Tired by a campaign which he says is “just so damn hard,” Kevin Rudd should be encouraged that there could be a job for him at the ABC if he doesn’t win. This is as autocue reader at Media Watch, a position first occupied by Stuart Littlemore. Kevin Rudd has demonstrated a similar skill – the ability to give meaning to a campaign launch read from a teleprompter. Was it a genuine one sent over by Labor’s American spin doctors?

Tony Wright said Rudd’s launch speech sounded as if he were ticking off paragraphs lifted from a focus group.

“Nation building requires vision. And the cornerstone of my vision for Australia’s future is an education revolution. I spoke about… in my very first speech to Parliament… I have been speaking about it all year. Because I believe passionately in the power of education. I believe education is the engine room of equity. The engine room of opportunity.”

”On and on,” as Tony Wright describes Rudd’s almost one hour of reading similar digitally enhanced rhetoric.

That didn’t worry those in the media who are determined to provide Rudd a dream run up to election day. The D

aily Telegraph editorialised that his speech had a “confidence and a drive” which “many voters will decide” was lacking from Howard’s. The editor didn’t stop there, or with his promotional front pages. He went overboard; delivering what he thinks will be the coup de grâce for Howard.

This was the startling news that at Rudd’s launch there were actually “moments when the audience seemed excited.” Think about that – an audience actually excited at a campaign launch. This is something “not seen in Australian campaigning,” at least “for a considerable period.” Most Telegraph readers and most Australians would be unable to recall a single campaign launch where the “audience,” ie., the party faithful, have not seemed close to hyperventilating with excitement.

The editor says the speech was “clean”. Does that mean Howard’s was dirty? And it was “positive”, so forget any of that negative campaigning.

But didn’t the editor notice the un-Australian teleprompter? The TV audience, especially the overwhelming majority who would have only seen close up glimpses on the news, would not have. But Tony Wright did. He says those old time “master orators” present – Whitlam, Hawke, and Keating – must have winced.

Most of the media ignored the teleprompter, as they did John Laws’ revelation on Enough Rope. At the beginning of a scheduled recorded telephone interview with Laws, Rudd admitted he was “tired” and campaigning is “just so damn hard.”

But then he hesitated and said “Are, are you, are you, are we recording?” When Laws said he was, Rudd protested, “But I was just talking to you.” Laws said, “Well that’s the idea of the interview.” Rudd pleaded “Well my people’d rather you didn’t play that.” When Laws agreed to start again, he says” Rudd sounded like a totally different man.”

Had Howard admitted to being tired, it would have been a large one word headline on the Telegraph and across the country. “TIRED,” ADMITS HOWARD.

Prime Minister McMahon was not as secretive as Rudd. In 1972 he actually let it be known that he had a secret American weapon to defeat Gough Whitlam. It was a suspiciously bulky lectern which contained a mechanism in which a long paper roll containing a speech would revolve. But to everyone’s great amusement, it would regularly jam during his speeches, and had to be abandoned.

The Telegraph’s editor may spend his days and his front pages swooning over Kevin Rudd. But despite his autocue reading skills, Rudd is unknown, untested, and whether he knows it or not, under the thumb of the union bosses and their Caucus.

The record of the Howard government on almost every economic indicator – debt, real wages, interest, unemployment – is vastly superior to the Hawke-Keating governments. In fact, the government’s performance is easily among the best in the world. Even in areas of alleged Labor strength, eg. indigenous Australians, heath, government schools, foreign aid, a comparison between the last two years of Labor and Coalition governments puts the Coalition well and truly ahead.

Under Howard Australia is a different country, at peace with itself. Under Labor the country was tense and on edge, never knowing when the next major strike would bring the nation to its knees. In fact they were often timed to cause major disruption to other workers, eg. around Easter and long weekends.

Where is the evidence that Labor has reformed? A speech read from a teleprompter is no answer. On the last occasion they were quite prepared to foist Mark Latham on the country.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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