Sunday, 19 February 2012

THE DEVIOUS GAME (Spectator leader Feb 18)

“The truth appears to be different.” With this polite turn of phrase, as quaintly euphemistic as Spycatcher’s notorious “economical with the truth”, Four Corners reporter Andrew Fowler identified the cancer at the heart of public life that threatens to terminate two Labor leaders and the current government.

Yes, there is (as we maintained last week) a large element of “beat up” in the media’s current obsession with the foreign minister’s so-called “dirty war” against his boss. First the print media, now television, have supped of the poison in order to satiate their audiences. And yes, all political parties have their leadership dramas; rivalries that are fuelled by rampant egos, relentless ambition and ancient hatreds. At the uppermost echelons of politics, there are no cleanskins.

But never before has the feud been so lopsided. Where Hawke kept Keating at bay for many years, or Howard wore down both Peacock and Costello, the sheer ineptitude of Julia Gillard in dealing with Kevin Rudd’s wily tactics has – to borrow an old British advertising slogan – succeeded in turning a drama into a crisis.

Through her own lamentable judgment and poor acting skills the Prime Minister has repeatedly fanned the flames of Kevin’s mischief-making. An improbable media-fed leadership challenge is morphing into a fully-blown political disaster before our eyes, all of the Prime Minister’s own making.

There are simply too many lies now for Gillard to seriously regain respect in the eyes of the electorate. Her integrity and credibility are in shreds, bringing to mind the old gag about TV producers: “How do you know when the PM is lying? Her lips are moving.” From the Rudd coup to the vile events of Australia Day, brilliantly exposed by Chris Uhlmann on 7.30, the public are now daily being fed an indigestible diet of sickening political intrigue and back-stabbing.

Watching the speculation on Four Corners, it is reasonable to assume that the coup to oust Rudd was mounted with Gillard’s full connivance two weeks prior to June 23, 2010. Beazley was briefing the Americans on it as an act of revenge on Rudd, with Richo in on it up to his eyeballs. Despite the Labor powerbroker’s glib protestations, the public doesn’t really care whether it was by “this much” (thumb and forefinger held close together) or “THIS MUCH” (hands wide apart.)

Equally, the public won’t have bought Kerry O’Brien’s line that Rudd wasn’t interested in appearing on the program. The wide-eyed excitement in Therese Rein’s eyes outside the church told us all we need to know about her “happy little vegemite’s” innocent involvement.

To the viewer, it’s now just a fascinating soap opera that will end in the inevitable end-of-season spectacular disaster at the next election, NSW-style.

In the meantime, will Kevin get a second crack at the big gig? Will Julia tough it out? Or, as our columnist Mark Latham – someone only too familiar with the players – suggests in this issue, will a Third Man come through? Stay tuned for the next episode.

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