11 September 2013

When Rudd disappears

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where -" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"- so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question.

- Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Kevin Rudd will leave politics when the media stop listening to him en masse. He will not go when this or that commentator says he must. He would not go if a clear or even overwhelming majority of the refashioned Labor caucus begs him to go. When the Canberra press gallery stops listening to him, he will have to find other avenues to get his message out, and that will involve him leaving politics.

All any politician wants is to be quoted in the media (except Jaymes Diaz, perhaps, which is why he hasn't been elected as a politician). Over the past three years Rudd and Tony Abbott achieved that without having much to say. There was the Gillard government, churning out detailed policies over, well, everything across the gamut of federal government really; Rudd and Abbott ignored them and insisted that they could do better. They didn't need to offer any proof because the press gallery took them at their word.

Imagine what it must have been like in the press gallery just a few weeks ago: see the poor beleaguered scribes staggering under a weight of detailed policy documents issued by a reforming government. All of a sudden one looks up and squeals: "Look everyone, it's Joel Fitzgibbon!". Nek minnit poor Joel is running away, professing his loyalty to the ALP and its leader, while the press gallery pursues him like the opening scene from A Hard Day's Night. Hysteria and ill-considered blather in the politico-media complex makes Rudd possible. Once that dies away, or changes focus, the environment that nurtures Rudd becomes hostile to him.

What's changed? Today's slow-media assault suggests that anyone from the ALP who wants to go on about their party's leadership for old time's sake will still get a good run. I was astonished at how cliche-stonkered and generally badly written this was, and it was by no means the worst of the commentary on this subject. So long as this continues, the idea that Rudd might simply opt out is the product of people who don't understand politics and have no business commentating on it.

Labor people have no more control over the press gallery now than they did when in office: they can't force them to ignore Rudd. People who follow politics closely can stop reading stories about Rudd, but press gallery journos care nothing for what people actually pick up on (this is poorly measured by clickthrough rates). One day the press gallery will decide that Rudd is no longer a story.

You won't see them run stories like that because they have no capacity for self-reflection: banal campaigns are the parties' fault, or even your fault; never than that of journalists, toward whom campaigning is tailored. Rudd was elected leader last June at the very point when the press gallery had started to 'play down' the prospect that he might challenge at all.

Leaving aside recent history (post-Keating) in the federal ALP, and final years of the Democrats (where, befitting a party of ex-teachers, Everyone Must Have A Turn), most leaders depart when defeated. Malcolm Fraser was the last party leader to have a problem with ex-leaders hanging around. In the late 1970s he gave John Gorton and Billy McMahon GCMG knighthoods. Gorton took the hint and was gone within weeks. McMahon didn't, leaving at the worst possible time (the 1982 by-election for McMahon's seat of Lowe was a harbinger of defeat for Fraser's government).

Rudd won't leave because his party want him to, and nor would his timing be influenced by his party's best interests. Labor have to consider whether a by-election loss would be worse than having Rudd stick around.

When and if the press gallery brush aside Rudd and his minions, and run stories that relate in no way to what they say, do, think, or want, then he will be extinguished politically and, in a way perhaps, personally.

When Rudd leaves politics it will take the press gallery by surprise. Even Peter Hartcher has deserted him and is unconvincingly currying favour with a new government that doesn't need him. The gallery will have no right to be surprised, and they will lose credibility for being caught out on a matter which is eminently forseeable and which 'insiders' exist to get across; there will be the usual excuses about "24 hour news cycle" (which rarely affects the press gallery anyway) or whatever. Basically insider journalism is little more than a make-work scheme for 'insiders' and not nearly as valuable (or even as valid) as they would like to believe.


  1. The trouble is Andrew, the press gallery will still pick up anything on the Rudd scent as any hint of a story or opinion piece along that theme is much easier than writing about real things such as policy. I think Rudd needs to go but a by-election is probably not what Labor needs right now. I suspect he will call it quits sometime next year when, as a bog-standard opposition backbencher, he can no longer demand any attention to himself.

    Insider journalism is a make-work scheme eh - hmm, I prefer to call it a circle jerk.

  2. My wife and I live in Griffith. She became an Australian this year, so this election was her first. She voted for Kevin Rudd. I voted for the Greens, but gave him my second preference. As a result of decisions like hers and mine all over the electorate, Rudd retained his seat.

    Now I think it was wise of him to step down from the leadership - but until he resigns his seat, he remains MP for Griffith. That's the way we like it. And if deadshits like Emerson or incompetent journos like that Hoopla author don't like it, they can drink a steaming hot cup of STFU. They don't live here, do they?

    No-one has to respect Rudd. But respecting the choice of electors such as my wife is another matter. That's why I'm a little angry about the situation.

  3. I suspect his trajectory will largely mirror that of Costello post 07. Even his ego must now accept that he'll never be PM again

    1. KnifeySpoony, common sense would tell you that. Common sense also told me that Rudd was finished after losing the leadership and failed challenges, particularly the Crean directed non-show flopperoo.

      My common sense now tells me that Rudd is going nowhere. Where could he go? Diplomatic posting for the Mandarin speaker? Hardly. Nothing comes to mind said Julie Bishop airily. How on earth would the Libs appoint a man they have proclaimed as having a severe personality to an overseas posting. China anyone? He called the Chinese ratfuckers.

