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.

  1. Reply to Tim Dunlop’s article today :

    Excellent article Tim. I am not an insider but I think my ability to read between the lines is well developed. Due to the numbers in parliament it has been impossible to properly discipline Rudd and his main supporters.

    Rudd’s towering ego cannot conceive of anyone opposing his views on anything and still being human, much less being his superior.

    Journalists have in a sense been making it up - that is what they do. They collect information from different sources and synthesise it according to their own take on events.

    Obviously they have been fed information from Rudd’s partisans. To date they had been greeted with silence and a straight bat from the Gillard camp.

    What do journalists write? Hmmm.

    ‘Policy’ is boring,
    ‘Achievements’ are boring,
    ‘Leadership Speculation’ is exciting and sexy.

    So what do they write? Three guesses.

  2. “… learn from Rick Santorum and Barack Obama the difference between good leadership and bad”.

    Have you perhaps mismatched the pairs here?

  3. Saw the Gillard press conference, if only, if only she had said this at the time of attaining the Leadership.

    This is the Caine Mutiny, Rudd is Queeg, Gillard is the Van Johnston character, Wayne Swan is Fred McMurray, Shorten is the Robert Francis character. Bruce Hawker is certainly no Jose Ferrer but what are you gonna do.

    Hawker is titled “Labor Strategist” how can he be so wrong so often?

    “then there were the strawberries”

  4. Will you be in Canberra on Monday, Bob?

  5. I find it simply amazing that as dysfunctional as Rudd was/is supposed to be, that it was thought politic, harmless,a mere bagatelle to give him the Foreign Affairs Ministry. It is a measure of how insular Australia has become. I can still remember the position of Foreign Affairs Minister was more sought after, within Cabinet than that of Treasurer, a most coveted Cabinet post, high profile, glamorous and powerful. This was fobbed off to a party enemy to keep him out of the country, out of sight, out of mind.

    With the Arab spring, Iran, Syria, the European Financial Crisis, the Government decided to indulge themselves by giving Rudd a hobby, who knows what damage has been done, what promises undertaken by someone others credit a lunatic?

    • I suppose it was an attempt to get him on the inside of the tent pissing out rather than on the outside pissing in, as the saying goes.

      Being a failure as CEO does not mean that a person would not make a good director; and if Rudd had any great expertise it was as Foreign Minister. As ‘the hermit’ pointed out to me he “doesn’t mind Rudd going overseas, it is just that he keeps coming back.”

      And I agree.

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