Rudd v Abbott: the supporting acts
The families of our potential future prime ministers have become just as much a part of the federal election campaign as the main men themselves. Photo: Instagram
The photogenic supporting cast to the Rudd and Abbott shows have allowed the lead up to September 7 to be the most presidential of any political campaigns ever seen in Australia.
And the magazine editors have seized the opportunity for sartorial splendour by combining these high-powered and high-profile subjects with high-fashion.
A September federal election has proven to be fertile ground for the glossies. Like their northern hemisphere counterparts, the “September issue” is considered the biggest and most profitable edition of the year.
Bridget and Frances Abbott as seen in the September issue of Harpers Bazaar Australia. Photo: Sam Hendel/Harpers Bazaar Australia
Local editions of style bibles Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar took two very different approaches to dealing with the 2013 race to The Lodge.
Vogue – considered the glossy almanac of glamour – enlisted the help of Inside Kevin07 author and reporter for The Australian, Christine Jackman.
“Femme Fatale: Why Australia ousted its first leading lady” the cover, emblazoned with Victoria Beckham, states.
Jackman’s three-page story, titled “What Women Want”, sandwiched between a checklist of new season fashion rules and models promoting expensive fragrances, is more meaty social reform manifesto than meagre style report.
“‘It’s a bit like orgasms,’ the veteran Labor Party advisor leans in closer, as she prepares to divulge some of the darker arts of election campaigning,” she begins.
“But as exciting as walking the halls of power might sometimes be, it has never brought me even remotely close to climax.”
After we move on from the sexual references, Jackman then references the ousting of Julia Gillard and the work of feminists Naomi Wolf and Eva Cox, before asking, “Do we know what we want when it comes to wielding power at the ballot box and beyond?”
Rival Harper’s Bazaar returned fire with a five-page fashion spread starring Tony Abbott’s daughters, Frances and Bridget.
The corresponding interview, laden with Gen Y-isms courtesy of the two 20-something “women of calibre”, is more colourful than the elegant fashion shoot which features high-end labels Celine, Christian Louboutin and Saint Laurent.
Much to the chagrin of Abbott’s advisers, the highlight of the chat is actually a story about another Toni.
“I’m the biggest fan of Toni Maticevski. I did a racing gig this time last year and I wore one of his dresses. I’d never heard of him before and I didn’t even know how to pronounce his name, so I just told everyone I was wearing Toni and, thankfully, everyone in the fashion industry was like, ‘Oh, of course, Toni!’,” radiography student Bridget quips.
“I have friends who will say to me at certain times, ‘I can’t believe you’re so composed.’ It’s how we’ve been brought up – haters gonna hate,” Frances chimes in when asked how her father’s political aspirations impacted their upbringing.
Harper’s Bazaar editor Kellie Hush told Fairfax Media the magazine approached the aspiring First Daughters but had no plans to feature Rudd’s daughter, Cleo columnist and author, Jessica.
The Australian Women’s Weekly has taken a more inclusive approach and pulled out the big guns for a six-page fashion feature written by the editor-in-chief and political enthusiast Helen McCabe.
“My Dad, my hero” stars 30-year-old Jessica Rudd with 14-month-old daughter Josephine and the two Abbott girls all looking pretty, polished and well-lit in local garb by Scanlan and Theodore, Josh Goot and Carl Kapp.
The other Toni gets a run too, much to Bridget’s delight.
McCabe notes that minders from both political sides were present at the interviews but insists “there were no restrictions on the questions or attempts to shape the young women’s answers.”
Her feature doesn’t just tug on the heart strings. It yanks at them with more force than a Westminster Abbey campanologist, causing Ms Rudd to tear up when pressed on how important her father is to her.
“The emotion wells instantly. As she fights the tears, I offer to move on, but she insists she wants to answer the question.
“‘He’s vital,’ Jessica begins, slowly, ‘He’s vital to my life. We talk pretty much every day and I cannot imagine life without him.”
The vivacious blonde, who has taken a more behind-the-scenes role for “Kevin 13”, goes on to explain how the Prime Minister calls on her regularly for advice and she in turn calls him daily to ensure he’s eaten lunch.
“As a girl, it’s lovely to grow up in a family where your dad sees your brain as your greatest asset. He calls me all the time and wants to raid my brain on all sorts of issues.”
Several paragraphs later, Frances Abbott takes the opportunity to declare her stance on the political hot potato of the election – marriage equality.
“She is pro-gay marriage and argues with her father, who remains opposed to the change, yet reveals that what is most upsetting is that people don’t understand how Mr Abbott is with his sister Christine Foster, who left her husband for a woman five years ago,” McCabe writes.
“‘Yes, he is not for gay marriage, as such, but he is for love’,” Frances says.
“Regardless of what you think of their fathers, it is hard not to be impressed by their daughters,” McCabe adds.
“In many ways, they are a testament to both men, whose careers have forced them to spend long periods away from the family home.”