The Spectator Australia Investigative Journalism Unit prides itself in being ahead of other publishers in providing sneak previews of major literary occurrences. Where others have been content to review The PM Years, by Kevin Rudd, we can now reveal as a world exclusive, a significant extract from his monumental work The Kindergarten Years.
‘They were lazy, hazy, crazy, zany days of a never-ending summer when I was three or four years old. Every day I would have leapt out of bed, had we had a bed in the Kombi van where I was brought up in unimaginable poverty. It was also amazing that I was so alert in the mornings, considering that I spent most nights reading the great classics by the light of a kerosene lamp, as of course we had no electricity in the Kombi van where I was brought up in unimaginable poverty. Nevertheless, they were great days or at least they were, until we were gripped by the greatest moral challenge of our era which sent a shiver down our spines, namely climate change.
I might just mention that I was one of the first to identify it, if not the first. It was during my first year at The Gumnut Pre-School in Brisbane, or as I call it, Brissy. In fact I was one of the first, in fact the first, person who actually coined that way of referring to good old Brisbane and some observers have been kind enough to say that it reflected the folksy, friendly, way I connected with the Australian people and for which I became justly famous. Anyway, how I came to discover climate change was that it was always cold in the Kombi van, with no heating, due to our extreme poverty, and I was therefore sensitive to the slightest change in the temperature. I noticed that the closer we came to Christmas the hotter it got until, by Christmas, it was a jolly stinker. Then, the next year, the same thing happened again. I hit on the idea that as the climate was obviously changing, we should call it climate change. Before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, the whole world was talking about climate change, and me.
I did a lot of reading during the kindergarten years. My two favourites were My Brilliant Career and How To Win Friends and Influence People which just about sum up my own life, especially considering the modest beginnings from which I sprang. I hate talking about myself, but as I want this memoir to be true, warts and all, I should say that I was a very popular boy in kindy, or at least I was until I was seriously let down by some of my fairweather friends. My popularity was due to my jovial personality and also to my facility with the Chinese language which I acquired at an early age from some of Brissy’s market gardeners. I was self-taught, of course, and tried not to advertise the fact too much out of modesty, as kiddies think that bright children like me have tickets on themselves if they show off by speaking in a foreign language. But it all came tumbling out when Gumnuts had a multicultural party at the local Chinese café one day and I casually asked the waiter, in Mandarin of course, if I could have ‘Number 39, no MSG, please.’ You can imagine the effect this had on my colleagues when they found they had a linguistic genius among them. It was probably this prowess that marked me out for leadership at Gumnuts and I quickly went like a rat up a drainpipe from nowhere to Plasticine Monitor and then to Gumnut No.1 in double quick time.
But fame is a fickle mistress and I soon learned the hard way that you cannot count on anyone and that some children are just besotted with jealousy when a true leader emerges. At the time, I had a friend named Wayne Swine, a common boy which you could tell from the fact that he pronounced his first name ‘Wine’. Wayne had promised to help me when I stood for election to the committee of Kids R Us, an organisation that looked after kindies all over Brissy. I formed the Gumnut 20 (or G20) to run the campaign. There was only one other candidate, Ebonee-Breeanna who ran a vicious, nasty campaign and told a lot of lies about me. She even said I promised free plasticine for everyone, which I had, although not with programmatic specificity. Sadly I lost the election and then discovered that Wayne had not even voted for me. I dropped him like a bride’s nightie. But I am not bitter. I am not that kind of a person. In fact, although he double-crossed me, probably for a secret reward from the Murdoch press, all I could say was ‘Fair turn of the corkscrew, cobber’ and I let the sad little chap’s treachery go through to the keeper.
After that let-down, I concentrated on doing good things at Gumnuts. My main achievement, in sequential ordering of a nominative nature, was putting Pink Batts in the ceiling. But, there again, you would think it was all my fault when four boys installing them fell off the roof. Then I turned my energy to connecting all of Gumnuts by Morse code and, finally, I gave a big Sorry to the local Aboriginals, at the macro level, as they sure do get the rough end of the pineapple, those simple folk.
As I trudged my lonely way home on my last day to where my loving parents had parked the Kombi van (we were too poor to afford the bus fare) I reflected that I was destined for greater things. Which, as it turned out, I was. But that is another story as they say in the classics.
To be continued in my award-winning volume, The Primary School Years, Brisbane Polytechnic Press.’