KEVIN Rudd was all open ears yesterday, even if he had to cover them temporarily during a demonstration of explosives at Geelong’s Chemring Australia factory.
The Prime Minister and his ministers were in Geelong for their ninth community cabinet meeting of the year — and Mr Rudd took the opportunity to promise another round of consultations around the nation next year.
Ministers, who are nearly exhausted at the end of a frenetic year, might have empathised with the warm-up act: the Corio Primary School All Stars Choir danced to You Can’t Stop The Beat from Hairspray.
Mr Rudd started the day attending church at St Jude’s in Carlton with Tim Costello, went on to a community barbecue at Corio and then arrived at the explosives factory, which makes flares for the Australian Defence Force.
The Prime Minister said Geelong was a community with “intestines of steel” given all the ups and downs of the automobile industry in particular.
About 380 people gathered at Corio Bay Senior College, bringing to 5000 the number who have attended this year’s community cabinets.
They were a quiet and respectful audience, but with some distinct preoccupations — especially fluoride, where questions received applause.
One questioner wanted to know whether the constitution allowed the pollution of water by fluoride — to which Mr Rudd replied that water supplies were matters for state and local authorities, not the Federal Government.
He added the postscript that all communities were polarised on this issue.
But the audience was not finished with fluoride. A dental surgeon alleged deaths were being covered up and professors were corrupt — and insisted it was a federal responsibility.
Mr Rudd repeated that the Federal Government did not have responsibility. “You seem to be shaking your head, sir,” he added. But all the head shaking wasn’t going to budge the Prime Minister.