Something felt strange about Matt Franklin’s now world-famous piece on the Bush-Rudd discussion about the economic summit later this month. That’s why we picked up on it while everyone else seemed to kick back and have a giggle at Dubya not knowing what the G20 was. Rather belatedly, the import of Franklin’s piece and its possible origins became apparent to the likes of Andrew Bolt and Greg Sheridan, who spied an opportunity to snipe at the Prime Minister.
Now, more than a week later, Malcolm Turnbull has piously called for an investigation of the “leak”. Maybe while the indefatigable leak-fixers of the AFP are at it, they can have a hunt for who leaked the news about Turnbull urging the Howard Cabinet to ratify Kyoto during the election campaign.
Regarding events at Kirribilli on the evening of 10 October, plod might do worse than look in the direction of Chris Mitchell, who was a guest at Kirribilli on the evening in question, although that doesn’t explain just how the alleged content of the phone call ended up with Franklin, or why it was shaped into a pro-Rudd piece, given Franklin stated Rudd had no involvement. As we said a week ago, that doesn’t rule out his office being involved in some way. We have various Cluedo-like options. Mr Mitchell, in the drawing-room, with a beer coaster. Mr Rudd, in the study, with an aide.
This is all a bit too cute. Chris and Kevin are kicking back at Kirribilli when George calls Kevin. Kevin tells George the summit shouldn’t just have Gordon and Nicholas and Silvio and Taro but Wen and Luiz and Felipe and Kevin himself. George, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, gets a bit confused, but is convinced by Kevin. Another diplomatic triumph for Rudd, until Bush adherents like Greg Sheridan — he of the “bold revisionist view” that Bush is a great president — circled the wagons in the president’s defence, taking their cue from the White House’s own reaction.
It’s a bit late in the Bush presidency for “argy-bargy” over whether the man is an idiot or not, isn’t it?
On the other hand, it’s not too soon to declare that our Prime Minister seems to be awfully impressed with himself, despite his studied line in self-deprecation. The idea of Rudd the international impact player, ready to come off the bench and solve some major world problems, has been assiduously promoted since the very early days when he went to Bali and, as far as climate change delegates were concerned, walked across the ocean to get there.
Let’s face reality: we’re a middle-ranking power with the international clout of Belgium. One characteristic that all our Prime Ministers share, regardless of their party, is a conviction that this is not the case at all, but that they somehow can connect with world leaders (or, to use Bob Hawke’s preferred term, “other world leaders”) and play a major diplomatic role. Given Kevin Rudd’s DFAT background, the delusion seems especially strong in him.
Rudd might also want to give the verbiage a rest. It was understandable a fortnight ago when every second sentence was about how sound the balance sheets of Australian banks were. But the current dominance of “decisive” in the Prime Ministerial vocabulary — indeed, in the lexicons of all Labor ministers — has long since passed tiresome. Ditto his insistence that he will “level with people”. Evidently such phraseology has been workshopped to death on some luckless focus-group and now we all have to suffer for it.
Even the great, uncomprehending mass of Australian voters has now worked out that there’s potentially a vast difference between what Labor Governments say they’re doing and what they’re actually achieving. An endless emphasis on the former won’t correct the absence of the latter, nor add to it when, as in Rudd’s case, he really is managing to achieve things.