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.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Do you think you’ll be in Canberra when the time comes, Bob?

  2. That dude from Tamworth is not for turning. And I’m sure Rob Oakeshot has had his fill of the dark side.

    We are now at the point where Australian political life is just a long, slow reveal. Gina Rinehart’s poem is symptomatic of a much broader phenomenon. Pull up a deckchair, it’s the great mental unravelling. It wull hippen.

  3. Just reviewed 4 Corners. Nothing new there, just a beat up by the reporter, most of it done around the Labor Conference and updated by a grab or two.

    Prime Ministers are removed not because of bad polls but because their internal party politics turns sour; as Gorton’s did, as Hawke’s did, as Thatcher’s did.

    By the beat up’s own internal evidence Gillard still has the support of the caucus, and few want Rudd back.

    The PM’s problem is that with the Parliament numbers the way they are, she cannot take the long handle to Rudd or his supporters, other than in the recent reshuffle.

    And so it goes.

    • Never Enough Ellis

      I disagree, Doug. That interview (Gillards) was a shocker, whether wilfully edited or not. It will get picked up and shown and shown again.

      Gillard certainly looks less out of her depth now, just untrustworthy. Add to the insults that gloating fool Con Sciacca and a shifty performance by Richardson and it’s clear we’re entering the end game.

      It will be Rudd, no doubt.

      • Cobbled together and disgracefully edited. The reporter should get the sack rather than any praise for this attempted hatchet job.

        One thing however is certain : it won’t be Rudd. Saint Kevin is unloved within the Party. We can draw parallels with Turnbull in the Liberals, though he seems to have more support pro rata than Rudd.

  4. Boy did she look shifty.

    But the indies will not go with Abbott.

    That was though the worst 4 Corners ever made, worthy of the Daily Tele.

  5. Thank you so much for the post, it was interesting reading.

  6. You are wide of the mark here Mr Ellis.

    Ms Gillard will remain PM up until the next election. I will bet you on that. There will be no challenge, and if you think there will be, you misread caucus.

    Mr Rudd has at best 30 votes, that’s at best. The Right won’t install Smith or Swan and they too are split; if Shorten tries to run, Combet, Faulkner, Albanese & Ferguson will have the numbers to block him.

    If a right faction MP gets the job, then a Left member becomes deputy and Albanese is the man - Tanya P has no traction. Not much desire to have Albo as Deputy.

    The mood in caucus is never to bring back Rudd. He’s an ankle and despised by all but a few. Notice who defended who - Alan Griffin. That’s all they could find to speak for Rudd.

    BTW, Oakeshott has said he will not be Speaker or a minister. It’s on the record.

    There will be no chamge of PM before the next election. The only challenge may be to Abbott, who is less popular than Ms Gillard.

    Ever day Ms Gillard is PM will make your bile duct excited.

    Prove me wrong!

    • Question Time today : Not one mention, not even as an interjection, of the “revelations”. Bob Brown is right again : 4 Corners report was “a damp squib”.

      Gillard looked masterly, by the way.

      • Gillard looked masterly? She nearly cried with emotion in response to an Abbott question regarding truthfulness. They highlighted this on the Project tonight. She is under immense pressure and came within a hairs whisker of losing it. Caucus members must be very very worried. As Barry Cassidy said she is bad at politics and getting bad advice.

  7. Just out of interest, how many books and films and theatre experiences have the following seen/enjoyed:

    Jason Clare

    Forget Beazley, the US Civil War has little relevance here and he never reads fiction, and I have concerns when someone shuns the great novel.

    Let’s poll prospective leaders - not on their economic credentials, leadership traits, party support, legislative programs … no the big issue is, have the read Moorehouse and Carey, seen plays NOT by David Williamson; have they watched Jacques Tati movies or marvelled at the cinematography in Fitzcarraldo? Was the Sunnyboys first LP as good as The Saints or Hunters & Collectors and what of the new INXS singer, is he as good as Hutcho?


    • All have read more history and seen more historical documentary. She will not have seen even ‘Rome’ or The Ides of March or The Candidate or more than one episode (I suspect) of The West Wing, essential viewing for all politicians; or The Thick Of It. Or In The Loop or The Special Relationship or Margaret, the good film on Thatcher. I made no mention of Tati or Fitzcarrraldo. Why did you? Are you trying to suggest I’m unintelligent? Why are you doing that?

      If you think a Prime Minister should be utterly ignorant of history and foreign culture please say so.

      Do it soon.

      Let’s see how intelligent you are.

      • If you think a Prime Minister should be utterly ignorant of history and foreign culture please say so.

        Bob, I’m starting to warm to the idea that ignorance of history and foreign culture should be mandatory for the PM. Scanning the pages of the newspapers this morning I see no advantage in the opposite.

        • Gee let’s make Pauline Hanson Prime Minister then.

          She knows NOTHING of foreign affairs.

          • Hanson might make a better fist of it than others, you might want to send a copy of Under Hill 60 to Shimon Perez, Netanyahu, Ahmadinejad, and the Ayatolla Ali Khamenei. It’s all well and good to know about history, it might be better if they knew about it from eachothers’ standpoint. But I can’t see much benefit from their knowing about it at all.

