Features Australia

Strange bedfellow

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

I thought I should share with you something you didn’t already know about Kevin Rudd. I mean, let’s face it — it’s getting harder and harder to find unusual stories about our regurgitated Prime Minister, given the hundreds of thousands of words that have been devoted over the past few weeks to shedding yet more light on this beguiling ‘personality’. (The inverted commas are deliberate, given that there are those in the know, such as Mark Latham and Gary Johns, who have claimed Rudd is one giant personality-disorder-made-flesh, a chameleon, a void, an abstraction, rather than a fair dinkum human being of firm political beliefs and convictions. And who am I to question such claims?)

But before we get to my juicy scoop — which is 100 per cent original, by the way, meaning you won’t have an inkling of what I am about to spring on you, no matter how much Kevology you’ve recently consumed — a warning: my Kevin story conjures up deeply unpleasant imagery. So, if you are even the slightest bit squeamish, I suggest you zip straight on to Derek Parker’s excellent Anne Summers book review instead.

My story is also 100 per cent true, which is not something all Kevinographers can boast. Are we really to believe all the gory tales about how badly he treated everyone, reduced air hostesses to tears, shredded Heiner documents, got down and dirty at Washington sleaze joints, is Narcissus reborn, a coward, a Gunstonesque razor-wielding egomaniac, a foul-mouthed, ruthless saboteur, a chaotic, dysfunctional, psychopathic megalomaniac with a $30,000-a-month phone habit who had a nervous breakdown when the rat-copulating Chinese ignored him at Copenhagen? Yes? Well, no wonder then that he’s so popular with the ‘Jackass generation’: those voters under 25 who grew up worshipping men who jumped naked into cactus bushes or stuck tubes of wasabi into unusual orifices. Indeed, Kevin’s earwax-chewing YouTube video is right up there with the best of Johnny Knoxville when it comes to pure revulsion, yet it has never troubled Kevin even in the slightest.

But back to my scoop. Steel yourself, now: Kevin Rudd used to sneak into my bedroom late every night and slip into my bed. Not only that, my older brother used to charge him money to let him do so. In fact, it got to the point where my brother even gave Kevin his own key. And this horrendous arrangement persisted for around 12 months when I was just a young whipper-snapper. No wonder I ended up with severe personality disorders of my own, such as selling myself to advertising agencies for all sorts of dubious purposes.

Before you call for a Royal Commission, however, I should point out that I wasn’t ever actually in my own bed when Kevin repeatedly hopped into it. In fact, I wasn’t even in the same town, nor the same country. Nonetheless, I’m sure you can empathise with my discomfort when I returned from a lengthy spell overseas to my native Australia only to discover that the bedroom in the house I grew up in in Canberra — my bedroom, my personal space, with my rock star posters on the wall — had been rented out by my wholly unscrupulous brother to any ambitious young bureaucrat who happened to fancy a place to lay their weary head after a hard day slithering up and down Canberra’s greasy career pole.


Still, the upside of all this was that when, many years later, Kevin became a national figure and the world’s most popular human being, naturally I felt that there must be some keen insights to be gleaned from my close-by-proxy relationship with the great man. After all, how many of us get to share our bed with a future Prime Minister? So naturally, as any aspiring writer would do, I bailed up my brother and demanded the dirt.

Now, it’s a fact that Kevin lived in our house for about a year or so. He was a junior diplomat at the time; part of his proud Mandarin-learning period. And it’s also a fact that my brother was close to both Thérèse and Kevin, not only because he was Kevin’s landlord and house-mate but also because they were all part of the famed St John the Baptist Gang, a youthful group who’d hang out in that quaint stone church in Reid that Kev pops over to every time he needs to refresh his religious creds.

So it goes without saying that there must be some sensational yarns from the early Eighties that my brother can spin; you know, how they all sat round puffing on bongs of Cottesloe weed, helping themselves to my precious record collection, scratched copies of Tales from Topographic Oceans and Sticky Fingers strewn across the floor, plates piled high in the kitchen sink? Or what about the secret home brewing kit my brother used to keep hidden in the basement in which he regularly created a lethal concoction of fermented marrows dripping in maggots? Surely that got a decent workout courtesy of the future PM?

Apparently not. Indeed, Mr Rudd appears to have made very little impression on anyone during his time under our roof. No fervent political activism. No ‘Free Namibia’ graffitied onto the wall of my bedroom. No ‘Biko’ feverishly scratched onto the bedpost. The young Kev barely left a mark.

Which is, of course, the key to Kevin’s success. He is a blank page, a Chauncey Gardiner whose greatest talent is simply ‘being there’. In his last comic role, Peter Sellers created an enigmatic simpleton whose folksy, homespun utterances and platitudes about gardens and television shows are misinterpreted as insightful comments about world affairs, and whose blankness attracts an otherwise jaded public. What sees Chauncey go all the way to being selected (by the faceless men, no less) to run for the presidency is his unique ability to act as a conduit for the hopes and dreams of disparate audiences. Indeed, by saying very little, Chauncey allows others to put onto his words whatever favourable interpretation they so desire. All things to all people.

In his press conference in Townsville, in which Mr Rudd announced changes to Gillard’s carbon tax regime that in reality will make no tangible difference whatsoever to the global aim of reducing carbon emissions, he managed to paint a purely political move as both an amazing environmental achievement, blabbing something about how the Great Barrier Reef will no longer be something his grandchildren will be forced to read about in history books (because it no longer exists), and as something ‘good for pensioners, good for families, good for small businesses’ and good for anybody else who happened to be wandering past. Pool cleaners, perhaps? Crucial details — ‘modelling figures I’ll pass to the Treasurer’ — were beyond, or beneath, him.

‘So in summary, this is a good day for Australia, an important day for Australia, and it’s a good day for the environment… so we can bring about a liveable planet for the future.’ Yep, everybody and everything taken care of, all in a day’s work.

Our very own Chauncey Gardiner. And he slept in my bed.

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