Rudd backers frolic as PM loses her grip
These are dark days for political satirists. The politicians, namely a coterie of pranksters from Julia Gillard's government, are writing their own scripts. Gillard, of course, and those still close to her, have quite failed to see the joke. They know there's something darker behind the gags. Indeed, Gillard lost her sense of humour altogether on Thursday while trying to deal with Tony Abbott and his colleagues over the matter of an alleged jihadist terrorist who was held for months behind what has been described as a swimming pool fence in a low-security detention centre in the Adelaide Hills.
"The Leader of the Opposition is laughing now," Gillard wailed during question time. "Here is his big attack on national security. Oh, it's so hard-hitting! He's such a serious man! He's prime ministerial material! And in the middle of a question time on national security he is laughing. It is just a game to you, isn't it? Your demeanour shows it. The fact you are laughing shows it. The fact that the shadow minister who asked the question is spending the answer looking up at the press gallery and laughing shows it."
As ripostes go, it was a curiously mopey effort compared with, say, Gillard's celebrated attack last year on Abbott's alleged misogynist tendencies.
The reason, you might suppose, is that Gillard was less infuriated with Abbott than with the rogues sitting on the government benches behind her. They have given Abbott and his troops much reason for merriment as this parliamentary session wends its way towards a chill winter.
Labor's humorists, you understand, are all linked in one way or another to Kevin Rudd. And as with everything related to Kevin, there may be a thundering lack of subtlety, but there is a relentless purpose to it all.
Joel Fitzgibbon - chief whip before his efforts to urge Rudd to test his popularity in a leadership ballot with Gillard a couple of months ago came to a screamingly diverting halt when said Kevin baulked at the fence - opened the comedy festival with a TV appearance.
By lampooning the supposed "talking points" issued by the Prime Minister's office to blunt the effect of polls predicting Armageddon for the government ("polls come and go" etc), he was aiming a lance directly at Gillard's own office.
In fact, Gillard's communications director, John McTernan, insists the likes of Fitzgibbon aren't on the list for the mythologised "talking points" and thus was making it up. But the spear was in.
Fitzgibbon, like many others in Labor, wanted to make the point, esoteric to many who aren't Canberra insiders, that Gillard had so lost her way as a leader that she was in the thrall of the likes of McTernan, brought up in Scotland and previously "thinker in residence" in South Australia courtesy of a 457 visa. McTernan, to a number of Labor's despairing MPs who can't quite bring themselves to take a blade directly to Gillard, has become the vicarious subject of detestation, as if he were a latter-day Rasputin.
Then came Victoria's Alan Griffin and south-west Sydney's Daryl Melham, long-time Labor MPs with no love for Gillard, melodramatically packing up their offices 100 days before the scheduled election. They were gaily placing surrender on public display to allow everyone to know that their party couldn't win with Gillard at the wheel.
And so the stage door was flung open for Kevin Rudd to make his final entrance.
Despite finding himself forced on TV yesterday to repeat his pledge of March that there were no circumstances in which he would return to the prime ministership before the election, Rudd suddenly transformed into Mr Everywhere and Mr Everyman.
There he was on Thursday's 7.30 Report, declaring "we shouldn't be hauling up the white flag" and advising sagely that it was completely wrong for Labor's people to be constructing alibis for defeat.
By yesterday, you could barely turn on a TV set without being confronted by Rudd the Healer. He hurried to poor Geelong, a city deep in despondency about a future without Ford, its voters thought ready to feed local Labor members to the dogs.
Rudd reached out, welcoming all those who had come from elsewhere in a troubled world, a lot of them via Julia Gillard's suddenly suspect 457 visas and others on boats, to make a future in, yes, his country.
Why, said Rudd: "Think about it, if in the year 2013 we had shut the gates way back when and ended up sentenced to a future based on English and Irish food. Just think about it. Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and that's it, and three veg. Thank you to those who have come from around the world to make our national cuisine edible."
There was more on the Rudd menu. Much. "So you actually make a difference through what you do here," he offered expansively.
"I actually get that, I really understand it. Looking at this gathering this morning, you have a bunch of people from all over the world. How many folk here came from Afghanistan? Stick your hand up. Great to have you in Australia. Being part of the Australian family, good to see you.
"Those of you who have come from ... let me talk about other parts of the world. Anyone here from southern Sudan? Anyone here from Croatia? Good to see you folks. Any Macedonians here? Who have I missed out? The Congo. Who is here from the great continent of Africa? Welcome, part of the Australian family. Other parts of Europe. Germany. Spain. I was there for the greeting of King Carlos. The Dutch, that's great. Any other parts of Europe? Hungary. Good to see you. Lithuania? The Baltic states, good to see you."
Kevin Rudd knows something about the difficulty of gaining sanctuary from a troubled beyond, and Rudd the spurned knows plenty about the matter of self-preservation in the doing of it.
The warm-up, softening-up comedy acts are over. Rudd is relying on his colleagues awakening at the last minute to the understanding that they are on a sinking boat with Julia Gillard at the helm; as lost as if they were on the Congo River.
The human condition, he may as well have said, impels those in peril to reach out for any floating logs that might offer the merest chance of deliverance, even if they suspect the log is infested with spiders. Self-preservation, he knows, has always been the most powerful of instincts.
And he's floating by, yes, indeed. Just look at how he floats, bobbing along, the cameras on him, no white flag of defeat hoisted, hollering a blue streak about understanding and inclusiveness and welcome.
No satirist, surely, would try to compete.