Is this our planet?

Often seems as if it is…


Thanks to my friend Philip Costello in New York – and formerly of Chippendale, Redfern and Surry Hills – for posting this on Facebook a little while back. In 1939 when that cover was printed the word probably hadn’t yet acquired its current meaning – in the UK and Australia for sure, but I am not sure if it is used in the USA even if that is where so many of them seem to live.

It has appeared in print in the quality Australian Press:


He’s a knobhead sometimes but I have always gotten on with him. He has a weird, egocentric way about him and he’s a dick in a bad mood but I tell him to get f—ed. [But] you can talk to him. You can have a joke…

Not always a knobhead but surrounded by them is Malcolm Turnbull whose recent address in Perth was to my mind perfectly reasonable. His colleagues should take it to heart, as indeed should those on the government side. Not relating to Turnbull’s speech but to another matter, Jim Belshaw’s latest post said this:

I don’t have a general answer. I don’t think that we are going to stop it through laws, protocols or codes of conduct. I don’t think that we should try to stop people expressing very strong views that we find distasteful in private. That’s their right. I do think that we should demand respect and manners in public discourse, that we should call those who do not display them.

I also suggest that we start at the top, with the political leadership and the commentariat. The next time a commentator calls the PM or opposition leader dismissively by their surname, object. The next time a commentator refers to you dismissively as the punters, object. The next time Treasurer Swan or PM Gillard or Mr Abbott play the game, object. I know that this probably sounds a bit silly and futile, but groups exercise their control in this way. And Australia is just a big group. 

In his speech Malcolm Turnbull said:


In the crowded and chaotic arena of public life, it was hard to have a rational and informed debate about the republic back then. It‟s even harder now.

There is almost nothing more important to good government and our nation‟s future than the quality, honesty and clarity of political discourse: how we explain policy challenges and trade-offs, and educate voters about the constraints we have to work within…how we express our position, our basis for reaching it and why it differs from that of our opponents if this is the case…how we communicate changes in policy and their implications.

Yet paradoxically, there is almost nowhere else in our national life where the incentives to be untruthful or to purposefully mislead are so great, and the adverse consequences of such behaviour so modest.

As Michelle Grattan says he is “entirely spot on” but “prescribing solutions is much more difficult.”

Sometimes I wish they would all just grow up! Knobheads!

Found an old Nicholson cartoon of a former waspish occupant of a high chair in Canberra:


Not entirely relevant, but I like it.

Even my reading has been infected by Jules and Kev!

So I am reading The Jesus Man by Christos Tsiolkas and there’s all that wanking and that death by self-castration – and guess what I inevitably think of!

Yes, the ALP and Jules and Kev…

And the eBook I am working through is Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy – where this guy called Kev takes Jules out in a rowing boat on an isolated lake and…

Well, you know the rest…

To paraphrase Bill Hayden many years ago, even a drover’s dog could win for the Libs come the next election, whatever happens today — whether Bruce Hawker or Jules and the No Faces gets up.

I recommend the books.

So now we know

Jules has the support of a clear majority in the Labor Caucus.

That ought to settle the matter, but we’ll see I guess. People do forget that we do not — thank God! – operate in a US style presidential system and consequently to not vote directly for the country’s leader. We do vote for the local candidate who embodies more of the policies than not that we would like to see operating in the country, and that usually (but not always) means picking one party or another. The party that sweeps or scrapes in overall then forms the government and the leader of that party – however chosen – then leads the country.

Thus Julia Gillard is at present the legitimate head of government in Australia.

Goodbye, Kevin. Goodbye Bruce Hawker!

Had the 2010 election led — as it well may have — to a hung Parliament with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister we equally would have had, under OUR system, no say in the choice of leader. If I had the choice, as a matter of interest, Malcolm Turnbull would have had the guernsey.

Next day

Peter Costello is not far wrong, in my opinion.

Those ministers who came out for Rudd were largely the ones who had been demoted by Gillard and bore her a grudge: Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Robert McClelland. The only person of significance to declare for Rudd was a weepy Anthony Albanese (why is it that Labor strongmen resort to tears on occasions like this?) and ”Albo” had been the numbers man on the last occasion. He was not a convert to the "new" Kevin. He was the last man standing with the "old" Kevin.

