The news around 3pm on Monday prompted a flood of calls and messages, a sea of notifications.
Tanya Plibersek had decided not to run for leadership of the Labor Party. On Sunday, it had all been Team Tanya when Bill Shorten said he would not run for the top job again after his party's defeat on Saturday's poll. She even said she was considering it. Julia Gillard backed her.
I live in her seat. I think she's fabulous. But the women who contacted me in the hour after the announcement came not just from Sydney but from all over Australia (including Queensland). They wanted a woman to run the Labor Party and they were ready to serve.
But Tanya Plibersek, highly effective deputy leader of the opposition and really beloved, said no.
"I am very grateful for the support I have received from my colleagues, from party members and others, urging me to run for the Labor leadership. I have support, from across the party, to be elected leader. I am overwhelmed by the confidence my colleagues, the union movement, and Labor Party members have placed in me. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their support.
"But now is not my time."
And then she said: "At this point, I cannot reconcile the important responsibilities I have to my family with the additional responsibilities of the Labor leadership."
She's got three kids. The eldest is 18. The youngest, by my count, would be eight or nine (I only know this because when that kid was three, Bob Hawke said Plibersek's family responsibilities would rule her out. At least one of the Shorten kids was three at the time.)
If that was true, that she really wanted to be with her kids, I knew what I had to do in the national interest.
I rang her office. They wouldn't put me through, no matter how insistent I was. I said I had an important message on behalf of Australians.
"I'm prepared to retire from work and look after her children, if that's what it takes," I said.
Unkindly, the young man who took my call laughed at me. Then, I'm pretty sure he put it on loudspeaker and asked me to repeat my generous offer. The entire Plibersek office was laughing at me. He promised to pass my message on to Tanya. I still haven't heard anything but Tanya, if you are reading this, the offer still stands. My own children are grown and not too deranged. Those are my excellent caring credentials.
And it stands even if the real reason is that the blokes in the Labor Party would prefer another bloke over an outstanding woman. If the real reason they want to have someone else is because they want their old mate Albo (Anthony Albanese, who they think might communicate better with Queenslanders based on exactly what evidence?) or their even newer mate Chalmo (Jim Chalmers because they think a Queenslander will save them. Maybe even Bow-o (Chris Bowen). Stump speech on Monday night's Q&A of course). The ABC news on Monday night said in light of Plibersek's announcement, her career had peaked.
Here is what I fear happened. Bill Shorten led the Labor team that lost and therefore every single person in his top team is tarnished with that loss. The men shrivel in fear and won't back Plibersek for that reason. It's the wrong reason. Use this moment to install a matriarch.
Tanya Plibersek, I beg of you, change your mind. You have time. Michael Coutts-Trotter, we could do this for Tanya.
Maybe Plibersek is having a moment of impostor syndrome. Maybe she thinks she couldn't unite the party. Wrong again. She has faith in people and that goes a long way. Let me explain.
There's also been the speculation that Mr Plibersek (also known as Michael Coutts-Trotter) would be an impediment. There can't be too many people in the world who have actually spent time in prison for a drug-related offence and then gone on to run government departments. I've never met him but that's a rehabilitation miracle, an adornment rather than anything else. It also shows the depth of Plibersek's character that she took a chance on someone who had sunk so low. She had faith in him. And he's turned out a-ok.
Michael Coutts-Trotter is a guy who could do anything. He's currently running the NSW Department of Justice. He ran the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, so I'm pretty sure he could run his own family. And would, if asked.
That's why I reckon this whole "doing it for my family" business is, it hurts me to say, a deception to protect the party from obvious divisions. It's got to be the people at the top who think they need a new vision instead of a good person. The blokes in the ALP should rethink that vision for the future. Make the ALP future female.
The ALP leadership meets tomorrow to decide the process for electing a new leader. Under Labor Party rules, if there are two or more candidates for the leadership, a ballot of party members and caucus MPs is held. Both voting blocks are weighted at 50 per cent.
So Tanya Plibersek, I beg of you, change your mind. You have time. Michael Coutts-Trotter, we could do this for Tanya. And for Australia. Also, I'm very happy to do the household jobs you like least. Deal?
Those in the Labor Party about to vote for a new leader?
Vote 1 Plibo.
Jenna Price is a UTS academic.
- SMH/The Age