BOB KERNOHAN... paying the price of integrity
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
When the curtain comes down on Julia Gillard and the dust has settled. When the books have been written and mini series shown, one man will be left standing. Only one man will be able to hold his head high and look you in the eye.
Bob Kernohan, battered and bent but unbroken, can tell the true story of comrades who deserted him in the trenches. They left him alone, under fire, then turned and trained their guns on him.
Choose your trench and comrade well when dealing with the ALP.
Bob is in and out of hospital again, suffering from the stress of seventeen years of savage vilification at the hands of his own party.
In December, 1996, Bob boasted 400 Xmas cards. All were proudly displayed on a continuous, happy string around his living room. In December 1997 he received four Xmas cards. That’s what really hurts Bob. Those who he thought were true blue Labor men deserted him in droves... that’s the real pain for Bob.
He still shakes when he describes the savage beatings he suffered. He can’t describe the assailants but their boots were imprinted on his mind as he crouched on the pavement trying to protect himself.
He can vividly recall the bullets he received in the mail and how relieved he was that he lived alone each time his phone rang.
His nervous fear turns to anger at the mention of the names Gillard and Wilson. “How could they do this?” he asks. “Aren’t we the party that represents and cares for the workers? How did it come to this?”
Bob was the only man they couldn’t buy. The only man they couldn’t silence with bribes or threats. An offer of a seat in Parliament held no interest for him.
His greatest love was his union but that now lies waste in a sea of endless corruption. His bewildered members are still there, too frightened to speak out or even call him.
What happened seventeen years ago may be ancient history for Gillard but it’s been an endless nightmare for Bob.
I asked him how he feels now that the end is near. “An enormous weight is lifting from me”, he said. “I want what’s left of my life back. I want to see the union movement as it once was, strong, honest and rich in shoulder-to-shoulder comradeship. I want those who rode the corruption trail to the highest offices in the land to go. I want to be able to turn on the 6pm news and not feel ashamed anymore.”
I asked him what he would do as a free man. His eyes lit up a little: “I want to be a counsellor to young people suffering stress. I have learnt a lot about that. What not to do and the best way to handle it. Kids committing suicide as a way out... I know I can help them. I have taken steps down that road already and I know I will be good at it.”
Barcaldine now nurses a diseased, dying Tree of Knowledge. It no longer causes hearts to beat faster. It should be hewn and its remains cremated along with the union disease that killed it.
A far more fitting emblem to replace it?
A bronze statue of Bob Kernohan where schoolchildren can gather to honour a lone man who bore a bloody cross to Calvary in the pursuit of redemption for his beloved movement.
Where brothers in arms can be reborn in solidarity for the greater good of many rather than the evil of an opportune few.