The most damning thing for Rudd was that apart from those mentioned above, and the honourable exception of Martin Ferguson, the whole of the cabinet was against him. His support was least among those who knew him best. Sometimes the closer you get to a person, the more you admire them. And sometimes you don’t! Rudd was stronger with the public because they were too far away to see behind the cheesy and slightly nerdy public persona. Those of us who have mixed with him in the parliamentary forum know the other Kevin as well.

This time the Gillard forces were determined to shine the spotlight on that other Kevin. They were led by Wayne Swan, someone who has known Rudd from high school. He described Rudd as "dysfunctional" with a "demeaning attitude to other people". He accused him of "sabotaging" policy announcements and leaving the government in a "mess". Swan told us that Rudd put "his own self-interest ahead of the … country"…

None of this would have surprised those who had followed Rudd’s career in Queensland, where his treatment of fellow public servants earned him the moniker "Doctor Death". The amazing thing was that it had been so well hidden. Every time a question arose about Rudd’s integrity in the lead-up to the 2007 election – for example, over his dealings with Brian Burke or his account of his night in a New York strip club – it was laughed off. The press were happy to ignore it because they wanted a change of government. And no two people did more to cover up for Rudd than Gillard and Swan…

I’m over all this, perhaps especially over K Rudd

It’s not that I an in love with Julia, or happy about the way Rudd was knifed. But I suspect David Marr is on the money here:

No Kevin. This isn’t a breakdown in civility. Your colleagues are at last telling us why you were sacked. And here the political is inescapably personal: you couldn’t run the place. The result was, as Julia Gillard said yesterday and every newspaper and television station has been repeating since, ”chaos and paralysis”.

It still beggars belief that Labor leaders – with or without faces – were unable to pull Rudd into line. They deposed him and decided the government would take the rap. We weren’t told it was Rudd but the Labor government that had lost its way.

Whether this was kindness or funk, the voters were left without a narrative; Gillard was left without legitimacy; and Rudd, with his depthless self-belief, was left to portray himself as a martyr and to campaign for his resurrection…

Had Gillard said then, ”I did everything I could to salvage the situation … to try to get the government functioning”, we would have liked her more and doubted her less. The narrative would have been about rescue not sabotage. The euphemisms she used to shield Rudd left her cruelly exposed.

Had she spoken the truth, she wouldn’t have broken any news. For months before his execution the media had been reporting Rudd’s dysfunctional dealings with ministers, the relegation of his cabinet, and the ceaseless difficulty of getting the man to sign anything.

[Yesterday Gillard]  admitted the man’s brilliance as a campaigner and his appeal to the people – she might have added that both were undiminished – and finally explained he was toppled because he couldn’t govern.

She has rarely been so eloquent, so much a leader and, yes, so angry.

Whether her candour will save her is another question. It’s a bit late in the day to be finally coming clean about the defenestration of Kevin in 2010.

There is something decidedly odd about Kevin Rudd, looking back over the past few years.

See also Michele Grattan and Eva Cox.

I’d rather talk about Leonard Cohen

Vomitous – that in all honesty was my very personal assessment of the Kevin Rudd resignation that was oh so obviously stage managed and timed for the peak news slots back home in Australia. But then the whole saga is – to put it mildly – disappointing.

I rather agree with rob1966 in his comment on Malcolm Farnsworth’s account of the crisis that ought not to be.

Rudd’s carefully timed speech had Bruce Hawker stamped all over it – down to the "catch phrases", the "careful wording", the "mannerisms", and the "facial expressions".
Hawker-Britton, the "strategists" that created the problem that is NSW Labor, now attempting to do the same with the Federal Party.
This leadership turmoil is NOT about policy difference, it is NOT about wanting to take the party in a different direction, it is NOT about what is good for the country – it is ALL about personal grievences, personal scores to be settled, and personal ambitions.
The country suffers as a bunch of bickering children carry out their playground squabble – initially behind closed doors, but now out in the open for all to see.
As an aquaintance of mine mentioned in passing last night – hopefully we can have a federal election soon, and elect some politicians who are actually interested in governing for the good of the nation instead of their own vested interests and egos.

And that doesn’t include Tony Abbott either in my book.

Come the election I will vote for Leonard Cohen:

In Paris, after the press conference, I’m discreetly ushered into a back room for a rare interview alone with Cohen. Up close, he’s a calming presence, old world courtesy mingled with Zen, and his smoke-blackened husk of a voice is as reassuring as a lullaby. I ask him if he wishes the long and painful process of writing his songs would come more easily.

