Tuesday, 14 February 2012

4Corners, The Comeback Kid, and the Forces of Darkness and the Faceless Men

So, Networkers, did you watch The Come Back Kid last night - the 4Corners insight into the Gillard/Rudd leadership entanglement?

If you watched it hoping that Rudd and/or Gillard and/or those close to the events of THAT NIGHT ejecting Rudd from the Prime Ministership would shed light into dark corners, then you probably felt disappointed.  However, there was more to last night's program than you might think.  Come sit by me and I'll put some things before you for your consideration.

Every time the Forces of Darkness in the Opposition or an ill-informed, short memoried, unresearched media want to beat up the leadership change to their own advantage there is frequent mention of "the faceless men" behind the leadership change.  In this scenario Kevin Rudd becomes a victim.


One has to question the motivations of people who misplace a fifty year old description of another time, another place, and a different cast to play political mischief in the 21st century to an audience of whom a significant number were not born at the time.

To find out to what the 'faceless men' analogy refers  please read this edited extract from Alan "The Red Fox" Reid: Pressman Par Excellence, by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt.  The analogy relied heavily on photography.  If you were around at the time - even if taking only the slightest interest in politics - the photographs became etched in the mind.  And here are the photographs taken from the site of the inimitable Bruce Hawker.


One of the interesting pieces of history about this episode, is that it led - eventually - to reform of the structures and decision making of the Australian Labor Party.  It was this reform which helped to build the credentials of Gough Whitlam as a reformer and - eventually - resulted in the It's Time election of 1972 which brought a modernised ALP to government.

The other thing that is ridiculous about the 21st century usage of "faceless men" is that faceless people are rather rare in this internet day and age - particularly if those people are political players.  Now, if your interest in politics is intermittent and relies heavily on Rupert's Rags, then you will undoubtedly regard many non-faceless people as faceless ... even if you have read this post. But for those who are interested here are some faces which will provide a background to last night's 4Corners program.  Some of the faces were not in the program last night but you need to know who they are because they do play significant roles in the drama.
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Bill Ludwig. Paul Howes (with whom Bill is photographed) and Bill Shorten are credited with significant roles in Gillard's ascension to the Prime Ministership.  However, they could not have done all this without the permission, tacit or otherwise, of Bill.  Prior to the Gillard ascension, Ludwig was critical of her hair - and he the master of the three-strand comb over.  Bill is the father of Senator Joe Ludwig.  Bill masterminds the numbers and ensures Joe maintains a winnable place on the Queensland Senate ticket.  It is noteworthy that Gillard formally became Prime Minister on 25 June 2010 and on Sunday 27 June 2010 she was in Brisbane at an AWU-organised fundraiser.  The AWU involvement had its basis in the mining tax controversy.  To explain the AWU history in the context of the mining tax which in turn led up to Rudd's ejection is quite involved - too much to discuss in this post.

Con Sciacca. First, I wish to declare that I have dealings with Con Sciacca's (Con pictured right) law firm.  Networkers will have seen Con on 4Corners last night.  Con's Wikipedia entry doesn't mention that he was for many years the legal adviser of the Qld Branch of the AWU.  For all I know, Sciacca - or his firm - may still do this.  The AWU - while a right wing union - is large enough in Queensland to be an ALP faction all on its own.  Needless to say, Con was/is a member of this facton.
Wayne Swan. One of the reasons I am taking the trouble to do this post, Networkers, is that key players and their factional affiliations are too frequently omitted - and yet for them not to be part of the 'in' crowd, for it to be thought that they are not part of the planning, for it to be thought that their views are not sought or they are not consulted, is stretching credulity beyond breaking point.  Wayne is a member of the AWU faction.  I assume, with his national responsibilities, that he is no longer the leader of the faction but there was a time.....

I have not discussed Bill Shorten's and Paul Howe's involvement in Gillards ascendancy.  That is well reported.  I merely try to point out that there are some other faces which need to be known.

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I would advise Networkers that when analysing material one should not only look at those who are speaking or being referenced.  One should consider who is not speaking, who is not being referenced.  In this context, who did we not hear from last night on 4Corners.
  • Voices of the left faction/unions were absent
  • Voices of the NSW right were absent
So what are we to make of what we heard.  For my money, Janelle Saffin and Alan Griffin were minor players and not highly influential n the ALP leadership stakes.  Graham Richardson was at great pains to tell us how small his role in the matter was.  I am happy to accept that at face value.  I don't consider he would have any influence beyond that he described - of bringing two particular people together to sing from the same song sheet. 

 Joe de Bruyn does have influence on the Labor Right.  There are sitting politicians, some significant, who hold their positions at the behest of the SDA.

Troy Bramston's contribution to the program is significant.  This is an eyewitness account from the coalface.  The only axe Troy has to grind is to sell his book and to tend his future career which - at this stage - does not appear to be heading for elected office.  One hopes that what he has to say penetrates to the headspaces of the happy little Vegemites who still dwell in happy Kevin 07 land.  I lived in Queensland when Kevin Rudd was a significant player in running Queensland under Wayne Goss.  It was a particularly unattractive place - and the ALP grassroots membership was most unhappy about it.  So, while I was happy to see Rudd oust Howard, I was never starry-eyed about his Prime Ministership.  Whatever Rudd's talents, he makes contributions which are less than optimal for those around him.  I found this statement by Bruce Hawker out of kilter with my knowledge:   The thing about Kevin Rudd, though, is that he's not a creature of the factions, and I think that made certain people who were faction leaders uneasy about his Prime Ministership.  As far as I knew, Rudd was always a member of Labor Unity, the Right faction.  Did Hawker mean that Rudd was not manufactured, moulded by a faction? I can buy that - but to imply that he had no factional history seemed at odds with the Rudd of my remembrance.  


And the washup from the 4Corners program?  I wonder what the lead up to the program was.  4Corners gathering material, Hawker getting wind of it?  I think so.  I think it likely that decisions were made on Hawker's advice that the ALP would insert itself into the 4Corners program and, in doing so, would act to staunch, even cauterise, the bleeding.  
Not only would Hawker have been looking at the Federal impact.  Hawker, in my view, aimed to put shots over the bows of the Federal MPs touting Rudd.  The campaigning Hawker also would have one eye on Queensland.  
The media has been touting the positive impact of Rudd in Queensland.  This, in the context of the Queensland election campaign, is a double-edged sword.  Positivity and receptivity for Rudd might bring/save seats in Queensland.  And then....?  A revitalised Rudd bringing the kudos back to Canberra campaigning?  A Rudd calling in debts in Queensland from a returned Labor Government? In the event of a loss, more negative slanging matches from the LibNats and a gloating Campbell Newman?
I believe that 4Corners acted to capitalise on what it held in regard to the events of June 2010 - but the cards held by 4Corners did not amount to a full hand on its own.  Having ear-to-the-ground Hawker on board could flesh things out ... but Hawker had significant impact on the Labor voices coming through.  Hence, frequent cuts to Sciacca ... the voice of the AWU.  

If what ensues from The Comeback Kid is well handled and followed up by the ALP, the outcome could be quite positive.  The bleeding wound could be cauterised and Hawker could reach for a soothing balm with which to salve the wound and create new skin growth in the lead up to 2013.  

Whatever the outcome, the record is clear.  We now have - beyond doubt and probably beyond contradiction - the skinny on the behind-the-facade Rudd.  The pebble has been thrown in the pool.  The ripples will reverberate.

Unless otherwise credited,
photographs are from


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