This story started months ago, back when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister. I’d always intended to interview the leaders of both major parties for Mamamia before the election but I was approached by Fairfax to write separate profiles of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to run in The Sunday Age and the Sun Herald. I was nervous. I thought about saying no. “But I’m not Laurie Oakes” I told them. We know, they said. But we think you bring a fresh perspective. “I’m big on opinion but short on policy detail” I warned them. That’s OK, they said. Most voters are like that. And we have a raft of experienced political journalists to cover the detailed analysis.
So how could I say no? Discomfort zone here I come.
Before our written requests could be made to the offices of Abbott and Rudd, Rudd was gone and Gillard was PM.
So we got out the liquid paper and sent our requests to Abbott and Gillard’s offices, a couple of weeks out from the election being called.
And then we waited. And asked again. And waited. And emailed. And called. And waited. And pestered. I sent texts. I spoke to anyone I could in the busy press offices of both leaders. They promised to get back to me. They didn’t.
I sent more emails pointing out the big circulation of both newspapers and the wide and high-profile reach of Mamamia. It came back that both were more interested in the Mamamia exposure than the newspaper. But still no confirmation.
I tried to ramp up the pressure by telling Tony’s people Julia had agreed and Julia’s people that Tony had agreed.
Neither had agreed.
We waited some more.
And then came word from Julia’s office: no.
I begged. My editors sent letters. Still no word from Tony’s office. There was only one more Sunday before the election. We were days away from having to ditch the whole idea.
And then last Wednesday afternoon, I get a call from one of Julia’s press reps.
“Can you fly anywhere?”
“And are you available in the next couple of days?”
Well….it’s actually my son’s birthday on Friday. That day isn’t ideal.
“Ok, let me see what I can do.”
Lana walks into my office spluttering. “Did you just tell the Prime Minister you can’t interview her on Friday because of your son’s birthday?”