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June 25th 2010 print

John Izzard

Night of the long stiletto

We have a new Prime Minister. Not the one that millions of voting Australians chose, but the one picked by Bill Shorten and David Feeney from Victoria, Don Farrell from South Australia and Mark Arbib from New South Wales. Don’t you just love democracy?

As a sporting nation it seems only natural that the public should want to know the scores — the numbers by which Julia Gillard won the Prime Ministership of Australia and the numbers by which her adversary, Kevin Rudd, lost it. 

This was not to be. Kevin Rudd decided to throw in the towel, rather that stand his ground. So Julia will never be sure of the measure of her support. 

Kevin Rudd’s fall, which could be best described as “the night of the long stiletto”, seems to have begun in that arcane world of the loyalty-lite Labor party faction system and powerful union bosses. It was their first ever attempt at queen-making. Subservient Labor members duly fell into line and, hey presto, we have a new Prime Minister. 

Not the one that millions of voting Australians chose, but the one picked by Bill Shorten and David Feeney from Victoria, Don Farrell from South Australia and Mark Arbib from New South Wales. Don’t you just love democracy? 

But at least the media was on the job with various descriptions ranging from “Labor’s shadow men stuck knife into Rudd” to “Hit squad behind Deputy’s push”. Don’t you just love democracy?? 

The whole business, as described by Tony Abbott, was the old midnight knock on the door. It was also, like her namesake’s, Julius Caesar’s exit , a nasty, bloody business. Ministers and Labor members singing the praises and vowing the loyality to Kevin Rudd one minute, wiping the blood onto their togas the next. No matter how much a person disliked his manner and his policies, as a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd deserved better. He deserved respect. 

With John Howard, at least his colleagues stood by him to the end — even though the polls, and their instincts, told them of an impending loss. John Howard never had a et tu Brutus moment. Julia Gillard is, without doubt, Kevin Rudd’s Brutus. 

A glimpse of what we can expect from Julia Gillard was revealed in her Oscar winning interview last night on Kerry O’Brien’s ABC. When he tried to strut his stuff during Gillard’s first 7.30 Report interview, she, well, to put it crudely, she creamed him. 

What was obvious was the lack of the Lachlan Harris spin control. Julia Gillard’s new style (if it lasts) was extraordinary. It was a new technique. She actually answered questions without the repetitious spin-answering that has been the want of the Rudd government. Her answering ploy though was to pick on a word used by O’Brien — and then say that she didn’t agree with the proposition stated in the question:  

KERRY O’BRIEN: So hard then if you became friends was it to plant the knife. 

JULIA GILLARD: These are difficult things Kerry. I’m not going to adopt your description in your question. 

Get the drift. No spin. Just deny the basis of the question. And so the best ever Gillard interview progressed. 

But what now? Well the parameters of this year’s election are basically set. The Resources Super-Tax, the ETS, the BER, Batts, and the handling of the GFC (the spend-up). What isn’t at all clear is how the Abbott/ Gillard bout will play out. At this moment it looks as though it will be a Miss Australia versus a Mr Australia contest. 

Tony Abbott has a much slicker and political astute opponent to fight than he had in the predictable Kevin Rudd. Abbott needs a clear and credible story to tell about what he will do as Prime Minister and, more importantly, what are his dreams and aspirations for this country. Missing to date is an Abbott philosophy. 

On a lighter note is the upheaval about to hit The Lodge. Is her partner to be known as the “First Man”, the “First Bloke” or the “First De facto”. The country has never experienced a “consort”. The women’s magazines are going to love this and daytime TV will be ecstatic. Julia Gillard says she will stay in her Canberra flat and in her Altona home in Melbourne until after the election. This seems to invite a security nightmare for the nation’s leader. 

Meanwhile, back at Kevin Rudd’s office, a thought for the Hollowmen in publicity and policy. They must be feeling a bit like bugs on the windscreen of life. Lachlan Harris with no more tall tales to spin. The 30-year old’s looking for a job. 

The final question Kerry O’Brien put to Julia Gillard last night was about her hero in politics, the Welsh politican, Nye Bevan. (The ABC transcript calls him “Nigh”.) Gillard said: “You’d expect me to pick a Welshman that had had sought to make a difference to peoples lives with vital services, in his case health services.” 

Nye Bevan’s most famous quote was : 

No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep and burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.  

And we thought last week was exciting.