There’s an unwritten law for federal politicians as they flee Canberra on a Thursday night or Friday morning. At the pointy end of the plane, you are bound to be sitting next to another senator or somebody from “the other place”.

The law is: you grunt a greeting and leave each other alone. No talking about “ledge” that got up and no discussion on a bill that didn’t. Weary pollies are left to sleep (like me) or to read reports, check emails or read a book. I know one senator who immediately inserts her earphones — which are really disguised people-unfriendly ear plugs – and listens to nothing. Canberra to Melbourne: an hour of silent bliss.

Last week, pre-Easter, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten drew the short straw. He sat next to a punter (a non-politician) who didn’t know about the cone of silence. Bill had got out a book to read but it sat, neglected, on his lap as his fellow passenger started to talk and talk and talk. Loudly. For the whole trip. At one stage he drew breath, but only to ask the flight attendant to take a picture of them both.

After we landed, and reached for our briefcases, the talker shouted, “Hey, Hinchy. I would have had a photo with you but you were asleep”.

My reply: “That’s fine but I suspect Bill Shorten wishes he had been too.”  The punter missed the point. Shorten didn’t. I copped a subtle wink.

Peter Fray

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