellet of poison in her face cream jar she was supposed to inject him with, postcoitally while he snored, and she couldn’t go through with it. Hilarious. What a joke. What a joke on Fidel that would have been.

And thus, dirty trick by dirty trick, the Murdochists erode and steal way our humanity. Buffoons. All buffoons. What a joke if they died.

It’s a way of treating Communists and Muslims and brown-skinned people fleeing tyranny or seeking a better life in the way that white Americans once treated slaves. Subhumans. The Other. The lesser breeds without the Law. The heathen beasts of burden we keep chained up over night and rape if they are pretty. Dehumanised. Expendable. Or, like David Hicks, unreadable. That’s it, he’s unreadable, he’s not worth considering as a human being. He writes in fact as well as Koestler, but you mustn’t read him. Just keep saying he’s unreadable, barely literate, a daft prat, a trained killer, a buffoon. A violent, daft buffoon. Like Castro.

Yet the dehumanised, expendable Fidel is still with us, and saying his say in a book well worth reading, it seems, and Ailes can’t stand it.

Discuss.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (3): Newspoll’s Possible Cheated Figures Hypothesised

The Newspoll this morning shows Abbott three percent ahead of Gillard as preferred Prime Minister and a ‘margin of error’ of three percent which means Gillard could be three percent ahead of Abbott, as she was a fortnight ago. It also has six percent ‘uncommitted’ and two percent ‘refused’: this is about a million people who could make a lot of difference. The way you get ‘refused’ I hear is ringing at seven pm when people are eating or cooking and hanging up if you hear a migrant accent, thus reducing the Labor vote.

You can bring the Labor vote down further I hear by ringing homes (and never, never, never, of course, mobiles) on Friday and Saturday night when people under thirty, who vote Labor sixty-forty, are out of the house, and people over sixty, who vote Liberal fifty-five to forty-five, are at home, and this of course is what Newspoll does or sometimes does. You can get the Labor vote down further, or this is what I hear, by remembering Rupert Murdoch is your principal client, and sampling 1182 respondents and publishing only 1142, or 1042, and putting the others, wrongly, into ‘refused’ or ‘undecided’ or hanging up on them.

It is by these stratagems, probably, or so I hear, and this might be wrong, and I might be very unjust, you get Abbott up as Preferred Prime Minister after his worst week ever, and sow confusion, panic, mutiny, consternation and suicidal despair in the Labor ranks.

This is what Murdoch requires of you, or so I hear; he is after all the man who published The Hitler Diaries after being told they were forgeries, and commanded poor Hugh Trevor-Roper to back him up and say they were not forgeries; and claimed Gough and Margaret Whitlam were divorcing in November 1975, just after the Dismissal and just before the election, thirty-seven years ago. To believe anything else is to subscribe to the astonishing theory that a news organisation that would bribe Scotland Yard would never bribe Newspoll. It is very, very hard to see why they would not; or why someone in Newspoll, not necessarily the CEO, would not accept that bribe and adjust the figures along lines of Rupert’s desire, as it seems, it powerfully seems, he did this morning, Rupert their principal client, that is.

I do not say this is so. But it is I think a plausible theory.

The simple fact is that the Liberals are a busted flush policy-wise and they need all the polling help they can get. They have declared war on the auto workers and gone to water on gay marriage and said they could, and then couldn’t, and then could, get us into surplus next year, and found over Christmas the hatred of Abbott among women, Protestants and humanists is growing. The ‘turn back the boats and leave it to Indonesia to sort it all out’ policy was seen to be idiotic and their defence of Rhineheart’s unearned billions innumerate. And their defence of the Afghanistan War as moronic as Julia’s.

And yet the Newspoll shows them surging ahead, as it did nine years ago on the weekend of the greatest gatherings in world history that were then protesting the imminent Iraq War, which nobody wanted and they, the Liberals, were keen on. When the Liberals are seen to be losing it is Newspoll’s bounden duty it seems to show them, paradoxically, winning. Why else have a Newspoll CEO? Or so some say, or ask.

