Classic Ellis: Rudd Wins, 2007

(From And So It Went)

Election Day, 24th November, 2007, 9.05 a.m.

A still, sombre morning, heavy covering of cloud; threatening rain. I get through mounting traffic to a Cremorne school where Mike Bailey’s people are unhappy. There are posters of Rudd in abundance (looking like Chairman Mao) but none of Mike. ‘You can’t do this,’ I say. ‘It’s Mike who wins here, not Kevin. Where are some photos?’

‘We had some but the Liberals tore them down.’

‘Do you have any more?’

‘There’s maybe four more back at the office.’

There’s a wraparound poster with an ugly demented Peter Garrett saying, ‘We’ll just change it all’ hundreds of yards long blocking the view of anything else.

‘This is disastrous,’ I say.

10.20 a.m.

I drive in a frenzy through barping, building traffic, taking half an hour to go a mile and arrive in the office where two mouldy pictures of Mike Bailey are smiling at me. He may be the one who wins it, or loses it for me. I can’t believe this. I scoop them up and drive half an hour back, through patters of rain. Christ! It’s going to rain on the wedding. I haven’t written my speech yet.

I get to the school and try to put up the posters but there’s no sticky tape, or anything. Voters are coming in their hundreds, all of them Liberals, scorning our leaflets. Where do these people come from? There’s so many of them. ‘The clam-faced bearers of haemarrhoids,’ I call them. They sit in their rocking chairs behind their green shutters and come out once every three years to vote for John Howard and they all look just like him, the men and the women, and go back home for three years. Put on their cardigans, eat Vegemite sandwiches and play Kamahl’s Greatest Hits. Some of them recognise me. What are you doing here? Go back to your hippy friends on the Northern Beaches. What you said about Tony Abbott was disgraceful.

We’re going to lose this.

11.20 a.m.

Annie rings and asks, ‘What do you think?’

‘I think we’re going to lose.’

‘It’s better here at Bennelong. They bring you drinks and meals and it feels like a carnival.’

‘I don’t think we’ll even win Bennelong.’

‘It can’t happen again.’

‘It can happen again.’

‘And we . . . what?’

‘We survive again. We grow old under John Howard.’

‘We’ve already done that.’

‘We grow older. We make shift. We go on.’

‘Have you written your speech?’


1.10 p.m.

It’s all too depressing. Liberals have torn down the two Bailey posters and Rudd is beaming uselessly in the rain and elderly women are ripping up our literature. I go and sit in the car and attempt to write the speech.

I ring Hawker.

‘How is it?’

‘Look, it’s bumpy, but we’re okay.’


‘Yeah, I promise.’

I ring Mike in South Australia and he says, ‘We’re swarming in, digger. We’ll pick up four seats.’

‘Not five?’

‘Not five. I’m always right, as you know.’

‘You’re always right. What is it about you?’

‘I have a gift.’

4 p.m.

Sasha is at the wedding but not Mike, who is Vice-President of the ALP and has duties that keep him in Adelaide campaigning down to the wire. Bob Carr and Helena turn up, Les Murray and Val, Bill Maiden, Viv, Joel, high- school friends of the bride and groom and Stephen Ramsey with a videocamera. The rain has stopped and there are blooming blue jacarandas and red coral trees in the park below the Ensemble Theatre. Patches of sunlight beginning to warm up the vegetation. Tom is Jack’s best man. Alice, who is twenty-four, looks in her cream satin dress and white veil about fourteen. Jack in an ill-fitting suit looks more like me at that age than I expected.

There’s taperecorded music and for once a male celebrant who isn’t an upstaging dipstick. Eventually in the afternoon light, among the jacaranda blooms and red coral flowers and the long-stemmed spiky flowers whose name escapes me, I watch with awe as the two young people – my blood, my kin – face each other and say:

Alice: I promise to support you,
To be loyal to you, and stick with you through everything.
To be patient with you,
To cuddle you every day,
And to enrich your life as much as you enrich mine.
I promise never to take you for granted.
Thank you for making every day a special day, for making me feel safe, and for being my love, my very best friend, my home, and now my husband.
I am so proud that I’ll be your wife.

