After the extraordinary media beat-up of Kevin Rudd’s outburst at some of his backbenchers critical of the Government’s reduction of parliamentarians’ printing allowance, I questioned whether giving this pitiable story more oxygen was apposite, but as it continues even today, and encouraged by the comments of Bushfire Bill and others on The Poll Bludger over the weekend, here goes.
It was never more that a one day story, but as it emerged on a Sunday, I suppose the weekday shock jocks had to have their go this morning. [more]
When I got wind of the story on Saturday night, I asked myself who would write such a tawdry piece, and who do you think jumped into my mind – Glenn Milne. He seems to have a mission to furnish the Sunday tabloids with scuttlebutt, and if he can engineer a smear against Rudd in the process, that’s grist to his mill. This time he seems to have had another objective, to float this yarn as the PM travelled to the US for meetings of major import to this nation, and given Rudd’s steadily rising prestige on the world stage, also for the globe. What better outcome for Milne than to not only cast slurs locally, but also to embarrass Australia’s PM on the world stage? Of course he would deny this, but as this story is already a couple of weeks old, as it was on VexNews on 14 September and as Misha Schubert is said to have broken it earlier, why did he file this non-exclusive story just now? You make up your own mind.
No doubt Milne’s initial reaction would have been one of chest-swelling pride that not only had he promulgated a ‘sensational’ tale, elaborately embellished visually in some local outlets, but it had also travelled overseas. He may be less impressed with his efforts today after the feedback he’s received from bloggers and talkback.
What motivates this man to keep coming up with sleazy pieces about Rudd? I have a theory. Above all other journalists Milne has longed for the end of the Rudd honeymoon, which he prophesizes regularly, but which steadfastly refuses to eventuate. Even Dennis Shanahan, at least temporarily, has given up on this. Frustrated by witnessing no progress in Rudd’s long-awaited descent from stunning levels of popularity, he believes he can nudge along Rudd’s fall from grace by digging up bits and pieces that he thinks will awaken the besotted electorate to Rudd’s real and quite nasty inner self. This is what we have come to expect from Milne – he delights in recalling, on every possible occasion, the Scores nightclub affair, the Brian Burke connection, the s**t-storm event on TV, the ‘Ipswich Inc’ invention, the RAAF air hostess saga, the fictitious hairdryer incident, the Rudd temper that intimidates and overworks his office staff leading to a big turnover, with some not seeing their kids for months on end, and so on. Anything unpleasant in Milne’s eyes is added to his catalogue and trotted out endlessly.
Another theory is that Milne is furious about Rudd’s repeated labelling of him as ‘the Coalition’s journalist of choice’. This is deliberate and will continue. Many bloggers agree with Rudd. But Milne so fancies himself as balanced that on talkback radio this morning he felt it necessary to attempt to rebut this label. Rudd has stung him and he’s out for revenge.
Let’s look at this pathetic mugging realistically.
First let’s set the scene. Australia’s Prime Minister is in the US for talks on climate change and the global economic situation, as well as to encourage investment in this country. In just two years he has earned an international reputation for his strategic thinking on climate change and in the G20 forum. He is highly respected. While in the US he will co-chair a meeting on climate change with Bill Clinton; he will join more than 100 leaders for a special UN summit in New York tomorrow at which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has assigned him a special role. He will then attend the G20 meeting of leaders in Pittsburgh where he will talk about Australia’s unique escape from recession and severe unemployment. Between meetings with world leaders, he will have engagements with executives from major financial institutions, hedge funds, ratings agencies and other big corporate players to try to get them to invest in Australia. Does Milne think that these assignments are sufficiently important to give him clear air to address them? No. He’s quite prepared for the PM to be distracted by his inconsequential story, as indeed he was by an equally thoughtless journalist at his very first doorstop. Glen Milne, how can you hold up your head?
Next let’s examine the misdemeanour which Milne so nastily lays on Rudd. Rudd swears. He uses the ‘s’ word and the ‘f’ word. Sometimes he does his block. Goodness gracious me! Is there a male, or for that matter a female; indeed is there an older schoolchild who does not use these words, which are now part of the Australian vernacular? When I was a kid ‘damn’ was a swear-word, and ‘bloody’ was taboo. Now the former is seldom used (except perhaps by Milne when he’s upset) and the latter is part of our language, even in ads. So what is Milne on about? He points out that Rudd goes to church every Sunday. Presumably that should be enough to inhibit him from allowing an expletive ever to pass his lips.
Let’s look now at his descriptor of Rudd. He may not have invented the term ‘potty mouth’ but he loves using it. My dictionary doesn’t have ‘potty mouth’ but the Urban Dictionary defines it as “Someone who can't utter a sentence without the excessive use of swearwords.” Well, we heard him use s**t-storm once on TV and Milne says Rudd used the ‘f’ word three times in a private meeting with backbenchers. That hardly fits the definition, but apparently it’s enough in Milne’s view to warrant the tag. His lead has been followed by its use on ABC news and current affairs and on SBS where the term ‘foul-mouthed’ was also used. No doubt Milne feels gratified.
Milne is laying a bum steer on Rudd, if I am allowed to use that unseemly expression. He knows perfectly well that the use of those words is commonplace and is no reason at all for condemning him. Those who point out that Paul Keating used much worse invective, or that John Howard had black moods after every poor poll, or that Malcolm Turnbull has a violent temper, miss the point. We know that all leaders have times of stress, times of frustration, and need to dress down those who are not pulling their weight or pulling in the wrong direction. But because Milne is out to ‘get’ Rudd, anything goes. He’s trying to draw the inference that Rudd is not the pleasant man we see on TV that people find engaging when they meet him, the man who shows concern and decency towards those who are less well off, the hardworking leader intent on improving the lot of Australia and its citizens. No, he’s a nasty, swearing, bad tempered man who ought not to be leading this country.
In fact Milne sees Rudd’s character as so flawed that he feels entitled to show such contempt for him as he embarks on a critical overseas engagement that he writes the scurrilous piece he did at the weekend, hoping that it would follow Rudd and humiliate him. He failed, as so often he does, when Rudd disdainfully dismissed his piece.
Milne feels entitled to direct his poison pen towards Rudd whenever he pleases. Given his apparent lack of insight into his own behaviour and the galling effect it has on many readers, together with his disinclination to modify it, he might be surprised to know that the contempt he shows towards Rudd is more than matched by the contempt in which many bloggers and talkback callers hold him.
Milne is steadily sinking deeper into whatever he’s swimming in; if he sinks any lower he might find himself paddling alongside Piers Akerman.
What do you think?