Why have a Newspoll CEO? Why? What is he there for?

The greatest proof of this hypothesis if one were needed is Newspoll’s failure to match up anyone other than Rudd and Gillard with Abbott as Preferred Prime Minister. Why not ask do you prefer Shorten to Abbott, Combet to Abbott, Smith to Abbott, Albo, Plibersek, McKew, Brown, Windsor, Turnbull? Why not ask would you vote Labor or Coalition if Smith, Shorten, Plibersek were Prime Minister? Why play only the Rudd card? Why? Because that’s what Hartigan wanted you to do? Because that’s what Kim Williams wants you to do? Or Rupert wants you to do?

Why not ask that essential question, who else would you like to be Prime Minister? Why would you not do that? Why did the obvious not cross your mind? Will you do it now? I ask any Newspoll person, past or present, to answer this.

Why not test how popular Abbott Liberals are? Why not? And if you forgot to, will you do it now?

Newspoll has served too long as Rupert’s WMD and it should be exposed.

A Royal Commission would be nice. A Senate enquiry would do.

See, as in London, which frightened Murdochists start singing.

Or not.

They may be innocent of any wrongdoing.

But they don’t look too flash this week, as more and more Newscorp executives go to gaol.

If Newscorp goes, can Newspoll be far behind?

Classic Ellis: The First Coming Of Julia Gillard (2)

See above.

Endgame And After

Monday, 13th February, 10.12 pm

After tonight’s Four Corners it seems as if my wary prediction of a new Prime Minister by Friday February 17 (Smith? Shorten? Albo? Swanny?) is not as cluey as it sounded an hour ago. Though the date still seems to me about right, give or take fifteen hours, the range of likely candidates should now I fear include Tony Abbott; and, just possibly, just possibly, Kevin Rudd.

Abbott will be on the phone to Wilkie, Oakeshott and Thomson as I write these dread words, offering Cabinet positions, ambassadorships and uncontested seats, and promising no new election before February 2014, with a lot of hectic new Jesuitical persuasiveness and vigour, and one of them may come across and make him PM by Friday with a swiftness like that which attended Whitlam’s sacking thirty-six years ago. And the worst of times may then begin. And it’s a pity.

It is utterly amazing that the PM did the interview that will be hereinafter seen as her hari-kiri, but there you go. Bad judgment is not a passing two-day flu, it’s a genetic predisposition, and she always had it, and there you go. Her persistent reputation for double-dealing, mendacity and bad acting is now affirmed in the minds of those already resentful of her atheism, single status, philistinism, cruelty to refugee children, apparent homophobia, hatred of live theatre, ignorance of history books and films with subtitles and there you go. And there she goes, I think.

I think.

I have been wrong before. But this looks pretty scary. A caucus meeting tomorrow at 9 may yield up a new PM, or a new Foreign Minister, or notice from Swanny of a spill in twenty-four or forty-eight hours; or not. But Gillard cannot now I think survive till Budget night.

I have been wrong before.

And we will see.

Tuesday, 14th February, 3.35 am

Not sleeping well.

Thinking too much.

At the heart of the trouble that this Prime Minister is in is the story, never believed at the time by the ordinary people, that she was overwhelmed by sudden events and did not decide until 6 or 7 on the night that she would take up the burden of office for the nation’s good, and she did so with great reluctance. I myself believed it, acceding just once to the cock-up theory of history, and I was wrong.

I suppose it was because the image of the ‘scheming woman’ is always less attractive than that of the ruthless, driven, ambitious, highly talented man — like Keating when he displaced Hawke, and Hawke when he displaced Hayden on the day an election was called — that the ‘cleanskin Julia’ or ‘little me’ version of that seismic, troubling day was put about, and convincingly put about. But it meant her innocence or guilt became the primary argument for months afterward and gave the Liberals an issue to run on then and now. If she had merely said ‘he had to go’ or ‘he was holding up good policy with his chaotic interventionist micromanaging of everything in the wee small hours of the morning’, she would have shifted the question from how to why, from her character to his, and probably won enough seats in the election to get rid of him altogether. But her obsession with how she looks — evident every day with her new hair styles and bizarre collations of clothing — undid her once again; her feminine side, it might be called by someone braver than me, her need to be seen as ‘not just a politician’ but something loftier.

