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Something About Me - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 31 October , 2011

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello, I'm Caroline Jones. Kristina Keneally's dramatic and
controversial rise through the ranks of the ALP has been well documented. Born and raised in
America's Midwest she became the first female Premier of New South Wales before the crushing defeat
of her government at the hands of furious voters earlier this year. What few people know about is
the deeply personal experience Kristina said led her into politics and toughened her for the brutal
crossfire of public life. Tonight she tells that story.

EMMA MCLEOD, STILLBIRTH FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: Since Kristina's no longer been Premier she's been
available so much more. Kristina is not just a figurehead. I think she feels it's very much a part
of her. I have come to understand how important this cause is to her.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: I knew it was still something very personal and very emotional for her. I
thought it was a real- it was another step in her journey that she was going to be very public
about this.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Do I think I could have made it through some of the battles
I've had to go through in politics and come out as intact as I have without the strength that being
Caroline's mother's given me? I don't think so.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: I was 20, she was 21. We spent a lot of time together and kept talking about
the things we shared in common. We really hit it off.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: We shared a passion for social justice. Both of us had a real
passion for left of centre politics. My undergraduate degree is in political science. It's
something I've always loved. It's one of the things that really brought Ben and I together.

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: He was smitten. He came back from Poland and all we heard about was
this Kristina. I thought she was a little bit mad, a bit of a mad American. We thought she seemed
lovely and obviously, clearly very much in love with our brother.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: She had a connection to this country as well, with her relatives, her mother
and her grandmother having been born here.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: My grandmother was a Brisbane barmaid. She met an American GI
during World War Two. My mother was born in Brisbane and a few years later the family came back to
the United States. My mother met my father on an air force base in Florida. I came to Sydney in
'92. I spent about six weeks here with Ben and his family. That pretty much convinced me that he
was the one.

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: Both clearly in love with each other, and both had similar interests.
And both very ambitious, very driven.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: We spent the first few years of our marriage in Chicago. Ben
was a management consultant. I was studying a doctorate in feminist theology and it as a discipline
probably has only existed since the 1960s. For me it was a very exciting area of study. It was a
way that I thought I could really push to make change within the church and how the church
understands women.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: After about three years of Chicago winters we had our first child and we
sort of looked at each other and said this would be much better if we were closer to family. And at
that stage it was a choice between you know Toledo, Ohio and Sydney, Australia.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I had these vague ideas that I'd have four children, that I'd
work as an academic.

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: That was kind of where I saw her - that she was going to stay at home
and have more children. When I found out Kristina was running for pre-selection I was surprised
that it was Kristina rather than Ben. From very early on Ben was interested in politics. He was
always voted by his classmates the boy most likely to be Prime Minister.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: I had always been interested in politics and had thought that it might be
something I might be professionally involved with, but I'd taken no steps to support that outcome.
They were looking for a candidate to replace the sitting member and they were looking for a female
candidate who could put forward a new face of the Labour party.

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: I think Kristina became more politically ambitious than Ben. I think
the dirtiness that comes with some of it I think turned Ben off.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: The pre-selection was fairly tough. It was contested and the local branch
members, probably half of them were very upset about her challenge.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': This was a typical New South Wales brawl where head office
wanted to get rid of Deidre Grusovin, who'd held the seat of Heffron for a long time. It got very
dirty when it became public when Laurie Brereton, Deirdre Grusovin's brother said 'Head office is
trying to remove my sister'.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: It had a Federal Court injunction. It had... one person actually
spit on me. People were spreading rumours about me. I had to go down to Canberra for a meeting of
the national executive of the ALP. Some of the people who had been spreading those rumours about me
were there in the room and I looked around the room and I... there was just this moment where I
thought 'I know something you guys don't know. I know something about me that you guys don't know
and that is that I am tougher than you understand. I am tougher than you think because I have been
through something truly awful and I have survived it. I've come out the other end. Nothing you can
say about me, no rumour you can start or accusation- false accusation you can make can hurt me
anywhere as bad as what I've been through has hurt me'. It wasn't long after we arrived in
Australia that we became pregnant with our second child. I was booked in for an 18 week scan and
did a bit of work around the house. I remember leaving the vacuum just there on the floor. So I
went up to the hospital to meet Ben and I do remember the radiographer pointing out you know
'There's the heartbeat and here's the baby'. And she just stopped and she said 'There's a problem
here. I need to go get a doctor'. Before she left I said 'I'm sorry, you have to tell me what's
wrong with this baby' and she said 'Well you can see here on the scan that her skull isn't
growing'. It just all seemed to get worse - from that point it just got utterly awful. There were
just people there and they were saying the most awful sounding things like at some point you are
going to have to give birth to this child and she will die upon delivery. And all through this I
can feel her moving inside of me.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: A few days later we went back to the hospital. It was very strange being in
a maternity hospital and knowing that there were children being born all around and that that
wasn't going to happen for us.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I had such a lovely doctor who I'll never forget the first
words she said when Caroline was born, she said "Oh, little girl, you were never meant for this
world." (Crying) And I know that she meant it as a statement of recognising that my daughter was a
little girl, she was a baby, that she was a life.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: After the delivery we stayed in the hospital for a couple of days and spent
time with Caroline and we were really encouraged to do that, to hold her. It was hard. It was just
very sad. It was probably a week later we had a funeral.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I do remember coming home and there was that damn vacuum
cleaner. I just threw it and I broke it. Before I went to hospital I had been there with my normal
life doing normal things like vacuuming - and when I got back my normal life was still there, but
it wasn't. It was so vastly different. And that vacuum cleaner just seemed to symbolise all of