            Nuclear sabre rattling, Economic meltdown, a rise of the racist right in Italy and France, the whole Arab Spring thing.

            Shimon Perez, because he KNOWS about history is more dangerous than Pauline Hanson ever was. Khamenei KNOWS about history,I’d take Hanson right this minute BECAUSE of her ignorance.

            Ignorance of history may provide some pause for thought, indecision and doubt. Those that claim to KNOW history invariably are more dangerous.

      • And who sets the Naplan exam for leadership qualities?

        ‘Rome’ is a Hollywood version of ancient history. Fun but crap. If you’d said ‘I Claudius’ or that she should know the Herods from Salome to Agrippa then Ms Gillard might indeed fail.

        ‘Ides of March’ is also Hollywood, as is ‘West Wing’. They are not real. Notice in ‘West Wing’ that no one swears and everyone has witty repartee and snappy one-liners as they verbally joust along the corridors. Marvelous television, but hardly what politicians need to study.
        (If Bartlett was real, he’d be snorting cocaine like the last three US Presidents)

        And why not acclaim ‘House of Cards’ and ‘To Play The King’ – surely the UK is more relevant to Australia’s Westminster system ? And you left out ‘The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer’, the greatest political movie of all time. Discuss.

        Should Ms Gillard have read Robert Penn Warren, and can you prove she hasn’t?

        ‘The Candidate’ is dated. Larner was a great screenwriter, Redford was very good and Ritchie’s direction sharp, but it’s dated. And it’s American.

        ‘In the Loop’ is comedy. Funny but relevant to what part of being Australian prime minister? I wager Ms Gillard may have seen ‘Dr Strangelove’ while growing up – prove me wrong. Do you know for sure what the PM has read and viewed?

        With respect, this is intellectual snobbery – leadership isn’t about what you’ve read, otherwise we’d vote for a friggin’ librarian to be PM.

        • Well said Terrance.

          Another point is that seeing or reading all of the excellent works you and Bob refer to would not guarantee understanding, nor would it be certain that even an intelligent viewer would take the “right message” from them.

          “A Clockwork Orange” was a brilliant examination of free will and the “at all costs” pursuit of law and order, but most viewers probably thought it just another violent and erotic entertainment.

          • Isn’t it amazing how film can scare the shit out of a society, as it did with Clockwork Orange, or The Last Temptation of Christ, and yet the books could be had off the shelf. I was deeply impressed with the Katzanztakis book as a younger man, and didn’t understand the furore when Scorcese made such an average film from it. Life of Brian is another.

            In the case of Clockwork I could imagine that the general public coping with the Skinheads at the time, would have welcomed such therapy as young Alex underwent, they would have considered it horrorshow vek, for the Staja to be able to change a droogies gulliver along with a kick in the yarbles.

        • I don’t believe you’ve seen The Ides of March or more than one half-episode of Rome. No-one who has doubts their relevance to modern politics. ‘In the Loop’ is really, really accurate. Ask Carr, Wedderburn, Rann, Hawker, and John McTernan on whom the smaller violent Scotsman was based. I do not know for a certainty what the Prime Minister has read or seen but I do know McTernan, and he would have told me, over a kicked chair or two, and a threat of genital mutilation, that I was really, really wrong.

          Please speak of what you know. And do not say ‘It’s American’ as if this was an argument, any more than contemptuously spitting is an argument, or saying ‘fuck you’. Arthur Miller was American. Gore Vidal is American. Bob Dylan is American. What are you talking about?

          • I saw the Ides of March but before I did I read the peoples’ review on the internet which put me off. I had a free movie ticket and thought I’d go anyway after Margaret and David liked it. I enjoyed the film but the internet people were nevertheless right and I probably learnt more from them than the movie. Why did the girl commit suicide? Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme? What was with the abrupt ending? Anything with PSH and PG is going to be vaguely watchworthy with or without the Clooney touch, as was pointed out on the internet.

          • ‘Ides of March’ was a terrific film with a few holes. Like there would be a record of her abortion – or do American states now allow anonymous abortions? She went to a clinic and even though she paid cash, the autopsy would have revealed a recent surgical procedure and from there they could have tracked down the clinic. And why did Clooney answer his phone during a press conference? But these are minor matters indicated I saw the movie and wasn’t proved wrong.

            Rome Shmome. Watched most of the first series. Hardly rate it as history anymore than Sopranos is the reality of New jersey crime families. As a writer, I thought the difference between reality and drama was transparent. And if Ms Gillard had watched Rome, what would her take home message have been –beware of men in togas?

            In the Loop –accurate? Which scene? Or when the film is billed as a ‘comedy’ that actually indicates ‘political drama’. I’ll have a word with the genre definers.

            Can you please give me the contacts for Carr, Wedderburn, Rann, Hawker, and John McTernan so I ask them their opinion of this film and others. I asked Anderson, Dunn, and Alister and they said it was a bomb.

            American - as in a different political system and not as relevant as Westminster. Please Mr Ellis, if you’re going to challenge me intellectually and on cultural matters, read what I say in context. I’m not talking about the America of Guantanamo Bay and war in Iraq and George Bush, I’m talking political structures.

