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Leaders' wives tell of pleasures and perils o -

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Leaders' wives tell of pleasures and perils of election campaigns

Reporter: Heather Ewart

KERRY O'BRIEN: More than 30 years after the first wave of women's liberation, the modern election
campaign still seems somewhat trapped in the past - at least as far as leader's wives are
concerned.

If there's any rule governing their roles at all, it seems to be the old one of being seen but not
heard unless it's to speak out for their man.

Last year it was Carol Crean trying to give Simon a boost when his leadership was under pressure.

This week it was Janette Howard insisting John was trustworthy and honest.

Certainly television interviews with the leader's partners are off-limits in this campaign, even
for political newcomer Janine Lacey, Mark Latham's wife.

So Heather Ewart has gone to three women who have been through it all in the past for their views
on the perils and even the pleasures of the campaign trail for political wives.

HEATHER EWART: They must always appear to be supportive, never put a foot wrong and never steal the
limelight from their husbands but these are just about the only unspoken rules for Australian
political leaders' wives on the campaign trail.

While Janette Howard and Mark Latham's wife Janine Lacey refuse to speak publicly about their ways
of treading this tightrope, there's an elite band of women who know what they're going through.

SUSIE ANNUS, KIM BEAZLEY'S WIFE: And there is actually no-one there to tell you whether or not
you're doing the right thing or not because everyone's concerned with the candidate, not with the
candidate's wife so I think you've just got to work out in your own mind what suits you, what
doesn't suit you and, ah, hope for the best.

HEATHER EWART: What were the downsides?

MARGARET INGRAM, ANDREW PEACOCK'S EX-WIFE: The downside was really just the constant criticism, the
effort that had to be made just to keep - not my head but Andrew's head above water.

TAMMIE FRASER, MALCOLM FRASER'S WIFE: Our party then didn't take much notice of wives, really,
because the main game was with Malcolm and if we sort of went on reasonably mute, it was a good
thing.

HEATHER EWART: Was that difficult for you?

TAMMIE FRASER: Extremely.

HEATHER EWART: These days, Tammie and Malcolm Fraser live on the Victorian peninsula.

She's devoted to her family, the garden and her favourite charities.

The hectic life of politics is long behind her but she can recall her first campaign as though it
was yesterday.

TAMMIE FRASER: Well, our first real campaign trail as PM was 1975 and that was after Gough said
"Maintain the Rage", so we went from rally to rally to hall to hall where there were a lot of
objections and it was quite lively.

Some of it was scary, when they started bashing and kicking the car and throwing things, and
spitting was the worst.

Also, we were as green as grass when we went into it.

and when you say tag along, it meant that I was behind as Malcolm walked along which meant that if
someone dropped their banner it would dong on my head or someone would yell loudly in my ear so
that you would turn around and say, "Go away."

I said, "Go away" to some fellow once at Coogee Beach and he said, "Love, you're game."

I don't know what he thought he was.

HEATHER EWART: For Margaret Ingram, a public relations consultant and media commentator, the
scrapbooks are now all that's left of what she calls one of the most memorable experiences of her
life.

At the time, she was married to Andrew Peacock when he was Liberal leader in the 1984 campaign.

MARGARET INGRAM: I mucked up a lot and I had fun, but I was always very mindful there was a serious
thread going on here.

That I could never really overstep the line.

Came close, but not really.

HEATHER EWART: How did you muck up a lot?

MARGARET INGRAM: Well, one of the tasks I saw myself as doing was really shouting the media drinks.

We'd be on a plane every day and we'd go from city to city and then at night we didn't have that
many engagements or they'd start early in the morning so I'd retire to the bar with some of the
media and - I mean, I knew them all anyway and the Liberal Party seemed to have a running tab at
every bar I went to, so I'd just book the drinks up to them.

So we had a bit of fun along the way as well.

HEATHER EWART: Maybe campaigns were more fun all round in the old days.

Susie Annus is sitting this one out in Perth.

She was on the last two campaigns when her husband, Kim Beazley, was Labor leader.

As a TV producer, she felt reasonably confident of giving polished media performances, but failed
dismally when asked to give her husband's birth date on a live TV show.

SUSIE ANNUS: And I was so nervous that I actually started to give the date of a previous boyfriend
and I was halfway through when I realised that in fact it wasn't Kim's birthday I was giving out.

I was absolutely mortified.

HEATHER EWART: There's a widespread concern here, shared it seems by all political wives, about how
best to deal with the media and not detract from their husband's campaigns.

SUSIE ANNUS: You are concerned that when you're put into an interview situation in front of the
camera for the first time that you're either going to make a fool of yourself - and you're not so
much worried about making a fool of yourself for yourself, but how it's going to reflect on your
husband.

HEATHER EWART: Did you feel that you could be yourself?

TAMMIE FRASER: Yes I did, I thought it was the only answer.

When Malcolm became leader, I had three interviews lined up and I rang my sister and said, "How am
I going to make me interesting?"

and she said, "You can't, you'll have to bluff it out," which actually meant just be yourself and
that's how you are.

HEATHER EWART: And that's their advice to the newcomer on the block, Janine Lacey, albeit in
different ways.

MARGARET INGRAM: Get a really good tab at the bar is the first thing.

No, the first thing would be to enjoy, enjoy it because no matter what happens and no matter how
tough things are or how good things are, it's an experience you'll never forget.

She might obviously have another chance at all that, I mean, who knows what's going to happen in
the future.

SUSIE ANNUS: And I think that's what's so good about the Australian system is that there isn't a
model out there.

That if you are the wife then you must do a, b and c.

You can basically do the things that interest you and be yourself.

HEATHER EWART: How do you imagine she'd be feeling at the moment having been through all this
yourself?

TAMMIE FRASER: Well, quite probably trying to tread the line we all try and tread, which is not to
embarrass your family, your party or your country.

HEATHER EWART: When you look back now, is there anything you might have done differently?

TAMMIE FRASER: I think I didn't understand about um, how powerful your view was.

If you wanted something as PM's wife it was very easy to get it.

I look back now from a great age and think I was quite young, I was in my 30s when Malcolm became
PM and I think now I could have done more good for more people if I had known how and I think I
might know how better now.

HEATHER EWART: In their own individual styles, the wives of our political leaders have defined
their own roles.

And Australians haven't demanded otherwise.

That's the way the wives, past and present, hope it remains.

(c) 2006 ABC