"Well, you know, we’re talking in a world where guys go down into the mines, chewing coca and spending all day in backbreaking labour. We’re in a world where there’s famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons so it’s very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what?"

Does he learn anything from writing them? Does he work out ideas that way?

"I think you work out something. I wouldn’t call them ideas. I think ideas are what you want to get rid of. I don’t really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart. I never set out to write a didactic song. It’s just my experience. All I’ve got to put in a song is my own experience.”

In Going Home, the first song on Old Ideas, he mentions writing "a manual for living with defeat". Can a listener learn about life from his songs?

"Song operates on so many levels. It operates on the level you just spoke of where it addresses the heart in its ordeals and its defeats but it also is useful in getting the dishes done or cleaning the house. It’s also useful as a background to courting."

Is a cover of Hallelujah a compliment he has grown tired of receiving?

"There’s been a couple of times when other people have said can we have a moratorium please on Hallelujah? Must we have it at the end of every single drama and every single Idol? And once or twice I’ve felt maybe I should lend my voice to silencing it but on second thought no, I’m very happy that it’s being sung."

Does he still define success as survival?

"Yeah," he smiles. "It’s good enough for me."

Facebook does it for me again…

A couple of times in the past I have mentioned the Britannia Hotel and especially two friends I met there.

This is Morehead Street, which I first got to know way back in 1985 when two of my first gay friends from The Britannia Hotel lived there – Philip and Dean. They were much younger than I was – 21 and 19 respectively — but took me, a neophyte, under their wing, as it were. Later, in 1990, M and I were to take a room at Philip’s place in George St Redfern, our first joint address. Philip was a great friend, now living in Melbourne.

Well not any more he doesn’t. Facebook has delivered both as “friends” in the past few days! Smile One lives in New York, and the other in East Timor – and bemedalled as well though I am not sure what that is about. And here they are as I first knew them, pretty much.


Both have stories to tell and both I greatly admire and recall with real warmth. Good to see that they have got on so well these days.

Meantime local politics can be darkly amusing. The latest poll shows that anyone except the current leaders are the ones Aussies want right now, and I have to say I rather agree.


I think we are all just sick of the bickering, the relentless  negativity of the Opposition under Abbott and the unseemly self-inflicted wounds Julia has suffered over asylum seekers by deliberately embracing options that are really worse than those of the Coalition!

But Julia is saying very much the right things in Wollongong today. Let’s hope they deliver and the other mob don’t out of sheer bloody-mindedness  get the wrecking ball out again. They probably will, of course.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will bring with her two major announcements when she touches down in Wollongong today, both aimed at cushioning the impact of manufacturing job cuts, while also helping to transform the region’s economy.

Most significantly, Ms Gillard will name Wollongong as the first major beneficiary of the National Broadband Network, following furious lobbying from the region’s representatives.

The NBN will give a considerable boost to the region’s emerging technological sector fuelled by the information and communication graduates from the University of Wollongong.

As the fibre optic network spreads across the Illawarra, homes will have access to internet more than a 100 times faster than the existing speeds in some cases. The network uses fibre optic cables – vastly superior to the existing copper wire network – which it is hoped will lead to the creation of ‘‘garage businesses’’ able to sell their wares to international clients.

It also holds the potential to revolutionise health care, enabling doctors to diagnose and monitor patients remotely from great distances.

The network will be laid progressively across the Wollongong area, via a series of nodes, connecting directly to homes and businesses…

News of the NBN will be accompanied by an announcement of an extra $25million for the Maldon to Dombarton rail link. The funds will pay for detailed engineering design plans, a ‘‘realistic’’ construction timetable and new cost estimates.

The news does not represent the green light that proponents of the project were hoping for, but instead will make the project ‘‘shovel ready’’ if it is eventually approved. The total cost of the project, if approved, has been estimated at $550million and would involve the laying of 35km of track. If approved, the rail-link would connect the existing main Southern line directly to Port Kembla via Dombarton.

The final decision, however, rests with Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese together with his statutory authority Infrastructure Australia.

That’s all very vague. See my post Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link. It really ought to be an urgent priority and former NSW Premier Nick Greiner’s [Liberal Party] termination of the project was one of the many blows Sydney has rained down on this region. The NBN is a goer though. It is already live just south of here.

