Diary

Gadfly
Kevintervention for your Ruddspiracy theory

We don’t have great conspiracy theories here in Australia. Not compared with Americans, whose conspiracy theories are fantastic in their sheer creativity: an air force base in Nevada is secretly a UFO hangar, the CIA had president John F. Kennedy killed by weaponising grassy knolls, the moon-landing was filmed by Stanley Kubrick on a soundstage, and something metallurgically implausible involving jet fuels and steel beams and 9/11.

Those are classics, but even the newer ones earn marks for pushing the boundaries of reality into the realm of the fantastical. Top Democrats are hiding a child sexual abuse ring in the basement of a pizza parlour that doesn’t actually have a basement! Donald Trump is leading an army to free those children from tunnels under the earth that connect all the major cities!

In Australia, it’s as if we’re not even trying. We had an entire prime minister disappear once, and we meekly suggested the Chinese might have captured him with a tiny submarine. No one bothered linking Harold Holt’s disappearance to aliens, or CIA hit squads, or hyper-intelligent sharks that killed him so they could secretly take over the reins of power and influence the Liberal Party from the watery shadows.

Recently, the best we’ve come up with is that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews didn’t actually hurt his back when he said he’d hurt his back. That’s it. That’s the conspiracy. The most shocking thing we can imagine is a man faking sick leave. Until now.

This week, a new conspiracy theory emerged. The theory goes that former prime minister Kevin Rudd personally spoke to Pfizer’s chief executive to secure vaccines for Australia. Apparently, the man Australians disliked so much they were willing to vote for Tony Abbott instead, was forced to put down his beard-grooming kit and intervene on behalf of his nation to secure vaccines.

Like a retired general being brought back one last time to lead his people to vaccinated victory, the story goes, Rudd answered the pleas of Australian business figures in America to fix a relationship with Pfizer that had been damaged by junior bureaucrats sent by the current federal government.

Rudd’s qualifications stem from his role as head of the Asia Society. For those unfamiliar with the New York-based organisation, it seeks to build awareness about Asia, which it defines as an area stretching from Iran to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. No one has yet pointed out to the Asia Society that they might not know what Asia is, although a white man from Australia heading an organisation called the Asia Society sounds more Asian than you’d like to admit.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has rubbished the story, going so far as to refer to Rudd as “the individual in question”. Apparently invoking Rudd’s name any time, anywhere, causes him to appear behind you and intervene in whatever you’re supposed to be doing but are not actually doing. In fact, he secretly copyedited this article because he’s been named in it too often.

Pfizer has also rejected any claims of a Kevintervention, stating, “The only two parties involved in these agreements are Pfizer and the Australian government.”

There are reports, however, that Pfizer was offended by the lack of respect shown to its chief executive, Albert Bourla, who arranged Pfizer stock for Israel when personally approached by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It turns out, securing lifesaving vaccines during a global pandemic requires obeisance to the Fortune 500 company’s boss. As long as you don’t ask questions about that time Bourla unloaded $US5.6 million in Pfizer stock the same day the company announced its vaccine’s effectiveness.

American conspiracy theories, it seems, are about how powerful the government actually is and how it controls people’s lives in secret.

Australian conspiracy theories seem to be about how incompetent the government really is, and how our lives really could do with some more control, even if the one doing the controlling is Kevin Rudd.

Victoria’s sibling rivalry

Every parent has a favourite child, even if they may never openly admit it. Often the other children will sense the bias and confront their parents about it, always to be told it’s “all in your head” and “of course we love you equally”. But the less-loved child knows the truth, seeing the blatant favouritism play out in front of their eyes time and again, until bitterness and resentment have no choice but to flower within.

Melbourne has long suspected the federal government’s favourite child is Sydney, and those suspicions were bolstered by the federal government announcing that individuals and businesses in New South Wales would qualify for relief payments during lockdown that are larger and more easily attained than those previously made available to Victorians.

The relief payments drew the ire of Victoria’s newly respined premier, who pointed out that support for his state had been earned after his government was forced to “shame” federal counterparts, and that Victorians were “rightly sick and tired of having to beg for every scrap of support”. It’s a blunt criticism that’s likely to resonate with Victorians. “They make us beg like Pfizer wants them to beg,” Daniel Andrews didn’t add, but totally should have.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has responded to the criticisms by claiming anyone who challenged the Victorian premier was abused online by “bots and Trots”, the latter of which is a political persuasion and not another word for diarrhoea. It’s the kind of high-minded intellectual discourse we’ve come to expect from our federal leaders, especially ones sitting safely in a seat that has voted Liberal since 1945.

Sydneysiders are grateful for the relief package and look forward to spending the money in the many luxury stores that remain open for reasons that probably have nothing to do with keeping all the Hollywood actors boating around the harbour happy.

There’s no word yet on whether the same payments will be made available to the residents and workers within the 78-apartment complex in Melbourne’s Maribyrnong, who have been forced into
a two-week lockdown. Or the rest of Victoria which entered a hard five-day lockdown on Thursday night.

Right-wing pundit has views

British journalist Claud Cockburn once won an unofficial competition between colleagues at The Times to write the dullest printed headline, with “Small earthquake in Chile, not many dead”. That award can now finally be handed over with this newest entrant into dullest headlines of all time: “Ray Hadley is fighting with Alan Jones.”

Hadley, a 2GB breakfast host, has attacked his former colleague over his “ridiculous stance” against the Sydney lockdown. That stance includes Jones using his Sky News show to utter the phrase “Dictator Gladys” out loud, like it isn’t the dumbest thing a grown person can say at this point. Jones has been quoting backbench sources within the federal government who are apparently increasingly frustrated with the lockdown strategy, as is he. Andrew Bolt has also waded in to the fight, calling Hadley a “weak and ignorant man who panders to an ugly pack”. Hadley has called Bolt a “lapdog”. It’s like mixed martial arts, except instead of fighting in an octagon, it’s fighting with an octogenarian.

Alan Jones has been signalling a possible return to radio, saying the public is “screaming out” for conservative voices. The screams he heard were actually shrieks of horror from the public at the news he might return.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 17, 2021 as "Gadfly: A Kevintervention for your Ruddspiracy theory".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.