An exclusive interview with Kevin Rudd



First published on TheVine, July 18, 2013

“The Labor Party advertising agency that offered “exclusive” interviews with Kevin Rudd in exchange for free pro-Labor advertising and editorial on youth websites has been sacked – on the orders of the Prime Minister. The deal, which also encouraged journalists to produce “entertaining content on the theme of the inadequacy of the Liberal NBN plan”, was rejected on ethical grounds by Fairfax Media’s popular culture website, TheVine.”

– Why TheVine turned down an interview with Kevin Rudd, 18/7/2013

A difficult to find laneway bar named Strange Wolf isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find the sitting Prime Minister of Australia, but then again Kevin Rudd is no ordinary Prime Minister. Ageless and in touch, he’s a figure that has galvanised an entire generation into politics. It’s become almost cliché to point out, but when Kevin speaks, the youth listen. You can hear Rudd-isms in classrooms, universities and trendy cafes across the nation. So entrenched has the culture of Kevin become that the phrase “Gotta zip” has transformed into something close to a national motto; I heard no less than four people saying it on the tram ride to this interview. I even said it myself when I disembarked, to no-one in particular. And it felt right.

In a dimly lit corner sits the man I’ve come to see. He’s dressed in his trademark outfit – skinny leg jeans, retro flannel shirt buttoned all the way to the neck, black Cons, flat-brimmed baseball cap. A skateboard lies casually discarded next to his seat. He sees me and does an Ali G-style click of his fingers while yelling “Booyakasha”. I can’t help but be impressed as to how much he literally embodies youth culture. As I approach, he takes the chair he’s sitting on and spins it gracefully around so that by the time I get over to him he’s sitting with his chest toward the back of the chair – the universal symbol for “Hey cool dude, let’s rap.” I’m reminded of Mr Daniels, my Year 9 drama teacher, and instantly feel at ease.

“Thanks for meeting me here, chum.”

“No worries at all,” I reply. “Cool place.”

“Yeah. It’s not bad. I come here when I want to enter the chill zone.” He laughs as if he has made a hilarious joke. I laugh too, but I’m not sure why. The security guard looming over us does not laugh, but touches his gun instead, as if reminding himself it’s there. I make a mental note not to make any sudden moves.

“Thanks for doing this interview, Prime Minister.”

“Hey, hey – call me Kev. Or K-dog. Yeah, call me K-dog.” He smiles disarmingly. I am disarmed. It feels like I’m talking to one of my oldest friends.

“So, uh, K-dog, I wanted to ask you about your recently announced decision to move toward a floating price for carbon. Do you think–”

K-dog makes an exaggerated yawning motion, replete with a hand patting his open mouth for comic effect. “Snoooooooozers!” he says. “Politics so boring!” For some reason he delivers this line in a pantomime Asian accent. “Why don’t we talk about something fun?”

I’m caught off guard. “Um. OK. Like what?”

“Do you play Ultimate?”

“No, I don’t actually.” For some reason, I’m not surprised that he does.

“Oh, you’ve got to try it. It’s an incredible workout – body and mind. Sometimes I’ll call a Cabinet meeting and instead of doing business I just drag them out onto the Parliament lawns for a quick game of five-a-side. Next time you’re up in Canberra you should come play with us – I’ll put you on a team with Penny.” Wong, I presume. “The woman goes hard. She once made Chris Bowen cry.” He chuckles at the memory. Even the security guard seems amused. I guess the concept of Chris Bowen crying is pretty funny.

I decide to try and get the interview back on track. “I’ll be sure to, uh, do that. K-dog. Now, obviously one of the big differences between you and Tony Abbott is to do with the National Broadband Network. Why should we–”

Once again he cuts me off before I can ask a question. “Man, I love the internet so much. But boy do I spend too much time on Facebook! You know what I mean?” I do. I also spend too much time on Facebook. This is clearly a man who understands our issues. He goes on, “Have you ever heard of Keyboard Cat? It’s a cat that plays a keyboard. Look it up on the YouTube. Hi-lar-ious!” He sounds like Jean-Ralphio when he says hilarious. I ask him if he’s a Parks and Recreation fan, but he pretends to have never heard of it.

He turns to the security guard. “Give me a call, Barry.” He looks back at me. “This will give you a real thrill!”

K-dog pulls out his iPhone 5 – the protective  cover features a hologram of the Three Wolf Moon design – and waits. With a long suffering sigh, Barry gets his phone out of his pocket. I get the feeling this isn’t the first time he’s had to do this routine. K-dog continues staring at me, an eager smile plastered on his face. The silence drags on. Eventually I go to speak, “So–”, but I am immediately cut off as the music from Keyboard Cat blares from Rudd’s phone. He cackles wildly and lets the entire song play out. I nod and try to smile encouragingly.

The music comes to an end and K-dog has to remove his glasses to wipe tears from his eyes. “Oh Em Gee. Gets me every time!”

Barry leans down and whispers something in K-dog’s ear. He looks crestfallen.

“Sorry, cobber. Seems we’re plum out of time.”

The interview is over. I realise I haven’t asked him anything about his policies, but it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s impossible to meet Rudd without becoming convinced he truly is the voice of young Australia. He stands and kicks the skateboard up so that’s it’s nestled under his left arm. The entire bar goes quiet. They know what’s coming. K-dog looks around the room, that winning smile seeming to take in each and every person there. He lets the silence hang for a moment.

“Well,” he says. “Gotta zip!”

Rapturous applause. They’ll be talking about this moment for weeks – and I know I will too.