Ruddwatch: Time For Kevin To Hit The Road — And Not Come Back

MORE CRETINOUS TWADDLE from the megalomaniac’s megalomaniac — a failed former Prime Minister with the delusion he should rule the world — has erupted once again, this time in a laughable attempt to send the actual Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, on a guilt trip for refusing to back his unjustifiable aspiration to a perverse bureaucratic Nirvana. It’s time for Kevin Rudd to hit the road — and not come back. Ever.

At the end of another stifling, stultifying week, I’m probably dignifying Kevin Rudd with more attention than he deserves in commenting yet again on his dismally misguided aspiration to rule the world through the bureaucratic behemoth of the United Nations, but here we are.

Regular readers will have ascertained that heavy demands on my time continue at present, and as ever, those obligations central to earning an income must always take precedence over this column; even so, I’m not going anywhere, and in the fullness of time will restore our conversations to the frequency everyone is accustomed to.

There’s a little clear air coming over the weekend, and I will post again, but for now my remarks will be blunt: whenever the temptation exists to think Kevin Rudd has got the message that he should shut up and go away, just like a bad penny he comes back.

I’m not going to bother linking to any of the plethora of articles this column has published over the years dealing with the imbecilic Rudd’s foibles and misdemeanours or, more pertinently, the half-baked idea he harbours that the world is simply crying out for his “leadership;” the tired old story of Rudd is too well known as it is, and on the latter score, only a world even less sane than Rudd himself is rumoured to be would regard him as a suitable candidate to lead anything.

Yet like a blowfly with a bit of dog poo in prospect, Rudd has this week returned to his latest favourite theme — the alleged grievous slight inflicted on him by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the “crime” of deigning Rudd to be temperamentally unsuited to the position of Secretary-General of the UN — and in an irony lost on few except the lamentable Rudd, his continued outbursts on the subject merely prove that Turnbull’s judgement (in this case at least) was chillingly correct.

Turnbull was not shanghaied into the decision by the “far right” of the Liberal Party; most thinking people can see at forty paces distant how utterly unsuited Rudd is to the UN post, and the scope for him to prove an unmitigated disaster (and an unmitigated embarrassment) in it were he ever successful in securing it. Why would the Australian government sign on to supporting that?

It doesn’t matter that current Foreign minister Julie Bishop lavished praise on Rudd as an “eminently qualified candidate” for the post; everyone makes mistakes.

It doesn’t matter that Turnbull once privately promised support to Rudd, only to later change his mind; after all, the longer one looks at Rudd the less attractive he becomes — a reality exactly mirrored by his relationship with the Australian public between 2007 and 2010, and replayed with record speed between June and September 2013.

It doesn’t matter that the ALP torpedoed former Liberal Party figures for diplomatic postings after 2007; whilst tit-for-tat arguments over such things can certainly be entertaining, the issue of whether to help Rudd strut the world stage preening (and making a fool of) himself is a different issue altogether.

And it isn’t a mitigating factor that his own parliamentary colleagues have variously called him juvenile, vindictive, or a bastard with contempt for the Australian public.

Or, accurately, all kinds of much nastier things.

No, Kevin has spent a great deal of time doing this to himself.

Even before he first won the ALP leadership in late 2006, it was an open secret that Rudd viewed a possible Prime Ministership as a mere stepping stone to his ultimate objective of running the United Nations; and before even that, anyone with a direct eye on the goings-on in Queensland and Rudd’s part in them (as I had, prior to my move south) knew the guy was nothing if not utterly consumed with his own importance.

Once upon a time, Rudd enjoyed the fellowship of a small ALP cabal in Brisbane that feted him and fanned his ego with fulsome public declarations of his competence and brilliance; they’re nowhere to be seen or heard today.

The damage was done, however — if, that is, Rudd needed any encouragement in this vein at all — and it would be a brave soul who attempted to rebut the contention that his entire public life has been spent making it very clear to anyone who listened that nobody was smarter or more important than Kevin Michael Rudd.

Never mind the complete balls-up he made of public service restructuring in Queensland during the tenure of the Goss government; never mind the sheer toxicity it created, to the extent that the huge swing against Labor that seemingly materialised out of thin air at the 1995 state election was overwhelmingly driven by public servants fed up with six years of Rudd’s master-slave regime, and driven by some of the (usually) most loyal Labor diehards to boot.

And never mind the love-hate relationship he has had with the press in all those years; when it suited them, the media built Rudd into a messiah. I had a conversation with a very senior Liberal MP prior to the 2007 election, demanding to know why the party hadn’t made better use of the abundance of material that was available from Rudd’s time under Goss. The media had decided Rudd should beat John Howard, and weren’t interested. The subtext was that it signalled to Rudd that he could get away with whatever he liked.

Those days are gone.

Anyone who has paid even scant attention to Rudd’s shenanigans in recent years knows that for all his bluster, diplomacy is not an attribute that could be regarded as his forte; anyone who hasn’t will quickly get up to speed browsing past articles that can be accessed through the “Kevin Rudd” tag in the cloud to the right of this article.

And it will surprise nobody to realise that we are now at the end destination of the story of Kevin Rudd and his public career, for the UN job was the one he coveted more than any, and for almost exclusively self-inflicted reasons will never have.

From here, any more blather on the subject from Rudd can and should be regarded as sour grapes: an attempt to send Turnbull on a guilt trip for no more substantial reason that in refusing to nominate and support Rudd for the UN post, Turnbull actually discharged the obligations of his office properly.

Certainly, I have just about had enough of Kevin Rudd, and I daresay so have many millions of Australians.

Even so, it isn’t hard to comprehend how Julia Gillard — no favourite of this column — might have been frustrated and even enraged by the puerile behaviour he now thinks will “shame” Turnbull into backing down and giving him exactly what he wants.

Unlike Gillard, however, no subterranean scheme to knife Turnbull is available to Rudd, and even if it were, his residential arrangements in New York would severely compromise his ability to execute it.

