Museum says Rudd’s ute is out of the question
One would think that Brisbane car dealer John Grant would have enough of the bloody ute that he lent Kevin Rudd - apparently not, because he’s trying to hock it off to the National Museum.
The Punch can reveal that Grant has been in discussions with the National Museum of Australia to hand the infamous 1996 Mazda ute to the national institution’s permanent collection.
But it seems that the museum is not as keen on the ute being on display as John Grant because the directors don’t really think it should be there.
According to the Museum, Grant’s idea is to auction off the ute of “Utegate” fame that he lent to Kevin Rudd in the 2007 election campaign.
Grant would donate the money to charity and the winner would give the ute to the National Museum of Australia on permanent loan.
The only problem is that the Museum doesn’t want the ute, according to the Museum’s media spokesman Dennis Grant.
“Yes he has approached us . . . The possibility of the ute coming to the National Museum of Australia was raised at a meeting of the Museum’s acquisitions and collections group late last week but was considered to be outside the NMA’s collection framework.”
Apparently the Museum curators did not think it appropriate the ute stand next to other vehicular Australian icons such as Roberts Menzies old Bentley, the prototype of the Holden and a little Citroen that was the first car to travel around Australia.
This is an interesting little development because it does poise questions as to how Utegate will be viewed in historical context.
Personally I think that the NMA should reconsider their position and take the Ute.
It is of historical value for as much as what it says about the pedestrian nature of Australian politics as the whole affairs’ consequences for Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull. People might not have known what Ozcar financing was but they know what a ute is.
According to the National Museum it:
Celebrates Australian social history in a unique way by revealing the stories of ordinary and extraordinary Australians, promoting the exploration of knowledge and ideas and providing a dynamic forum for discussion and reflection.
The 1996 Mazda, in its own uniquely ordinary Australian way, fulfils and this criteria.
It was the catalyst for an extraordinary story that first seemed like it might bring down the Prime Minister or, in the least, the Treasurer. In an amazing twist it then turned on its head and, even he does survive in the short-term, permanently stained the leadership credentials of Malcolm Turnbull.
Throw into the mix the Dickensian and now maligned figure of Godwin Grech, and you have what was a fascinating and important political news story.
It could look great with one of those informative audio-visual displays, or maybe a plaque and photos of the main characters.
I tend to think that the Museum directors ascribe to an opinion about this story that is pretty trendy in a lot of circles. This is characterised by a view that basically stupid politicians and the stupid media got way too distracted by a ute and then an email and then what turned out to be a fake email: “ultimately don’t we have other things to worry about like climate change”.
Well yes, but it also went to questions of Ministerial and Prime Ministerial integrity and accountability that are central to our system. We were then confronted by the revelation that a senior public service lied in a Senate hearing and faked an email to help the Opposition falsely attack the Prime Minister.
Ultimately though it doesn’t matter: the story was big, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan were in trouble, Godwin Grech did fake an email and now Malcolm Turnbull is still in big trouble. It’s all happened and has consequences for the players.
Obsessing over a ute and favours thought to have derived from its lending is self-evidently a lame scandal when compared to Berlusconi inc or similarly corrupt basket cases.
But it is for this reason the ute says something fascinating about the general integrity of Australian political culture: it’s harder to sell goods that just fell of the back of a truck – or at least 1996 Mazda ute.
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