WE CAN all share Penny Wong’s joy at her impending, er, parenthood, not least because the business of raising a child might help the former Minister for Weather appreciate why the carbon tax she did so much to promote is deeply unpopular. Costly, pointless, annoying, tiresome and the cause of much screaming, every child, just like that tax, is sooner or later a parent’s invitation to understand that others beyond the immediate family regard the little miracle as a thorough and absolute monster. Wong will need that famous sense of humour to see her through the ordeal ahead. She is in for quite the education.
She does, however, know the identity of the soon-to-be’s father, which puts her ahead of the curious rest of us – or, rather, the tactless few who have never mastered the modern etiquette of feigning indifference to gossipy mysteries. We can be sure, though, of a few things that would have figured in the thinking of such a good Labor gal.
Wong must have wanted the very best DNA, the sort that guarantees her child will thrill to bedtime stories of brave bureaucrats and the departments they built from scratch. An over-inflated appreciation for one's own wisdom, that would have been another essential chromosome in the donor’s double helix. Without it, how else to insist that cause and effect – closing Nauru and seeing a fresh surge of boats, for example – are linked by nothing but an unfortunate coincidence? A sense of proprietary right to other people’s money, that would be in there, too. After all, what will become of Labor’s next generation of social engineers if its leaders lack the chutzpah to denounce vice while harvesting its benefits? And she wouldn’t have overlooked the need for just a touch of the totalitarian, not when your cabinet colleagues are full of plans to filter the internet or set standards for what constitutes “fair” free speech. Couldn’t have the little one ruin a caucus barbecue by blurting out to Uncle Conroy that he is just a big, mean, poopy head censor.
So who is it, that’s the question? Who has the perfect DNA to seed a future national leader?
There is a temptation to imagine it might be Craig Emerson, whose ardour and discretion our PM might have recommended with a wistful smile. But upon reflection, probably not. Being more concerned with the goods rather than their delivery, Wong would find little worth graspng in the Human Resources Minister’s loins.
Wayne Swan? Ah, now he might have been a likely lad, except for the small matter of numeracy. If you dream of your child following the Labor road – student politics, ACTU legal officer, preselection – an ability to do sums and round up numbers is essential. Our treasurer shows little talent in that regard.
What about Peter Garrett? Possibly, but while the Minister for Obscurity’s bullet head does bear passing resemblance to a rather boney sperm, great height works against him. It won’t be cool being a post-carbon kid who needs an extra six inches of trouser cloth per leg. And there might just be be a touch of schizo-paranoia there as well, what with Garrett’s history of fretting about US forces giving the nod and then nodding right along himself.
And so the process of deduction and elimination proceeded throughout this wet Melbourne day and right up until old Syd, who lives down the road, stopped by to see if he could borrow back his lawn edger. Syd speaks with a hissing sibilance – and that is what made the Penny drop, so to speak.
Peter Cundall! Golly gosh, why of course, it just has to be the ABC gardening guru, who meets every need!
He is a deep green blowhard and former communist and, best of all, the concept of third parties moving pollen from pistils to stamen would not have raised his gardener’s eyebrow by a micron. He is also mates with Christine Milne, who quite probably played maid of honour outside the little room at the clinic where Cundall’s imagination romped with Iris, Dahlia and Laurel.
Cundall, until a better candidate comes along, you are it, accomplished grafter and father of a future PM. You old devil.