Desperately Seeking Perspective


The Kevin Rudd of a mere fortnight ago had a spring in his step and wore a bright, smiley face. He looked younger and (somehow) smaller than he actually is. Cuddly, some might say despite an awkward, fixed, half-grin that made me a little uneasy. Commentators affectionately compared him to cartoon characters like the ever-youthful cub reporter Tintin, or the equally ageless Charlie Brown.

More importantly, a fortnight ago, John Howard was looking (suddenly) older. His performances during Question Time were increasingly meandering and lacklustre delivered with his back to the TV cameras and facing his own back bench, rather than eyeballing Rudd across the despatch box and pinning the Opposition Leader to the back of his chair.

Enter Satan, stage left.

We have now endured a week of ‘revelations’ about the impressive breadth of Brian Burke’s breakfast, lunch and dinner assignations (no wonder he’s looking like a bloated Marlon Brando!), and the extensive reach of his ‘little black book’. The clichés have been lying thick on the ground; the honeymoon is apparently over; the Rudd mystique has evaporated; a week is a long time in politics; Saint Kevin is mortal at last; and merely being in the same postcode as Burke is tantamount to ‘supping with the devil’.

Back in Federal Parliament, allegedly the coalface of our democratic system and our executive government, the shenanigans continue with Howard sooling his attack dogs, Peter Costello and Tony Abbott, onto Rudd. The viciousness of the attack reflects the desperation of the attackers. The Government smelled blood and with (we) media types feeding the frenzy, innocent bystanders, like Minister for Human Sacrifice Ian Campbell, were abandoned.

But, give me a break.

Can we please have a little perspective here?

The only planet we own is heating up in its own carboniferous waste; a thousand Iraqis a week are being blown up; various dirty little wars are destroying the lives of countless Africans; there are loonies in North Korea and Iran staring down other loonies in the US and Japan; HIV/AIDS has reached pandemic proportions in some Pacific nations; Indigenous Australians continue to live in abject poverty; and there’s the small matter of whether or not Australians would like to do something to ensure we have a river system that flows in a westerly direction by the end of the next century.

Thanks to Paul Batey

These issues are or should be first-order issues. Burke’s prandial behaviour (with or without Rudd) is, at best, a sideshow alley down which Howard and his spinners want to entice us. It is a distraction from the many real and difficult problems we ought to be discussing and wrestling with.

Rudd clearly made a tactical mistake by meeting with Burke when the former was a Shadow Minister. He’s admitted it and apologised. Until there’s any further evidence that Rudd promised Burke favours, preferment, influence or a nod and a wink, then maybe we should re-focus on something important.

Interestingly, the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian on Tuesday 6 March, gives Labor a massive 14 per cent lead on the Coalition (57–43) on the two-Party preferred comparison. It also gives Rudd a still-healthy, but diminished 7 per cent lead over Howard (45–38) on the question of who would be the ‘better PM’.

The Newspoll was conducted over the previous weekend (2–4 March), so the Burke-Rudd ‘affair’ would have had some effect on the results although we will probably have to wait a while for the full impact of the story to filter through.

The sanest part of the poll, I think, was that at least 17 per cent of respondents said they were ‘uncommitted’ about who might be the ‘better PM’. There is such a long way to go before we put a tick in a box — including the forthcoming mother of all pork-barrel Federal Budgets — that to even worry about who had breakfast with whom in the shallow political gene pool of Perth almost two years ago is, at best, a third or fourth-order issue. I suspect, most voters are trying to remain as disconnected as possible from the ruckus in the sandpit we call Canberra.

The best that can be said about the whole sorry episode is that it briefly brought Paul Keating back onto the airwaves. The former Prime Minister, talking on 6 March on Virginia Trioli’s ABC radio program, described Howard as a ‘dessicated old coconut’ who would have to dig his way up a few kilometres to get anywhere near Rudd’s ethical and moral standing. Keating then dismissed Costello as ‘all tip and no iceberg’.

There’s perspective to burn.

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