Saturday, July 03, 2010

Adams bomb

Phillip Adams, ABC

Revered and beloved, (by anyone half-way decent), Australian journalist and broadcaster Phillip Adams announced in his newspaper column today that he won't be renewing his Australian Labor Party membership this year, after fifty years of loyal support.

I knew this was going to happen. In fact, I knew the exact wording by which the blow would be delivered. No, I'm not a spookily word-perfect clairvoyant. Phillip Adams himself sent me a sneak preview over a week ago, on 25th June. It's not that we're best buds or anything. I listen to his radio show every day - in fact it is one of my great pleasures. Occasionally he asks listeners to proffer an opinion on matters arising from important events. I did so by sending him a link to my blog post on the demise of the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, published earlier that day.

As events go in Australia, it doesn't get much more earth-shattering and I'm sure he received hundreds of emails after he first aired his personal views on the routing of Rudd on his radio show, Late Night Live, which goes out at 10pm. I was listening to the next-day replay at 4pm on 25th June and sent off my email a few hours later, at 8.39pm. I received mail back from Phillip at 11.38pm and then the 'sneak preview' a minute later.

I expected to see the contents the following day in Phillip's column in The Weekend Australian. That didn't happen. Instead, it appeared today, over a week later. I'd like to dwell on this a moment because I think it says a lot about the type of open and trusting person Phillip Adams obviously is. As I said, we are in no way best buds. I've never met him and have only emailed him a couple of times before. He doesn't even know my real identity. I am Ms Pants to him, as I am to you reader of indeterminate character of whom I am deeply suspicious - but that's just me.

The first thing I want to say is that the wording of Phillip's piece in The Weekend Australian today differed not one comma from the email he sent to me. He had obviously written it immediately and spontaneously - not an especially astounding feat for a seasoned journalist of his calibre you might surmise. But a lot of unpleasant information about Kevin Rudd emerged during the intervening week. A gaggle of newly unmuzzled underlings have staggered from under the paperwork mountain to debrief about the horror of working for this apparently mild-mannered megalomaniac. Yet, Phillip Adams stuck with his gut assessment of his man, his friend. I'll return to that loyalty later, because I do believe it's something we should never entirely lose.

However, I think Phillip is wrong. We had an email exchange over the contents of the 'sneak preview'. I took issue with this statement,

'The right to dismiss a PM belongs to the electorate at an election, not to a drunken Governor General or factional bullies drunk with power.'

And this is how I responded,

I can't agree with the analogy of 'the dismissal'. GG [Governor General] does not have the authority to remove a PM, which is what Kerr effectively did, albeit through a mechanism within his jurisdiction. Caucus does have that authority and indeed duty to remove a leader whose fitness to lead is in doubt...

... In either case (dismissal or Rudd roll) the electorate was not deprived of its rights. In 75 there was still an election and there was still the opportunity to vote for Gough. It could be argued that Kerr's action significantly influenced the result, but not that he prevented the electorate from exercising its right. Same deal here. There will be an election. Kevin Rudd was PM by virtue of his status as leader of the Labor Party, not the other way around.

I found myself in the unnatural situation of having to resort to nerdy old rules and regulations to make my point. Now I don't feel so bad about it. I have worked in the public sector. I have been in good, earnest teams nearly destroyed by Captain Queegs. I have cowered on policy planes piloted by barnstorming adventurers who could have dispatched me to mortgage hell simply by raising an eyebrow in my direction. I know how all of the people who are now spilling their guts feel.

I'm in awe of Phillip's graciousness in sending me a preview of a statement that might have, and indeed did, make big news in Australia. It has been one of the five picture-box stories on The Australian's website all day. His trust in me was well placed. I forwarded his email to only one person, someone I knew would respect the unrequested embargo. Phillip never asked me not to pass this on and I never asked the one person to whom I did forward it not to splash it all over the internet. I just knew that trusted person wouldn't, just as I didn't.

Maybe Phillip Adams knows more about human nature than I give him credit for. I certainly hope that's true. But he isn't right about how things are at this very moment in time. A capable woman, whom he dismisses as 'Barbie Doll or Boadicea (sic)', seems to have been keeping our government's administrative apparatus from collapsing over the last 'two-and-a-bit' years. We now understand that public servants waited until Kevin Rudd left the country so that they could get routine government business signed off by Julia Gillard, who seemed to understand the rudiments of basic governance, unlike her boss.

One thing I would like to say to you Phillip - in defiance of the Baz Luhrmann worldview, I do try to see things as they are, rather than puzzle my way through a maze of opinion-formers' ought-to-be scenarios. I admire you for putting your faith in people Phillip. I was honoured to be given the opportunity to live up to that faith.

There will be an election soon and, as much as I would love to vote for Julia Gillard, I will not get the chance. The Labor candidate in my Akubra-belt electorate has as much chance of winning as I have of baking a decent scone.