Rundle introduces us to Palmer with an account of the shin-dig he arranged at his dysfunctional Coolum resort to introduce voters to ideas, and to warm the electorate and commentariat to the Palmer United Party. There was an awkward dissonance in these first few pages, well contrived by Rundle to introduce his central thesis. Journalists have always been reluctant to do their work on Palmer and only ever do so at the final post. Sloth and bias have shaped headlines to superficially characterise a force that would emerge as the perfect storm from the north threatening cosy politicians and commentators.
Rundle will open many eyes when he recounts Palmer's formative years and collates events to better illuminate the uneasy politician's beliefs, motivations and methods. He contradicts the pronouncement that Palmer is "a man of no fixed character or beliefs, who rose to power though a rational political process. The reverse is the case." Rundle's argument is interesting, amusing and convincing. While he acknowledges he has been guided mainly by one biographical source, his analysis is singular in its directness and brevity for the Quarterly Essay format.
This essay concludes with an historical analysis that is, again, atypical of and even scornful of the conformity and lack of scrutiny evident in the mainstream media. I wonder if Rundle dines on his own when working in Canberra. I hope not - his characterisation of an electoral system which can be manipulated to ensure the genesis and extinction of parties like the Palmer United Party is as convincing as is his suggestion that only calamity can reform such a system. Readers will nod their head at Rundle's cynicism with major political parties and their preference to woo clumsy political blocks to vote predictably on different issues.