It’s time for Kevin Rudd to disappear. Permanently. The only person he remains capable of damaging is himself: but after more than quarter of a century of doing exactly that, it is difficult to imagine Rudd going quietly or, for that matter, with a good grace.

More’s the pity, for if he doesn’t, he will simply prove former ALP Senator Stephen Conroy’s barb about Rudd’s contempt for the Australian public to have been more accurate, and prescient, than anyone could have ever believed, thought, or imagined.


Nova Peris-Nowhere: Tasteless End To An Abuse Of Parliament

THE RESIGNATION of Aboriginal identity Nova Peris — three years after being controversially shanghaied into an unloseable Senate seat by Julia Gillard — brings to a tasteless end what was always an abuse of Parliament. The ALP has form for treating elected sinecures as baubles for trade, and the Peris fiasco is just one of a long list of cases of Labor wiping its backside on Parliament and on voters. This time, it has been left to carry the can.

It does rather seem that in the runup to the election to be held on 2 July, the usual spate of comings and goings promises to be rather “special” — and I use the term sarcastically — this time around; yesterday we wrote the deserved political obituary of Clive Palmer, with a few equally justified barbs lobbed at his onetime protegé Jacqui Lambie for good measure, and it also emerged yesterday that perennial candidate and division pedlar Pauline Hanson seems primed to make yet another comeback attempt 18 years after she last represented anyone except herself.

But news that former Olympic champion and prominent Aboriginal figure Nova Peris — shoehorned into an unloseable Labor Senate seat three years ago by then-PM Julia Gillard, who unilaterally dumped the sitting Senator in the process — has quit her seat should outrage anyone with a care for such quaint notions as the commitment of elected representatives to their constituents, or cling to the faint but forlorn hope that politics might yet be a vocation for individuals and parties genuinely committed to public service and to the public good but who are repeatedly proven delusional by the cynical antics of the so-called political class and its flat disregard for any of the aforesaid concepts.

First things first: when Gillard’s “Captain’s Pick” was unveiled in January 2013, this column was affronted by the undemocratic and dictatorial manner in which the Prime Minister made it her business to dump a sitting Senator (the plodding Trish Crossin) and the insultingly patronising token it made of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal community. Indeed, one indigenous elder at the time remarked that Gillard has seen to it that Peris would be the “pet Aborigine around Parliament House,” and given the invisible nature of her service ever since, the barb was probably not too far wide of the mark.

Readers can reacquaint themselves with discussion of the issue in this column at the time here and here.

One of the things I found most offensive at that time was that for all the hype and bullshit from Gillard that she was giving an opportunity to an Aboriginal woman to serve in Parliament, there was already an Aboriginal woman, in Labor’s ranks, with a depth of experience in public life and intending to stand against Crossin for her endorsement: Marion Scrymgour, who had acted as Chief Minister in the Northern Territory Assembly, and who was a veritable heavyweight as a candidate for high office compared to Peris.

It is to be hoped that Scrymgour might be persuaded to stand for the unexpected vacancy now, and not least because media reports suggest the mediocre (but understandably aggrieved) Crossin may by weighing the prospects of a comeback.

Peris announced yesterday that she was quitting her Senate seat after just three years — failing, apparently, to tell her staff before the announcement was made publicly — and whilst there was some suggestion it was to take up a role at the AFL as Head of Diversity, conflicting reports last night indicated she was by no means a certainty for the post.

Even so, and with the exception of the lack of grace shown by not giving her staff the courtesy of prior warning, the most difficult person to blame in this episode is Peris herself; at the time of the so-called “Captain’s Pick,” there was plenty of anecdotal evidence and scuttlebutt to indicate she was far from an eager recruit, and that some degree of cajoling and “persuasion” had been necessary to convince her to accept Crossin’s Senate spot in the first place.

I said at the time that it was an insult to Aborigines, that it stank of tokenism and paternalism, and that the histrionic rhetoric the appointment was couched in — that Gillard was “righting a wrong” — was nothing more than melodramatic twaddle and with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think I was wrong.

But what it also was, on a more sinister level, was just another example of the ALP exhibiting such disrespect for the voting public and the institutions of elective office as to be little more than a contemptuous exercise in the party wiping its backside on Parliament, and on the voters of the Northern Territory.

Labor has form for this kind of thing. The Peris appointment wasn’t the first time the ALP has done something like this and it won’t be the last.

Former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett was parachuted into the (then) safe Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith in 2004; as an eventual minister he was an abject failure.

Disendorsed Senator David Feeney was parachuted into the safe — for now — Melbourne seat of Batman; Feeney is a machine thug and a union hack who adds nothing to either the national debate or to constructive outcomes of governance.

Former NSW Premier Bob Carr was parachuted into a casual Senate vacancy on Gillard’s watch specifically to replace Kevin Rudd as Foreign minister; the calibre of his performance in that role was debatable. Yet having stood for and secured a fresh six-year term at the 2013 election, Carr quit Canberra in land speed record-breaking time once the trappings of government had been displaced by the drudge of opposition.

All over the country, Labor’s factions (and in recent years, militant unions like the CFMEU) have divided the spoils of the electoral map between themselves as if they are baubles and trinkets for trade; it is an appalling one-fingered salute to the notion of representative democracy for which the ALP makes no apology.

Indeed. the party’s current federal “leader” — having lost a leadership vote of the Labor rank and file by more than a 60-40 margin to Anthony Albanese — occupies his position today only on account of union dictates to individual MPs to support Shorten in the ALP caucus: or else.

But Labor in its “modern” incarnation has never much cared for democracy: the wild frenzy to destroy the Abbott-Turnbull government within a single term, and the unprincipled gutter tactics with which that effort has been prosecuted over the past three years, far exceeds what might ordinarily be described as a “vigorous” opposition to the government of the day, and represents merely the culmination of an increasingly anti-democratic trend that has taken root at the ALP over the past ten years.