Jack: I’ll stay with you and
Look after you and
Be faithful to you and
Cook for you when you’re hungry and
Put my hand on your head to check if you’ve got a fever and
Write songs for you and
Splash water on you face when you get shampoo in your eyes and
Wait by the window for you to come home.
I promise.
I love you so much.

Then they kissed and were, as they say, united in marriage.

‘That was well done,’ Les Murray murmured. ‘Well said. That’s a nice girl.’

Bill Maiden, I and Bob Carr posed for photos. My two saviours and me.

6.30 p.m.

We went to the Yacht Club and did the speeches. Mine was less than wonderful, and Alice’s dad’s, Bob O’Keefe, from Lismore like me, rather better. There were other good speeches and a bridal waltz and some of us quit at six-thirty and went to the next room and watched television.

7.20 p.m.

The first returns look threatening but Mike Rann, ringing, says it’s early days. Giblin, scrutineering (and therefore absent from the wedding), says it’s going bad in Bennelong. Minchin on screen looks smug and hopeful, Kerry O’Brien unhappy, and we could fall short. Mike Bailey’s losing big in North Sydney. There’s a swing to Costello in Higgins. Downer close but safe in Mayo.

8.10 p.m.

It starts improving and seats fall in quick order. Parramatta, Robertson, Moreton, Longman, Kingston go and Eden-Monaro, Dawson, Deakin, Coorangamite and the magic number 73 is approaching. I’m drinking whatever is put in front of me and fighting the waiter who keeps changing the channel to Seven. I threaten to deck him and am dissuaded. I shout and refuse to dance. Then Bennelong goes, and everyone is shrieking


By eleven it’s over and Howard is graciously conceding (having said, ‘I’m dead meat’, we are told, half an hour before, with Janette in yellow smiling beside him, her eyes bespeaking unbelief in an almost primal way. This can’t be happening. This is not what I meant at all.

Some of Jack’s young friends propose a raid on Kirribilli House which is just up the road but are dissuaded. Viv can’t believe it. ‘Oh, Ellis, it’s all right, is it? It’s all right?’

‘It’s fine,’ I say. ‘We’re there.’

‘Oh Ellis. Oh Ellis.’

I am by then the drunkest I have ever been. ‘There are the days of miracle and wonder,’ I sing, or I think I remember singing.

Eventually I stagger out and Annie drives me the few hundred yards up the road to our private hotel.

I hardly make it up the stairs.

‘Well,’ I say. ‘It’s a new world.’

‘Yes,’ she says. ‘It is.’

I lie down on my single bed in my single room, in my wedding clothes, my shoes on, and quickly in a deathly rush am sleeping like a corpse.

I put Bill Maiden on the train at Milson’s Point after the wedding. My creator. As I slept I heard him again sing, before the East Lismore Boys School 5A class in 1952:

When I’m lonely, dear white heart,
Black the night or wild the sea,
By love’s light I’ll find thee,
Sad am I without thee.

Vair me oh oh ro van oh,
Vair me oh oh ro van he,
Vair me oh ro-ho-oo,
Sad am I without thee.

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  1. Ah, “Will Time just say ‘ told you so’?”

    Lets hear it for the honest social-democrats. What a pity there are not more of them in the ALP.

    Can Kevin Rudd possibly manage to ask Gillard to stay in Parliament? It would make such a difference even if she didn’t accept. He could then ‘own’ her record and run on such of it as seemed advisable.

    Really. They came to power in 2007 as a team. All this fuehrer prinzip stuff really does not suit labour. Without making excuses for the nefarious Murdoch it is the leadership obsession which makes the ALP vulnerbale to the Murdoch style smear.

    It would be silly to have Gillard (etc) back on the front bench for the moment but she can do good work on the backbench…and by accepting that retroactively take the sting out of Rudd’s term on the backbench.