And tonight I will be intrigued and/or annoyed by All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace on SBS1 at 8.30. There’s some good discussion on the comment thread there.

There’s a lovely put-down in the comments on that YouTube:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves hobbits, elves, and wizards.

See also the Sydney Morning Herald TV Guide and a negative review from New Statesman.

How does Adam Curtis get away with it? In the past, this question, falling from my own lips, was implicitly admiring. What I meant was: how, in a world of dross and fearfulness, does he get his brilliant but difficult films screened? Now, though, I’m asking it in a more straightforward way. Whisper it softly, but I’m not sure that his new documentary series – All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (Mondays, 9pm) – adds up to much.

Yes, it’s full of arcane information, dizzying rhetorical leaps and serendipitous footage (no one uses a news archive like Curtis does, which is why, when I picture him in my mind’s eye, he always looks like a mole). But as a thesis, or even as a provocation – 21st-century connectivity has nothing to do with freedom; we are merely slaves to the corporations that sell us this chimera – it never really gets going. He loses you at every turn, with the somewhat ironic result that, when the thing is over, you resort to one of the machines he so despises – your laptop – to clear up the mess. (Oh, the hours that I have spent googling the followers of Ayn Rand’s stupid Collective!)…

2001 comes round again…

When I left off quoting my old Angelfire Diary for September 2001 I stopped on this sentence from 13 September: “In the background as I write the TV here in Sydney is still devoted to full coverage via CNN etc of the horrendous events of a few days back; rightly so. Perhaps later I will dare to say something.”

It is so ironic that the entry continued:

Meantime the bizarre events surrounding the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers (mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan) continues. Being relatively sane, I do not advocate open borders, but the current saga is odd to say the least. I still smell electoral advantage as a motive: why even Pauline Hanson has complained that the Government has been stealing her policies (and her voters?) The level of public discussion–at least in pubs and on talkback radio–has often been frightening in its ignorance and, indeed, racism.

Asylum seekers are to the current government what "kicking the Communist can" was to Menzies in the 50s and 60s. The Labor Party has been uninspiring to say the least; it is high time they did spell out a few alternatives a tad more clearly.

I purchased today Peter Mares Borderline: Australia’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (UNSW Press 2001), written before the current moral panic. The first chapter is an excellent summary of current legislation and practice. Skimming, I note he personalises the issues–preferable to abstracting them or demonising them. I have to confess that I entertained thoughts of a darkish nature about the post-Tiananmen "plane people" in late 89 and 90–until I spent a year teaching them and learned their stories. Some were villains, but the majority were and are an asset to this country. Would they still be here under the present government, had it been in power at that time? Most definitely not–not many of them.

Consider also this article by Robert Manne on the same subject, and mentioning Peter Mares’ book.

I will come back to this topic in time. It is an issue that saddens me, the way it has played out lately–weird deals with Nauru, for example.

Meantime my mind is still very much numbed by the events in New York.

All  the internal links there will be rewarded!

The Bulletin in 2001:

A ghastly taste for the absurd has infected John Howard’s desire to be shot of the asylum-seekers he refused to allow onto Australia’s Indian Ocean phosphate-mining outpost of Christmas Island.

By the time you read this, the bulk of that human flotsam – more than 500 people, including those picked up near Ashmore Reef at the weekend – are likely to be sitting on the super-heated, ravaged environmental outrage that is pretty much all that is left of another phosphate island, this time in the Pacific: a place called Nauru.

It has the advantage for Howard’s government of not being administered by Australia, which withdrew even its diplomatic representation from the island four years ago. It is also about as far from anywhere that is possible to be while still having a name. But one is hard-pressed to name any more advantages: there are none for the asylum-seekers, and none for the average Nauruan, either. Nauru has the population of an Australian country town, but has been forced to watch as its already tiny habitable space has been reduced by mining by four-fifths. Judging from recent history, the likely winners from the coming of the asylum-seekers to Nauru will be middle-men and spivs.

The whole deal was done with astonishing speed…

Mares in 2001:

The question is how we respond to the challenge of people-smuggling without, at the same time, abandoning protection for refugees.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock presents the electorate with an all-or-nothing choice: If we do not have mandatory detention as it exists now, then we must sacrifice sovereignty and abandon any effort to control who enters the country. But these two extremes are not the only alternatives. There are a range of policy options in between.