For once, however, Peris’ sudden resignation has left the ALP carrying the can.

Less than six weeks from polling day, it must now find a replacement Senate candidate, and quickly; Scrymgour would be the obvious (and most credible) choice, although Crossin’s musings ought to alarm Labor hardheads hoping some good might come of yesterday’s bombshell by replacing Peris with a much more substantial figure.

And there is, of course, no chance whatsoever that that candidate — whoever it is — will fail to be elected: with just two Senate berths to fill and the quota required identical at a double dissolution to that for a half-Senate election (for the uninitiated, the territories elect Senators for three-year terms that are synchronised with the House of Representatives) the only parties with a realistic chance of winning them are Labor and the NT’s Country Liberal Party, and neither is ever dominant enough to win both.

But just for once, one of these “smart” appointments by Labor has blown up in its face, which is no less than the party deserves.

It delivers a politically posthumous slapdown to any lasting belief (if there ever was any) that Gillard was possessed of an iota of sound judgement: the appointment of Peris should never have been made and we said so at the time.

Labor will continue to carve up the spoils of power for as long as it remains an unreconstructed morass of factional appetites and union prejudices, but this time at least the ALP has been made to look very silly indeed, and voters across the country are entitled to question just how poorly it might perform in office if they are inclined to elevate Bill Shorten to the Prime Ministership in a backlash against what has been a disappointing Coalition outfit to date.

And speaking of Shorten, a recent similar adventure in exercising a “Captain’s Pick” to install an Aborigine into a Senate vacancy over the heads of the local rank and file — this time in WA, with the endorsement of Pat Dodson — offers a chilling parallel for ALP strategists to ponder over the next few years: if, that is, Dodson is even elected, for he wasn’t even given a high enough position on the WA Senate ticket to make victory certain.

Shorten would want to be damned certain in his judgement of Dodson, and sure that he had backed the correct candidate where Gillard blundered badly: but if Dodson fails to enter the Senate at all, the embarrassment will be considerable, and point only to an insidious culture of preferment that should be stamped out at all costs, and which flies in the face of any sanctimonious blather about merit.


Really, Abbott vs Turnbull No Better Than Rudd vs Gillard

DESPITE THE RHETORIC about “grown ups being back in charge” and repeated, solemn pledges that the Liberal Party was “not like Labor,” the undignified and unedifying spectacle of leadership wars between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull now being laid bare in the Fairfax press are every bit as bad as the death pact fought out between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Australia deserves better. Its “leaders” indeed need to grow up.

At the outset, I want to be emphatic about something: the government led for two years by Tony Abbott was not a “conservative” government; it was not (despite the insult, trendy in the circles of the Left at present, being repeatedly thrown at it) a “right-wing” government; and it sure as hell wasn’t a “liberal” government; in fact, when all is said and done, the Abbott government and its legislative program — enacted, attempted and/or abandoned — was a mishmash of contradictory measures that were impossible to pigeonhole.

It raised taxes on middle incomes; it cut spending, yes, but to target its very own supporters in marginal seats, whilst utopian monoliths like the $24bn per year NDIS were left untouched and unfunded; it botched simple measures like a $5 GP co-payment for anyone not on a health care card by setting the price at an irregular level, applying it far beyond what was originally proposed, and advocating a ridiculous research fund be set up with the proceeds that was neither credible nor warranted against a budget haemorrhaging red ink.

It correctly withdrew subsidies to the car industry, but dithered over whether to hand out money to profitable businesses in other areas. It promised modest industrial relations reform based on a Productivity Commission review, but scampered at the first sign of harsh words from Labor and the unions. It promised a tax review that (it turns out) it sat on, despite the plan holding great merit (we’ll come to that).

And when its back was against the wall, courtesy of a hostile Senate and the total inability to respond tactically or strategically to the torrent of abuse and bile rained down upon it by a vapid opposition “led” by an insidious opportunist and by the unions, the ABC, the Fairfax press, Left-leaning, publicly funded QANGOs and the welfare lobby, its only defence was to fall back on stupid slogans and declarations of great achievement when in fact, the Abbott government’s CV was very thin for unequivocal wins.

Yes, there were achievements: the free trade agreements signed by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, the (promised) abolition of Labor’s hated carbon tax, and the cessation of endless boatloads of trafficked asylum seekers top such a list.

But to accuse the Abbott government of anything other than mediocrity is a fallacy, and to declare it unambiguously doctrinaire is simply wrong. In the end, Abbott’s outfit was risk averse, selectively frightened of producing losers, terrified of an opposition bereft of ideas and credibility, and obsessed with the self-preservation of the Prime Minister, a handful of trusty ministerial cohorts, and a small number of loyal backroom spivs whose merit and value to the government were arguably zero.

I start my remarks today thus because if there’s one thing the Liberal Party is not fighting over, it’s ideas; and whilst everyone knows that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — with his yearning to lurch savagely to the left on social and environmental issues — is hardly what you would call a conservative, the ultimate crime of the Abbott government was its sellout, through ineptitude and incompetence, of the millions of Australians who voted for it looking for a return to conservative governance. That opportunity has been lost, and it will be many years before another presents itself.

Like (I suspect) millions of Australians — including a large contingent of fellow Liberal Party members, to say nothing of huge numbers of disgusted Coalition voters — I have been reading Peter Hartcher’s five-part “story” of the Abbott government, Shirtfronted, in the Fairfax press this week, and it a regrettable truth that as insidious as the so-called revelations Hartcher has been publishing might be, the fact they are true is an indictment on the party and on those who’ve been entrusted with its stewardship at both the parliamentary and executive levels.

It is also a damning reflection on both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.

I’m not going to pick apart every salacious detail Hartcher has printed, and — still only three days into a five-page expose — there obviously remains scope for a great deal of additional embarrassing material to find its way into the willing pages of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald before the week is out.

