You are what you eat: a political memoir by Kate Rears

“Look, the real truth is—and listen, I am an honest man—politics is murder. Bloody murder.


As a politician, you don’t have time for anything but politics. Listen: it’s no family, no friends, no exercise. Yeah, I know, you see those Julie Bishops and the like in their exercise gear but I’m telling you it’s a lie. A political stunt. Like when Abbott ate that onion, skin and all. Political theatre, if you will.


Nah, no time for anything. Meals, even. If I had a dollar for every microwaved dinner I’ve eaten, I’d be a rich man. Well, a richer man! I had a microwave in my office at one time, but you know the trick with this new diet is that it doesn’t reheat so well. A bit more care is needed. Some finesse, if you will.


Look, the real truth is that it was around the time of Abbott’s onion that I got started on the new diet. We—my team, that is— thought that the onion was pure magic, no pun intended. No publicity is bad publicity, they say. Genius move that was.


I just happened to be off on a press junket overseas the next day and that’s when I met, well, you know… Nah, mate, you know I would tell you if I could, but I promised no names, no details. I was pretty skeptical if I’m honest. However, I felt that as an elected official, I owed it to my electorate to try. And, look, I like to think I was rewarded for my actions. Given a gift, if you will.


As you know if you read that article, I started with the brains. We—my team that is—thought what was really missing from the vernacular was some intellect. Look, intellectualism is a lost art. And, if I’m honest, lamb’s brain is readily available. Once I started cooking it myself though, I did get some complaints—the smell permeates, if you will. The effect was small, but noticeable, certainly noticeable. The news coverage began to swing my way in a matter of weeks. Sound bites, if you will. Magic, if you will.


If you want the real truth, you lose a sizeable portion of the electorate if you come off too academic. The people don’t want it. So, I needed some balance: some heart, if you will. In fact, let me tell you, there’s a great Brazillion place in Acton that does chicken hearts on a stick. Delicious, palatable. But pricey, so keep that in mind. The thing with the hearts was, too much and I got a little, too quote my dear nanna, mushy. My team earnt their keep after a big night at the Brazillion place that one October. That’s when I got my nickname in The Australian. Huge traction.


Of course, show some feelings these days and the opposition feel they can cut you down, they get bolshie. It was Jenny in my team, she’s Chief of Staff now, who thought up the lungs. Big lungs, big voice. Lungs, truth be told, are not among my favourite things to eat, so each time I swallow, I think of my electorate, my voters. And, Jenny, she is a smart woman, because the lungs did the job.


A real truth is there’s not much room for steak and chips with this new diet. But my first term as PM, what an honour, what a gift. Even less time for the new diet but you are what you eat, they say. And in my case, no truer words have been spoken! The problem now is the quantities, or the dose, if you will. I don’t need to tell you about the pressures of being PM. When I started as a back-bencher a stick of chicken hearts could last me a fortnight. Now we’re looking at two, three sticks every Wednesday.


Jenny, she’s a smart woman. She’s in the process of sourcing some more … let’s say human options for the diet. For the potency. Organ donations, if you will. Look, if you told me ten years ago about my new diet… well, hard to believe. But, listen, if I’m honest, second term as PM, even harder. The real truth is I am what I eat. And, politics is bloody murder.”

Kate Rears is a researcher, writer and editor who has weaved in and out of a few professions including government, academia and, most recently, freelancing. She recently won the 2018 Darebin Mayor’s Writing Award for a short piece examining her new role as a parent. She is now based in Brisbane after a few too many winters in Melbourne feeling S.A.D.