Down here in the Antipodes, Australia has a little version of the BBC’s Question Time: Q&A, broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
For most right-thinking people, Q&A is, much like its British cousin: a sort of a weekly self-flagellation for political junkies, where pantomime audiences howl, holler and whoop as politicians of all stripes double-speak and evade difficult questioning (or not). One unqualified but somewhat popular person is generally placed on the panel for added banality. No names mentioned.
This week was a bit special, because it featured our incumbent Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, facing questions from an audience who, for Q&A’s standards, were surprisingly hostile, at least at first.
Then, as always happens in the show, someone asked the inevitable ‘gay marriage’ question.
The pastor accused Rudd of ‘chopping and changing’ his views for popularity, and Rudd came back strongly, arguing that he had come to an informed, Christian decision after a care deliberation of his conscience.
While I happen to be in a minority of conservatives who are in favour of gay marriage, something about Rudd’s response rubbed me up the wrong way.
Perhaps it was something to do with him voting against the motion 12 months ago, before his miraculous change of heart earlier this year.
Or maybe it might have been his steadfast refusal to challenge then-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for leadership of the Labor Party. Until, of course, he’d secured the numbers to win a ballot after successive failures.
Was it his ‘lurch to the right’ on the issue of asylum seekers, tossing away his party’s principles in an attempt to seize the mantle of immigration toughness from the Coalition?
It was all of the above. Political chameleons may win cheap votes, laughs and applause, but people eventually notice when politicians don’t actually believe in anything themselves. Flip-flopping around the deck of public life like a dying salmon is a sure way for most decent-thinking people to develop a hatred for you.
Anybody who believes that Kevin Rudd genuinely cares about the issue of gay marriage are deluding themselves. He didn’t care about it last September, when he voted firmly against it, and his empty, generic, spin-doctored response on Monday night meant nothing.
The man would tandoori his own grandmother and eat her if it secured Labor an electoral majority. Oh, and you’d no doubt find it on Instagram. Say what you will about Tony Abbott, but he’s never courted popularity.
Rudd represents everything that’s wrong about the current incarnation of the Labor Party, and why Labor supporters should be wishing for three years of a Coalition government. They’re a party that’s lost in the same wilderness that John Howard’s government found itself in 2007. A party that suffered too badly in Gillard-era opinion polls — and whose attempts to claw back the difference by reinstating Rudd utterly failed. Eventually, no matter what you say, the public won’t listen to you anymore. And in Labor’s case, nor should they.
When Labor loses by a sizeable majority on Saturday, Kevin Rudd will be flung onto the scrapheap of politics where he belongs. Then, with three years in opposition, Labor can perhaps reorganise themselves to present a serious, dignified political alternative to the Australian public. After the last six years, their supporters had better hope so.