But for Australians wearied by the war of attrition fought out by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard during Labor’s two recent terms in office — and whose disgust at the spectacle undoubtedly contributed to the size of the Coalition win over the ALP in September 2013 — what has played out on the conservative side of politics since that time is depressingly familiar.

And it is no stretch to say that Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull are, in the end, no better than Gillard and Rudd.

There has been a significant response to my article at the weekend that suggested Tony Abbott should leave Parliament; Abbott’s defenders and those (like me) who stand staunchly behind the principles and ideals of mainstream conservative governance have expressed shock, dismay and anger that I would suggest such a thing; those blithely camped in the facile Turnbull’s quarter can’t believe that such a pronouncement would emanate from this column.

Yet the mere fact of Hartcher’s aeration of the Liberal Party’s dirty linen simply underlines my reasoning; everyone’s hands are dirty in terms of what has gone on over the Liberal leadership, it seems, and despite the great disillusionment with the party that readers know I worked my way through last year and early this — and in spite of the carefully detailed critiques I was obliged, by objective appraisal, to level at Abbott and his cohorts — the deep commitment to the Liberal Party I have always had, coupled with a factionally independent stance I have maintained since first joining the party in 1990, means loyalty to the party won out in my mind, even if its direction (for now) left everything to be desired.

In penning the article advocating Abbott’s resignation from Parliament, I was guided by a simple conclusion: that if the party is to avoid tearing itself to pieces in full view of the public, someone has to depart.

That someone — given Turnbull, whatever you think of him, his methods in seizing power and/or his trendy, left-leaning social ideas, is now Prime Minister — is Abbott.

And whilst I might not politically support Turnbull, irrespective of the high personal regard I have for him, the fact is that he is leader of the party and thus Prime Minister — and those of us left behind must either close ranks in support of his government, or leave, and that goes especially for Abbott.

I don’t need to restate my historic support for Tony Abbott: readers are well aware of the fact.

But Abbott knows as well as anyone that every syllable he utters — and especially whilst he remains in Parliament — will be received, interpreted, distorted and relayed through the prism of leadership unrest by a hungry press pack desperate for headlines and determined to foment unrest in Liberal ranks.

When those utterances centre on justification, placing a rose-coloured tint on the misadventures of what (for whatever reason) was a poor government, or persisting with the odious and reality-defying defence of figures like former Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, or directly contradicting government policy on (for example) how to respond to the ISIS terrorist problem, they border on wanton attempts at sabotage.

Even if — on ISIS at least — Abbott is right.

(And in case anyone thinks I’m singling Abbott out for a kicking, I should note that after he became leader in 2009 and it was Turnbull who was up to questionable mischief, I sent the latter a private letter excoriating him for what he was doing. Now it’s Abbott’s turn, and given this column exists today where it did not in 2009, my remarks about Abbott are publicly made).

I don’t think anyone has been covered in glory where questions of the Liberal leadership and the party’s performance in office are concerned, and Hartcher’s series this week will strip further remaining gloss from those involved parties who remain in elected office, and quite a few others (read: Credlin) who serve (or served) the party behind the scenes.

Serial deputy leader Julie Bishop, for one, is looking a little less than beyond reproach for the second time since Abbott was dumped this week, with revelations she attended a meeting in February in which she was a “silent partner” to a teleconference participated in by Turnbull that discussed strategy for the latter to reclaim the leadership.

Coming as it does in the wake of claims following Abbott’s dumping that she failed to warn her leader of the imminent challenge, Bishop — a Liberal moderate who, despite the anathema of some of her views to party conservatives, was once workshopped as part of an alternative “third ticket” that might see her replace Abbott herself on a ticket with a deputy drawn from the Right — looks to have been not quite straight with the truth, whatever reality to the contrary might sit behind the perception press coverage of these events has fed.

Like Rudd and Gillard, Abbott had a Treasurer who simply wasn’t up to the job; arguably a better fit than Wayne Swan on merit (a low hurdle to clear, admittedly) Joe Hockey compounded his unsuitability by repeatedly and insistently invoking the spectre of former Treasurer Peter Costello — who, with the possible exception of Paul Keating, was the best Treasurer this country has had in 50 years.

The revelation by Hartcher that Hockey, in fact, had devised a tax reform blueprint in conjunction with Treasury — lifting GST to 15%, limiting its reach only to those items to which it currently applies, streamlining income tax scales to a 0%, 20% and 40% range, whilst cutting company tax to 20% and providing both money to the states for services and suitable compensatory adjustments to pensioners and welfare recipients — only highlights what a disaster the Abbott government was.

Hockey is to be condemned for his failure to prevail, or to even initiate public discussion on this very interesting blueprint; Abbott (and the cabal of advisers around him) are to be condemned for preventing Hockey from doing so. For a government elected with a reform mandate and the electoral imprimatur to fix the budget, this telling anecdote is an indictment.

But in the wider sense, what is being played out in the Fairfax press now merely proves what anyone with an eye on Canberra has long known: and that is, despite whatever might have been said to the contrary, Malcolm Turnbull never abandoned his ambitions to become Prime Minister.

Can anyone credibly suggest that the contest between Abbott and Turnbull — which has now run for more than six years — is any different to Rudd and Gillard?

Whether directly, by proxy, or through operatives taking it upon themselves to act on the combatants’ behalf — presumably to confer plausible deniability on the interests they represented — the undermining, backstabbing, leaking and manipulation that has been going on ever since is comparable to some of the worst revelations about the dreadful Labor duo: only the specifics of the circumstances, and not their general conduct, are different.

Abbott and Turnbull might not be narcissistic megalomaniacs like Kevin Rudd, or nihilistic liars like Gillard. Yet Turnbull’s ego and inflated sense of his own importance is well known. Abbott didn’t need to be a megalomaniac, for he had Credlin. Comparing the four Prime Ministers, on one level — to use the vernacular — might be regarded as a classic case of “same shit, different bucket.”

And for those who believe — however seriously — that the ascension of Turnbull has cured the Coalition’s political ills, some pause for thought would be well advised.