Few people would question the policy of detention on arrival, so health checks and character assessments can be carried out. We could have a system, similar to that in Sweden, where continued detention is allowed when there are serious doubts about a person’s identity, or when there is strong reason to believe a person will pose a threat to society, or will abscond and try to disappear into the community if released.

There are also options for the conditional release of asylum seekers, which could include, for example, a requirement that they report weekly to the department or another authority, or a system of community sponsorship and support.

Remember that many of the people arriving on boats are refugees. They have an interest in staying within the system in order to have their status recognised.

Toughening our response to asylum seekers will only increase the level of conflict within the system; it will require higher, stronger fences, more tear gas, more water cannon, a deaf ear, a blind eye and a much harder heart. An approach that is mean and punitive, even when it is applied to non-citizens, ultimately weakens notions of tolerance, justice, fair play and openness in our own body politic.

The more we seek to deter asylum seekers and refugees through harsh treatment, the more Australia comes to resemble those repressive nations from which they flee.

Manne in 2001:

Ruddock’s speech centred on a distinction between what might be called deserving and undeserving refugees. Deserving refugees were the millions waiting patiently and hopelessly in the thousands of camps throughout the Third World. Undeserving refugees were the selfish "queue-jumpers", those rich enough to pay "people smugglers" for passage to a country in the prosperous First World.

Because of the recent arrival in Australia of thousands of undeserving Middle Eastern refugees, Ruddock had already, he told us, been forced to remove 3,000 of the 12,000 places set aside next year for humanitarian cases abroad. Yet the unwanted Iraqis and Afghanis were not merely stealing the places of those genuinely in need. In arriving uninvited on our shores they were, somehow, responsible for undermining the very foundation of our proud tradition of cultural diversity and tolerance.

The underlying premise of Ruddock’s speech – that for every boat refugee the Government accepts it has no alternative but to reduce by a similar number its humanitarian program abroad – is self-evidently absurd.

Australia’s immigration program is not written in the heavens. It is decided by Cabinet. If the minister was really determined to help truly needy refugees, as he claims to be, he could argue for a decoupling of the onshore and offshore strands of the humanitarian intake and for a return to the situation which prevailed during the Labor years.

Or again, if he was genuinely concerned with saving the lives of those whose needs are greatest, he could argue in Cabinet for special provision to help those refugees who are old and ill. At present it is almost impossible for refugees to gain entry to Australia if they are not fit and well.

Ruddock’s recent championship of the wretched of the Earth is, then, little more than moral cant; a debater’s argument with the "bleeding heart" liberals he has come to despise…

I do not think Australians generally appreciate how swiftly and how thoroughly we have, under Ruddock, transformed our refugee regime. Let me try to illustrate what has happened the following way.

Imagine that in the next few months political conditions in Zimbabwe forced hundreds of white farmers and their families to flee their country without papers or passports. Imagine that the farmers left their wives and children in camps in a neighbouring African country and flew to Australia unlawfully. Imagine that on arrival they were detained, dispatched at once to the detention centres at Port Hedland and Woomera, kept ignorant of their legal rights and not granted access to a lawyer, and were required to remain in the centres for very many months, uncertain of their fate. Imagine, finally, that they were eventually released, granted a temporary protection visa, refused access to services available to first-class refugees, informed that they had stolen places from people more genuinely in need and forbidden from applying for reunion with, or even visiting, the wives and children they had left behind in the squalid setting of an African refugee camp.

Everyone knows that if an Australian government was even to begin to treat Zimbabwean "kith and kin" like this, it would face overwhelming national outrage. Why then is precisely equivalent treatment of exotic and swarthy strangers from the Middle East, fleeing from even more desperate political circumstances, opposed only by those who the Minister for Immigration describes – contemptuously, but also probably accurately – as a tiny and noisy minority?

I do not wish to be misunderstood. No-one can deny that a more compassionate treatment of Middle Eastern boat people would make Australia a more attractive destination for those who organise the contemporary trade in refugees. There can be no doubt that Ruddock’s punitive regime does act, to some extent, as a deterrent.

Yet equally, in my opinion, no-one who has followed what has happened in Australia over the past two years should be blind to the fact that we have thrown away, as if it were of no account, a noble postwar reputation for humane and decent treatment of political refugees.

