I'd Like To Watch Me


Has it really been a year already? It seems only yesterday we were bathing in the warm afterglow of our new political dalliance, smoking a post-electoral cigarette and dreaming of our new life together with Kevin.

And hasn’t that new life been something? The country has changed so much in that one short year. It’s a lot like early 20th-century Russia, which was a backward, elitist society until 1917, when Lenin took the country by storm with his "1919" summit, which gathered prominent Russians together in Moscow to discuss the country’s problems and shoot people.

Likewise, Australia, in the past year, has been transformed from a country with powerful doubts about its place in the world and concerns over its treatment of the disadvantaged in society, to a country where it is slightly more expensive for teenagers to get drunk. The speed of change is dizzying.

Of course, although the overall impression of Rudd’s first year is that of a neverending orgy of social justice and rapidly advancing civilisation, there have been some slight quibbles around the edges. Take the Stolen Generations apology, for example. In its own right, it was a marvellous thing. It ticked all the boxes: justice, compassion, annoying Andrew Bolt, etc. But after all this time, it’s left us feeling a little hollow.

We should perhaps also take into account the matter of Rudd causing the collapse of the entire global financial system, but I think this was only to be expected, given that he is from Queensland, where people are a little slow and bad with numbers.

The minor matters of empty symbolism and catastrophic economic meltdowns aside, I would say the Rudd Government deserves at least a 9.5 out of 10 for its performance. The reason for this is simple: policy. Rudd has oodles of it. There’s Fuelwatch, for instance. Admittedly, this didn’t quite work out, but this was simply due to the intransigence of the pigheaded Opposition, which has for decades been trying to prevent anyone knowing how much petrol costs for obscure and sinister reasons connected with John Howard’s father’s service station.

Fuelwatch was a brilliant policy — we had tried taxing fuel, rationing fuel, not taxing fuel, exporting fuel, importing fuel, but never just sitting down and watching it. It was one of the most relaxing policies I’d ever heard of.

Then there was GroceryChoice, aka Grocerywatch. Revolutionary! It was like FuelWatch, only with groceries. That’s what they call fusion, and it blew Australia’s mind. It’s that kind of innovation, the ability to take one concept you’ve just thought of and apply it to the next subject that pops into your head, that sets Kevin Rudd apart from the great apes and small-target candidates.

And it’s this commitment to tough, hard, results-oriented policy that makes the Rudd Government’s next step so exciting. Having mastered the art of watching petrol and groceries, Kevin Rudd is about to start watching Kevin Rudd.

Reliable sources have it that the next few days will see the Government announce the imminent roll-out of Ruddwatch.

Ruddwatch will be a comprehensive programme aimed at providing working families with the most up-to-date and accurate information possible about Kevin Rudd. The website, www.Ruddwatch.com.au, will make all the information available at several dozen clicks of a mouse, so that we can all keep track of the PM’s fluctuations and determine whether we are getting value for money.

The website will also feature comparison charts with prime ministers of other countries, so that we can see which prime minister is the best choice for our own needs. For example, a user will be able to bring up a point-by-point comparison between Kevin Rudd and John Key of New Zealand, assess the relevant facts objectively, and gradually succumb to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. And so the business of government will be delivered directly to your laptop or Blackberry.

Ruddwatch will run on a formula that is quite simple. Each week, a crack team of experienced civil servants and ASIO assassins will visit Kevin Rudd and present him with a basket of goods. Rudd will then look into the basket and guess how much the goods are worth, for the chance to win fabulous prizes. His closest guess, without going over, will then be posted on the Ruddwatch website, along with a photo of Rudd’s latest meeting with a world leader who is attempting to mask his naked loathing.

Government sources are predicting people will take to Ruddwatch with the same enthusiasm they did the grocery site, which has made us so comfortable about grocery prices we don’t even feel the need to visit any more. It’s that level of informed indifference that Rudd wants to inspire with regard to himself, and we’re already well on the way.

As I said, exciting stuff. But questions remain. Sure, Ruddwatch sounds like the answer to all our prayers, but then so did Mark Latham. Couldn’t this money be better spent upon more important things, like 24-hour surveillance of John Howard or breeding smaller dogs? Does Ruddwatch serve the public good, or merely a political end? Will it improve the lives of the battlers, the workers, the lower classes, the single mums?

Moreover, what if Ruddwatch doesn’t please Rudd? What if, in the course of watching himself, Rudd discovers something about his performance that he would rather he didn’t find out? Will Rudd have the guts to call a Royal Commission into himself, and if so, will he accept its findings? Will Ruddwatch, in short, have teeth?

Let us hypothesise that Rudd, in his attempts to win the electorate over with his dashing observational ways, inadvertently reveals to the nation that he is a power-hungry obsessive conviction-free hollow cipher of a man driven by nothing more noble than the sickening fear of losing his grip upon an apathetic and ignorant populace.

(Just hypothetically.)

I fear that faced with that situation Rudd may just take the easy way out. Like so many of his predecessors, I fear that Rudd, confronted with evidence of his loss of integrity, would simply splash around a few tax cuts, have his picture taken with Cate Blanchett, and hop on a plane to Beijing, rather than doing the honourable thing and committing ritual suicide.

And that would, frankly, make Ruddwatch look like a bit of a joke.

Don’t do it, Kevin. Don’t make the beautiful, sexy Prozac-haze of your first year count for nothing. For God’s sake, keep watching.

Keep watching everything.

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.