For starters, the Liberals’ new-found poll dominance should have induced Turnbull to call a December election for both Houses of Parliament; the fact he didn’t represents a grave error of strategic judgement.

How much that stands to cost the government is unclear, but the longer it takes to call an election next year, the harder it will grow to achieve the thumping victory that might have been secured now. And if Labor changes leaders, the removal of the toxic, pitiful Shorten will add yet another potentially dangerous dynamic.

One of Turnbull’s chief lieutenants — Special Minister of State Mal Brough — faces growing scrutiny (and attention from the constabulary) over what role he played in destroying the career of LNP turncoat and former Speaker Peter Slipper: Brough may be innocent of wrongdoing, but if events prove otherwise, when the inevitable detonation comes it will damage Turnbull (and the government) enormously.

Despite the reality that — for now — the policy settings of the Abbott era remain in place, this will change in the new year as the government evolves and an election nears; to this end, worrying signs are emerging that Turnbull is inching perilously close to re-indulging the climate change madness that (rightly) spelt the end of his tenure as Liberal leader in 2009.

Irrespective of your views on climate change, the one inescapable truth thrown up over the past decade is that the politics of carbon pricing and climate change are electorally lethal; Shorten is determined to learn that the hard way, with his dual carbon tax proposals, 100% RET and economy-smashing 45-50% emissions reduction targets.

Signs Turnbull still hankers after such lunacy have the potential to destroy his leadership and/or his government, although his refusal to sign a treaty in Paris this week on eliminating the use of fossil fuels, whilst possibly a sop to the Liberal Right, warrants a little more time to be spent observing his behaviour before judgement is cast.

The economy — let’s be blunt — is hardly in rude shape. A recession is a distinct possibility. As ever, should a recession occur, it will largely be the result of external influences over this country. But the political odium and rancour associated with being the first government to preside over one in 25 years will hurt the Coalition should it come to pass, and the only way to offset some of this is to rediscover the Howard-era zeal for economic reform: something this government has been remarkably gun-shy about to date.

Social policies dear to Turnbull’s heart, like gay marriage and the pursuit of republican government, enrage the Liberal Right, which is now forced to back a leader who is explicit in his enthusiastic and unqualified support for both: again, the potential for an explosion within the government is real, and considerable.

And should the proverbial effluent hit the fan, and these and other foreseeable atom bombs explode in Turnbull’s face, what solution would be sought by his opponents on the Liberal Right?

You’d never guess.

But Abbott, by stubbornly allowing Credlin and her hand-picked acolytes the latitude to run the government and to make the utter consequent botch of it they did, is no longer a feasible leadership candidate; the Liberal Right, as we have discussed before, does not currently boast a suitable contender should Turnbull fall under a bus.

And even Scott Morrison, who has featured heavily in Hartcher’s reporting, comes with question marks over his loyalty and conduct ahead of the leadership change. In any event, Morrison isn’t from the Liberal Right at all.

I know many readers (and many Australians) desperately want to vote against the Liberals because of the treatment doled out to Abbott, and I am not entirely unsympathetic; by the same token, however, I’m capable of thinking impartially enough to recognise that Abbott is largely responsible (directly and indirectly) for his own fate, and helping elect a Labor government (which is, ultimately, what voting against the Liberals does, if you do it properly and decline to preference them) is nothing more than cutting off your nose to spite your face if you’re a disgruntled Liberal.

One better option — in the Senate at least, and provided you don’t live in SA or Tasmania where the option doesn’t exist — would be to vote for the National Party’s candidates instead of the Liberals;’ even if it means numbering every square on that stupid metre-long ballot paper, at least the votes would stay in the government, but transfer numbers to the Nationals in a clear rebuke of the Liberals over the leadership change.

But when all is said and done, politics is politics — and in a climate where real debate and the willingness to advocate policies that produce losers (even if they are good for the country) has been subsumed by vacuous populism, adviser-driven aversion to risk and an obsession with media appearances — what has been going on since the fall of the Howard government will continue apace.

In those eight years, Labor and the Liberals have both had three leadership changes; in that time, the Prime Ministership has changed hands four times, but only once (in 2013) at an election.

Yet the Liberal Party, and especially under Abbott, has trenchantly insisted it is different to Labor in this regard: that it is somehow better behaved, more civilised, imbued with superior principles, more mature, and inherently reluctant to wield the knife against its own.

The reality, as Hartcher this week is laying out for all to see, is nothing of the kind.

And frankly, if politicians — including the sanctimonious Turnbull — genuinely want to elevate their public standing and retrieve the deservedly dim view with which the electorate regards them, the sooner they grow up, the better.


“Weak,” Inept, Or Just A Liar, Bill Shorten Is Not A Leader

LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten might dismiss it as “propaganda,” but the fact is that an attack ad produced by the Liberal Party and posted on YouTube sums him up to the letter; disloyal, treacherous, dangerously incompetent and downright dishonest, the moronic Shorten is a frightening candidate for the Prime Ministership of Australia: and grotesquely, he makes the imbecile Rudd and the divisive Gillard appear as national heroes by comparison.

I will probably post again late tonight, for the interview with fraudster and pretend cancer sufferer Belle Gibson on the Nine network’s 60 Minutes programme tonight revisits a theme we covered off on some months ago; I have no time for people like Gibson — and readers should be well assured that she and the handful of other con artists already exposed this year for profiteering and/or glorying in false and/or embellished stories of misery are just the tip of the iceberg — and if the interview with Tara Brown tonight is as hard-hitting as Nine insists (despite suggestions it’s a paid powder puff piece) then the exercise will have been more than worth the money they dangled at Gibson to entice her to appear.

I think Belle Gibson should be prosecuted for fraud, and made an example of, and we will return to that theme tonight.

But I has seen the Liberal Party’s new attack advertisement this weekend, and I must say it’s absolutely on the mark; Shorten has had more than 18 months now as the “leader” of the ALP, and the story that is increasingly able to be told as a result of his words and actions is one of a man who should never be elected as Prime Minister of this country.