And so to 2011.


Notice how the current stock images of Julia in the Herald are acting as editorial…

Gillard out of step with most voters

A MAJORITY of voters believe asylum seekers should be processed onshore, defying the policies of the government and the opposition which are fighting over which offshore destination to send boat arrivals.

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds 54 per cent of voters believe asylum seekers arriving by boat should be allowed to land in Australia to be assessed.

Just 25 per cent say they should be sent to another country to be assessed while 16 per cent believe the boats should be ”sent back” and 4 per cent don’t know.

The phone poll of 1400 people was taken from Thursday night to Saturday night and shows attitudes against offshore processing have hardened in the wake of the August 31 High Court decision which ruled the Malaysia plan unlawful and cast a legal cloud over the ”Pacific solution” locations of Nauru and Manus Island.

When the question was asked a month ago, 28 per cent favoured offshore processing and 53 per cent onshore processing….

But bugger that for a joke, Julia may have said.

The result: Labor has gone down the path of out-Ruddocking Ruddock. I am with Andrew Bartlett on this.

In the past I’d write an angry blog post on refugee rights. Now I just tweet that the ALP & Coalition both suck big time on refugee rights.

(and then post the tweet on my blog)

Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the comment thread contains statements that are little more than a carbon copy of comments posted here on this topic literally hundreds of times on this site over the 7+ years since it started, ignoring the facts and corrections that have repeatedly been provided.

See also Detention Insanity.

At least there are still people like Doug Cameron in the government, even if they have now caved in  – not that it will be the government for very much longer. At Home With Julia may be very offensive to some, if not to me, but at least it is merely comic and in a strange way affectionate. However, I’m afraid the real one has become just too tragic to think of for too long without weeping for the lost opportunities and the lost integrity.

And speaking of comedy: scriptwriters in the field of political satire couldn’t have invented a scenario funnier than the latest Nielsen poll!

Dreadful though the headline figures are for Labor, the latest monthly Nielsen poll might have offered them cause for relief, with no change to the Coalition’s two-party lead of 58-42. Labor is down a point on the primary vote to 27 per cent, with the Coalition steady on 48 per cent and the Greens up one to 13 per cent.

However, the poll offers new torment for Julia Gillard by finding Labor would be ahead 52-48 if it were led by Kevin Rudd.

One can only roll one’s eyes!

Such a study in intonation and body language!

I didn’t watch Q&A on Monday, but did download it on Tuesday after reading about this:

TONY JONES: All right. We’ve got a lot of questions to deal with. You’re watching Q&A where you ask the questions. The next question comes from Michael Bilous.

MICHAEL BILOUS: My question is for Kevin Rudd. In 2010 you took the decision to delay implementing an emissions trading scheme; a scheme which had or appeared to have the support of the majority of the population and which contributed to your election of your government in 2007. In the light of the current acrimonious debate over a carbon price, do you regret making that decision?

KEVIN RUDD: I think my judgment then was wrong. We…

JULIE BISHOP: I know why you think that.

KEVIN RUDD: No, it was just – the reason was it’s wrong.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, you were convinced to do it, Kevin.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, hang on. Leave that to one side.

JULIE BISHOP: You can be honest…

Now what is really going on here? It’s hard not to concur with today’s Herald editorial.

KEVIN RUDD’S admission on Monday that he was wrong as prime minister to have shelved plans for tackling climate change has opened a new, intriguing front in Australian politics. Looking relaxed on ABC TV’s Q&A, the Foreign Affairs Minister made a rare confession for a political leader: ”On balance it was a wrong call, for which I uniquely am responsible.” Coincidentally, Malcolm Turnbull, a former Liberal leader, has been speaking out on another issue that has troubled some voters with liberal instincts: the dismissal by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, of Julian Assange, the Australian who founded WikiLeaks, as a law-breaker.

Their remarks come as the centre ground of federal politics is up for grabs. Both Gillard and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, are struggling to capture voters’ imaginations. This partly explains a drift of federal votes to the Greens, on whose parliamentary support Gillard’s minority government depends. As the first anniversary of his unseating by Gillard approaches, Rudd seems to be seizing a chance to trail his coat as a figure who is prepared to speak out more boldly than his successor, whose grasp on power remains tenuous…