LIZ HURRELL, SOCIAL WORKER: I met with Kristina over a period of months after the birth of
Caroline. That's often an incredibly lonely and difficult time for the mother.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I don't think I could have gotten through that experience
without Liz. She was just so generous and patient and understanding and calm, and she let me be sad
and angry and every other emotion.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: I think that the loss of Caroline and the couple of years after that were
probably the toughest time of our 15 years of marriage. The relationship wasn't about our growth it
was just about our survival. And I remember at times being quite you know frustrated that she
couldn't see the good things around her, couldn't be happy about things that I was doing for her.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I'm very fortunate. He's an amazing husband. I think it's only
later that I've realized how much fell to him at that time. Along with my own guilt, there were
moments of feeling like I'd been abandoned by God. On the one hand, as a Christian I knew that my
child was going to some place that was love. But on the other hand I was furious. This.. How dare
my child not be with me? How could this have happened and why and why was God taking my child? Only
months later did it dawn on me that for all my study of feminist theology and all my proclamations
that God was neither male nor female and God could be seen in maternal terms, it suddenly just
struck me 'If that's true then God is a mother whose child has died'. That realization was sort of
the moment that I understood God didn't do this to Caroline and I didn't do it to her - that just
sometimes these things happen. It was late 1999 that we decided to have another baby. I was so very
keen for Daniel to have a sibling.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: When Brendan was about one she started trying to go back and continue her
research, and I remember at that time her coming home and saying that she just wasn't enjoying it

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Liz made a big impression upon me because she'd actually made a
difference in my life. And I thought 'I want to make a difference in people's lives'.

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: I think she needed some more stuff in her life, to fill her life, and
to fill that void that Caroline's death left. I don't think she really got back on her feet until
she entered politics.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: She said to me, 'I feel like I can do this because I've been through
something much worse. Nothing compares to losing Caroline'. And it rocked me. I realized I hadn't
quite realized how close Caroline was to her heart and to her sense of who she was. (Teary) You
know, I just- Oh, it sounds stupid...I remember falling in love with her again at that point
thinking 'What an amazing person she was to... (Choked up) turn that grief and that sense of loss
into something strong and positive'.

(Excerpt of maiden speech to Parliament)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I do enter this chamber as an American born Australian citizen,
the first in the New South Wales Parliament...

(End of excerpt)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: When you stand up to give that first inaugural speech and think
'Oh for goodness sakes - How did we arrive here?' And with this an American accent to boot.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: After Kristina was elected it became a different world. I'd stepped back
from work for several months and worked two to three days a week. I moved jobs. I moved into some
independent consulting while we had the two boys who were both pre-school at that point.

(Excerpt of swearing in as Minister for Disabilities - April 2007)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: With good management of the public affairs of New South

(End of excerpt)

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: Kristina's first portfolio was as Minister for Disabilities. She really
enjoyed that role.

(Excerpt from ABC TV Stateline NSW - 2 October 2009)

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': Since the exposure of property corruption at Wollongong
last year, the entire planning system of New South Wales has been viewed by the public with a
deepening skepticism.

(End of excerpt)

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: Planning was a tougher, much tougher portfolio - much more in the public

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': Kristina Keneally as the Planning Minister had to take on
that portfolio when all the fingers of accusation were pointing at the department and the way New
South Wales Labor Party did business with property developers.

(Excerpt from ABC TV Stateline NSW - 23 October 2009)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER (Speaking at taskforce meeting): This is an opportunity for the
Opposition to tell us here today - which decision, which development and which donation. If there
truly is a culture of decisions for donations in New South Wales, here are all our decisions. Here
are the merits on which our decisions were based. It's time to put up or shut up!

(End of excerpt)

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': When her caucus colleagues saw that she could handle
herself under all sorts of pressure there started to be a view that, 'Hey, maybe she could be the

JOSIE BYRNE, SISTER-IN-LAW: It was a just a rumour at first that there was going to be a leadership
spill, but even at the inkling of that rumor I started to feel very nervous. I thought 'Wow that's
a huge thing to take on'.

