Optimism is in the Air

November 30, 2007 at 1:45 am (Uncategorized)

I think part of my sadness at not making the Varuna long list has been offset by my genuine euphoria over Kevin Rudd’s successful tilt at the top job. I thought I was teary only at the thought of him losing, but I choked up equally Saturday night and Sunday at the sweet realisation that he’d won.

Why? Why has this politician and this election meant so much to me? Kim Beazley never had me reaching for the Kleenex. And even recalling my childhood memories of him with great affection (no one will ever forget the morning of our America’s Cup win), I always used to think Bob Hawke was more classic Aussie caricature than man. Only Keating had and continues to have a similar affect on me – I just fundamentally believe in his vision for the future of Australia (and as a new and unsupported university student, I was terrified of John Hewson’s push for upfront fees), and perhaps that’s what I am sensing in Rudd. Someone I can put my faith in. Of course, Keating has been a vocal critic of Rudd, or more specifically members of Rudd’s team, and Keating is hardly the picture of perfection either way (although by George the man has style – please tell me Llew and I aren’t the only ones who saw Bill Leak’s hysterical cartoon of Keating joining Rudd and Howard in the ring? Keating’s wearing a Zegna buckle on his boxer shorts, Leak’s little devil always in the sublime detail. God that man makes me laugh out loud – the 15 round fight series should have won him last night’s Walkley for best cartoonist but somehow didn’t), but who expects any politician to be the answer to every single one of our prayers? I don’t. Rudd’s just a man, of course he’s just a man, but I think he’s a good man, and I know he’s a smart one. Two ticks already as far as I’m concerned.

Faith is an interesting part of the equation with Rudd, because he has it in spades. He’s very knowledgeable about his faith (as anyone who read his fabulous essay in The Monthly over a year ago will attest), but he’s still able to rationalise and interrogate the role of organised religion, and keep that strident proselytising some people go in for completely out of his frame of reference. As someone who is not religious at all, I admire that very much. It’s a mark of his integrity and his intelligence that he doesn’t presume we all secretly need converting to his way of thinking.

Now that his new ministry has been announced, there’s even more reason to believe that this guy is the real deal. He’s ignored factions – as he absolutely must if such petty but damaging squabbling is to be rendered permanently impotent – and he’s been unafraid of demoting people from the front bench. Bravo, Kev, it’s a good start. Then there’s obviously the rise of people like Penny Wong to critical positions (her portfolio could not be a bigger endorsement: climate change and water). Rudd has named a record 7 women in his cabinet, and Julia Gillard has quite literally been given the job of two men. This fact in itself is not enough – clearly the weight of expectation rests on all these women. They must perform. They must out-perform. But he’s chosen some bloody smart cookies, some very real talent, and it’s exciting to see government finally catching on to something the business world already knows: women are awesome contributors, and they’re already well accustomed to working like hell.

The whole picture in these first days is looking good. The image is sharpening, coming into focus, and as it does I feel myself taking tiny little hopeful steps toward the future, like a small child who won’t stumble across the room unless there’s someone waiting on the other side they’re sure they can trust.

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