A very cruddy fable: Part 12 The gunfight at OK Corral

What a month this has been! The Bland Man adopted a persona. Yes, Our Kevvie read the tea-leaves and decided it was time to get tough. Sick of sledging The Monsignor who got on his bike and rode out of range every time Kev started hurling epithets, our hero recognised a stimulus was needed and called for special effects. This was a rallying cry to boutique agency Hawker Britton who rode into town on the 3:10 from Manuka and ran a quick strategic evaluation.

“Health and hospitals, it must be,” was their prognosis. Reverting ever-so-briefly to his transient alter ego – Emperor of the First Rudd Imperium – Kev snarled: “That’s what I’ve been telling you bastards for two years. Now give me some decent advice or bugger off!” Extra espressos were ordered-in as the consultants burned the midnight oil (not that they needed to but it just looks good in the capitalist free-market system) and they duly made the Big Call. “Great Leader, the strategy remains health and hospitals. But . . . we’ve modified the tactics. Now, when you visit a hospital, which should be at least twelve times a day, you smile. When you meet the Premiers, which should be no more than twelve times a year, you frown.”

They could see that Kevvie had the whole frown thing down pat. In fact, so stern was his visage that some began retreating for the door. But one brave soul found his voice and stammered. “You see, PM, we want you to expend some of that vitriol you normally use on your staff and lash the Premiers with it. Big time. Show them you’re not to be trifled with. And please don’t reprise your role with Death’s Head and the Insulation Debacle. This time we really need some decisive leadership.”

Now, when that poor bastard had picked himself up off the floor and the Emperor’s puce features had faded to a mottled maroon, a light went off. “You’re right. Those bastard Premiers only ever steal my limelight. They get way too much media coverage, they’re forever blaming us for their inadequacies and all they do is whine for more dollars. Well, bugger them! Have we got a policy on having a two-level system of government in Australia? Can somebody work-up some notes for me?” And the wonk was on. By the time the consultants had brought the meeting back to order, Kevvie had instigated two reviews and one inquiry; had established a task force and thrown $3.4 billion on the table in case some stimulus was needed. With the Hawks and the Brits securing 240% of the project outlay in management fees, most of the consultants had their hands deep in their pockets and very silly, albeit wistful, smiles on their dials. There are few things as satisfying as to be in bed with government.

But satisfaction is fleeting (just ask the female population of Australia) and a pre-poll campaign is in full swing so the time for action was at hand. Transmogrification was initiated and with some careful costume design by Mother Theresa and make-up by Gillard’s Guises, Our Kevvie swaggered out front of Miss Kitty’s saloon, stirring tendrils of dust as his spurs jangled on the rough ground.

“Come on out, you premiers,” he hollered. “I’ve got a deal on the table and I’m telling you to sign on before sundown.” The stillness suggested disquiet but the only murmurs were from onlookers who could feel the tension in the air. All wondered: Who will walk tall this night?

As he peered into the day’s fading sunlight, Marshal Rudd could see just one outlaw in the mist. He could not tell whether it was a wild brumby or a sandgroper slithering in from the west. The Marshal thought he had saddled-up those two skittish mares and the rest were afraid of loud noises so they posed no problems. But just as he thought he could recognise his adversary’s outline, a volley of fire opened-up from the sidelines. It was those bastard lobby groups and their shots made him jump.

Still he would not surrender. He was, after all, the Law of the Land and he had might on his side. But as he returned fire he had an idea. He would try to swear-in Doc Abbott as a Deputy to give him support. “Doc, Doc, you know the good folk want me to tame this wild land, so stand should-to-shoulder with me and bring peace in our time.” But Doc was edgy and felt sure there was a set-up. He parlayed: “Let me see if there’s enough bandages, beds and clinical staff in case we get shot. Oh, and we may need after-market mental health and dental care as well.”

The Marshal was infuriated but had other problems on his mind. He simply had to tame these premiers. Once they had been broken-in, he could corral all the other outlaws in the badlands. There was only one still standing. But just as Marshal Rudd was about to blaze away with both his six irons, he could see a massive cloud of dust brewing on the horizon. Even the sandgroper stopped his slithering and turned to see what was happening. Whatever it was, it was coming closer. As all eyes strained to understand this new phenomenon, one of Miss Kitty’s girls on the upper balcony of the saloon raised an eyeglass and let out a wild yell: “It’s an army of bureaucrats. Their banner says they’re coming from Canberra to save us all.” There was consternation near and far for no-one had anticipated such an influx. “Wait, there’s another banner to one side. It’s smaller writing. Oh, I see. It says – Health reform to cure joblessness; full employment to heal obesity, stress and poverty; none shall be sick and all shall have a bed.”

Marshal Rudd knew the element of surprise was on his side so he casually turned his back to the sandgroper while taunting: “If I see your face around here again, Collywobbles, I’ll plug you. Reform while the going’s good or pay the price!” And with that, the Marshall swaggered back to his adoring fans who may or may not yet number a majority. That’s a tale for another day.