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Rudd v Turnbull: pot calls kettle black in political farce

By Don Allan - posted Friday, 14 August 2009

The more pictures of Prime Minister’s Kevin Rudd’s face I see the more I am reminded of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme: “Little Jack Horner sat in the corner eating his Christmas pie, he put in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said ‘oh, what a good boy am I’.” And that’s only one of Rudd’s faces: he has many.

Parliament is often perceived as a theatre and on the basis of the farce (farce like a sitcom demands little from its audience other than a willingness to laugh) that has been playing there for the past few weeks, this perception seems to have firmed. And while some people might argue that what happens in Parliament is melodrama I’ll stick to calling it farce for no other reason than farce is a form of theatre that gives actors an opportunity to display the full range of their thespian ability. For example, it has given the PM an opportunity to demonstrate his new-found knowledge of Australian language, which, like much of his language leaves many Australians baffled, while some say it shows he’s a smart arse.

To help him in his job he also has a wardrobe of masks that covers every facial expression from grim to grin so enabling him to don a mask suitable for a particular occasion. For example when talking about the bad behaviour of others he can don a prim smile mask to help him deliver his moral message disapproving of their behaviour. Then an hour later at a barbecue he can don a mask that he thinks shows him as one of the boys.


It would seem that funeral masks comprise a large part of the PM’s wardrobe so that when attending the funeral of someone in the military he can don an appropriate mask. He can also do the same if attending the funeral of a celebrity, a former politician or someone described as ordinary. Personally on such occasions, I would rather hear the sincere words of family, friends and colleagues rather than the unctuous, obsequious and insincere platitudes that politicians, no matter their position in the political hierarchy, often deliver.

Funerals aside, the reason I think farce a better description of Parliamentary theatre is the fake e-mail affair of Godwin Grech (a senior Treasury officer of whom it might be said that he had a mistaken sense of obligation and his own importance) that has been, and still is, playing daily to TV, radio and newspaper audiences.

In particular this farce allowed the PM to try his dramatic thespian skills (it’s no fable that every comedian wants to play Hamlet), which he did, much to the discomfiture of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull because of his part in the fake e-mail affair (OzCar), now known to have been written by the said Godwin Grech.

Oh lordy, lordy. Like a sinless and purer-than-pure preacher at a revivalist meeting, when the subject came up in Parliament the PM heaped scorn and obloquy on the hapless Turnbull for Turnbull’s attempt to use the fake e-mail to try and discredit Rudd and have him removed from office. Indeed the only thing missing were Hamlet’s words: “Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes” (I.2.257-258). Instead, he called on Turnbull to resign because, he said, he had demeaned democracy and parliament through his part in OzCar. Indeed listening to him one might have thought the effect of the fake e-mail was worse than global warming, global financial crisis and global terrorism combined.

An exaggeration of course, but you get what I mean, as there is nothing like listening to a politician in self righteous mode lecturing other politicians on ethics and integrity, particularly when politicians discard both whenever it suits their purpose. Indeed on many occasions both sides of politics have compromised public servants when it suited them. In this case, the only difference is the Opposition was found out.

Sadly, until the next election the government will continue to demand Turnbull’s resignation. And regular as clockwork, its publicity machine will grind out messages that while Turnbull lacks ethics and integrity and is inadequate as a political leader the PM has the highest level of ethics and integrity. I can think of no better example of the pot calling the kettle black.


It seems to me that the seriousness of the fake e-mail has been exaggerated to a nonsensical degree and no doubt you will draw your own conclusion as to whether or not Turnbull should resign. Personally I think he should stay, because I have a feeling the real reason the Prime Minister wants to demean him and get him to resign from parliament is that he fears Turnbull’s intelligence.

But of one thing I am sure. In the run up to the next election we will see the Prime Minister wearing many more masks and hear many more unctuous utterances, which leads me back to where I started: “Little Jack Horner.”

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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