Minor stir in recent weeks over the airing of The Killing Season, the ABC doco on the battle to the death between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and their cronies.
It was fascinating viewing, but not terribly edifying. It’s such a tawdry tale that you wonder why anyone agreed to be interviewed for it. They did though, pretty well all of them. Ego you imagine, and the chance to put their side of it, the last word. It’s a testament to their self-absorption that they would do that, but then, so too it was their self-absorption made such a sorry tale. Regardless of what they may think, no-one comes out of it looking good (except perhaps Albo) – certainly neither of the protagonists do.
Given the state of politics in Oz the screening of this show is not great timing for the ALP, but I’m guessing that was barely a consideration for such self-absorbed characters. One of the things I realised – and which I should have understood a long time before – is how few in politics these days seem to be motivated by the concept of public service. It’s proof in a way of how power corrupts – not just possessing it, but in striving for it. Between the two of them, Rudd and Gillard, and assorted minions, they destroyed the prospects of the ALP – and all because of their own, petty ambitions.
Rudd is generally said to have been the more toxic character, and more to blame for de-stabilising the government. He was certainly bitter after his deposition, but I certainly don’t exempt Gillard from that. In fact it was Gillard set it all in train when she ousted Rudd as prime minister. Rudd may not have been a pleasant man to work along side, and in my recollection was certainly bottling it on some issues, but the more sensible solution would have been to take him aside and make it clear that he had to change. I was ambivalent about it at the time, and even hopeful that Gillard might measure up. In the fullness of time it’s clear that ousting Rudd was the nuclear option, which left a wasteland. I may be naïve to think it could have been better managed, but the fact of it is that had Rudd continued as prime minister then there’s a very good chance the ALP would still be in power.
It’s a Shakespearean story with no heroes, and a lot of shady characters, on both sides of public, and in the media. Truly there were some diabolical acts and episodes that make you truly despair at the state of Australian society.
For the likes of me it’s a tragedy. In Rudd we had a prime minister with great intellectual range, but deeply flawed as an individual; in Gillard an excellent policy maker who had no natural authority as a leader, and guilty of poor judgement. Both had substantial achievements as leaders, but failures too, and moments of critical weakness. For both it became personal, which was the critical mistake. In the wash-up they’re both a long way ahead of Abbott, but therein is the greatest tragedy of all. It’s their self-indulgence that betrayed the Australian people, and which made possible the unlikely rise of a morally corrupt and reactionary conservative in Abbott. We suffer for it today.