On her own terms
La Trobe University Press
The daughter of Slovene migrants, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is hailed as the type of first-generation success story that sells papers. However, she has been in the news recently as the press looks for a different narrative: conflict in the upper echelons of the Labor Party. This is the book that sparked the speculation.
The book met with resistance from the Labor Party, with Foreign Minister Penny Wong opposing any involvement from her colleagues and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese refusing to be interviewed by author Margaret Simons. Even the subject, Ms Plibersek, is rumoured to have been a reluctant participant.
Much of the book reads like similar political biographies: her parents’ leaving post-war Yugoslavia and her early years as a bright student in the Sutherland Shire.
But it is Ms Plibersek’s relationship with Mr Albanese that has gained the book so much attention. The two met in her mid-teens soon after she joined the Labor Party and their career trajectories have been in tandem for much of the past 20 years.
It is her revelation to Ms Simons that she believed she would have beaten Mr Albanese to the job of Labor leader that has been the subject of many newspaper articles. Instead, however, she did not run for the gig as she was helping her daughter Anna emerge from an abusive relationship.
The supposed conflict, including her demotion from the Education portfolio she had held during the 2022 election campaign, will help sell copies. But it is the political ascendancy of a daughter of migrants raised in the Shire that will keep readers turning the pages.