It is a strange country when governments talk about the need for more women to participate in the workforce and then the Opposition Leader is attacked for something his wife does when she participates in that workforce.
Kevin Rudd and his wife are contemplating today whether Mrs Rudd should continue to direct the company she founded because there may be a conflict between what the company does and what a future Labor government thinks a company should do.
I earnestly hope that the Rudds decide to continue with their separate lives and ignore the calls for her to subjugate her interests on behalf of what sexists believe to be his best interests. Doing so need not affect either of their careers.
To my mind, there is one parallel that should guide them through what is obviously a difficult time and it has nothing to do with politics. It is the story of Sydney horse trainer Gai Waterhouse and her husband, Robbie Waterhouse.
There was a time when Robbie, a man I am delighted to call a friend, was a disgraced former bookmaker banned from going anywhere near a race meeting and Gai was trying to succeed her famous father, Tommy Smith.
The Australian Jockey Club continually refused to grant Gai a trainer’s licence for no other reason than her marriage to Robbie. That she finally succeeded in having that decision reversed owed much to the help of a women’s movement that could see the injustice in a woman being penalised for no other reason than staying in her marriage.
Gai Waterhouse is now a leading trainer in Sydney performing her responsibilities without a trace of scandal even though her rehabilitated husband is once again a prominent bookmaker. The punting public has shown such an ability to differentiate between husband and wife that Gai’s horses start shorter with normal TAB punters than they do with the bookmakers, and in many months those TAB punters show a profit by backing all her runners.
Kevin Rudd should show a similar faith in the ability of ordinary Australians to differentiate between the activities of husband and wife and not be a party to allowing his wife to give up what is clearly a successful business career.