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Cheryl Kernot Speaks -

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(generated from captions) Well, there was a time when Cheryl Kernot was billed as a potential Prime Minister. But after switching camps to Labor, things started to go very wrong. Members of her own party and the Canberra press gallery decided to turn on her. The result blurred the line between personal and public life and left Cheryl Kernot looking for a new home in London. She is on a brief visit to Australia this week and sat down with Weekend Sunrise.

As you will see, she still has plenty of scores to settle. It's always good to come back. The sky is so blue and clear and the sea water is so beguiling. I miss that a lot. She became one of Australia's most prominent female politicians but since she fled to London, no-one's heard from Cheryl Kernot until now. REPORTER: Why did you go to London? Why did you choose completely the other side of the world?

Nobody offered me a job here. I got a job in London. She was the force that changed the political landscape as leader of the third major party. OLD FOOTAGE: We'll keep the bastards honest. But after championing the Democrats for four and a half years, she switched to Labor. I don't know whether I will succeed or fail. And I'm hurting a lot of people that I care very much about. There was this kind of media fascination with the fact that I'd changed parties and I think somehow I was going to be punished for that. Women aren't allowed to take risks, you know. In hindsight, do you think it was a mistake to move over to the Labor Party? It's hard to answer that because I had outgrown where the Democrats were, but the Labor Party wasn't particularly accommodating. As it turns out, I didn't understand enough about the Labor Party. Do you think you were naive about the goings on inside the Labor Party, the way the whole thing is structured? Yeah, absolutely. Why didn't anybody tell you? I don't know. I think when you're in politics and you're in the Senate and you're watching, you think you know, but perhaps there's no way of knowing. Looking back, would you do anything differently? Yes, I would have stuck up for my gut instinct when I joined the party. When you joined the Labor Party? When I joined the Labor Party. I should not have settled for the silly, masculine values of proving yourself. Cheryl Kernot was given the marginal seat of Dickson. She narrowly won the first time around. But at the next election, she lost the seat. It hasn't worked and it is for a whole lot of complicated reasons. They didn't say what are Cheryl Kernot's strengths and weaknesses. They just said, "Here's a leftover seat on a map which no factions are fighting for, "put her in there."

If that was bad, the next two years were terrible. Kernot released what was billed as a tell-all book, but she omitted an affair with then ALP frontbencher Gareth Evans, and the media went into a frenzy. There are plenty of political autobiographies out there that haven't been completely open in their declarations of their private affairs. Why do you think yours was singled out? Because it was me!

Mine wasn't a biography - an autobiography. Mine was a memoire, you know. I made a choice - I made a really conscious choice, not to hurt people. But the fallout was monumental. She was branded a liar and many claimed she had only changed parties to be closer to Evans.

It was not instrumental in my decision to leave the Democrats, although men seem to find that hard to believe. But I had outgrown that sitting in judgement role as a third party, never being able to run your own agenda, only being asked by the media at the end of the story "Will you vote for this or will you block it?" and I found that a straightjacket, in the end. And so the other choice was to leave politics. Well, politics is in my blood, that's just the way it is. Why do you think you came out of all of that so badly and yet, to many people, Gareth Evans walked away virtually scot-free. Why is that? I know. I think that's something about the Australian media. I don't think it's the Australian people. I do think there's something about women in politics and in public life, where you're either a Madonna or a whore. There seems to be something about punishing women. fallen women. Men don't fall. Women do, apparently. It's not a very attractive part of Australia, and I tell you, it doesn't happen in the UK. The man who exposed the affair was journalist Laurie Oakes. I find that a very deliberate, vindictive action

and maybe one day I'll just write an unauthorised biography of him, because there's a lot out there. I wouldn't have a clue if it's true or not, but if half of it's true, but if half of it's true, it'll make very interesting reading according to the people who rang my publishers. Cheryl Kernot can't help but to draw parallels with her experiences then and politics now. My daughter, who is 22, came to me tearfully at 6.30 in the morning to say, "Mum, guess what's happened to John Brogden?" She said, "I feel so sorry for that family because it's making me re-live" - we had four years of it - she said, "It's making me re-live the worst things that happened to us." I know how he feels in his heart and in the core of his soul, where you think, "Am I a really, really disgusting, wicked person?" And he's not, he's not, and he needs to know he's not. In your darkest times,

you must have got to a point fairly similar to the point John Brogden got to, did you? I never got suicidal, because I really believed that I understood the forces

that had acted against me to get me where I was but you do start to wonder about what on earth it would take for you to get up and keep going. You just think, "Can you do that?"

These days, she's happy to stay in London. You're still a very passionate person, you still hold very strong beliefs. Can you ever see a day when you'll return to Federal politics because it looks to me like the fire is still in the belly? The fire is in the belly, but I can't see a way back, no.

I think I'd like to be remembered for believing that politics didn't have to be as dirty as it is and I'd like to think that it could be different - I still do. For now, though, she's still searching for something. You know, in my heart, I'm a bit of a restless soul. I'm always looking for perfect intellectual and emotional intimacy and all those sorts of things and I want to keep looking, I want to keep embracing life and I'm not going to let a few male journalists in this country stop me from doing that. Cheryl Kernot there, talking exclusively to Weekend Sunrise. And if you want to hear more, she is the key-note speaker at the Going Public Conference in Sydney. It is on Thursday and Friday this week. All the details are on the Sunrise web site.

Being a male journalist, one of the

ones she's identified, I think

Laurie was right on this story. He

was a leader of a balance of power party having an atheir with a

member of government. I think that

would necessarily had to be revealed.

My point to her that there have

been other political auto buy yoing

fees by men and buy yoing fees and

they've been having affairs with

women that haven't been expoltzd by

people like Laurie oaks.

Times are changing, too.

Or is it a male female thing? I don't know.

My opinion is not going to count,

is it, I'm male?

You're a male journalist.

Simon is being very quiet.

I'm saying nogs here.

Completely changing pace, Laurie

oaks should be a built worried this

morning. A book on him?

We'll see.

I'll keep reading right on! Well, ahead this morning - are herbal teas worth the money?