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Laurie Oakes, Cheryl Kernot And The Unreported Story

For some years now, Australian media outlets have refused to report widespread rumours concerning the private life of Cheryl Kernot.

This claim is made by Laurie Oakes in an article in today’s edition of The Bulletin.

Oakes refers to the publication this week of Kernot’s book, Speaking For Myself Again, a title the veteran Canberra journalist says should be Making Excuses For Myself Again.


Whilst conceding that Kernot has been the subject of media intrusion at various points in her political career, Oakes says she has also been protected by the media:

“For a long time now, some members of the Fourth Estate have been aware of the biggest secret in Kernot’s life. If made public, it would cause a lot of people to view her defection from the Australian Democrats to the Labor Party in a different light. It helps to explain some of her erratic behaviour. It was a key factor in the erosion of her emotional and physical health that contributed to her political disintegration. It even caused a lie to be told to the parliament – not by Kernot, but by a colleague. But it was also personal, so as far as the media was concerned it was treated as out of bounds.

“While it is one thing for journalists to stay away from such a matter, however, it is quite another for Kernot herself to pretend it does not exist when she pens what purports to be the true story of her ill-fated change of party allegiance. An honest book would have included it. If Kernot felt the subject was too private to be broached, there should have been no book, because the secret was pivotal to what happened to her. Had Kim Beazley, John Faulkner and other ALP leading lights been aware of it when then-deputy leader Gareth Evans proposed bringing Kernot into the Labor fold, they would have thought twice about the idea and probably said “no”. Without the distraction and distress it caused Kernot at crucial times, she would certainly have been a less flaky and more effective shadow minister. To white out such a major element results in serious distortion.”

The “out of bounds” secret has circulated for years within the ALP and in political circles generally. A close examination of newspaper reports since Kernot’s defection to the ALP in 1997 will reveal frequent oblique references to the rumours of a relationship between the former leader of the Australian Democrats and the ALP’s then deputy leader, Gareth Evans.

In a wide-ranging hatchet job on Kernot, including references to advice she received from her psychiatrist, Oakes says that Kernot’s book does not contain the details of circumstances that affected her “emotional and physical health”. He writes: “To white out such a major element results in serious distortion.”

It remains to be seen whether other media outlets will take up this story now that Oakes has questioned the honesty of Kernot’s memoirs.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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