Shorten’s loss says a lot about how conservative we are
The great big Labor review of the shambles that was the last election is being released.
It shouldn't be that difficult. Dud policies, dud leader, a party captured by its Left wing and which now needs to find a way back to the centre ground and appeal to the broad mass of Australia. Job done.
One factor that it's unlikely to factor into the review is the marital status of its former leader Bill Shorten. Shorten, of course, divorced his first wife and then remarried and started a new family. And on face value there is no reason it should be considered. In fact, it would be strange if it did.
It wasn't an issue in the election. Divorce is common in Australia. There's no rational reason to think better or worse of a politician solely because they are married, divorced, single, remarried, living with a partner or any other permutation that is available.
But then again. Australia has never elected a divorced prime minister. Ever.
Scott Morrison is Australia's 30th prime minister since 1901.
There have been prime ministers who were freemasons, PMs who were Catholic, some have been Rhodes scholars, some have been born overseas, one even in Chile. There was even a prime minister with the middle name Christmas. None had been divorced before being elected prime minister.
There have been unmarried prime ministers. John McEwen was a widower. Julia Gillard was not married but did have a long-term partner.
What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Is it a curio of history or something else?
It's hard to imagine many voting against Shorten just because he'd left his first wife - even if he did it at footy game at the MCG - but there may have been a minority.
What this lack of a divorced leader may point to, though, is some kind of underlying conservatism in the Australian electorate.
Maybe there is some subconscious bias at work here when we, as voters, consider the suitability of the offered candidates. Deep down we want stability, solidity and a feeling of commitment. Even if we don't want to admit it to ourselves.
Certainly, Shorten's opponent Scott Morrison made plenty of noise about his long-term relationship with wife Jenny during the campaign. The subtext of that being that at least someone loves him. It was also important for Morrison to use his wife to help fill out his somewhat empty personality.
None of this is to say that all previous PMs enjoyed happy marriages. Ben Chifley was in a hotel room in Canberra with his long-term mistress Phyllis Donnelly when he died of a heart attack in 1951.
Bob Hawke had a long-running affair with Blanche d'Alpuget but didn't divorce his wife Hazel until after he left parliament. He knew it would reflect badly on him and hurt him in the electorate if he did.
It hasn't been an issue at state level. Both Mike Rann and Steven Marshall were divorced before becoming premier. Maybe it's less important at state level because being premier is a less important job than being prime minister.
It hasn't been an issue in the US. Donald Trump has been divorced twice. In the UK, Boris Johnson is divorced but he's just about to face his first election as PM.
Does that mean the US and the UK are less conservative electorates than Australia? Possibly, although both Trump and Johnson were already well-known flamboyant characters before leading their nations.
Perhaps the subconscious bias worked in their favour in that instance.
Voters already had lowered expectations for them and factored in the potential for bad behaviour.
How else to explain the continuing support from the holier-than-though evangelical mob in America for a moral vacuum like Trump.
At some point there will have to be a prime minister elected in Australia who has been divorced.
With one in three marriages in Australia ending that way, it's just about a statistical certainty.
The question for Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who separated from his wife earlier this year, is will it be him?
Michael McGuire is a columnist for Adelaide Advertiser.