What a spoiled baby she seems overall, wanting, in Mike Rann’s phrase, ‘to be, not to do’; and failing as always to join the dots between what is said and what is done. For you don’t say ‘a government that has lost its way’ and then keep all the ministers of that government, that errant government, in their jobs, even the four or five (Debus, McMullan, Tanner, Faulkner, Kerr) who are leaving parliament at the next election. You show the new way. You wield the new broom. You clear out the cobwebs of the old. You get on with it.

And you don’t keep Rudd dangling. You give him his new job on day one, and send him off on his important world travels as our Foreign Minister. You don’t leave him festering and plotting and leaking. You give him things to do. And you don’t, above all, call an early election, with the effective slogan, ‘Vote for us, we’ve lost our way’ or ‘Vote for the real Julia, whoever she is. Give yourself a big surprise.’

At the heart of it also was a failure to understand what a Prime Minister is. He, she, is one who knows enough to react with acuity to world events. Which means one educated in the meaning of world events. Which means reading a book or two, or seeing a film or two, on overseas cultures and why they do the things they do. Why the East Timorese, for instance, mightn’t want a refugee-crowded Green Zone in the middle of their impoverished, ramshackle, war-smashed former colony, and mightn’t like hunting down and recapturing escaped freedom fighters who now and then remind them of Xanana, Joe and Che. Why the Arab Spring’s young heroes might rate Julian Assange a good man and even a great man and not, as Julia does, a contemptible sex-crazed criminal. Why Afghanistan is a missionary war that became a gang war between drug cartels and wasted a trillion dollars. Things like that. A Prime Minister is one with a rudimentary education in human tendencies and not, like Pauline or Scott or Barnaby, a blithering, ignorant fool.

The only question now is who has the luck; and who, if it comes to a lost No Confidence vote on the floor of the House, the Governor-General first asks to try and form a new government and test its numbers. It might be her fellow Queenslander Rudd, who appointed her. It might be her son-in-law Shorten. It might be Tony Windsor who has the respect of almost everybody. It might be Malcolm Turnbull, a capable, consensus figure with close friends in every party. It might be Tanya Plibersek or Nicola Roxon or Julie Bishop, a woman, like herself. Or Bronwyn Bishop. Or Jason Clare. Or Kim Beazley if he can be found a seat, and of course he can. She can ask who she likes.

It’s an unusual week, in short, and the caucus meeting in a few hours’ time will not be a decorous, polite, colegiate one for certain. The government that saved us from world recession has got itself into a fix by neglecting the surface of things and not getting its story straight. And it’s a pity.

And we await Question Time with interest.

Classic Ellis: The First Coming of Julia Gillard

See above.

Classic Ellis: Beneath Hill 60: Hymn To A Lost Australia

A tale of young men maddened by war; of mud and shelling and fright and high explosives; of mateship, self-sacrifice and bonded memory; of a village wooing and letters home from the front; of stupid Anglicised officers and wily working class larrikins and the biggest man-made explosion thus far in world history; of death unsought and evaded and the friendship of men that goes deep and beyond words.

It’s Beneath Hill 60, the best Australian film thus far (even Samson and Delilah is a little worse), the best film on World War One I’ve seen, just finished in a cinema near you. And I nearly missed it too.

And I understand mateship at last, and Anzac Day, and that convocation of ugly bibulous loyalty the RSL in the 1940s that my father went to once a week. I realise what was lost in bluster and booze and never retrieved.