And as far as I am concerned, he isn’t even fit to sit in federal Parliament.

Is it merely “propaganda,” as Shorten claims? Well, as a paid political production disseminated to influence political behaviour, of course it is to some degree.

But that doesn’t make it any less valid — especially when particularising the abominable track record of a specimen like Shorten.

Shorten told the Fairfax press yesterday that he’s “learnt not to take too seriously Liberal Party propaganda,” and I suppose for a man trying to spread the lie of an $80 billion cut to health and education spending — monies that derive from unlegislated Labor promises that the Liberals explicitly refused to match before the 2013 election — and who refuses to commit the ALP to “restoring” those monies, Bill Shorten knows all about propaganda: he’s busy enough with his own.

And the key critique Shorten offered Fairfax was that the advertisement was evidence the Liberals want to “live in the past:” for a man whose party is gearing up to fight a fourth consecutive federal election with WorkChoices at the centre of its campaign, Shorten would know all about that too.

But where is the new Liberal Party attack advertisement incorrect?

Is it the assertion of weakness? Hardly. Shorten stands for absolutely nothing.

Is it the assertion that he is untrustworthy? Anyone who watched The Killing Season over the past three weeks knows you wouldn’t trust Shorten as far as you could throw him, and much less with the governance of the country and the Prime Ministership: Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard would have the franchise on that.

Is it the assertion he’s got too much baggage from his time in the unions? Well, with what is emerging at the Royal Commission into the trade union movement — Shorten’s powerbase and old stomping ground — it’s not unreasonable to wonder if he might end up being charged with something. No baggage?

To listen to Shorten, of course, it’s an “unfair smear,” and one of the problems with “Bull Shittin'” is that in his world it’s fine to dish out as much dirt on opponents as he and his henchmen can muster, but to have someone hold him, and them, to account? Well, that’s an outrage. But Shorten can’t have his cake and eat it as well.

Is it the assertion he has too much baggage from his “six disastrous years” with Rudd and Gillard? It is sufficient to note that based on the accounts of his own colleagues, Shorten has had to clean an awful lot of blood off his own knife since entering Parliament, and Rudd and Gillard — and others — have the scars between their shoulder blades as testament to his handiwork.

Or perhaps it’s the litany of policy failures that are directly attributable to Shorten — the ongoing commitment to the carbon tax, the sellout to the Greens over asylum seeker policy, and so forth — that fleshes out the case he stands for nothing — or at least, nothing that hasn’t been tried, and has failed, and been comprehensively rejected.

As we’ve noted in this column, Shorten’s only policy (that he now stands on only to hide) is to abolish the private health insurance rebate — and the reason he wants it concealed is that it would cripple the healthcare system in Australia if ever implemented, and cause its collapse. So much for Shorten’s “year of ideas.”

And as for the Liberals’ assertion that Shorten is committed to more taxes, more waste, more debt (and by implication, more spending), the advertisement does no more than accuse Shorten of following in the footsteps of the Whitlam, and Rudd, and Gillard governments, which were also mirrored in the final disastrous term of the Keating years.

What has changed at the ALP on Shorten’s watch? Apparently nothing.

Perhaps Shorten’s real complaint against this piece is that it brutally exposes the fundamental truth — that he is not a leader — and in doing so, this column has led that charge since the day Labor’s “democratised” leadership election process was rigged by unions to ensure their grip on MPs saw Shorten prevail against the wishes of the party’s membership.

Anyone who thinks Shorten is in fact “a leader” should watch the advertisement, and try to explain away its final sequence: busted for lying over his involvement in knifing Gillard — and caught out for treachery and disloyalty for more than the first time — Shorten, with an answer for everything, had an answer for that too: but he still went ahead and stuck the knife into Gillard, just because he could.

Just because it advanced his interests.

And just because, unable to truly lead people, treachery and disloyalty and lies are the only tools Shorten has to work with in his quest to become Prime Minister.

I can only suggest anyone who is repelled by the odious behaviour of Bill Shorten share a link to this article far and wide, for he is not the kind of person Australia can afford to bestow responsibility for its welfare and its future upon.

My call is that the Liberals’ new advertisement hits the target perfectly.

Bill Shorten is a grotesque and insidious specimen. He is not a genuine leader’s sphincter. He is a treacherous thug and a liar who is solely motivated by his own ambitions and his own welfare. And the prospect of him as Prime Minister is a hideous and terrifying prospect.



Lying Shorten Betrayed The Public As Well As His PM

AMID THE FALLOUT from the ABC’s airing of Labor’s filthy laundry — The Killing Season — has emerged a tawdry piece of duplicity by (now) Labor “leader” Bill Shorten that might damage him more than a first glance suggests; outed by a radio host in Melbourne as having lied publicly about his involvement in the overthrow of Julia Gillard, Shorten now presents as the most untrustworthy and dishonest candidate for the Prime Ministership in decades.

It’s an article of faith among the general public — often wrongly and mostly unfairly — that politicians are nothing more than rank liars; that the group of people elected to go off to Canberra (or to Spring Street, Macquarie Street, North Terrace and so forth) morph into the most unethical, dishonest, self-obsessed bunch of corrupt gutter dwellers the country boasts the dubious ability to spawn, and that elected representatives will literally say and/or do anything to anyone in the interests of self-advancement with a total and cavalier disregard for whom they might walk over in the process.

It’s an assessment I fundamentally disagree with: having spent a lot of time over the past 25 years or so in and around politics I know there are many, many good people on all sides of the political divide who find their way into public office, and whilst there are always a few bad apples in any barrel (and yes, politics has its fair share of them) the obfuscation of most MPs is limited to and dictated by quaint concepts such ministerial solidarity and other forms of official confidentiality that are actually contrived in the interests of the public benefit.

Whether people agree with those strictures is a valid matter for debate, for those so inclined.

