I don’t know what Paul Kelly’s on, but I’d like some of it.
In the Australian of 12 June, Kelly produced an incredible list of things that would need to happen if Kevin Rudd were to resume the Labor leadership and the office of Prime Minister.
I say ‘incredible’ not because they involve fundamental premises like, say, Kevin Rudd having a superhero’s mild superpower; nor are they calls for Rudd to introduce outrageous spending plans, like a space program for western Sydney.
No, what makes this list of things incredible is that they bear absolutely no resemblance to the Kevin Rudd that we have all come to know and love.
Here’s what Kelly says:
1/ ‘He still needs the party to come to him.’
Large chunks of the party have as yet shown absolutely no desire to have him back. Phrases like ‘psychopath’ are bandied about; threats of ritual suicide have been made. This is the Kevin Rudd described by James Button as ‘impossible to work with’, who ‘regularly treated his staff, public servants and backbenchers with rudeness and contempt.’
2/ ‘He must avoid becoming a fool to his enemies who want to elect him for a brief time to save their own necks and then dispose of him.’
Rudd has already been a fool to exactly those people. That’s why he’s now on the back bench.
3/ ‘He needs to say he will return to lead Labor in office or in opposition for a period of years. No quick fix, boys and girls. If you want me, then it’s long-haul.’
See no 1, above.
4/ ‘He needs to talk honestly to the Australian public.’
The Ruddbot? Fair suck of the sauce bottle. He’s Kevin, he’s from Queensland, and he’s here to help. Me too. 7.30 Report-land. F***ing Chinese translators. Programmatic specificity. The one thing Rudd never did – and probably will never do – is talk honestly to the Australian people.
5/ ‘Rudd needs to declare in Whitlamesque fashion that he intends to reform the Labor Party, its culture and structure, that he wants more democracy in election of the leader and he will reduce trade union influence from 50 per cent at conferences to 20 per cent or less, thereby embarking upon the most important reform since Labor’s formation in the 1890s.’
This is the best one of all. This is the kind of thing they must say at centre-right ALP dinner parties with trusted friends when they’ve really been on the Grange Hermitage. (I can imagine it gets a bit shouty at this point in the evening – tablecloths are jabbed by angry, pointing fingers; partners pat them reassuringly and say quietly, ‘You’ve made your point’.)
Can anyone in this country – apart from Paul Kelly – seriously imagine Kevin Rudd even standing in the same room as this noble program of reform? Kevin ‘centralised bureaucracy’ Rudd? The Kevin Rudd who introduced a huge program of unproven spending on an ‘education revolution’ that produced million-dollar toilet blocks?
But all is not lost. There’s one tiny fragment of Kelly’s article that stands out in letters of gold:
6/ …he needs to act with unforgiving ruthlessness.
Ahhh. Now, you’re talking about our Kevin.