Flat White

Baby blues

11 February 2018

7:52 PM

11 February 2018

7:52 PM

This is a story about a senior media figure and a younger woman who discovered, perhaps to her dismay, that she was carrying his child.

The man was married – he was an ABC journalist, and his wife also worked for that august corporation (BTW, for getting employees in its ranks partnered, Your ABC beats e-Harmony hands down).

The pregnant girlfriend moved into an undemanding and pleasant public relations role in a federal government agency, where, in due course, she not only gave birth to a bonny baby boy, but managed to be sent, business class, on an extended trip to talk to mine-clearing operators in Cambodia.

Everyone was very supportive and cordial and would not have dreamed of saying anything, certainly not making any intrusive investigations into travel arrangements, FOI-ed or not.

Politics in Canberra has been described as a blood sport and many that limp off, licking their wounds. Others choose to tough it out and supply imaginative stories that are politely listened to, with sympathetic tongue clicks, while mentally storing up, names, dates and inconvenient facts for later use.

It’s not just sexual politics that provide topics of carefully measured conversation in Canberra.

There was the attractive Irish lass who chose her protector well; she received her ‘acting’ upgrade promotion before her Australian citizenship actually came through, but oh, well, they were both such nice people.  That counts for a lot in Canberra.

And there was, of course, the unfortunate Gordon Gretch who truly overreached beyond public service guidelines and suffered the consequences of political partisanship.

But there were many more who did the same or wanted to, who were never caught, never found out and retired on comfortable CSS (that’s the top of the ladder public service pension scheme, now closed forever, like the gates of heaven on sinners, replaced by the less bountiful but still perfectly adequate PSS, also closed to new entrants.

To the younger journalists in the Gallery, Canberra seems a puzzling place of various tribes and ideologies. Most of them give up trying to report on policy and settle down to report on personalities, a lot easier, more sensational, but less useful to people on the outside trying to work out what the government will do next and why.

If you’ve ever wondered why foreign diplomats spend time and money lunching and dining public servants and parliamentarians, they’re all fishing for that scrap of information that will make their home governments happy.

And sometimes that information sought is surprising: in Paul Keating’s time, the Japanese embassy was most exercised not about bilateral security issues but bluefin tuna fishing.

The dear little baby boy gurgling in his stroller when his proud mum brought him into her workplace is probably doing his HSC year somewhere or leading a demonstration.

In Canberra, we keep in mind someone said something about throwing the first stone.

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