But public esteem for politics and politicians is not helped by the kind of brazen lying opposition “leader” Bill Shorten was caught engaging in yesterday by 3AW morning anchor Neil Mitchell; the fact Shorten’s transgression related to precisely the kind of behaviour voters seem to find the most distasteful about politics — subterranean machinations and doing hatchet jobs on people, in this case former Prime Minister Julia Gillard — only compounds such perceptions, and reinforces the utter self-obsession of a specimen like Shorten, whose reputation for disloyalty and wielding the knife against his colleagues is already well entrenched and apparently well deserved.

For those who don’t know, Mitchell — who interviewed Shorten two days after the 2013 parliamentary Mid-Winter Ball, during which Shorten told Rudd in a secret side-meeting that he would knife Gillard and bring the support of those MPs’ votes he controlled to the Rudd camp — realised whilst watching the final instalment of The Killing Season on Tuesday night that Shorten had lied to him on air two days later; and yesterday, having “asked questions” of Shorten, Australians were gifted a grubby little insight into the man masquerading as a candidate for the Prime Ministership.

For background, readers may peruse articles from the Murdoch and Fairfax press, along with a separate opinion piece from Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt.

And people should watch the interview Mitchell taped with Shorten on 21 June 2013, during which — despite attempting to squirm his way out of giving iron-clad commitments around his support for Gillard — Shorten nonetheless gave explicit denials of any involvement of leadership machinations when we now know he was in it up to his neck, and in the course of which he had the nerve to berate Mitchell for persisting with trying to get to the bottom of Shorten’s agitation on Rudd’s behalf and his private commitment to stick his knife between Gillard’s shoulder blades.

Is it any wonder Liberal frontbencher Bruce Billson, seated alongside Shorten, could barely keep a knowing smirk off his face.

Shorten, at the time that interview was taped, was already battling unfavourable publicity over the fact he was instrumental in knifing Rudd three years earlier; now, of course, he was reprising his role by doing the same thing to Gillard.

Accusations of loyalty are never going to be something Shorten is burdened by.

But what this episode shows is that Shorten is apparently an individual prepared to literally say and do anything in his pursuit of his own political ambitions: he benefited from promotion after the elevation of Gillard as Prime Minister and, as history shows, he would benefit from promotion under the restored leadership of Kevin Rudd. In the absence of those undeserved promotions it is unlikely Shorten would have had any coherent case to make in seeking the Labor leadership after its thumping election defeat later that year.

When caught out by Mitchell, Shorten’s response was deeply unsatisfactory for a man purporting to present as a Prime Ministerial candidate; his apology was to Mitchell only, not to the audience of several hundred thousand Melburnians who were listening the day he lied on air — to say nothing of the wider Australian public, who were made aware of his denials through other media during the day — and came in the form of a phone call during a news bulletin when Mitchell was on a break. Shorten refused to be interviewed on air or for his apology to be broadcast.

His excuse for lying — that he didn’t want to make “a diabolical situation (ALP leadership speculation) worse” is disingenuous, fatuous, and an utter hypocrisy, for away from the 3AW microphone he had been doing precisely that, undermining his leader behind her back and garnering support for the termination of her tenure.

The idea he had been caught “on the hop” and by implication, unprepared to answer questions on Labor leadership rumblings and his role in them, means he is either an idiot, or totally oblivious to any concept of honesty in his public discourse, or (more realistically) both.

As recently as yesterday morning Shorten was holding the line that his hands were clean when they were not, remarking that it was not his job “to be the curator of the museum of Labor (sic)” in relation to questions around his involvement in matters oxygenated by The Killing Season when in fact, he was a central — even pivotal — player in them.

This column has been scathing of Shorten and utterly dismissive of any alleged merit he offers as a political leader, public figure or (God forbid) as a theoretical Prime Minister: episodes like this one, whilst perhaps innocuous viewed in isolation and from a purely clinical perspective, are becoming more frequent, and as I am fond of observing from time to time, where there is one there are usually others. This seems a truism and a self-fulfilling prophecy where summary analysis of Shorten is concerned.

Evidence that the Labor “leader” is a disloyal, treacherous, scheming, opportunistic and self-promoting charlatan — and now, unequivocally, a liar — is mounting. It is no wonder Shorten’s public approval numbers are collapsing, not that they were anything startling to begin with. As a “leader,” I think it’s fair to say Shorten is a red herring, and a fraud.

Nothing about this sordid little incident paints politics and politicians in a particularly rosy light but, happily, it makes Shorten look worst of all: and the point I most want to make this morning is that aside from betraying Gillard — like Rudd before her — Shorten has actually betrayed the men and women of Australia he expects to vote for him, demonstrating that they, like everyone else he encounters, are entirely instrumental to him.

Very soon, Shorten will front the Royal Commission into the trade union movement to answer and explain allegations that the Australian Workers’ Union — during his tenure as its Victorian and/or national chief — received substantial sums of money on numerous occasions from a raft of companies whilst striking industrial agreements with those businesses that stripped away the same workplace entitlements Labor and the unions (and Shorten) have been so viciously outspoken about the need to protect, most notably wherever any mentions of workplace reform and the Liberal Party are made in the same sentence.

To date, the explanations that have been offered from all interested quarters on these matters have been vague, inconsistent and unconvincing; the only conclusion to draw is that the companies involved were buying industrial peace and freedom from the threat of union-led industrial anarchy, and I can only remark that the monies involved might as well have been handed over in brown paper bags.

Shorten’s appearance at the Royal Commission probably represents his last opportunity to salvage his reputation and convince people he is able to be trusted as a prominent senior figure in affairs of state in Australia.

If the tawdry little episode revealed by Mitchell — which Shorten wilfully attempted to conceal — serves as any kind of indicative reference of what to expect, then good luck with that.


Killing Season Nothing New, But Could Bury Labor Anyway

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.


