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.”‘


‘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 …’


‘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.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Rudd wants to unleash an Arab Spring on Australia. People power. The serfs rise up for the people’s choice - Kevin Bloody Rudd! He is of course quite mad and supremely delusional. He is so wrapt up in his ego he is intent to do as much damage to Gillard and her party as he can muster. The blood runs free today with so much vitriol flowing from both sides. Is this the end of the Labor Party? If Rudd stands at all and I suspect he wont, but say he does and gets more than 35 votes he will snipe from the backbench until the next election and destroy the once great ALP. The Greens will become the dominant opposition force. Rudd is a supreme reckless lunatic who cares for nothing but himself.
    Prove me wrong.

  2. Gotta love “faceless men” being used by a Minister for Foreign Affairs, his whole world and its success revolves around “faceless men” determining the fates and futures of nations and peoples, life and death decisions in many cases. Do the people of Syria know the face of the Policy wonk that makes the policy recommendation to Rudd to back trade sanctions on the Assad Government? He must revel (and not him alone) in that type of anonymity, a star chamber that affects the course of history.

    • It is such an evocative phrase, is it not?

      It plays not to the Party but to the electorate, as if what he seeks is President of the United States.

      But before we write it off as delusional, what he seeks to do is to shake an MP or two free from the factions. He knows he does not have the numbers and that his only hope is to promote some sort of Messianic Momentum : The Second Coming of St Kevin.

      The pity is we don’t have a delusional Stake available at which to (figuratively) burn him.

      • And it backs Tony Abbott to the hilt DQ, should Rudd not stand or win or whatever, he has given numerous sound bites to the Libs upcoming election advertising campaign. Juxtaposed soundbites of McClelland vs Swan, Ferguson vs Smith etc etc. If I was Mark Texter or whatever his name is I would be putting a round of television ads right now.

  3. Rudd, as the star of the Royal Cock Tease is nominated for an Oscar. He plays the part of King Dick Head and he plays it perfectly. His method style, borrowed from the Yanks, is not well regarded by the local critics. The ending is reminiscient of the Quiet American. Done in by a rival who covets what he has (had) and rationalised by the greater good.

    Let’s hope Gilliard’s Emotional Truth runs deep enough for her to put this cunt out of public service for good.

  4. Mum and Dad have fallen out.

    Dad used to have all the power but he was a bully. Brilliant, maybe, but an absolute pain to work with.

    So Mum staged a coup, she got the house and custody of the kids, but her methods were underhand, and that was hard to forgive.

    She’s nicer to be with, of course, but she’s a bit sneaky, and she only really comes alive when she’s fighting against Dad, as if that were the Main Game.

    Now Dad’s back, with a new appeal. He wants his power back. He is the brilliant one, after all. As he gets older he mellows a bit. Can he be forgiven?

    Most of us have been through it, and we can’t look away, like watching a marriage break up in slow motion.

    Fortunately, its not all that important. Life will go on, the sun will still rise next Tuesday.

  5. There’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil.

    Good does not always triumph.

    Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

    Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have one.

    Kevin Rudd has reached his.

    And very obviously, he has gone insane.

  6. Yes, Rudd is destructive and possibly borderline in the top paddock department but;
    As you wrote yesterday, wasn’t Gillard back in that speech in Adelaide.
    Strong, decisive, a bit of controlled anger at both Rudd and a passing Murdoch journalist. A good quinella that.
    This may be what she needed to become, again, what so many of us saw prior to Prime Ministership.
    Maybe something to believe in again.

  7. Well, Bob, I am no admirer of Rudd but surely the fact that he has not been to a Playwright’s Conference or a Wharf Revue is not a bar to office. In fact, most of us have missed out on these wonderful cultural and intellectual experiences.

    If Tony Abbott starts going to these, will it make a difference, do you think?

    • Well if the mental dysfunction of Bob Ellis is any guide, Tony Abbott should stay well clear of any Playwrights Conference lest he too be afflicted with the same paranoia! As if Rupert hasn’t got enough to do than meddle in the political affairs at the arse end of the planet. Bob you are gifted in many things but your Murdoch fantasies are becoming a worry…

      • I’m collaborating on a series about him with a man who has read forty-two books about him, and believe me, there is nothing you or I could imagine that he hasn’t already done.

  8. Is Therese the new Janette Howard ?

  9. His use of the term ‘K Rudd’ is not an indication if insanity. It’s the affectionate way that young Rudd supporters, including myself, referred to him in 2007. He took it up as well and has been using it ever since, not just as of this week. It stems from rap/hip-hop artist names like “P Diddy” and the like.

    Give the man a break, at least on that stupid little observation even if on nothing else.

    • It is an indication of a bizarre personality if nothing else, to refer to oneself in the third person. And the fact that a nerdy man of his age embraced a ridiculous Gen Y pop culture term just compounds the offence.

      He can give himself - and all of us - a break by fading into obscurity to enjoy all the millions his wife made partly thanks to his government connections.

      Gen Y has a lot to answer for in having helped land us with this sorry Labor mess after years of good government under Howard. Guess they didn’t know how good we had it.

  10. Ruminating on Bob’s words last night, and how Rudd appears a “cuckoo in the nest”, got me to thinking that this is the generational change that Latham was talking about. We will see more Rudds, the divorce of the Labor party from the Union movement is now pretty much complete. The rise of the apparatchik to the helm without a sense of Labor history, or what Ellis refers to as the “vast hinterland” is par for the course. Latham could see that coming and the devestation that would cause and how it would leave the ALP forlornly standing alone in the middle of the dance floor.

    The rise of Rudd was the success of the Liberal conceit.Gillard is an unconvincing attempt at an ALP throwback candidate, and the electorate knows that and have rejected it, she and the ALP are a historical anachronism. Gillard is the success of Beasley’s middle management, getting things done, efficiency, getting things done, getting things done, that’s exactly how middle management comprehends itself, writing reports, taking recommendations, preparing briefs, ticking off lists, negotiation, bargaining, relationship management, and believing that is enough, that legislation = action = success.

    Rudd’s challenge (I think you see a man in the midst of a breakdown)is the ALP looking at itself in the mirror and failing to see a reflection.

    This would normally be a chance for a party to examine the entrails, but I fear at a closer look they will find nothing but a husk of a party, dried out, dessicated not a skerrik of blood or meat.

  11. Well said. I agree with all of it, except your spelling of ‘skerrick’.

    A lot of it is in Rudd’s voice. It’s the bedside-manner voice of a genial, beaming proctologist. The voice most like it, significantly, is that if his fellow Catholic boarding school product and party apparatchik Gerard Henderson.

    • Gerard Henderson’s voice like KRudd’s? Surely Gerard’s is lower-pitched and less nasally. He has quite a cute version of your ode to David Hicks on his blog.

      • Gerard is among us, calling himself Loula and using words such as “cute”.

        I don’t judge. I just wonder about the psychology.

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