A gulag also known as ‘Working for your Folks’


Marcus and Kevin Rudd

By Su Dharmapala

7 August 2013

If the reports in the media were to be believed, young master Marcus Rudd joined the Rudd Family Firm, also known as the Kevin13 Election Campaign juggernaut, also known as the Australian Labor Party Election 2013 campaign. He joins his brother Nicholas who was appointed as an ALP adviser several months ago, and if the tweets of the sister Jessica are to be believed, she has her finger firmly on pulse of campaign headquarters via Skype.

Fie on those calling this third world-style nepotism! Shame on you!

Western democracies are replete with examples of political dynasties; the Bush clan gave us Bush Senior, then Dubya and just because God loves America in that vengeful style of parental love, it looks like Jeb Bush could possibly lead the US of A after 2016.

And it’s not only just in that dodgy upstart of a nation. France, the birthplace of modern democracy, has spawned political dynasties too. The previous common-law wife of President Francois Hollande was Segolene Royal – who herself ran for the presidency in 2007. But Mr Hollande did walk away from their thirty-year relationship after Ms Royal lost the presidency to Nicholas Sarkozy and teed up with a TV journalist not long after.

But I am uncomfortable. Not about the impropriety of having the plum position of minding the social media campaign for the ALP 2013 election having been handed to a 20-year-old with no obvious academic or professional qualifications. And certainly not because of the whiff of je ne sais quois when I read that senior ALP staffers had been shuffled to allow for Ruddikins to ride shotgun with his dad in Com Car 1.

I am uncomfortable because the role that Marcus Rudd has been appointed to is a volunteer role. Yeppers – for all his hard work, he will not be paid.

But working gratis for your folks comes at a price. A price that perhaps outweighs all the benefits of knowing your dad is the boss and no one in their right mind is going to spit in your cup of tea. Oh, wait, this is the ALP – anything could happen.

I digress. Sorry.

I should know all the pitfalls of the parental gulag. I worked for my parents when I was a similar age to Junior and I am I still unconvinced whether I genuinely got anything of worth out of it.

It was an unholy exchange from the outset.  I would work for my parents in their restaurant for two consecutive summers in return for my first car. Let it never be known that my father could not strike a good deal.

Yes, I know, getting a car is not the same as being able to say on your CV that you got to work on the election campaigns of one of the world’s leading democracies. Especially considering the car was a Datsun Sunny 200B. A burgundy automobile which had faded to a muddy brownish-red by the time I inherited the rust bucket.

As cult classic car in the 1970s, it certainly had its quirks. I had to refill the radiator every morning before I drove to university – I had quantifiable evidence that my car used more water than petrol. Then there was the joy of starting the car on cold winter’s mornings which required that I flood the motor with petrol using the choke lever. I spent years driving down Springvale Road to Monash with my head out the window in winter lest I choke on petrol fumes inside the car. I was one of those who never slept through early morning lectures because I’d already be on an adrenaline high.

And yes, I know working in a restaurant on Sydney Road in Brunswick is not a glamorous as working at ALP election headquarters. I mean, my folks’ restaurant was wedged in between a topless bar and the biggest illegal gambling den in the state!

Being their daughter  also meant I had to do all the jobs that none of the paid employees could be convinced to do. I was the one who had to drag the damn trolley to Victoria Market every Thursday to buy crabs. I would then come back on a packed tram terrified that the live crabs would claw at me through the square bars of the cart. And one 39-degree day, one did claw at my legs and drew blood. I screamed so much that the tram driver made me get off the tram and walk all the way back.

Some women find being tickled behind the knees erotic; I find it terrifying.

And then there were the working hours – and if I were Marcus Rudd, I’d take special note of this considering Kevin Rudd’s reputation for overworking his staff – I had to work ten hours a day six hours a week. Then I’d go home and have to do my household chores too! All this in the middle of summer while my friends where working on their best beach bunnies impersonation and picking up boys!

Let’s not forget overreaction. Parents are hardwired to overreact when their children are in danger. It is just one of those things that has ensured the survival of our species. To wit, one of the patrons at the restaurant felt me up one evening when I was waiting tables and my father pulled out the meat cleavers. No, my father did not threaten the man with bodily harm or anything – but he did come out with machete-sized knives and just looked at him. I had fully intended on standing up to this instance of workplace harassment by tipping the glass of ice-cold mango lassi on his head, but my father totally stole my moment of empowerment!

So while there have been howls of outrage about little Ruddlet getting this role-of-a-lifetime on the campaign staff, spare a thought for the young man himself. He will be working for his father. And judging by the antics the Prime Minister is known for, it cannot be a pleasant experience.

Kevin Rudd will not let Marcus slack off. His father will talk over him, mollycoddle him and most likely make his life a misery. And Marcus will not be able to bitch about the boss like all his colleagues; his boss is his father and the Prime Minister of Australia, alright already – a man whose reforms of the ALP has made him the supreme leader. May be Kev did learn a thing or two from his stint in China.

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  1. wonderful, such insight and humour and self reflection. Definitely Five stars. Thankyou Su.

  2. Nice story, however, we should all respect the past and the people who helped us go to uni and set up a future for us, might not have seemed as incredible as our peer group but how happy are they now? compared to you. Look after mother earth its the only one weve got!!!