By Mike Welsh
You can take the girl out of the Democrats but you can’t take the Democrats out of a National Living Treasure
Labour’s one time superstar recruit Cheryl Kernot and NLT spoke to me on radio recently . And given the former Democrat leader was in town to speak at a symposium on social responsibility, we talked largely about her current passion for social responsibility and the responsibility of corporate Australia to follow in the footsteps of Bill and Melinda Gates.
Cheryl Kernot required little prompting to expand on her boundless passion for social responsibility in society, citing impressive examples from several sectors of society of how the concept can co exist. She laughed heartily when I asked her if this “new” passion wasn’t new at all,just the Democrat coming out. She said she laughed because it was right.
We did dip a toe into the putrid and treacherous waters of personal politics and the frustrating double standards universally applied to woman by the men in blue and grey suits who run the “joint” out of Canberra.
But Cheryl’s passion and motivation quickly switched to near ferocity as she sparked up deluxe on the sexism and nastiness which she says still exists in Australian politics.
And Ms Kernot had a salient message for Prime Minister Tony Abbott. She says the tone of politics must be the same in opposition as it is in Government. She said it’s “hard for Tone (Abbott) to turn around and say let’s have a mature conversation now he’s PM when we didn’t have it for the past 4 or 5 years”
“you can’t do that to people and pretend it was only for the purpose of winning power but now you are serious about having a conversation”
And Ms Kernot feels empathy for another Labour star recruit, the novice, Nova Peris. She said she knows exactly how the athlete feels and offered the embattled Senator some advice on how to weather a political storm blown up by a “steamy” and “sordid” sex scandal.
“You almost lose sight of who you are. Keep your family close and your good friends over a long period of time close and they will filter what is being said about you”
Laurie Oake’s expose of her infamous affair with then Attorney General Gareth Evans is still close to the surface and while she won’t show it, or stir the cauldron of viciousness which was tipped on her from many quarters, it has left a nasty psychological scar .
Ms Kernot says she was shocked to see first hand, while living in the UK after leaving politics, just how different the political landscape was compared with Australia.
“The UK parliament and the public conversation was civilised. Our system is very, very personal, banal and downright nasty on occasions”
And in amongst that Ms Kernot, now in her mid 60s, lamented the lack of a thick hide which , among other things, hindered her progress through the political scene. Although she was emphatic a robust rump prevented you from having any sort of empathy, which makes it impossible to have the impact most people enter politics to have..