Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rudd : I Have A Narrative

12.30pm : The prime minister speaks. He has a story to tell. A story of Australia, that is the Australia to come. The Australia he wants to make into a reality.

Kevin Rudd has finally found The Narrative. Or so we are told. He's going to speak for almost an hour. It's going to be hard to stay focused. There is carpet that needs to be Dysoned.

I will be breaking for coffee, and water.

12.32 : Why does the little bell to summon journalists attention at the National Press Club look like an oil derrick.

something about a baby...his suit...Hawaii?...Julia Gillard is going to wear a stupid shirt?..."it should be shared around"....his desk...dive shop as HQ..."don't fear, journalists"...."nowhere to run, nowhere to hide here in Canberra, Lachlan Harris knows where you hide" chilling...

Rudd winds up his stand-up routine. It's a grisly death. Stand-up comedians know this feeling, when jokes commit suicide as they leap from the lips. The tomb silence, the nervous laughter. Rudd is utterly unfazed.

And, oh shit, here comes The Policy....Incredible, I've lost track and all interest in only four seconds.

12.36 : The world economy has gone to shit, blame America for their insatiable lust for consumer shit and Brady Bunch scale housing for small families...negative quarters of economic growth...."economic challenges"..."decade of policy neglect"...Ow, take that former Howard government. You've been sassed.

"maximum downward pressure on inflation...A Rudd riff - "(The Howard government left behind) the second highest interest rates in the developed world..." "10 interest rate rises in a row"...."highest inflation in sixteen years...." The chorus is Blame Howard. Oh yes, we are going to hear these stats A LOT.

"assaulting the surplus"...Like it, very catchy.

12.40 : "No More Blame Game" let's blame the Liberals! "Liberal squandered mining boom on consumption"..."a tradition that recognises limitations of both market and government", he's talking about Labor..."challenges"..."fairer Australia"....challenges...21st century challenges...climate change. Challenges."

Global power, investment, innovation, wealth shifts to Asia region. "Energy security"...Thats why we're enhancing our ADF...threats - water security, FOOD SECURITY, more climate changery...."Armed forces need the resources they need.." ???....We don't hate America, yet, but we want to Love Up Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan...Future shaping, don't leave it up to events for the shaping of futures, we must pre-emptively future shape, now....

Mining will still pay our bills, for decades to come. Thank lots of figures on growth...

there is a bird in a tree outside staring at me

"Education Revolution!"....funds...".nation building infrastructure plan..." "increasing demand"...."struggling for training, work, dental, access to housing...." "family breakdown"...."weakening of community ties"..."social inclusion."

A neighbour is playing what sounds like an old KC & The Sunshine Band song. I fight the urge to go searching for lyrics to old KC & Sunshine Band lyrics.

"challenges"...."new way of governing"...."take Australians with us"....where?

Screw this, I'm breaking for coffee....

12.51 : Lots of good news on education. "arbitrary public league table"...."three central pillars of reform in schools"....great news, reform and more money for education. Make it happen...

Horrific revelation, Rudd is almost impossible to satirise. Unless you love Dilbert comics, and thought The Office didn't spend enough time making jokes about paperwork and filing.

12.55 : The room of journos and Labor front benchers look like they're sitting in a board room meeting. A very, very boring board room meeting. A numbing torrent of important numbers, stats, detail and promises wash over them, but all delivered with the enthusiasm and intensity of unbuttered toast.

"Greater Transparency"

"We should not tolerate underperformance." That doesn't sound good. School merging. "Tough action is necessary if we are to achieve real change." "Tackle Underachievement."

So schools must tackle underachievement while not tolerating underperformance.

Deploying resources.

This carpet is filthy.

Did I miss The Narrative part?

I must have. "This is serious business we are talking about today."

I will not tolerate underachievement in my underperformance.

RuddSpeak could be turned into a self-help manual. But you would need to read a motivational book first to get motivated enough to read it.


Suddenly, he's finished.

"I thank you."

The cream of Australia's parliamentary media now get to ask questions. This will be exciting. Rudd's going to get hammered. What about your promises to keep fuel and grocery prices low? What about rising poverty? How many jobs will you be willing to sacrifice to fight climate change?

First question....Education, league tables, feet voting.

Rudd makes no apology for that, that being the last point. Whatever it was.

"agreed standards." "Question to the part of the question." "Arbitrary national league."

"socio-economic profile."

"argy bargy."

Commonwealth landing.

Another Question. Tax, consumers, Woodside....gas impact...blame Nelson? Your choice.

Rudd is Captain Obvious : "No one likes getting a tax when they haven't had one before."

This is nowhere near as much fun as I thought it would be. Making Rudd funny is fucking hard work. Brendan Nelson and Alexander Downer wrote their own material, reams of it, every day. You barely had to search to find the Gold. With Rudd, you're waving a hand-held metal detector over a thousand acre field, searching for a bottlecap.

Another Question. Journo wants to know how, day to day, people are better off now then they were before Rudd took over. A decent question, but Rudd begins to answer so quickly he seems to have rehearsed it all in his sleep.

"Pathways to the future".

"Bread and butter concerns" "Bread and butter responses"

Broaden your RuddSpeak. Even the "sourdough and olive spread" crowd are concerned.

"shirking from argy bargy."

"if some people walk with their feet, that is exactly what the system is supposed to do."

I don't think Rudd even knows what that means.

More tackling of various things educational.

Another Question. Mark Riley has a dig about how much Rudd will have to spend on the Education Revolution, which appears to have become vastly more ambitious during the course of the Press Club address. "How much will it cost?"

Rudd's answer : unions, provisions for funding over forward estimates...

The bird is back in the tree. It's watching me again as it eats a bug.