(Excerpt from ABC News - 3 December 2009)

RETURNING OFFICER: The caucus has elected a new Premier, and that new Premier is Kristina Keneally.

REPORTER: There's no question the state's 42nd Premier has a tough job ahead.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I want to thank my colleagues who have put a great deal of
trust in me today. I'm humbled by their trust in me.

BRUCE HAWKER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The image she has to overcome is that she is a creature of the

REPORTER: It's a tag that's dogged her short political career.

(End of excerpt)

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': That's the calculation politicians have to make if they
want to get somewhere in their career.

(Excerpt continues)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I am my own woman. I stand on my own two feet and what I ask
the people of New South Wales is this - judge me by the decisions I take, judge me by the services
I deliver.

(End of excerpt)

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': She stuck to the right and she worked within the
personalities within that right to get there - and so, she's calculating and clever like most of
them and she got there.

(File footage)

REPORTER: It's been a meteoric rise but like her predecessor, it could all be over in 15 months
when voters go to the polls.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Here we are on the second question - all they are in the
gutter, muck raking...

(End of excerpt)

LIZ HURRELL, SOCIAL WORKER: I saw this woman in the media and I always just had this sense that I
knew her but I had no idea where it was from. I clearly wasn't able to reconcile that vulnerable
woman that I'd known with the feisty MP approaching the rostrum in State Parliament. It wasn't
until she became Premier and I read some articles that I actually put the two pieces together.

EMMA MCLEOD, STILLBIRTH FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: When Kristina Keneally became Premier, I became aware
that she had had a stillborn baby so I thought I should write to her.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Emma had had a stillborn child - a daughter, Olivia. And for
her that experience was why she decided to start the Stillbirth Foundation looking to raise money
for research.

EMMA MCLEOD, STILLBIRTH FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: I talked about what the Stillbirth Foundation, what I
was trying to do, what we were trying to achieve through the organisation and asked her if she
would be willing to be patron.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: In Emma's story I saw some parallels with my own...

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: I think the first few months things went really well. And then she got hit
by three or four scandals in one month.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: My role really was to get the party to an election as intact as
possible and with as much dignity as possible.

(Excerpt of ABC News - March 26, 2011)

REPORTER: The O'Farrell landslide will go down in the history books - a swing of about 17 per cent
against a Government has never been seen before.

(End of excerpt)

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, PRESENTER '7.30 NSW': In March 2011, the New South Wales Labor Party suffered the
greatest defeat in the electoral history of Australia. Kristina Keneally led the party through that
defeat and the history books may well record that she became the attractive face of a debauched

(Excerpt of election coverage)

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: The truth is people of New South Wales, who entrusted us with
government for 16 years, did not leave us. We left them.

(End of excerpt)

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: After the election it was a bit odd for a few weeks. It was almost like we'd
been trained to operate at this speed and this pitch and it was hard to re-adjust.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: I think it would be fair to say that at no time between 2007
and 2011 was Government particularly easy. I'm enjoying being a backbencher.

EMMA MCLEOD, STILLBIRTH FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: After the election she called me and we had a chat
about it and she talked about her willingness to give so much of her time to the cause.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER (Speaking at Stillbirth Foundation Ball fundraiser): The
absolute sadness of becoming the mother of a stillborn child, of Ben and I becoming the parents of
a stillborn daughter. We felt like we were entering a club we didn't know existed. We felt like we
didn't want to become members of this club...

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: Kristina wants to use her profile and her personal experience to make this
an issue of public concern, to help other families who are going through what we went through.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: It's the biggest question women ask themselves - Why did this
happen? Why did this happen to my baby? Why did this happen to me?

DR ADRIENNE GORDON, RESEARCHER: They've found a risk with left sided sleeping versus non-left sided

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Recently we were briefed on the latest research findings that
the Stillbirth Foundation has supported, particularly on foetal movement monitoring and on maternal
sleep - how the mother is sleeping. And these are quite exciting and promising.

EMMA MCLEOD, STILLBIRTH FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: It's very early days at this point in time but the
foetal movement one was interesting, and the mother's sleeping position as well. Those results are
very encouraging. It'll be something that we look forward to investigating further.

BEN KENEALLY, HUSBAND: The work that she's doing she's really excited by. She'll come home and tell
me about the meeting with one of the researchers.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, FMR NSW PREMIER: Stillbirth is a tragedy and what compounds that tragedy is that
it is still such a mystery. It happens to over 2000 women a year in Australia. It was most
remarkable to me how much I could love a tiny little baby who had never drawn breath. It's
impossible to compare the loss of Caroline to anything else I've experienced. Political battles are
ephemeral. The loss of a child stays with you forever.


Kristina Keneally says she has 'no plans' to enter Federal politics and can make a contribution to
her community outside the political sphere.