    Politicians are always talking about being “humbled”….well, both Rudd and Gillard really would be humbled by making peace even now but it would be good for them and for the country. And like I say, there would be some beenfit even if Gillard didn’t accept.

    I know spelling doesn’t really matter all that much but the removal of the u from Labour did coincide with the final seel-out to neo liberalism….so, some snappy slogans for surviving social-democrats:
    “Put U Back in Labor”, “‘Labor’ - All it Needs is U’”…..

    • Or, she could resign from Parliament and thus keep to her stated intention but contest a marginal seat.

      The electorate loves to see politicians put policy and the good of the country first.

      Kevin, if you don’t read Ellis’s blog I’m sure you have someone to read it for you. For heavens sake do it, reach out to Julia and ask her to stay. f she has to resign encourage her to recontest. Its the high road, you know it is, and the electorate will like it. And she may win an extra seat in Reps or Senate.

      And even if she doesn’t you won’t them be vulnerable campaigning on, say, NDIS.

      For heavens sake do it.

      • I agree, Jeremy, Kevin should try and keep Julia.

        It would be a very stabilising look. A grown-up look, many women are lamenting losing Julia…

  2. Bob Ellis knows how to release the flood gates of memory. I also remember learning The Eriskay Love Lilt (lyrics quoted) in a classroom with a Bakelite radio tuned in to ABC broadcasts….with the amazingly energetic and charismatic Terence Hunt teaching kids around NSW the songs of the western world. (On days when there was a lot of static we all improvised!)
    Did you have an ABC music booklet as well, Bob?

    • Our school radio was a grey painted plywood box above the blackboard. We listened to Terence Hunt but I would never have remembered his name without your prompting. And there was John Dabron as well.

      • John Dabron did Art/ Craft programmes on the ABC. In our small school in the bush we listened enthralled to voices from afar via the ABC school broadcasts. Multi-skilling was alive and well at the ABC through the early fifties!

  3. I must admit I was never so pleased with any election result more than that in Bennelong.

    • Same here! It was a delicious moment when Howard was tipped out. “There was rejoicing throughout the land.” Good, old-fashioned, Old Testament retribution.

  4. this dribble just goes to show that lefties are off with pixies

  5. 24 June 2010 - Four legs good, two legs bad!
    27 June 2013 - Four legs good, two legs better!

  6. Coalition supporters 2007 : Four legs good two legs baaaad!

    Coalition supporters 2010 : Four legs good two legs baaaad!

    Coalition supporters 2013 :Four legs good two legs baaaad!

    Consistent, aren’t they?

    • Rudd’s been back less than a week and already it feels like he never left.

      We had Rudd the PM interrupted by a 3 year long TV commercial. One of those nerdy hectoring school teachers with a droning voice as she sprays around the toilet bowl.

      “Got too much Carbon? Spray this!”

      “Got misogyny? Use this.”

      Commercial break over, we’re back to the main feature.

      When is this show over? I want to watch the next feature with action man in the budgie smugglers.

      • Frank, do you think it is wise to put Mirabella out there to represent your side? Or is it better to put her back in the broom cupboard…try Kelly, Julie or perhaps Michaelia next time…what do you think?
        Better not? :wink:

        • I didn’t mind her on Q&A last night Helvi. She answered all of Pliberek’s questions despite constant interruptions from all the other Lefties on the panel.

          What I don’t understand is how can Q&A be stacked with so many coalition supporters, yet we never hear a question from them? It’s a mystery to me. Perhaps like me, they are too polite…

  7. On the Monday after the Labor victory in 2007, I had to go to an appointment at a skin disease clinic in East Sydney, where all the wealthy people of Double Bay and Rose Bay go to have their skin diseases and skin cancers checked. The patients and the receptionists there were in a tizzy. They couldn’t believe the election results. One young man said he couldn’t believe that the people of Australia had ejected the Liberals after they had given us such a good economy.

    • My cousin was very nearly in mourning over the lost Howard regime. I couldn’t resist a gloat or three. He’s been counting his chickens for over three years, waiting expectantly for Abbott to force an election . . . I have bad news for him! :lol:

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