As the multiculture advances and the Anzac-unanimity recedes into myth and verse and song and caricature, it’s worth seeing, I think, at last, how it was back then, up close. Men shamed by white feathers into joining up though they knew they could die of that shame. Men asking the girl’s father if they can write to her from the front. Educated, literate working class men huddled underground and thinking about things as the war-noise nears. Men who could write a rhymed verse, dig a trench, mourn a comrade, question a deity, curse a Pom, improvise a lethal explosive device, lose their minds in the roar of battle and piss themselves laughing, dead in their tens of thousands, the gene pool bereft of their excellence, gone for good.

Our Jack Dempsey died in that war, our Bing Crosby, Charles Chaplin, George Gershwin, TE Lawrence, Frank Lloyd Wright, Walt Disney, that War of Three Cousins that never should have been authorised and never should have been fought. It was the willed, consensual suicide of the best of Europe and the British colonies that gave America world mastery, Hitler the nod and Stalinism seventy years of menace, paranoia and expensive wasted rocketry.

It should never have been authorised and should never have been fought. The Islamicists will beat us now, because we were so traumatised by those trenches, mud and noise. The dead cry out to us from our cenotaphs and we hear them still, and we will never, never fight a war as big or as hard again.

Jeremy Hartley Sims, David Roach and Bill Leimbach made the film for ten million dollars, one-fiftieth of what we paid all up for Baz’s dumb-arsed Australia (enough to sustain seventy small theatre companies for a thousand years on the interest alone), or this is what I hear. It introduces a new star Brendan Cowell, who in equal parts resembles Colin Friels, Russell Crowe, Jack Thompson and (aptly) Richard Todd, and can act as well as them all put together, plus the electrifying Steve Le Marquand who is Australia’s Sean Connery, and a gang of muddy-faced blokes (Harrison Gilbertson, Guyton Grantley, Anthony Hayes, Alex Thompson, Alan Dukes), two of them playing father and son, joined up together for mutual comfort, you soon feel you’ve known all your life.

Seven of them are still alive at the end, in a wedding photo, one of them gibbering mad, the others holding it in, the bride smiling bravely, knowing what’s coming to her in the next forty years of nocturnal screaming and smashed furniture. And we see it all in that photo.

We meet some Germans too, dedicated and decent in the same way as our boys, with muddied postcards from home and faces very similar to the Aussies we have come to know. We numbly cheer both sides on as we might at a football game while simultaneously knowing there’s no sense to it, no purpose, no good end, only ingenuity and bravery and horror and suspense like that in The Hurt Locker, a Homeric joust with Death the only victor.

It’s a gang-show, like Sunday Too Far Away, The Odd Angry Shot, The Club, Stir and Gallipoli with males predominating as they do in Shakespeare’s best play Henry IV Part One. And one wonders if this is the natural Australian style, a mob of blokes up against it and joshing one another as they go over the wire and perish needlessly in a stupid cause. A memory of our convict past perhaps, when there weren’t many women and our primary friendship were with the mob, the unit, the road gang, the old gang, the comrades, the mates.

Unlike all other war films with muddy faces you can work out who is who. Not much is said but the spaces round the words, the looks exchanged, the memories channelled, the words repressed, are vivid and resonant. As a film director Hartley Sims resembles most not Richard Attenborough nor John Ford nor John Huston nor Bruce Beresford nor Fred Schepisi nor Clint Eastwood but William Wyler, whose spacious pauses and assessing looks exalted The Best Years of Our Lives (about American servicemen coming home) into cinema Valhalla and what might be called the memory of the tribe. It’s the best American film even now (with Flags Of Our Fathers a close second) as this is the best Australian one.

And the design of course and the special effects are exemplary. It’s a pity you’ll never now experience this film as I did (you have to be in a cinema to share the claustrophobia) but that’s how it is with the movies these days in this, the golden age: in, out, good reviews, no audience, bad luck, next. Yet I note it anyway as a great act of unashamed, nationalist regret and pride and grieving, like ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and The Sentimental Bloke whose tunes of glum glory will outlive our agnosticism and cynicism and sarcasm and deck with wattle our proud passing as a culture.