Journal of a Rudd Staffer: Let the games begin
First time in Parliament House since leadership spill.
Never thought I’d be back here. Had been in Pakistan doing media for an NGO. Was really thriving. My experience of NSW Labor factional warfare was the perfect apprenticeship for navigating Pakistan’s male-dominated, clan based society.
Then about ten days ago, ran into Rudd. He was on marathon tour of the region, trying very hard to write notes, listen, and look concerned simultaneously.
Asked Rudd where his staff were. He’d fired them three camps ago. Offered me a promotion, a pay rise, and the right to swear at him.
I couldn’t refuse.
Kid in the office, name tag says “Lucas”. Must be work experience kid. Ask him to get me coffee.
Explains he’s Chief of Staff and tells me to get him a decaf chai latte. Ask how old he is. He’s 22.
Order him to get me coffee.
He refuses. Stand very still and stare at him. He asks how I like my coffee. Tell him to get me one of everything. Need to reinforce lesson.
Rudd asks me to be acting Chief of Staff on Fridays. Lucas has Uni that day – he is finishing his Asian Studies honours thesis entitled “Sino-Australian relations February 2007 – July 2010: Speaking Dragon, Listening Kangaroo”.
Lucas stumbles in with 18 coffees. Is 99% sure he has all possible variations but they didn’t have soy. Really apologetic about the soy. Thank “Mini-Rudd” for his effort. Mini-Rudd honoured by nickname.
Mini-Rudd introduces me to Rudd’s national security advisor, George, before a Commonwealth Games security briefing. Says George is an ex-Spy!
George tells Rudd that security situation in India is dire. Americans think risk of attack is 90%, British think it’s 75%, George thinks they’re both bonkers, it’s clearly 83.68%.
Ask how they come up with these numbers. George says intelligence is incredibly complicated and I wouldn’t understand. Rudd asks for some details on the maths. George says he doesn’t need figures to calculate it. His gut does all the arithmetic he needs.
Rudd asks for a time line for attacks. George thinks the attacks will almost certainly happen after/during the opening ceremony and before the closing ceremony. Some events are riskier than others. Rudd asks whether that’s because of crowd dynamics, sniper points, or just enclosed bottle necks?
George says some sports are really gay and terrorist wouldn’t want to attack them. No self respecting suicide bomber wants to go out attacking the synchronised swimming or badminton.
Ask if Commonwealth Games are worth the lives of our athletes?
Rudd says pulling out would be like handing 80 gold medals to terrorists - or worse, Great Britain.
Jean bustles in. She can’t find Coalition pair for Rudd’s upcoming trips. Didn’t know Jean was here - feels like we’re getting the old gang back together!
Rudd not worried – he’s going to be pairing with the only man in Parliament he can trust, Bob Katter.
Point out to Rudd, Katter voted against Gillard Government.
Jean asks if we could convince Katter to put his guarantee in writing.
Rudd says a handshake between Queenslanders is a bond of honour and that’s all he needs. Katter would rather eat a Pilipino banana split on Oxford Street with Carson Kressley then break his bond. Katter says that in Northern Queensland they have a word for folk whose handshake isn’t worth a damn: Nationals.
Mark Arbib calls. Says he’s coming over and wanted to give me advance notice so he doesn’t get shot coming through the door. Laughs and says he’s just joking.
Thank Mark for advance warning. Tell him we’d prefer a days notice in the future so we can ‘prepare’.
Tell Rudd that Arbib is on way to talk about Commonwealth Games.
Rudd says Mini-Rudd can take meeting. Rudd hasn’t spoken to Arbib since spill.
Tell Rudd he has to take it.
Rudd swears at me.
Tell Rudd to take the f**king meeting.
Rudd agrees, but sulks.
5 minutes later
Arbib arrives. Offers Rudd congratulations on winning Griffith. Rudd offers Arbib commiserations on losing election.
Arbib asks for briefing on Commonwealth Games. Rudd gives Arbib print out of CIA Factbook entry on India, and photocopy of Daily Telegraph Commonwealth Games lift-out.
Arbib says as Sports Minister he needs DFAT briefing to protect Australia’s athletes. Rudd tells Arbib they stopped being his athletes when they left Australian soil.
Arbib wishes Rudd could be mature about this, he’d hate to have to raise this with Gillard.
Rudd agrees that Arbib would hate that. Especially because Rudd’s under so much pressure already to resign from Parliament to take a job at an international body, whether it be the United Nations, WTO, ILO, or the UBLOW.
Arbib thanks Rudd for the Daily Telegraph lift-out. Rudd says page 4 in particular has a lot of nice pictures.
Ask Rudd what is UBLOW. Rudd says it’s his opinion of Arbib.
Rudd calls me in. Says Commonwealth Games facilities are worrying him. Received a tweet from a table tennis athlete who said the water pressure in the shower heads is not up to scratch. They have not had proper shower in 24 hours. Asks me to fix it.
Explain problem to George, ask if I should call Secretary of DFAT? George says matter too trivial for Secretary of DFAT. Says call Head of AusAid.
Head of AusAid sympathises but can’t really help – table tennis players do not fall within definition of needy.
Mini-Rudd asks for report. Inform him that Australia’s table tennis team presently stinks and it is past his bed time, literally and metaphorically.
Mini-Rudd pulls out sleeping back and curls up under desk. Asks to be woken if anything happens.
Rudd gets off phone with friend in UN, has phone number of plumber in New Dehli.
Call plumber. Plumber does not speak English.
Call DFAT. Arrange translator.
Translator arrives. Speaks to plumber. Plumber speaks Punjabi. Translator speaks Hindi. Crap.
Second translator is successful. Plumber agrees to do job.
Can finally go home. Thank god.
George calls. Says there has been terrorist incident at athletes village. Man was found tampering with bathrooms of Australian table tennis team. Man is claiming Australian Government put him up to it. Major diplomatic incident.
Arrive in office to find Rudd has assembled Secretary of DFAT, Indian High Commissioner, two translators and the Parliament House plumber.
High Commissioner angry that Rudd intervened in internal affairs of foreign country. Rudd points out that bathrooms of Australian athletes might qualify as Australian territory. Secretary makes offer – we will never mention that a plumber was able to penetrate the security of the athletes village if they will never mention that the plumber was sent by us.
Plumber released and allowed to finish job.
Rudd shows pictures of shower on Blackberry to Parliamentary plumber and Indian High Commissioner. Both agree Indian plumber has done excellent work.
Quietly thank Secretary for resolving incident and say if he ever needs anything in the future I’m happy to help.
Secretary says if next time this happens I could baby sit his kids that’d be great.
Tell Secretary I’ll have Mini-Rudd do it.
Mini-Rudd hears name and wakes up. Send him for coffee.
Rudd on phone with grateful table tennis team.
Discuss evening’s events with Mini-Rudd and George.
Mini-Rudd in awe of Rudd. Says he is going to remember this moment every time he has a shower.
George thinks after this incident chance of terrorist attack in athletes village has dropped to 64%. Thinks Rudd has made significant contribution to athlete’s safety.
Finally head home. Have weird dream that Pakistani floods were caused by table tennis players’ shower.
Wonder how long I’ll last this time. My gut calculates there’s a 47% chance I make it past 6 months
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