Hillary Bray argues that Laurie Oakes and, to a lesser extent, Alan Ramsey, should have gone all the way in reporting Cheryl Kernot’s “little secret”.

But why won’t Laurie Oakes and Alan Ramsey go all the way?

Here’s Laurie: “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 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.”

And this is what Ramsey has to say: “A family fell victim when Cheryl ignored a prophetic prophylactic Her political career is in pieces. So, too, is her marriage. She is a political rat to the Democrats she abandoned and a self-obsessed whinger to the Labor Party she embraced Yet despite all the ‘sport’ Kernot’s defection to Labor (and the reasons for it) provided her political enemies and the media, it is her husband, Gavin, for whom I feel sorriest. He stayed in Queensland all those years of Kernot’s political career, looking after their daughter, Sian, while her four years with Labor, whatever it was doing to her, just about destroyed him He phoned one night, absolutely distraught, soon after his wife’s election defeat last November, and poured out his bitterness and pure hatred for what politics and the press had done to her and to their life.”

The subtext is obvious but Oakes and Ramsey seem to want to carry on intercourse with the reader without going all the way. Why?

The charitable view is that if they blow the whistle on one case of, er, crossing the floor, it puts them under obligation to do so in all cases, whether relevant or not.

The other is that two Gallery doyens don’t want to be seen as muckrakers but instead have told us where to find a very nasty lot of filth and handed us the rake.

It’s hard to feel sympathetic for Cheryl Kernot, but if they’ve taken the second approach, then they’re essentially demanding that Kernot fess up. She’s already been under enormous pressure to do so this morning, telling Sunrise “There is no big, deep, dark secret I don’t have any comment on that particular article. (The secret) could be that I’ve got flabby arms.”

Whatever the reasons, Kernot’s behaviour since she left the Democrats has not just been “erratic”, as Oakes puts it. It’s been disturbing at times. Her mental and physical health have clearly suffered. Why are two unquestioned “quality” journalists exacerbating this.

Ramsey writes: “So now her book is published and she’s had her say, as she sees it. On Monday night, from her phone call, she sounded liberated. I hope she thinks it worth it. I don’t. I think she will truly regret the scab was ever lifted. So will others.”

Oakes says: “If Kernot felt that the subject was too private to be broached, there should have been no book, because the secret was pivotal to what happened to her”.

The pair have sought to keep their virtue but ended up as political prick teasers. If would be fairer to Kernot and their readers if Oakes and Ramsey went all the way.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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