Bob Ellis on Rudd, Labor and everything


The Bob Ellis essay from Overland 194 is now available online. It opens like this:

Fourteen months in, the Rudd government is not as approved or acclaimed as it would like to be, nor its party workers as glad-hearted in victory as they thought they would be. A distinct odour of busy, prim dullness encloses this Prime Minister as it never did Bob Hawke or Gough Whitlam, and there’s a persistent rumour of control-freakery and a mistrust of colleagues that threatens this most talented of ministries with early eviction from government and a subsequent factional war.

It seems wrong that Bill Shorten, Mike Kelly, Bob Debus, Greg Combet, Duncan Kerr, Maxine McKew and Bob McMullan, all of them potential Prime Ministers, are almost never heard of, and when they are they must submit whatever they write or say to the tense, pernickety scrutiny of Rudd’s young minders. It seems an insult to Debus in particular, who does not make mistakes and has been thus far a cabinet minister for twice as long as Chifley, to be still, in his sixty-sixth year, in the third tier of government.

‘Elections are only ever won by Labor from Opposition,’ the esteemed backroomer Bruce Hawker once said, ‘when the leader seems bigger than the party, a person at some distance from it, an intervening, hypnotic Bonaparte.’

Rudd has proved like this in many, many ways. He belongs to no faction. He has no close caucus friends. The votes he commanded a week before he was first Leader totalled five; another forty were Gillard’s. He belongs to a parliamentary prayer group. He opposes abortion. He opposes euthanasia. He goes to wooden church. He speaks Mandarin. He rarely sleeps, and has lost, in a year, more than half of his bleary, overworked office staff. He convened the 2020 summit and swore to ‘respond’ to its recommendations by year’s end and has not done so. He knows what he thinks and will not change too readily. And what he thinks, it now and then seems, is closer to Hillsong or the Salvation Army than to FD Roosevelt or Hugh Gaitskell. Some say he is not a Labor figure but, like Tony Blair, ‘an ideological cuckoo’, one whose conservatism, piety and pragmatism make him unlike those around him.

Read the rest here.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

More by Jeff Sparrow ›

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  1. What an Essay. However thats our Bob Ellis always GREAT. Has he written any books .If so could you let me know.

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