WITH THE END of the ABC’s excellent three-part window into the machinations that shaped (and destroyed) the ALP during six years in office cones analysis, fallout, and reprisals; whilst there was nothing really new — except fresh venom — in journalist Sarah Ferguson’s brutal expose on Labor, it shows a politically and ethically bankrupt party that is unfit to govern, and whose ongoing key figures bear the blood of their own brethren on their hands.
First things first: there are a lot of people across the country who are talking about The Killing Season this morning, and — depending on their preference — some of this conversation can be tapped into from the Murdoch and Fairfax press by readers.
I suppose it’s ironic that just 24 hours after tearing into the ABC over its reprehensible Monday night episode of #QandA we’re now talking about another of its productions in fairly glowing terms; credit for this in my view can be ascribed to the journalist who drove The Killing Season as a project — Sarah Ferguson, who also deputised for Leigh Sales whilst she was on maternity leave from the 7.30 programme — and in a further delicious irony that should be lost on nobody, Ferguson is actually married to the ABC journalist who fronts the biased and puerile student-politics calibre #QandA each week, Tony Jones.
In terms of the material covered, The Killing Season presents relatively little by way of new substance; perhaps my opinion on this is formed from the perspective of someone whose consumption of news and current affairs media is voracious, incessant and largely “in the moment,” but there was very little in terms of what went on during the six tumultuous years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government that wasn’t well-oxygenated at the time those events occurred.
In truth, this in itself speaks to an awful culture within the ALP of leaks and counter leaks, and an amateurish bent on Machiavellian machination that does not and did not play at all well in front of an incredulous and repulsed voting public.
But that said, Ferguson and her team deserve credit for welding this material together in a punchy, gripping format that simultaneously kept viewers glued to their screens, whilst adding just enough perspective after the event from key players involved to ensure that whatever else you think of the Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, the fallout will continue to haunt and damage the ALP for as long as a significant contingent of the key people from that time remains in Parliament.
As I said at the outset, the one fresh ingredient The Killing Season had in spades was venom; to this end, the sparring between Rudd and Gillard via the interviews for the programme was predictable, as was its subtext that each in effect called the other a liar, with Rudd presenting as the tragic Shakespearean victim, and Gillard portraying herself as the hard-nosed purveyor of sorely needed common sense, and the salve for the injuries Rudd was purported to have inflicted on his party and the government it formed.
Anyone who has paid even cursory attention to Australian politics over the past decade knows well what Rudd is like: in no particular order, an imbecile, a cretin, a control-obsessed megalomaniac, and a vindictive, revenge-obsessed wrecker whenever any slight or rebuke — real, perceived and/or imagined — is inflicted upon him.
Yet incredibly, my sense is that he emerges from The Killing Season in far more robust shape than does Gillard, who — irrespective of the validity of any of her criticisms of Rudd as a leader, Prime Minister, or Parliamentary colleague — managed to come across as tricky, economical with the truth, and (it has to be said) less than entirely honest.
And for me to say so goes against the grain of what I have always thought, and opined in this column: with little time for either of them, I have always found Gillard more credible on objective assessment than the moronic Rudd. It’s hardly a choice between inspired (or inspiring) options.
Perversely, the fact Rudd manages to emerge from The Killing Season looking less bad than Gillard can probably be racked up as a victory of sorts but — like much to do with the whole tawdry period of Labor in office — it doesn’t really matter a can of beans.
These are simply the perceptions conveyed, mind; I suspect nobody except the combatants directly involved will ever know precisely who did what to whom, or whose account of those activities are more or less authentic than anyone else’s.
But in my view, the most damaging impact of this programme will be felt by those who remain in Parliament on the Labor side who were central to the events that drove The Killing Season, and it deserves to be.
In addition to driving the departure from Parliament of a generation of ALP MPs (and I am not going to pass opinion on most of them) — Crean, Ferguson, Emerson, Combet, Roxon, Smith, and Rudd and Gillard themselves, among others — Labor’s behaviour between 2007 and 2013 implicated and tarnished many of those who remain in its ranks, including some who could (or should) be regarded as its up-and-comers.
The likes of Chris Bowen and (dare I say it) Bill Shorten and others like them wear, to differing degrees, the blood of their colleagues on their hands, and bear varying levels of culpability over the childish, internecine and undignified brawls over the spoils of government in which Labor indulged itself.
To some degree, it doesn’t matter who was in the right and who wasn’t: in the eyes of the voting public, Labor was an unedifying rabble in office. Some of the key players from that period now aspire to form and run a fresh ALP government of their own.
What Labor thinks it stands to gain in this regard from the continued presence of former Treasurer Wayne Swan in Parliament — not least on account of his intention to contest his marginal Brisbane seat yet again at the next election — is anyone’s guess. But like the rest of the key coup conspirators and counter-conspirators, Swan’s already shaky political reputation has copped further significant damage from his portrayal in The Killing Season.
And as far as the Liberal Party is concerned, the one observation I would make — aside from the real prospect that this whole trip down memory lane will help disabuse wavering voters of the temptation to return to Labor — is that the heavy emphasis The Killing Season placed on Tony Abbott addressing crowds wielding placards bearing slogans such as “Ditch the Witch” and “Ju-liar — Bob Brown’s Bitch” is unlikely to adversely affect the Abbott government’s re-election prospects: these events failed to deter voters from electing it two years ago, and will fail to deter them from re-electing it.
In any case, there has never been any suggestion Abbott or the Liberals were at all responsible for producing those signs or devising the slogans they bore — even from the Labor Party — and confronted by Craig Emerson’s almost blubbering protestations over how offensive they were last night, the inevitable response of “toughen up Buttercup” is impossible not to utter.
Emerson — like so many of the Rudd-Gillard insurgents who have left Parliament — is no loss at all to either the ALP’s ranks or to the country generally. But enough of them remain, and the serving of reheated leftovers on the ABC of the government they formed, and indulgently trashed, will renew the electorate’s reservations about Labor’s suitability to govern for the foreseeable future.
In short, the Labor Party as it now stands is a mess; there is good reason to believe, having watched it for almost 12 years in opposition, that it had already sunk to the levels of narcissism The Killing Season highlighted well before it reclaimed government.
Equally, and taking into account its portrayal of the continuing ALP personnel from the Rudd-Gillard years, there is no evidence to support a judgement that the party has learnt a bloody thing. In fact, its present antics under current “leader” Shorten suggest the party is in the worst shape it has ever been in, the presence of illusory minor polling leads notwithstanding.
Ferguson and her team are to be congratulated on a tight, powerful presentation that takes neither sides nor prisoners: and Sarah Ferguson’s growing reputation as one of the best political journalists in Australia — especially at the ABC — deserves to rise that little bit further on the back of this effort.
In fact, with #QandA plagued by entirely justified accusations of bias and simpering sycophancy toward the Left, hers might just be the impartial hand, devoid of fear nor favour, the ABC should consider as a replacement for her husband if he proves intransigent to the idea of his left wing propaganda sessions being overhauled and/or abolished.
Yet the biggest takeout from all of this concerns Shorten: and as I warned after last week’s episode, voters would be rightly advised to heed the notice The Killing Season has provided them in relation to the Labor “leader’s” honesty, authenticity, and trustworthiness (or the distinct lack of all three).
If Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are and were fatally flawed, fundamentally unsuited to the Prime Ministership, then Bill Shorten is even more so; this series will have done nothing to advance his spurious claims upon that office, showing him up as the treacherous grub and nihilistic opportunist he really is.
And that — with a potential federal election looming — can only be regarded as a very good thing.