Killing Season: Voters Should Heed Warning On Treacherous Shorten

WITH TELL-ALL ABC expose The Killing Season rolling e’er onward last night, viewers were treated to character assessments of Bill Shorten, from his own colleagues, that suggest a deeply ingrained sense of treachery and self-obsession; The Killing Season reheats a tale of grimy backroom machinations and ruthlessness that reflects poorly on its participants in the unions and the ALP. But if his colleagues couldn’t trust Shorten, neither should voters.

I am on the run again this morning, so this post will be fairly succinct; we still haven’t discussed the issue of paying people smugglers to return boatloads of asylum seekers to Indonesia, although with the emergence of revelations yesterday that Labor did it in office as well, the mindless attack on the issue by “leader” Bill Shorten irrevocably loses most of its political potency. I still think some kind of rationale for the practice must be offered, although I readily accept the government’s reticence to detail operational matters relating to “stopping the boats.” We’ll keep an eye on all of this and come back to it.

But I wanted to quickly posit on the second (and penultimate) of the ABC’s dirt-dishing account of the Labor leadership wars between 2007 and 2013, The Killing Season, which screened last night; it does remain my intention to more fully comment on this extraordinary production in sum once it has concluded, but what it has served up to viewers to date is astonishing.

That Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard quickly became adversaries after Labor’s return to office in 2007 ought to surprise nobody; in the run-up to the defeat of the Howard government, neither of them could be accused of lacking ambition, and those of us who had had anything at all to do with Rudd in Queensland (which, once removed, I certainly had prior to my move south in 1998) were well aware the guy was an obsessive megalomaniac who refused to brook any dissent.

About the kindest thing I have heard uttered publicly to describe him — by those who also knew what he was like — was former Labor leader’s abrupt put-down in an email to Rudd during the former’s tenure in Parliament which opened with “Hey, knucklehead:” it isn’t the worst thing Rudd has ever been called, of course, but it was succinct. And accurate.

I was sick the day Labor won the 2007 election, but a few days later an old confidant from Queensland called me to discuss the lay of the land. “How long do you think it will take for the (leadership) fun and games to start?” he asked me. My associate gave it six months; I said I’d give it twelve. Both of us shortchanged the ALP in hindsight as it turned out, but for a fight to break out over the prize assets of electoral victory as soon as it did over the ALP was unprecedented and, as was the case with Rudd and his faults, it didn’t really surprise anyone who knew what the beast was truly like.

Politics is no game for those who think everything should proceed on deep principles of honesty and loyalty and fidelity to one’s word; of course, in an ideal world this would be so, but in practice things — for better or for worse — simply don’t work that way.

Even so, the indecent boasting on all sides that The Killing Season has thus far elicited in relation to plotting and scheming and treachery touches new levels of brutality for even Australian politics or by the Labor Party’s notoriously robust standards.

I don’t think anyone would be particularly wise to bet the house on the authenticity of the accounts presented by either side; when it comes to the fracas between Rudd and Gillard, it is impossible for both to be as lily-white as they claim but to listen to them both last night — again — I found it impossible to doubt the validity of either of their stories.

What did come as no real surprise, however, was a warning (repeated in both the Fairfax and Murdoch titles this morning) to Julia Gillard from her ally, Sussex Street backroom boy and NSW Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib, not to promote Bill Shorten.

(Update, 12 noon: reports are circulating on Twitter this afternoon that Arbib is denying ever warning Gillard, directly or indirectly, that Shorten couldn’t be trusted, or making the claim as bout him directly. We’ll keep an eye on this).

Shorten, whose name most had never heard before he milked the rescue of two gold miners at Beaconsfield in Tasmania in 2006 for all it was worth in personal publicity, was spoken of as a future Labor leader (and Prime Minister) virtually from the day he entered Parliament in the Rudd landslide in 2007, although how widespread that particular sentiment was is — being kind to Shorten — at best debatable.

Yet if Rudd was a creature of vaulting, tasteless, off-putting ambition, Shorten was even more so, and as recent events and the proceedings of the Royal Commission into the unions tend to support, the sense that Shorten would say and do literally anything in the interests of his own advancement is impossible to dispense with.

Readers and political observers will recall his “leadership” ticket, featuring current deputy (and perhaps knife-wielding replacement) Tanya Plibersek, for no better reason than the trumpeted tokenism that he could “boast” a female deputy and his opponent, Anthony Albanese, couldn’t.

Or his tasteless posturing and brown-nosing to minority communities at the expense of the majority in a brazen stunt designed to help him secure the Labor leadership: little, of course, has been heard from Shorten about any of these communities since he triumphed over Albanese 18 months ago.

Or, to use a more recent illustration, Shorten’s willingness to mount economic “arguments” that advance his own ambitions and interests, but which if ever realised would inflict shattering damage on Australia, is not a marker of an individual whose politics could be described as remotely principled, responsible, or even decent.

In this vein it is little wonder that people who knew him were able to comprehensively warn Gillard off either trusting Shorten and/or rewarding him with promotion.

Yet Gillard ignored this advice to her peril, with the inevitable consequence that just as Rudd ended up sporting Shorten’s blade between his shoulders, so too did Gillard once the offending implement had been retrieved and the blood polished off.

Bill Shorten now holds the dubious distinction of being the only major party “leader” to have knifed two incumbent Prime Ministers from his own side of the fence and emerge at the top of the greasy pole; that he has done so is no cause for admiration or acclaim, but for alarm and extreme wariness.

After all, if Shorten’s own colleagues can ‘t trust him as far as they can throw him — and ample evidence already exists that the man himself will say and do literally anything in the furtherance of his own petty delusions — then how can the voting public ever trust him with the welfare, prosperity and astute management of the country?

Like Gillard, voters have been warned about Shorten, and they don’t need to wonder whether the warning is fair dinkum: both Rudd and Gillard were knifed by the Labor “leader” at the very earliest opportunity he could engineer. The thought of what he might be capable of if — God forbid — ever elected Prime Minister is truly horrifying.