Rudd to unveil parliamentary portrait fit for a king

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Kevin Rudd is taking a break from ambassadorial duties in Washington to unveil his official portrait in Canberra on Thursday.

All former prime ministers’ portraits are hung in Parliament House’s Historic Memorials Collection and, true to form, Rudd called in the big guns: the royal family’s go-to portraitist, Ralph Heimans.

Australian artist Ralph Heimans has painted portraits of three royal family members.Credit: Kiran Ridley

The Australian’s gigantic painting of Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Diamond Jubilee hangs permanently in Westminster Abbey. He also painted the late Prince Philip in 2017 and the then Prince Charles in 2018. Quite the CV.

Heimans also happens to be the brother of Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of GetUp – the activist group that conservatives have attacked as a Labor front ever since it mobilised voters to help Rudd defeat John Howard at the 2007 election.

Rudd was spotted in parliament on Wednesday having coffee with Treasurer Jim Chalmers, and was welcomed back to the building by the people that matter most. He received a big hug from one of the joint’s longest serving cleaners, Anna Jancevski.

Rudd was overheard joking with colleagues that he hadn’t been in any rush to have his portrait painted. Next month will mark a decade since he lost the top job – the second time that is, via an election, not his colleagues – and two successors are already up in the gallery.

Julia Gillard presented her photo-realistic portrait by Vincent Fantauzzo (husband of Gold Logie winner Asher Keddie) in 2018 – five years after Rudd replaced her as PM.

Tony Abbott visited Parliament House last November, seven years after his term ended, to unveil a masculine likeness by The Australian’s acrid cartoonist Johannes Leak, whose late father, Bill, painted Bob Hawke for the collection.

CBD gathers Malcolm Turnbull’s portrait is close to being formally commissioned, and must assume the noted art collector will be discerning in his choice of painter.

Archibald Prize winner Lewis Miller was working on a portrait of the future PM back in 1994, but according to a tale spun by the late, legendary Sydney art dealer Ray Hughes – one which Turnbull has always said wasn’t true – he cut it to shreds when Turnbull complained it made him “look like a big, fat, greedy c–t”.

Ralph Heimans’ 2012 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II hangs permanently in Westminster Abbey.

Virgin to take new route

Virgin Australia is heading for a turbulent time as its owner, Bain Capital, prepares to offload the airline in an IPO. The Boston private equity behemoth picked up Virgin after COVID sent the airline into voluntary administration in 2020, and parachuted in ex-Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka as chief executive.

Bain has already made its money back, after paying itself $730 million in cash in May, so it’s all juicy profit for the crew led by former Olympic diver Mike Murphy from here.

Virgin is pushing to settle a new pay deal with pilots early. Insiders believe this is an attempt to lock in its cost base before pitching the airline to new investors. It also gets potential strikes out of the way.

Bain Capital appointed Jayne Hrdlicka as Virgin Australia’s chief executive in 2020.Credit: Dan Peled

But getting Virgin’s staff onside will be an uphill battle, if a recent internal employee survey CBD has obtained is anything to go by.

Only about one in five flight operations staff said they “rarely” thought about looking for a new job somewhere else, and fewer than 5 per cent would recommend Virgin to family and friends as a great place to work.

A whopping 95 per cent of crew thought they were not paid fairly – unsurprising after they accepted tough conditions to help the company out of its financial woes – and only 30 per cent said they felt proud to work for the airline.

The numbers have improved across the board since last year’s survey, but as flight operations boss Alex Scamps told staff in an email last week, “There is no pretending they reflected where we want to be as a business.”

Negotiating new enterprise bargaining agreements early was the best way to address workers’ “remuneration, flexibility and lifestyle concerns”, Scamps said.

A company spokesperson also told us new pay agreements would help it build a sustainable business where employees felt valued and recognised and had nothing to do with an IPO.

Cheering up this unhappy bunch will be expensive, and strike-prone unions will be hard to deal with. How that aligns with Bain’s plans to dress the airline up for sale is yet to be seen.

Kicking goals

Our spies tell us a busy time was had in Canberra on Tuesday. Back-to-back events showcased the best of Western Australia and the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL.

PM Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton headed the guest list at both and while the freebies at the WA event were better – attendees gorged on tiny bites of rock lobster and steak, and collected goodie bags – the AFL event was better attended.

Incoming AFL boss Andrew Dillon riffed on his plans to expand the game, while being careful to thank the PM for the $240 million being splurged on Tasmania’s bespoke new stadium.

Albanese delivered a long, earnest speech thanking the AFL for its Voice support and Buddy Franklin for his service, while hyping up Tassie’s entrance into the league as the 19th team in a few years from now (unless state Labor wins the next election and halts the controversial stadium).

Thankfully, backbench MP Peter Khalil (a Collingwood tragic who still talks about meeting the great Peter Daicos back in 1979) introduced a bit of levity by sledging the PM’s team, Hawthorn, as having no chance of winning the flag.

“Was that Khalil?” Albanese shot back. “Not a great career move to sledge a prime minister.”

But it was left to Dutton to deliver the line of the night to Deputy PM (and Geelong tragic) Richard Marles: “Strangely, we’re not here to announce bipartisan funding of yet another upgrade to Kardinia Park.”

As the footy faithful know, the Cats’ home ground is better known as Pork Barrel Park.

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