When I first saw the member for Griffith on a primetime morning breakfast show I don’t recall any earth moving experience that made me awestruck by his every word. In fact I thought quite the opposite; just another politician trying to raise his profile by engaging in some friendly jousting with his opposite number in parliament sitting under the glare of studio lights across an imposing bench.
But in reality how does anyone rise from obscurity to mega celebrity in the blink of an eyelid. If I was to say the name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and throw in the birth date of March 28, 1986, would that ring a bell? Surely a long exotic name like that would instantaneously trigger your memory and bring forth an image of a singer or actor or even a famous fashion designer.
If that name doesn’t ring your bell - and yes she is a singer, actor and fashion stylist - then maybe the name Lady Gaga would certainly give immediate name recognition.
So what are the similarities between former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Lady Gaga? The most notable one would unquestionably be their ability to reinvent themselves: for people who aren’t gifted with any redeeming physical attributes, they have certainly made the most of some tinkering around the edges.
Lady Gaga changed from a brunette classical musician to a raunchy “don’t let your teenage daughter watch her video clips” blonde international superstar.
Kevin Rudd didn’t have to change his blonde hair to brunette but he made great use of the primetime morning show to creep up on, and win over, a significant number of that channel’s unsuspecting audience.
For the son of a dairy farmer who joined the Australian Labor Party at the age of 15 and demonstrated his intellectual capability by being named dux of Nambour State High School in 1974, Kevin Rudd certainly had his eye on the big prize a long way from the finish line.
I didn’t know it until recently that we had two things in common: he went to the same private boarding school as myself, Marist Brothers College, Ashgrove in Brisbane and we both worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs. It would appear he had two years head start on me and I don’t recall bumping into him in the crowed corridors at boarding school or in the hallowed surrounds of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Although I did bump into him in at a Parliament House function for the 2020 gathering a couple of years ago.
But as his strategically stage-managed morning show appearance continued, most probably unnoticed by others within his party - thinking he was off doing a good PR exercise for the party and keeping away from important cabinet decision making - he inadvertently grew on the millions of TV viewers who warmed to his relaxed manner. I could imagine all the older viewers who watched him doing his thing thinking he would be just the man they’d like their unmarried-30-something-daughters to settle down with and raise a family.
It became apparent around that period in Rudd’s rise in popularity, just as events of recent weeks played out, that the ALP would remain in opposition if they didn’t find a replacement for their affable leader Kim Beazley, who had already challenged and lost to the all-conquering right wing master tactician John Howard. When the party apparatchik did an internal poll to see which member had the highest public appeal, up stepped Kevin Rudd - from staid mono-toned TV raconteur to the darling of millions who had warmed to his conservatism and sense of humour - to the podium for further tribute.
Did I say “sense of humour” - well yes, Kevin Rudd impressed us all with his ability to laugh at himself on primetime television.
With the rise and rise of the ANU arts graduate in Asian studies now firmly ensconced in The Lodge, Rudd slowly fell back into his old habits. The other side of Kevin Rudd, that of the control freak and bully, that wasn’t well known to the public - although spasmodic media despatches made their way to the social commentary pages - became more of the norm behind the scenes.
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