It was a warm Sunday morning in November 2007, close to midday. I sat on a deck chair in the back garden of a large, rambling house that was once a farm homestead somewhere south of Warburton. In the distance, the mountains were smudges of blue between the gums. I wasn't alone in the garden. Others were reading newspapers and some were just staring, blinking in the sun and nursing their Ketel One hangovers, silently and reverently. Some guests were emerging from the old house slowly, as if having just woken from a dream. They probably had. The aromas of crisping bacon and toast drifted across the lawn on a warm spring breeze.
There was a kind of jubilation among some of the party, if jubilation is compatible with a hangover. It was a little forced, or even wary, for some of the older ones who could still recall 2 December 1972, because they knew how that turned out. Surely not again. They spoke of the night before; of a new future; of the bespectacled, mild-mannered, well-spoken man who had led them out of the wilderness, seer-like, or even God-like; and they cheered the political death of a suburban lawyer who had been the focus of eleven years of rancour and ridicule. Little Johnny they called him; because he was short, and because they occupied the moral high ground, which made the description even more pleasing. Some had celebrated the previous night, the night of the election, by burning his effigy, as if to make sure. These people were in their fifties, not university students. There was something slightly juvenile.
Mild-mannered? Well-spoken? The seer turned out to be something different. He was campaigning for himself in Corangamite even while Julia Gillard was still prime minister. Just here to lend a hand, he said, in a parody of a team player's words. What a man. What a snake in the grass. The Age, alone among newspapers, recommended its readers return the self-photographing stalker's government, but my information is that that decision was driven in part by marketing, the alleged argument being that any other position would reduce its dwindling readership to suburban newspaper status.
Six years later and the effigies are appearing again. Some things never change. Such as: of whom was the following written?
" ... The pace was frenetic, with deadlines that were often too short to allow ideas to be worked through. Management by crisis could squeeze out due and careful consideration. It could lead to misunderstanding of what was required and what was done. Asking several people to provide comments on the same issue could lead to duplication and a waste of scarce resources. Demanding an immediate response which required public servants to work throughout the weekend, and then failing to take the issue up for two or three days, could lead to anger and frustration, and thus to charges of inconsiderate arrogance."
Trick question. It could have been Mr Rudd down to the last word, but the extract described Malcolm Fraser in Malcolm Fraser PM: A Study in Prime Ministerial Power in Australia by Professor Patrick Weller (Penguin, 1989), quoted in Lynched by Brian Buckley (Trade Paperbacks, 1991), the blurb of which reads: "This story airs for the first time, some of the soiled linen that sent the Labor Party to the cleaners in 1975".