By CHRISTINE JACKMAN
Every so often, politics throws up a spectacle so poignant it takes you back to your childhood.
Witnessing the federal Labor Party this week wrestle this with the prospect of making nice with Kevin Rudd has been one of them. For me, anyway.
Let me explain. Growing up in Queensland in the 1970s, our annual family holiday involved a long drive through the backblocks of the Sunshine Coast to what was then a tiny village called Noosa Heads. Luxury was cloth seat covers in the back of the old Mazda to stop the skin on your thighs melting into the vinyl; air-conditioning was controlled by winding down the window; and entertainment was when Dad finally turned off the cassette of Camelot he’d borrowed from the local library.
Good times. Until the year our parents ambushed us with the last-minute news a cousin – we’ll call her Mary-Jane – was coming with us as a guest. We had many cousins, but Mary-Jane was not one we knew well, and my brother, sister and I were ungracious, to say the least.
After a great deal of whining and outright hostility as we packed the car, Dad lined us up along the old station wagon and announced: “You will talk to Mary-Jane. You will play with Mary-Jane. You will be nice to Mary-Jane. And if you do not, you will be beaten.”
Back then, parents were encouraged to be eclectic in their choice of discipline options. And I’m not talking “naughty step” versus “reward ladder”. Dad and his belt, thong or fly swat tended to focus the mind.
Which gets me back to the Labor Party, whose minds have definitely been focused by the unexpected announcement of an election date (just seven months now, folks!). And while nobody is wielding a belt, the prospect of being beaten ferociously is very real, if they don’t start talking, playing and being nice to Kevin Rudd.
And so, in the last few days, four cabinet ministers have done exactly what we did that day behind the Mazda. We sucked it up and got ready to make the best of a long, uncomfortable journey with stilted conversation and bad music (have you ever heard a campaign jingle that wasn’t tragic?) in the hope that the destination would make it all worthwhile.