By Michael Grealy
To rework Channel 9 Melbourne’s famous 6pm News promo of the 1980s ("Brian Told Me"), it was Barrie who told me about Kevin as leader.
Three words will long be remembered from Julia Gillard’s Adelaide media conference: chaotic, paralysis and sabotaged. They described, in order, her leadership rival’s work patterns, the state of the government he led and, by implication, his role in the 2010 election campaign.
Some media took up the ball. The Sydney Morning Herald’s David Marr said: ‘No Kevin. This isn’t a breakdown in civility. Your colleagues are at last telling us why you were sacked.”
As pro-Gillard Ministers add fuel to the bushfire, and letter writers draw on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Perry Gretton, Tumbi Umbi: "Kevin Rudd is not the Messiah. He’s just a very naughty boy"), it is true that formerly unnamed sources are finding the courage to be quoted by name.
But the story is not new.
Take Barrie Cassidy’s 2010 book "The Party Thieves, The Real Story of the 2010 Election." The ABC Insiders host and former Hawke press secretary didn’t miss in his account of the coup against Rudd – who had been labelled Captain Chaos by John Lyons as far back as 2008.
Firstly, on chaos and paralysis, Cassidy records Rudd summoning senior public servants for urgent meetings and keeping them waiting for hours, Ministers discovering major decisions in their portfolios only after the PM told the media first, the interfering nature of the PM’s office and a manic emphasis on winning the 24-hour cycle and its impact on governance.
He wrote: “That Kevin Rudd was cut down by Labor factions because of bad opinion polling is the great myth of 2010. The faction leaders took the initiative – that’s all. The support came in an absolute torrent. That’s because Rudd himself drove them (the numbers). His own behaviour had caused deep-seated resentment to take root.”
Cassidy added: “The coup was happening in part because Rudd had hijacked the party, and either ignored or abused key people within it for too long.”
Gary Gray bemoaned the blame lumped on Peter Garrett for the home insulation debacle: “For Rudd and his office to position Garrett as the fall guy was disgraceful, weak, sneaky, unprincipled and just plain wrong.”
Barry Cohen told Cassidy: “If Rudd was a better bloke, he would still be the leader. But he pissed everybody off.”
Take sabotage. Cassidy called the internal campaign against Gillard relentless, vicious and driven by some powerful media support.
Recalling the fallout from Laurie Oakes’ ‘exclusive’ that Julia Gillard had opposed in Cabinet a pension increase and paid maternity leave, Cassidy wrote: “It left few people in the Labor Party in any doubt that the source was either Kevin Rudd or somebody acting on his behalf, with or without his consent. It was now clear Gillard was going to be tested in a way that few leaders had been in the past.
"There was, undeniably, a rat in the ranks, to use a favourite Labor Party term. And that ‘rat’ was determined to bring down the government.
“Rarely before in an election campaign has a leader had such a fight, against an invisible yet real and potentially poisonous insider.”
So as we digest Kevin Rudd’s plea for an end to ‘vicious personal attacks,’ on the grounds they are ‘un-Australian,’ maybe the ABC will introduce Barrie Cassidy’s Insiders next Sunday with an update of Channel 9’s promo for the late Brian Naylor.