            No response on ‘Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer? Have you not seen it? You should/must/have to/recite key scenes to prove it. Best political film ever made.

            Now, what’s the wager on Gillard being PM at the next election?

          • Considering the physical looks of Kennedy, Clinton and Herman Cain for God’s sake, Clooney’s handsomeness is somewhat overkill as a necessity to seduce and impregnate the young intern. Seymour Hoffman and Clooney should have swapped roles.

            And though there are resonances with real life political scandals, in the end the film wimps out on treating Clooney’s character’s political stance and have his character crash and burn because of his beliefs, instead goes for soap opera.

      • Looks like Gillard saw Vidal’s “The Best Man” though.

  8. I agree with Terrance’ (6.42 post above).

    The myth that Gillard was drafted at the last minute was never believed or believable. What is believable is that Rudd had to go and his counter offer to stay to October was surely unacceptable to the faction leaders - another four or five months of chaos and paralysis?

    The cover story was ill-conceived; a better one would have seen Rudd leave for health reasons, and bringing forward his aorta repair job would have done the trick. The PM and her advisers have made errors of judgement, and the truth is that it goes with the territory. In life and in politics things rarely run smoothly and soundly to nice conclusions.

    There is no doubt that a Prime Minister does not spring forth fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. In the 4 Corners program one Labor member of caucus suggested, less poetically, that that applied to Kevin himself, but without much conviction.

    Gillard has lately shown good promise of growing into the position and this 4 Corners hatchet job has done neither her, the government or the country any favours. She obviously listened to the faction leaders and went with their cover story; part of the reason for the ‘real Julia’ break out later, perhaps.

    Politics is a messy business, and when manoeuvres are conducted in an open democracy like ours the truth is likely to emerge, to the chagrin of the major players.

    All’s well that ends well, as the Bard put it;

    And we live in hope.

  9. Julia is great, she is fantastic, she must stay on as Prime Minister until the next election, then I can vote her out.

    The first Emily’s lister to go was Kristina Keneally, next in line is Anna Bligh, Then Julia Gillard followed by Governor General Quentin Bryce (over the Heiner affair but really as payback for Peter Hollingworth’s dismissal).

    I congratulate those who advocated giving the Emily listers as much rope as they wanted as they would only hang themselves

    • Hmmm. Thing is, there are these anti-women movements that operate in the same way as climate change denying-style operations only presumably without the financial backing and a hell of a lot nastier. A couple of them must have you on a list as being a sympathetic character, otherwise what is a person like AD doing here? There was another one giving a link to a female ha-uh website a while back as well.

      It starts innocently enough with a Hotlips Houlihan reference but this is what happens, Bob. This is what happens.

      Join our team. USA! USA!

  10. Perhaps Bob Brown has it right again :

    “Greens leader Bob Brown said he was disappointed with the Four Corners program because it did not contain any major revelations as flagged, lampooning it as a “damp squib”.”

    (quoted by Jessica Wright, SMH)

  11. Report Card : Slipper

    I watched Question Time today, in full for the first time in months. Watching Slipper as Speaker is a revelation!

    The questions were kept short and sharp, the answers were kept relevant and the interjectors and point of order matters were efficiently dealt with.

    Why did we have to put up with Harry Jenkins for so long?

    Slipper? “Golden Boot” perhaps!

  12. You don’t mention the American connection, Bob. Aren’t you disappointed to hear that Labor is informing, or colluding with, the USA before the Australian people? Is that what they are paid for? Has Labor become an international party with hidden loyalties? Is that why we went to Afghanistan?

  13. I recently found and downloaded a shocking new history of Vietnam and the lies told.

    If Gillard and Abbott saw or read anything about that time and watched this particular series “Vietnam on HD” they would not want us to stay in Afghanistan for years more in a non-existent war.

    I invite the history buffs with downloads to find the series on Torrentz and watch it.

  14. My god, the ABC are bastards. Ever since I suggested the Ponds Institute could do a better job of running it than the IPA I cannot get a single thing published. Not to slag off Bettina Arndt, not to suggest that Murdoch senior doesn’t like her own son (two attempts) and not even to point out that a Nurses’ Union monopoly on power would be a good thing for this country.

    First there was what happened to JG. Now this. Democracy is officially dead.

  15. Why the true believers have stood by and let these two psychopathic personalities destroy a great political party I’ll never know.
    I am a lifelong Liberal voter, but I respected Keating and Hawke even at the time, and especially now, understanding better their reforms.

    Now, Labor reminds me of my childhood years under communists.

    • That’s no way to talk about Tony and Malcolm.

      Lifetime Liberal voter? My mother was too, but I put it down to being raised a farmer’s daughter and never going past elementary education.

      What’s your excuse?

      • To Michael C58:

        If you’re a lifetime Liberal voter you voted for Howard rather than Hawke which meant your ‘respect’ for Hawke and Keating is a lie and your letter worthless.

        Don’t make me angry.

  16. Now Julia Gillard is homophobic? according to Bob Ellis.

    “apparent”? that’s sly

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