Control freak? Cynical media manipulator? Or just shy and retiring former school debater? Whichever, Kevin Rudd will not be making a long-scheduled appearance on the ABC’s Insiders program this Sunday morning, the first ALP or Liberal political leader in three federal campaigns “not to come on and defend their policies,” according to host Barrie Cassidy.

It’s all part of a deliberate strategy of course, a media campaign in which the opposition leader has made himself freely available to a certain kind of scrutiny – FM breakfast “crews” have been especially favoured – while avoiding the possibility of serious interrogation on policy detail. He’ll talk to Kyle and Jackie O in the studio at length, but keeps Jon Faine and the like to snatched phone conversations heading into top-of-the-hour news.

“It fits a pattern,” Cassidy said. ”There are only two programs out there that concentrate exclusively on politics, ours and Meet The Press. He hasn’t done either. He avoids detailed scrutiny as best he can.”

Insiders has already hosted prime minister John Howard, Peter Costello and Wayne Swan but on Sunday will have to make do with the Kevin Rudd you’re having when you’re not having Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard. This is despite assurances from Rudd media staff earlier this week that the leader’s appearance was “a done deal’’.

Cassidy was philosophical. “It’s working, so good luck to him.”

Rudd’s key TV appearance on Sunday will be as star turn on Ten’s gen Y crowd pleaser Rove. It will presumably be in the course of this rigorous interrogation that he will be asked the trademark Rove question that only last week flummoxed the PM, “who would you turn gay for?”

When asked this by a youngster on the stump last week, John Howard was left non-plussed (though presumably if he’d thought about it he would have said Keith Miller).

Rudd has had the benefit of long-preparation and by now will be aware that the correct answer is “Fran Kelly”. Or at least that’s our suggestion.

If Andrew Bolt could work a similar line of inquiry into Insiders they might do better luring the big guns.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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