[By Christmas 2006] Kevin Rudd was still the centre of political attention – which, John Howard had warned his followers, would inevitably be the case for his first few weeks as Opposition leader. This was no doubt the reason for Howard’s own behaviour during the silly season being rather more indulgent than usual.
Apart from innumerable appearances at the cricket, he turned up unexpectedly on the program of the ultra-right-wing shock-jock Stan Zemanek sounding tired and emotional. He had heard Stan was crook, he gargled, and he wanted his old mate to know that “we’re rooting for you”. Presumably he was using the word in its American sense, but it is still probable that Janette sent him to sleep in the spare room that night.
He sobered up in time to deliver a New Year’s message to the nation, a function usually reserved for our Acting Head of State, Major-General Governor-General Thingo. There had been reports that the viceroy was getting a little pissed off about being constantly upstaged, and even more so that no one seemed to be taking his efforts on behalf of the nation as seriously as they should. In an effort to cheer him up, I submitted a Gilbertian ditty:
I made my reputation in the field of bellicosity
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But now I serve the nation with impeccable pomposity
And all those years of practice as the army’s top banana
Be helpful to my calling as a modern governor-general.
My charismatic bypass makes me almost undetectable
I’m something of a tight-a-se but I’m totally respectable
My heritage and ancestry and family and kin are all
Important in the making of a modern governor-general.
I revel in the protocol, embracing it most eagerly
I never miss a photo-call and pose for them vice-regally
I’ll boil a boy scout’s billy and I’ll host a formal dinner – all
The skills that are essential in a modern governor-general.
And when my role’s blind-sided by our media-mad prime
I promise not to find it either seedy, sad or sinister
I won’t be controversial or ambitious or original
That’s not what is expected of a modern governor-general.
I’m just a public sedative called Whatsisname or Whosis
And if I were competitive I’d be among the losers
At least I can look forward to a lavish public funeral
A fitting culmination for a modern governor-general.
Unaccountably, I still didn’t feature in the Australia Day honours list. Ah, well. Perhaps 2007 just wasn’t my year. And perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t going to be John Howard’s, either.
Physically he was just dandy, according to his annual personal interview with acolyte Piers Akerman. While this year’s effort was not quite so homoer-tic as usual, Akerman still found his man “bursting with enthusiasm and energy”, even if his messages for the New Year were a bit of an anti-climax: feminism is dead, and drink tap water.
And there was some encouragement for the government: the psephologist Malcolm Mackerras’s first prediction was for a Labor win, making such an outcome most unlikely. But no longer completely out of the question, for a quick appraisal of the year ahead revealed that it was not only the Opposition that had changed. The whole playing field seemed to have shifted.
This is an extract from Poll Dancing: The Story of the 2007 Election by Mungo MacCallum, Black Inc. RRP $24.95 — www.blackincbooks.com..