Apparently, there will be no more handing over of blank cheques on education. "Conditional negotiations on quality education benchmarks." I smartly hid all the sharp knives before subjecting myself to this.

Rudd speaks in word chunks. "Into. Bigtime. Literally."

He's been reading. Too. Many. Blogs. Clearly.

1.14 : Another question. Is FuelWatch doomed? Christ, the fucking tedium.

I could finish this carpet before Rudd finishes his answer.

"lower tax to GDP ratio...." Rudd's relentless answer is attacked by a few "uhhhs" which appear to cause him mild surprise, or shock, but only for half a second. He quickly recovers. "A necessary fiscal discipline."

A grinding tsunami of numbers, cliches, statistics, action words, Rudd speak, the evolution of human language has hit a roadblock.

Another Question. Mathew Franklin from The Australian ups and looks ready to rip Rudd. "I like a bit of argy bargy, as well," Franklin says with a smug sneer. Rudd says, "I know. I've read your work." A subtle tightening of Franklin's face. Rudd managed to get a real laugh off him, from the other journos. Franklin mutters to his friend that Rudd is a "wiseguy". This will be a good question, please. Anything but education...

The question is on education. "...backing down to demands from the states...." The Fool. He gave Rudd the chance to ramble on about productivity, state vs commonwealth, additional payments, "structure of national policy politics" and how "we can't shirk this agenda anymore" or take the "heads in the sand" approach. A hopeless question.

1.21 : Michelle Gratten asks a question. Or three. "Is there a case still for making the fall in tarrifs recommended by the Bracks report?"

Here we go. "Slowing in growth across the economy"....

What a wasted effort this was. I should have known better than to think Rudd would supply anything even close to Comedy Gold. There is nothing, nothing...

Rudd's monotone voice drifts into background fog. My brain is so bored by what it's now hearing it allows me to listen through Rudd to the sounds of trees growing outside. There is mercy only in that it will finish soon...

And then,

"I'm A Free Trader. Always Have Been, Always Will Be."

Rudd just outed himself as a Free Trader. It sounds far more exciting than it actually is, but it is one of the few moments in the whole hour when Rudd seems genuinely excited. Just for a moment, and then its back to business as usual.

"stretch budgets further"...."engineered tariffs"...."innovative directions which are consistent with the nation's other priorities." "drive the family budget further."

1.24 - Another question. More education, state vs commonwealth. "What do you say to parents that might be alarmed" should schools close?

Rudd is ready...."agreements on the ground"..."outline clearly the criteria which may lead in that direction"..."if you're a bunch of mums and dads, and you see through the transparency measures I mentioned before...." "practical hard disciplines"..."for the sake of the kids"

1.26 : Another question. More fucking education. What is wrong with these people? They have no other questions, about anything? Even Rudd looks bored now. He hits play, and he talks, his voice drops and rises only slightly, like an empty boat on a mostly calm sea, back and forth, back and forth. Al Qaeda will soon learn this technique of speaking that Rudd has already mastered, so when they are captured by the Americans and renditioned, they can casually bore the interrogators into releasing them, within days.

"...transparency reporting arrangements"...."non-compliance with the basis of the agreement"...."We're not going to take a backward step."

1.28 : "Consultation...consultation...consultation...." Rudd actually said that word three times in a row. Is this his personal mantra? The one word he chants during meditation, instead of 'Ohm'?

"...Quantitative Investment"...."Qualitative Disciplines"....

"Human Capital"

"....prosecute this with full vigour, knowing full well there's going to be blowback on the way through..."

The ABC mercifully cuts the live feed.

So what was The Narrative? The mildly anticipated Rudd story of Australia's future that will carry us through this new century and see the nation rise only higher, to only greater achievements?

Rudd wants Australia to have the most skilled, best educated workforce in the world. That's the golden ticket for surviving, and rising, in the New Asian Century.

Education. Process. Procedure. Review. Reform.

And that's about it. Throw in some stuff about climate change, rebuilding infrastructure and using the Army to save drowning multitudes if climate change gets apocalyptical and it's done.

Review, Reform.

Perhaps this is why Rudd manages to poll so highly, routinely, in 'better PM' ratings. He seems to be nothing but a tediously dedicated public servant, thrust into the highest office in the land.

Australians mostly don't want to know every detail of what Rudd is doing, they just want him to do what they want all politicians to do. Shut up, do the job, get the job done, and deliver the bad news when necessary.

Pundits have repeatedly made idiots of themselves predicting when the 'Rudd Honeymoon' will end. They've been at that one for almost two years now. Rudd's popularity simply must fall soon, indeed plunge, but they don't.

Outside of the daily need for stories to fill newspaper pages, news websites and the evening news, Rudd hasn't had any real complete disasters. Not on the scale of stuffing up the delivery home of an Australian soldier killed in Iraq, for example. Or lying to the Australian people about not having committed soldiers to fighting in Iraq, when the truth had been known for months. Or locking up legitimate refugee children in desert camps until they're desperate enough to smash their heads against concrete walls.

And as for the 'control freak' tag, that has been exposed as guff by Rudd himself, having left the government in the hands of Julia Gillard for some 20% of his time in office.

Australians like their prime ministers to be boring, so they can ignore them. They like them to at least sound like they have everything under control. But they also don't expect miracles, and can be patient when they know changes are underway.

Review. Reform.

The Rudd Narrative remains unclear. So let's try constructing one from the above :

"I'm a Free Trader. I like a bit of argy bargy. We must make a Quantitative Investment in Human Capital through Qualiative Disciplines. Consultation. Consultation. Consultation. Review. Reform. Argy bargy."

Why are you still reading this?