Kevin Rudd should have been on holiday this week. Most certainly he should not have been out there commenting on John Howard’s couple of days of relaxation, or what The Oz has dubbed John and Janette’s “barefoot beach holiday”.

Any plus there might have been for Labor from carping about the cost of a VIP plane flight to Broome was undone by its leader doing the flinging. Australians find mud distasteful and the clever politicians who realise that some of it still sticks find someone else to do the smearing.

When it came to John and Janette landing in Broome to spend a few days when returning from a conference in the Philippines, Labor’s assistant Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen was well suited for the role of flinger-in-chief.

No-one has ever heard of him, but his comment that the “Australian people would expect that a holiday should be paid for by the person having the holiday, not by them” helped kick the story along. It did not need Mr Rudd to add to matters by pledging that he would never use publicly funded transport for his holidays.

That statement will surely displease all those Labor Party hangers-on looking to him as an inheritor of the Gough Whitlam mantle. Gough as Prime Minister made an art form of visiting some of the world’s most interesting and beautiful spots and was mightily unhappy, I remember, about having to return to express his sympathy to the survivors of the Darwin hurricane before jetting back to the isle of Rhodes.

A couple of days at Cable Beach would have been nothing to him. The great Labor Leader used to fly his entourage at government expense up to Reef House near Cairns to spend a few days working on writing a speech – and that was when he was Opposition Leader.

We can, of course, yearn for a return of the days when a motel room at Hawk’s Nest was a suitable site for a Prime Ministerial holiday and perhaps John Howard would as well. He and his family went to that same beach for 20 years until 1999, when the intrusive surveillance of cameramen made relaxation impossible for the Howards and other guests.

The added complication of increased security in this age of mad mullahs makes that kind of holiday an impossibility.

Still, we need not feel too much sorrow for the Prime Minister. There are worse places than Kirribilli to be confined for one’s annual leave.

Peter Fray

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