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.

 

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.

Dirty and Direct

News reports today indicate that Labor may be considering “recognising the Abbott Government’s mandate” and rolling over on the issue of the carbon tax.

Early signs from the new opposition tended to indicate that they would fight tooth and nail to keep the tax by blocking it’s repeal in the Senate, even if it forced a double dissolution election. However even during this posturing, there were hints, the merest of signs, that this may not have been the view of the entire party.

In my opinion, Labor would be unwise to do anything other than let the repeal of the legislation go through. The carbon tax has been nothing but a source of intense political pain for the government ever since it was introduced following the 2010 election. This is after its very existence was strenuously denied by the then-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten would do well to take Julia Gillard as a perfect example of what not to do. Gillard was famously stoic in the face of intense criticism, however her judgement on when to dig her heels in was almost comically bad. Granted, I have the benefit of hindsight, but it seems to me that Julia had a knack for identifying which battles would wound her most grievously and then choosing those as the ones to fight most valiantly.

Kevin Rudd was of course the complete opposite. Running away from the ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’ was not his finest moment.

Shorten should recognise that, love it or loathe it, he is bound to the opposition side of the chamber for at least the next three years. During this time, he will have far more success tearing apart the Coalition’s Direct Action policy if he is not at the same time shackled to a tax that can be blamed for cost of living pressures. The beauty of opposition is that you can create stunningly detail-free policies that are not bound by the strictures of reality and claim that they will achieve pretty much anything. The next three years should be spent promoting a more effective and efficient emissions trading scheme (or whatever) that will far outstrip Direct Action.

The other benefit of ditching the carbon tax is that it is just one less link back to the dark days of Rudd / Gillard government. Obviously, Bill ‘Faceless Man’ Shorten would do well to erase as many of these as possible from the public consciousness. He’ll never get them all, there are still a few former ALP heavyweights yet to air their dirty laundry in public. Nicola Roxon gave hers a good shaking out a few weeks back and Bob Carr has just delivered his kick on the way out the door. Personally, I think Swanny’s will be a real treat.

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Hell hath no fury like a former Labor leader

Welcome back, Julia Gillard.

For those among us who love nothing more than to see a retaliatory slap from a scorned former politician, the news today that Julia Gillard has publicly criticised the new process for electing a Labor leader, post-election loss, as “a clumsy attempt” for bad leaders to hold onto power is very welcome.

You have to hand it to the former Prime Minister; her conduct during the recent federal election campaign was impeccable. The poor woman must have spent practically the entire five weeks indoors to avoid being questioned. A prospect made a little less unappealing given her most recent purchase.

Old house.

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New house.

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Gillard has been a woman of her word. She lost the ballot to Kevin Rudd and therefore packed her bags and left Canberra, never to return. She gave him clear air during the campaign, resisting all temptation to return the favour of leaking against him as he undoubtedly did to her in 2010. A task made easier by the fact that on some occasions throughout the five weeks, Rudd appeared to be leaking against himself.

Now that Rudd has lost the losable election and announced that he will not contest the leadership, more power to her (and any other former MPs who wish to stick the boot in). A call up that will undoubtedly be unable to be ignored by none other than the king of ‘I told you so’ on the topic of Kevin Rudd, Mr Mark Latham.

Latham is clearly unhinged and his criticism of Kevin Rudd as a “lunatic” who is “addicted to media attention” does tend to bring to mind pots and kettles. To his credit, however, he does stand by even his most outrageous assertions. Just ask him:

“In the months ahead, I plan to write extensively about the cultural decay of Australia’s oldest political party. Unlike Rudd, if I have criticisms to make, I put my name to them – a vital point of honour. I do not believe in off-the-record mischief and attacking people from behind.

This column, like every one of my columns in The Australian Financial Review for the past six years, has my name on it. It does not seek the snivelling anonymity of a Laurie Oakes leak.”

Excellent.

Career in politics? Not for the undecided.

Well I must have a work project due soon – because I’m sitting at my laptop, surrounded by stacks of printed out documents and a succession of slowly dying highlighters, studiously avoiding the task at hand. Procrastination extraordinaire.

Hence, a new blog. An outlet for all of the bizarre and occasionally inane thoughts that fill my head 99% of the time and inevitably peak when I have something else really quite important to attend to. Enjoy.

A new blog should start with a bang. Which makes my first subject something of a strange choice. No one could possibly claim that there was anything ‘bang’-like about the most recent federal election. The only remotely startling moment was the dawning realisation that Clive Palmer may ACTUALLY be elected to represent the people of Australia in the House of Representatives. I’m sure he’ll feature in my musings again, so I’ll leave that one for the moment. I’m also concerned that he’ll sue me or accuse me of being a Chinese spy.

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It’s all good Clive.

I must confess that I am a political junkie. I can’t get enough of it. Unlike most political tragics though (and probably much to most of their disgust and disapproval) I am far more interested in the personalities, media strategies, spin doctoring than the actual policies. I know, it’s sick. But I can’t help it. That isn’t to say that I don’t take a keen interest in some policies, it’s just that I much prefer to watch a brawl on the subject of negative political advertising than different types of fibre optic cable.

I’ve always toyed with the idea of trying to manoeuvre myself into a position whereby I could actually make a living out of this fascination. I already work in a vaguely related area – media monitoring for government clients – however I think that the real volatility and excitement lies within the political parties themselves. The main issue I have is trying to decide which side of politics to target.

It may sound strange, but I genuinely do not know which party I’d be best suited to. I have always maintained a ‘policies for policies’ approach (also known as political, as opposed to sexual, ambiguity). My ABC Vote Compass results were all over the shop.

I remember one piece of advice I received years ago from a former Labor adviser and journalist turned communications consultant. He told me that, while the Labor Party will only really consider people who live and breathe the party values, the Liberals are much more likely to take anyone with talent. I guess this explains Malcolm Turnbull, although I’m not sure how Kevin Rudd fits in. I’m not a union member, I can’t classify myself as coming from a truly blue collar / working class family and therefore I probably do not possess the necessary traditional Labor credentials. On the other hand, I’m also unconvinced that I possess any relevant talent that would be attractive to the Liberal Party either. Dilemma.

I guess I could target Clive or Katter, however I’m not a fan of humidity (sorry Bob – that rules out FNQ) and, despite the fact that I think Clive is far smarter and more politically adept than most people give him credit for, there’s no escaping the fact that he’s a raving, egomaniacal lunatic whose grasp on the English language is tenuous, at best. I’m surely not progressive enough for the Greens. I like to think that I’m relatively socially aware, however I’d rather shoot myself in the face than spend five minutes in a room full of Catherine Deveneys.

So yes, apparently I’ve ruled myself out of all of the parties. Which puts me right back to where I started. Hmm. I’ve wasted 20 minutes though – so that’s something.

And now for a political montage – one of my favourite things ever:

http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/content/2012/s3843847.htm