Peter Smith

Julia & Kevin

The on, off, and on again, ‘real and genuine friendship’ between Julia and Kevin is a marvellously enigmatic story that may yet have more twists and turns to further confuse and confound Tony Abbott and swing the election.

The simpatico between Julia and Kevin obviously runs deep. Kerry O’Brien did his best last Tuesday night to lay bare any enmity between them by asking why, ‘as an act of human kindness…in a spirit of friendship’, did she not call Kevin in his hospital bed before or after his operation. She explained that it was because she thought that ‘the best way of helping him’ was by ‘giving him a bit of time and space to recuperate’. I think we should all take a cue from this thoughtful and caring insight and stay far away whenever a family member or friend is in hospital.

Would Kevin have a place of honour at your campaign launch, Kerry asked. ‘Yes’, she said, ‘he would be honoured as a former prime minister’. [And if re-elected] ‘I want Kevin Rudd to be a senior member of my front bench team’. This must all be terribly confusing for Tony Abbott and could well derail his carefully-crafted campaign. As soon as he senses victory, the opposition changes shape and he has to recalibrate.

First there was Kevin who, according to Julia, inexplicably lost his way and went off track only weeks from the election. Then there was controlled Julia, a puppet of the faceless men. Then there was real and feisty Julia, sans faceless men. Now there is Julia and (a back-on-track) Kevin jointly campaigning; or should that read Kevin and Julia campaigning?

I bought the Australian on Friday and was taken aback to find a large front page picture of a smiling Kevin Rudd, Australian flags on either side, microphones at the ready to pick up his every word. Anyone who had been away on one of those get away from it all, remote location, holidays for a few weeks would have had no reason to think, as they picked up their newspaper at the airport, that Kevin had been cruelly and speedily deposed, and was now a humble back bencher.

With journalists following his every move and word, Kevin might be forgiven for thinking it was all a bad dream anyway. Perhaps he thinks he is still prime minister; and thinking that, might make it so. Sort of along the lines of, Je pense donc je suis, as the French philosopher Descartes said.

Nor might this be delusional. If the opinion polls continue to go badly for the government, Kevin could easily be drafted back in. The counting and calculation will be going on by those faceless men one assumes. Kevin and Julia to Julia and Wayne could become Kevin and Julia all over again. Maybe no one would notice too much. In any event, most of the media could be relied upon to say it was a brilliant tactic in all of the circumstances and the government deserves another chance.

You can appreciate Abbott’s problem. He had his man almost out for the count and tout de suite he was gone before the coup de grâce could be applied. He had Julia almost out for the count and all of a sudden she undergoes a metamorphosis and, to boot, her ‘best buddy’, who he thought was estranged, bitter, and in the wilderness, climbs into the ring with her, all smiles and raring to go.

But I thought you too didn’t like each other, he says, weakly, trying to clear his mind. Fooled you they say. We are indeed the best of friends drawn together by our unbridled and naked ambitions to save this country from you sliding and sneaking into power phoney Tony; they said in unison. It is not for ourselves that we put on this happy and united face but for hard working Australians.

You might think this is not very convincing, except to the simple-minded, but nevertheless I think Tony will need all of his super fitness and ex-boxer prowess to beat the reprogrammed duo: feisty Julia and back-on-track smiling Kevin Rudd.


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