There’s something really, really peculiar and disturbing about the Australian media’s sudden and wholesale negativity toward PM Kevin Rudd. Release the hounds! Something about this reeks – it’s just too slanted in his disfavour, too hysterical, too much, really. There’s the usual opportunism that one has come to know and revile about the very big business of delivering “unbiased reportage” (one of the biggest lies of any industry anywhere), because we’ve got an election year on our hands so let’s stir the profit pot, but it’s interesting just how stridently anti-Rudd the media has suddenly become. The man hasn’t had a positive notice in weeks. Meanwhile the press is feasting on opinion polls, gorging itself on Rudd’s broken promises with a relish that suggests it’s tasting political back-flip flapjacks for the very first time. It’s very strange.
His back down on a promised Emissions Trading Scheme has justifiably hurt him – I think everyone in the country, regardless of political persuasion, takes a pretty dim view of that, particularly as Rudd and his government made a lot of noise about their environmental vigilance and courageous frontiersmen action to SAVE THE ENTIRE PLANET. Oh, really? Well, now you just look completely gutless (in fact, some rightwing nut-job columnist has probably already suggested Rudd’s somehow smeared the ever-emotive ANZAC LEGEND with his lack of heroism in the environmental trenches). The ETS cave-in was definitely an example of over-promising and under-delivering, and it’s painfully obvious he’s pulled out of it now in the hopes that the ozone cloud hanging over his head will clear by Election Day. Surely voters can’t sit with a mouthful of sour grapes until then? Well, watch us. I do think this one sticks in the craw, and I don’t think anyone will soon forget that he rolled over, showing off sadly neutered nether-wares instead of the promised display of big balls.
But this morning’s unflattering comparison with ex-Labor leader and notorious buffoon Mark Latham? What? What are they talking about? How can anyone draw such a flimsy line between what Rudd said on the 7:30 Report and Latham’s well-documented fisticuff blowups? It’s just a blatant character smear, and one Rudd doesn’t actually deserve. I’m mystified by this headline, even more so having watched the footage online because it’s a total non-story. I don’t think he says or does anything inappropriate or hot-headed… I don’t fully understand why he’s being targeted like this, particularly not with so much hot air of the media’s own.
Because let’s not forget Australia comparatively sailed through the GFC. Our economy is in enviably good shape, while other countries are really struggling and no doubt scratching their heads at Australia’s robust health. Now, I didn’t love the Stimulus Package. Doling out money for yet more retail spending didn’t make any sense to me as a prudent economic strategy, it seemed grossly wasteful. Surely so much more good could and should have come of such gigantic spending than what we all suspect was just a cannonball run on flat-screen TV purchases. Sad. Pathetic, actually, if you really examine what it says about this country’s priorities and its fat complacency. But the truth is, we got through the GFC relatively – relatively – intact. The mood is optimistic. People are okay. Restaurants – a faultless index of consumer confidence in a country obsessed with food – are full.
So about what exactly are they foaming at the mouth? I can only think that if our economy was in the toilet, no one would have blinked at the back down on the ETS. The environment? Not now, Kev, can’t you see we care about the environment when we can safely afford to – right now we don’t really give two hoots! Just deal with the economy, would you? Economy first, environment second: there’s a good lad. It wouldn’t have been an issue. But because – and this is just my own speculation as I try to come to some sort of understanding of this toxic atmosphere, this new and potent stench attending Rudd’s every move – the economy appears to be in hand, well then, let’s get him, let’s really go to town. Is that it? It’s the only thing I can think of that makes any sense – the way’s been cleared for a full-scale attack because the biggest mountain – the GFC – has apparently been safely scaled. Why isn’t anyone – including Rudd’s own sultans of spin, it must be said – talking about that? It’s like someone in Rudd’s own press department really has it in for him – not impossible, since it’s well known he’s not a man his staff really like. He’s a bit of a slavedriver, from all accounts, but I don’t know… I personally respect that attitude toward running the country. Hmmm. Working himself around the clock and expecting peak performance from his people? Gee. Yeah. I see the problem.
Finally, I think this whole circus demonstrates the problem with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it three-year terms. Kevin 07 – remember? And that was November 07 and here we are in May 2010 with the entire year given over to pre-election muckraking. It’s too short a turnaround. After so many years in Opposition, a party probably takes about a year to adjust, set and start implementing its agenda. So that was 2008. Then we have just one year of actually running the country. In this case, that was 2009 and the full-scale economic emergency of the GFC. And now it’s an election year, so already we’re back to opinion polls and character assassinations and a whole lot of beside-the-point hyperbole. It’s just too soon. It hijacks the business of actual governance and replaces it with a two-bit beauty pageant of very limited appeal. It’s not good enough, and in my opinion, three years is not long enough – although right now it feels like 2010 is going to be a very long year.