A Master of the Adroit White Lie


You have, I’m certain, sorely missed the ruddy, lunch-eating spectre of Brian Burke in news media. But he who can lay legitimate claim to being one of the world’s most gastronomic disgraced politicians is back. Albeit in the form of a rather scruffy email.

As just about any paper was happy to tell yesterday, Prime Minister Rudd first accepted and then "diplomatically" refused an invitation by the former premier to a dinner whose menu items remain, sadly, undisclosed.

Apparently, Kevin soon realised a night with Brian could very well end up (a) on the tiles or (b) in the papers, and made his excuses. Actually, you can view the entire exchange here. It’s a text every bit as compelling as an endodontic pamphlet. In fact, a little less. When I read an endodontic pamphlet last Wednesday it, at the very least, helped me to grasp the nuances of the pain my partner was in. Root canal, as you ought to be counselled, is no trifling matter.

A lunch invitation, however, from Brian Burke is rather trifling. As I understand it, Burke blew the smoke of hospitality up influential arses with the gusto of a Catholic welcoming a new pope. As it happens, I sent him (rather unsuccessfully) an email suggesting he pursue a new career in restaurant reviewing. Given, of course, that his political career had flattened faster than an over-processed pea foam.

To date, I’ve heard nothing.

Although I’d love to critique Rudd, given that he’s had such a Best Boy time of it of late, I cannot on this count. The guy wriggled out of a dinner date with a questionable figure. And that’s it. Nonetheless, this trifle – or soufflé if you prefer – is lazily dominating headlines.

Actually, let’s call it a political amuse-bouche. Just to honour the elements of a true degustation.

If there’s a central flavour to this matter at all, it is not Rudd’s clumsiness as a politician. It is, in fact, his dexterity as a liar. I think we should all take instruction from the manner in which he politely reneged. Heavens. The times I’ve wished to blame DFAT and the Hong King Ministerial WTO meeting. The listless conversation and unfortunate pasta I’d have dodged.

Consider, in particular, exactly how germane Rudd’s language was in the case of his snub. He admits to being "stuffed around a bit" by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Obviously, this sporty choice of verb is custom-fit to the gaze of Brian Burke. He could have said "inconvenienced", "put out" or "disturbed". Instead, he chose language tailored to a bawdy West Australian.

I’d actually like to see Kevin’s other polite refusals to dine. Perhaps he’s refused invitations to Catch the Fire Ministries. "I’m sorry I can’t make it to your wine and cheese night. I’m sure you’ll have a great time flaying the homosexuals secured for the evening’s entertainment. Unfortunately, I’ve been stuffed around a bit by GATT."

Rudd, as we’ve seen, has flawless manners. He’s the only politician well brought up enough to know when an apology is required. And, if a genuine scandal ever erupts, he might consider another career as the author of scholarly etiquette books.

In the past, I have always turned to great Mesdames Emily Post or Amy Vanderbilt for succour. Now, we can all call on the master of the adroit white lie.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.