      No Rudd Reminds me of Steerpike, the kitchen boy who built his power base in the shadows of the mighty and gloomy castle of Gormenghast. Imam going to dig out Mervyn Peake's illuminating trilogy. I am confident it will cast more light on politics in Australia than anything written in the Meedja.

  4. Rudd still wants to recreate the Labor party, so from now until the ALP convention when they throw out his plans, he will send out his men to the media.
    And the ALP will need to throw out Rudd's plans just to have a chance of finally letting him know it isn't the Rudd party.
    Look at the mess the Labor party is in today, the possibility of a month without a leader. All thanks to the grandstanding of his triumphant return, the overthrow of Gillard and the demand that caucus agree to the 'Rudd reforms on leadership'. All played for the media at the historic Balmain Town Hall.
    Hasn't that worked out well in the harsh reality of the loss of government.
    And look what happened today 3 backbenchers with the whacky idea of trashing the Gillard ETS. Now where would that have come from, not Albanese, Shorten, Plibersek, Dreyfus, Butler, Burke, no just 3 backbenchers Champion, Husic, Marles known for running the Rudd agenda to the media.
    So hopefully Labor caucus can sort out a leader and then plod on until their convention, where finally they vote to end the Rudd reforms and his hold over any delegates. That would finally end his influence in the media.

  5. VoterBentleigh12/9/13 8:36 am

    The circumstance which bothers me about Kevin Rudd was his speech when Labor lost. It began very well, but by the end it left me with the distinct impression that he has not given up his ambitions completely (the same impression I had when he stood in the corridors of Parliament House, surrounded by a group of female ALP MPs, saying that he would not contest the leadership). The Coalition have not had the landslide win that was predicted and if Abbott becomes unpopular, there is a strong possibility that Kevin will have another attempt at the leadership. I suspect that this is why Monica Attard says: “Even if Kevin Rudd is as quiet as a church mouse on the backbench …. , he will remain the man to watch.”

    Rudd has been smart enough to alter the rules such that a Labor Prime Minister cannot be ousted from the Labor leadership, but an elected Opposition Leader can be replaced more easily.

    There is no problem for Labor if Rudd simply remains the Member for Griffith and represents his electorate, but if he undermines the ALP's leadership and agenda, as he did for Gillard, then the Coalition's position will become stronger.

    The one feature of the Coalition strategy that has worked to their advantage is the focus upon the divisions within the left section of politics. Instead of uniting against the conservatives, the left (the ALP, the Greens and others) fell straight into the trap. Right from the start, Abbott used both the internal and external divisions of the Labor minority Government to undermine their policy agenda. Because the leftist groups focussed upon what differentiated them instead of what they had in common, under an Abbott Government the refugees, the homeless and the disadvantaged and others all those left politicians claimed to be so concerned about, will be worse off. Perhaps those who support the different agendas of the left should think about that for a change.

  6. Steerpike Rudd is already briefing journalists acc to Craig Emerson in today's Oz. he has told three from that paper that he wants to be another Andrew Fisher and become PM three times. He described himself as a 'determined bastard'.

  7. I am really angry at the disrespect shown to Kevin Rudd. He took on the leadership of the party when the situation was really dire. He tried very hard to win but at least none of the ministers lost their seats. He left as a PM who did not get re-elected. He knew this would happen and gave it a good try. The people seemed to be totally brain washed by the media. There is not even one good word about him.

    And you Andrew are going on about Julia Gillard. She did not get the PMship through legitimate means. if she had called a ballot and openly won, the situation would have been different. She never got the support of people like John Faulkner and Lindsay Tanner. On top of that,under her watch, ministers came on TV and dumped on a former PM. This was unprecedented. I believe this is what caused people to get sick of Labor. Instead of being accountable for her actions, she Is now being held up by the media as some sort of saint. After being nasty and vindictive she has managed to be redeemed. Amazing !!!

    1. Lachlan Ridge14/9/13 3:30 am

      Not one jot of policy in your argument and a mountain of personality. We do not live in a soap opera, we live in a society. And Julia Gillard shits all over the last three Prime Ministers in terms of delivered policy outcomes that affect our day-to-day lives. If you want to follow politics as an abstract horse race or tribalism like football, or even a who-gives-a-fuck-what-John-Faulkner thinks, then good luck with that, because I am thinking about the future country my nine year old daughter will grow up in and that has everything to do with process and policy and fuck all to do with surnames.

  8. If Kevin Rudd had really done so, it would be head line news. And Craig Emerson, who dumped on Rudd last week on TV should be ashamed of his juvenile behavior. I think he must be jealous because he resigned from Parliament and is feeling bored. Is that why he is on the Hamster Wheel?

  9. Mr Rudd is nuts!!!




    Etc etc etc

    Do his children inherit the same traits i wonder???

    That Jessica Rudd seems obsessed with status and money as well looking at her twitter account..


    Lordy Lordy

  10. Even today some in caucus were texting to journos during the course of the leadership meeting.Will these idiots never learn.

    So the undermining and leaking will continue until such time as these traitors are exposed and weeded out.