" ghost-of-Christmases-past kinda thing."

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    Here to help: Kevin Rudd greets Tony Abbott at the opening of the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse Hospital in Camperdown. Photo: Nic Walker
    There was a harpist, who lent a calming and celestial air. There was a clutch of politicians, spear-headed by the Prime Minister, who was safety-padded by a large entourage. There were dignitaries and journalists.
    And there was Kevin Rudd.
    At this delicate juncture of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's career, the presence - the beatifically smiling, glad-handing, silver-mopped presence - of the former prime minister could have been seen as an ominous visitation. A ghost-of-Christmases-past kinda thing. A stinging reminder of the ills of party disunity.
    But as Kevin has assured us repeatedly over his years in public life, he is only here to help.t
    Friday was no different. The event was the opening of new intensive care and inpatient facilities at the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, a dedicated cancer hospital named after the tireless and brilliant doctor whose vision it was. As health minister in the Howard government, Abbott had tipped in $10 million in funding to the centre. The subsequent Labor government gave $170 million, hence Rudd's presence.
    It was a happy occasion, but the terrain, for Abbott, was tricky.
    For a start, the place was crawling with doctors. Because of the Great Unpleasantness over the Medicare co-payment, relations between Abbott and the medical profession have soured somewhat. In the queue of people who are not currently huge fans of the Prime Minister, doctors stand somewhere towards the front, behind students and Abbott's own backbenchers, but ahead of a goodly portion of cabinet, probably, and his pet dog.
    If he had one.
    There was also the awkwardness of his government's cuts to projected hospital funding to the states in the 2013 budget, which everyone was too polite to mention. And the presence of Premier Mike Baird, who is trying to conduct a state election campaign that remains untarnished by, well, the Prime Minister.
    And that's not to mention the Misfortune of Monday, a memory that might have been on its way to fading until Rudd appeared, reminding one of spills and dysfunction and the knocking off of leaders.
    Abbott's speech was elegant and short, and he took a tour of the new wards afterwards, meeting nurses and inspecting beds. One journalist, from a favoured tabloid, was allowed to accompany him, while the rest of the pack waited in the foyer, in vain, as it would turn out.
    But the media, just like nature, abhors a vacuum, and it was at that moment that Rudd strode past the cameras, sweeping his silvery fringe across his forehead in his trademark gesture, and smiling like he'd just received a whole calendar's worth of good news.
    It was as though no time had passed. He chatted in Mandarin to a Chinese woman in the cafe. He patted a toddler on the head. He took a selfie with an effusive fan. He offered a coy "no comment" when asked questions about the leadership. He showed 'em how it's done.
    And then he had to zip.
    After a long visit, the Prime Minister left the hospital via a side alley, ignoring media questions. As he hopped into the prime ministerial wheels, a passer-by materialised at the curb, shouting abuse of an extremely Anglo-Saxon variety.
    It has been a tough week, and Tony's no Kevin.
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