By JAMILA RIZVI
Jessica Rudd, the daughter of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described working in Parliament House as akin to the movie Mean Girls. You know, the one about bitchy high school behaviour, cliques and general schoolgirl nastiness.
Given the past three years Jess and her family have had to endure, I’m not at all surprised that this comparison resonates for her. Frankly, I can’t imagine the emotional rollercoaster the Rudd family have ridden for the past three years.
I was working in Canberra and watching it all unfold from the safe distance of my office. When he was Prime Minister the first time around, I worked in Kevin Rudd’s press office and I was working for one of his ministers, Kate Ellis, on that historic day when he was replaced by Julia Gillard.
Like many of his former staff, I stood in the courtyard when Kevin Rudd gave that famous final press conference before leaving Parliament House, with his shell-shocked family protectively surrounding him. It was brutal and gut-wrenching and many tears were shed as everyone stood and watched. Regardless of how you felt about Gillard v Rudd – watching the emotion in the former-now-PM-again man’s voice and face, was heartbreaking.
So Jess is absolutely entitled to her view of how Canberra works. It’s her truth and I would never try to suggest otherwise. But it’s a view that is shaped by the very particular and entirely unique set of experiences she has had in the nation’s capital.
In her regular column for women’s magazine CLEO, Jess laments the political ‘bitchiness’ that exists in Canberra.
She makes the offices of parliamentarians sound more like university O-weeks than places where decisions about the future of the nation are made.
“The corridors are a cacophony of scoffs, burns and “Oh my God, did you hear about…”s? Eye rolls are more common than smiles,” she writes. ”Wednesday nights are party nights, Thursdays are for gossip – who hooked up with who, who got so blotto they were barely awake for question time.”
Jess compares the annual Press Gallery Midwinter Ball as being like a school formal. “Today’s BFF is tomorrow’s frenemy. Everyone’s obsessed with being too fat and sharing their diet tips. Sugar. It’s all about the sugar,” she says.
As I said, this is the experience Jess has had of Canberra. Perhaps it’s the one she’s still having. The events of the past months would be enough to leave anyone feeling pretty jaded.
But. I have a different experience and a different opinion of working in Canberra and I thought that might be worth sharing too.