At the moment Kevin Rudd made some remarks on Q&A on Monday night, about Cabinet discussions after the Liberals dumped Turnbull and it became impossible to pass the ETS the ALP and Libs had negotiated, you could hear the nation’s political hacks (particularly those employed by a particular media organisation) slamming down their wine glasses and firing up their bullsh*t machines. Said Rudd:

KEVIN RUDD: I don’t think it’s a secret to all assembled here that there were a diversity of views within the Labor Party at the time and…

TONY JONES: And within the cabinet.

KEVIN RUDD: That wouldn’t be stretching the truth too far. And so you had some folk who wanted to get rid of it altogether. That is kill the ETS as a future proposition for the country. I couldn’t abide that. There were others who said we should stick to the existing timetable, apart from the fact that the senate couldn’t deliver it. So I tried to find a way up the middle of all that. Preserve the unity of the government. On balance it was the wrong call because we should have simply tried to sail straight ahead. But you make mistakes in public life. That was a big one. I made it and I’m responsible for it.

Naturally, the media jumped all over this, demanding ANSWERS from any Minister they could get their hands on on WHO SAID WHAT and WHEN. The ABC today even published a call by Malcolm Farnsworth for Rudd to be sacked by Gillard for his “breach of the Cabinet principle of collective responsibility”.

The whole thing seems absurd to me. It’s not news that there are different views in Cabinet. It’s not news that when the ALP was presented with a dilemma by the Liberals’ about-face after they knifed Turnbull there would’ve been different views on how to proceed. It’s not news that Rudd took a decision that ultimately led to him not being Prime Minister, and that he might now, not being Prime Minister, when considering that decision, on which the fact of his not-being-Prime-Minister is largely based, have some regrets.

I mean, really – duh.

And yet the media – and, of course, the Opposition – build this enormous, self-fulfilling meme about this being a shot in a war and a serious breach of confidence and a big revelation and it being vital to know who said what and when – as if the fact that those people are still in government makes it in any way important to know whether they were for or against delaying or shelving a policy that was not the same thing as the present proposal – and then wonder why political “debate” in this country is so vacuous. You make something irrelevant become the story, and then the story is that it’s the story, and then what people do to respond to the stupid story because it’s all you ask them about, ad infinitum.

So now our Government will, if it wants to stay in office, be forced to waste time and effort addressing an ultimately pointless little political game that will suck oxygen away from real issues confronting our country.

Memo to the media: I don’t care who said what privately in Cabinet. I do care what they do to enact the related policy now. If you could concentrate on that and not whatever shiny object wafts past you on the breeze, that’d be great.

(Interestingly, and contrary to all precedent, the Q&A in question had, until that point, been remarkably sensible and restricted to a discussion of some of these actual important issues rather than personalities. Until Rudd was candid and the political hacks sensed they could capitalise on it in an asinine way.)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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