Kevin Rudd: The Ultimate Media Sponge

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Well, in retrospect – surely one could have predicted this.

Past performances would tend to indicate that any time there is clear air in federal politics; the dark Rudd-clouds roll in from the north and quickly rain on the ALP parade.

The second day of the 44th Parliament (the first real day considering that day one was hilariously ceremonial) started relatively unexceptionally. Members of Parliament convened, argued about debt, foreign policy, climate change legislation and taxes. To summarise, the politicians debated policy. Gasp. But Rudd sat, biding his time. Knowing that he still had a revelatory ace up his sleeve.

It was not until early in the evening that Kevin07 / 747 / 24/7 rose to his feet and announced to the House of Representatives that he was retiring from federal politics. Tony Abbott himself had to rush back to the chamber in order to be present. Reports indicate that dear old Albo was the only one who had any idea of what was about to happen.

Seriously, Rudd had to wait right up until the start of the new parliamentary term to make this announcement? This was the first chance for real debate to be discussed and analysed in the media, however at the end of it all we were still talking about Kevin. The evening news and following day should have been devoted to debt ceilings (which, incidentally, are redundant in Australia as far as I can tell), asylum seeker policies and the carbon tax repeal – but instead we were forced to sit through painful tributes to the man who has been an attention-seeking missile for as long as I can remember.

Bill Shorten’s largely unscripted response (how tricky would that have been to craft with less than 10-minutes’ notice?) was made slightly less awkward by the fact that he had eventually supported Rudd’s return to the Prime Ministership only a few months ago. Surprisingly, it was the new Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s words that seemed to be most genuine, with a heartfelt thank you for the apology to the Stolen Generations.

Kevin Rudd’s path through the last seven years is strewn with the political carcasses of a number of people. These include, but are not limited to Nicola Roxon, Craig Emerson, Greg Combet, Peter Garrett, Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson, Stephen Smith (the ultimate shit-sandwich eater, poor guy) and of course Julia Gillard. Many of these people nailed their own coffin in the end, but they certainly weren’t hindered in that task by the Ruddbot. I wonder how many of them were throwing shoes at their television watching the footage of him tearing up and being applauded.

There’s no doubt that the Labor Party will see Rudd’s resignation as an overwhelming positive, although I don’t think they can realistically expect for him to fade quietly into the background. I’m sure he’ll be back in front of the camera in good time, possibly crafting a career as the next ex-politician media commentator. I can only hope that they pit him against Mark Latham on an Insiders-style panel show – now THAT would be worth watching.

Now, it really is time for me to … refrain from punching the television screen in frustration at having to watch Kevin Rudd saying the ‘zip’ line for the 100th time.

 

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Gillard: The Telemovie

It’s not often that I say political drama is too much, but when it crosses the boundary into actual, proper, scripted drama – I have to protest.

The Australian has just reported this afternoon that Rachel Griffiths has signed on to play the role of Julia Gillard in a new television drama. The Melbourne TV production company WTFN (an appropriate name under the circumstances) has acquired the film and TV rights to Kerry-Anne Walsh’s book, The Stalking of Julia Gillard.

Oh dear.

Perhaps it is just me, but I can’t think of any form of film adaptation of the period of federal politics between 2010 and 2013 as being anything other than a tragi-comedy, particularly as those involved are still Members of Parliament and essentially employed to represent the Australian public. Film adaptations of historic political events such as Hawke and Curtin were made many years after the events in question – at least enough time had passed for the viewers to be able to disassociate from the story being told.

No doubt, there were some incredibly tense and dramatic moments during the Rudd / Gillard era – however there were also many points at which the entire situation descended into farce. I’m unconvinced that it will be possible to adequately convey the tension (and not to mention the clear confusion) within the Labor Party with all of the events so fresh in the minds of the audience.

Another interesting consideration will be in the details of the reasoning behind the various leadership changes. The drama would be inaccurate if it did not focus on the role of the factions and the intra-party politics in both Rudd1.0 and Gillard’s demise, however the inclusion of a Bill Shorten character will presumably be an extremely unappealing prospect to the Labor Party.

My final reservation is potentially a bit controversial. How do you portray the character of Julia Gillard without appearing to mock her? Presumably Griffiths will don a red wig, but what of the other physical (and vocal) features of our former Prime Minister? If you ignore them and just plonk the actress as she is in a two-piece skirt suit in the House of Reps with a standard Australian accent, the underlying message might appear to be that you could not convey the right dramatic tone trying to recreate the character too closely. This is akin to saying that Gillard as she is cannot be serious (and as such we may have hit upon one of the least fair aspects of her struggle to be taken seriously as Prime Minister).

The other end of the very pointy stick is that Griffiths in a body suit with a Crocodile Dundee drawl would almost certainly be ridiculous.

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All of this ends nowhere in particular, other than with the thought that perhaps we should let this particular history become a little less recent before we move in for the docudrama kill.

What’s certain is that this is just another distraction that the new opposition could do very well without – on top of all the campaign post-mortems, tell-all books, Mark Latham-spats and other hyphenated kicks in the teeth.