The puffery of pre-poll posturing [A very cruddy fable Part 11]

The tea-leaf readers’ prognostications give us six months before we get to indulge the democratic right to pass judgment on our national leadership while the nervous nellies fret it could be before the Monsignor gets off his bike. Six months, six days: who knows? But, as always, we the pawns just have to suffer while the political apparatchiks gird their loins and get ready to joust. This is a ritualised sport to establish who has the best credentials and we are about to witness many unsubtle signifiers as the quest proceeds.

Toughness is deemed an essential and so it was that Our Kevvie huffed and puffed like a chronic asthmatic as he slapped smokers senseless with a threat to raise the price of a packet of fags to 20 bucks. All the good people chorused their approval while all the baddies muttered darkly about injustice. The take could be two billion but the health outlay for fumers is said to be $31 billion, leaving a deficit as ugly as a cancerous lesion. As for the supposed healthy stimulus of a discriminatory tax regime, there are many old farts who can recall predictions that there wouldn’t be a smoker left in the land once fags reached a dollar a pack. The idealists and the realists sit on the sidelines hoping that one day the penny will drop that punitive reform of addiction is as efficacious as leeches for bad blood.

Toughness is also the placebo of health policy with Emperor Kevin stamping his foot and demanding that tribal chiefs in each state bow down before him. Most have humbled themselves but the Wild Horse in the Bushfire State remains resolute. “Show me more money,” he shouts. The Emperor has ordered a review of fratricide to assess his options. The coagulation quagmire next week promises to be truly treacly.

And there was puffery aplenty as The Blackfella repaid his debt for cancelling the Kirribilli BBQ by suffering a half-hour inquisition with a feather by the venerable Kezza. Oh, yes, Kezza feinted and jabbed as if there was a real contest but his deference was demonstrable as he elicited that Our Kevvie was the best friend the US has ever had and that, for a white bloke, he wasn’t half bad. Whether punters will translate BO’s endorsement into votes has the tea-leaf readers squizzing the dregs in their cups with avid interest.

And as the Bloody Embarrassing Rort went further pear-shaped we witnessed a truly tantalising transmogrification. Hot and Steamy shrugged off her sultry silhouette and stepped into a facsimile of the metal corset that adorned the cover of Germaine Greer’s Female Eunuch. Fit her like a glove, it did. Emboldened by her armour, Steamy spilled $14 million from her overflowing purse and deigned to let it be used for an investigation. Not to actually right any of the wrongs that stick to this program like burrs to a sheep but just to prod and poke things to make it look like there’s a smidgin of contrition. No apologies yet, however, and those hoping for them are turning blue in the face.

The fact that there’s a simple solution appears to have escaped all and sundry. Given the Rudd edict that there shall be no more ruthless hunting and tracking of visa vandals because mainland detention centres are overflowing, Hot and Steamy could solve her BER imbroglio. Just modify one-in-three of the unwanted COLAs springing-up like mushrooms in school paddocks and dedicate them as detention centres. Schools are, after all, noted for imposing inflexible disciplinary regimes and there is an added benefit that detainees could be used to supervise Naplan exams in place of recalcitrant teachers. And, just like Labor’s social housing policy it fits the mantra of enforced inclusion. Win, win, win!

Yet there was sadness, too, among the political leadership cadre as the errant Chinese tanker, Naughty Boy 1, was successfully refloated from the Great Barrier Reef without any further seepage of watered-down Vegemite. Thus came to an end the most brazen series of joy-riding overflights of one of the globe’s most spectacular sights in delicious early autumn sunshine. To Anna Bligh, Peter Garrett, Bob Brown and Kevin Rudd we simply ask: what difference did you make? Aside from yet-to-be-offered apologies for these blatant abuses of taxpayer funds and an unseemly contribution to greenhouse emissions, how did you express your sympathy to family and friends that you could not slip them aboard the flights, too? Must have been some angst at home when the TV footage outed them.

Angst is clearly afoot in Kevvie and his mates’ Ministerial offices, too, with a report suggesting staff turnover has reached an embarrassing 60 per cent. Remarkable that even died-in-the-wool loyalists can’t stomach what goes on. One of Kevvie’s henchmen was foolish enough to liken conditions to a dog’s life. Yelping with frustration at the one meal a day dictum, he howled that one year with Rudd is like a dog year equalling seven human years. Kevvie laughed it off (in that mendaciously mirthless way of his) and declared that if this was the case, staff really did stick by him because three or four years was actually like 28 or 30. Yes, it’s a very twisted logic but that’s how Emperors think – apparently.

And the time has surely come for the National Health and Medical Research Council to step-in and stop Our Kevvie spreading germs among patients at every hospital in the land. Eschewing accepted best practice, Kevvie sits on just about every bed he comes across. And with a media schedule of twelve hospitals a day (and that’s just before lunch) Kevvie has spent the past month terrorising management and staff from Darwin to the Derwent. You can tell them on the TV news each night: the staff are the ones pretending they’re happy to be going to the gallows while looking shiftily left and right to see what might be going wrong and the Rudd camp followers are the ones grinning maniacally straight at camera as they strive to get their ugly skulls into the same frame. Sad but fascinating to watch. And we lucky ones get to vote for some of them. God help us all.