It’s 8am and I stagger out of the Ibis on Turbot Street and arggghhhh I’m in f-cking Brisbane again?! How did this happen? It’s like Wake In Fright, I keep living and coming into another town and it’s always Brisbane, the worst capital city in Australia. Sorry, but it is. Perth’s worse but it doesn’t count.

But the election’s been like that, five weeks of coming back into Brisbane. Had Labor been in the game, western Sydney would have been the focus. But as it became clear that Labor was getting a drubbing — unless both Newspoll, Essential and Nielsen are wrong in their whole methodology.

And so it was back to the Brisbane Line, where Labor will try and hold the loss to the high 50s. I guess that’s fair enough. Brisbane is funky but not too funky, not some strangled pomo basketcase like Melbourne, nor some gangsters’ ball like Sydney, nor some brain-dead regional burg. About as averagely Australian place you could get. Mining and farming money flows into it, but it has also become an education hub.

The Queensland University of Technology has become a world leader in this by the simple expedient of dumping its humanities faculty altogether — i.e. the “U” in QUT — and calling it the school of cultural production or somethink. It is a nihilism-led recovery and at some level you can’t help but cheer the bracing acceptance that the kingdom of nothingness should become a leader in the world of nothingness, Voss in the desert of the real.

Voss? Google it.

Gak, OK. Two days ago, Kevin Rudd gave a lame, half-hearted speech to the Labor campaign launch which nevertheless constrained some defiant lines about jobs and us and them etc, and some fighting talk — “you forget the fighting spirit of the Australian Labor Party” — cheered by all the ministers and ex-ministers behind who wanted to kill him, and some of the people around them, and then themselves.

The talk was praised to the skies by the Boy Bramston and others as the “speech Rudd should have given”. Bullshit. He could have given it at the start of this, would have made no difference. It needed to be several degrees gutsier, more visceral, more on the line to even make an impact.

“Labor doesn’t do visceral any more. Everyone who could craft a killing joke or a good line that might skewer Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey et al has long since been sacked …”

But Labor doesn’t do visceral any more. Everyone who could craft a killing joke or a good line that might skewer Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey et al has long since been sacked by the dim policy dullards so threatened by anything unruly that they would rather lose government than take the chances Labor used to take.

There are many awful things about Labor at the moment, but the worst of them is this whining sense that they are being treated with ingratitude, that policy should sell itself, and politics need not be done, that there is no art to rounding people up, persuading the waverers, neutralising one’s enemies, besting one’s opponents.

This awful Labor campaign, this blurred crusade, with Rudd traipsing the country spending two hours running overtime, talking to scientists because he can’t face whatever he has to do next. He should have been running six meetings a day, half an hour a time, barnstorming electorates, being everywhere.

He should have been as passionate as he was last night on Q&A, when some convenient Jesus-freak doofus asked about same-s-x marriage and allowed Rudd to talk about what being a Christian meant — “the bible [as well as banning homos-xuality] also approves of slavery. But societies change and the meaning of the gospel is universal love” — and suddenly we got the whole package putting the big picture together with the morality and then the policy. Moving persuasive, the man.

Could he have applied that to Labor’s policies? Not likely, because deep down Labor’s people have become social management technocrats. Truth be told, they’re not really fazed by many of Abbott’s proposals, though no doubt they’re wary of the coming pantomime of the “black hole” and how we will have to cut back, oh and also productivity will have to be upped, and let’s look at WorkChoices again piece by piece, etc.

What now, with these polls? Rudd could do something on Thursday or Friday new, like this:

“We are in this to win but the polls say we will most likely lose. Mr Abbott in presenting his case to the Australian people will, if he wins, have committed to Gonski, to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to the National Broadband Network, to Fair Work, to some action on climate change, he has renounced any action against abortion or other parts of the ‘culture wars’. I want the Australian people to remember this, and remember this well: that is the deal he has proposed. There is no black hole, everything is on the table. If he steps back from these commitments — commitments to a program Labor has originated — then he has lied to the Australian people, lied fundamentally, and in a way no other leadership contender has ever done. Should he go back on this slate of commitments, he will have no legitimacy, and the Australian people should regard his government in that regard.”

That would be the bomb, the post-it note in the mind. It would be the first instalment on making Abbott a one-term prime minister — which would be a victory almost better than winning this time.

Well nothing’s better than winning now. But they’re not gunna.

And it is time to break the line, and get out of Brisbane, in every possible way that could mean.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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