- August 2016
- July 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
A Bonza Annabel Crabb
9 / 08 / 2012
A Bonza Sheila is a regular interview section paying tribute to a damn good woman. Editor Sarah Capper passes the crown to our August inductee – journalist, author, commentator and cook extraordinaire Annabel Crabb.
1. You studied Arts Law in Adelaide but then made the professional leap into journalism, commencing a cadetship at the Adelaide Advertiser. What led you to make an early career change as a scribe?
Well, I really enjoyed studying Law, but what I realised by the end was that I liked the stories more than I liked the idea of practicing as a lawyer. I loved all those cool old cases about old ladies finding half a snail in their ginger beer, or people burning their bums on underpants that had accidentally been infused with a caustic substance, but by the end of four years’ study (I’m a bit slow on the uptake) I twigged to the realisation that stories were probably more my thing than legal briefs.
2. As a young woman, you moved from the City of Churches to Canberra, and became a political correspondent with the Age newspaper. You wrote a column, ‘House on the Hill’, which provided a satirical look at our nation’s “finest”. You’ve often been revered for your ability to find a humorous angle in what’s normally pretty dry, serious subject matter. How has a sense of humour helped you in covering federal politics?
Most people in politics have a good sense of humour; humour in many ways is the currency of parliament. It always amazes me that there isn’t more humour in political reporting, given that there is so much in political conversation every day. To me, it seems like an obvious way of making a subject that many people find dry into the sort of seething, ironic, human drama that politics is.
3. You moved to London to be a correspondent for the Sunday Age and the Sun-Herald. Is being a foreign correspondent as glamorous as we’re sometimes led to believe?
Parts of it are overwhelmingly exciting and parts of it are glamorous; whooshing off here and there is indeed very exciting, particularly when it’s at the drop of a hat. However, keep in mind that I did spend quite a bit of time camping outside Shane Warne’s house playing Travel Connect 4 with a freelance photographer (we got sent there every time Warnie shagged someone inappropriate, i.e.: fairly often). And the week I spent sleeping in a car, six months pregnant on Cyprus during the evacuation from the war in Lebanon in 38 degree heat was fairly sub-glamorous.
4. You’ve written two books, the first being ‘Losing It: The Inside Story of Labor in Opposition’ (2005). I understand you were quite ensconced in writing this during the lead-up to the 2004 federal election – when Mark Latham was considered the great savior of the ALP – but instead of narrowing the margin of seats with the Coalition Government, Latham returned the Party to Opposition with even less seats. Were you prepared for this result in completing your book, and how did you overcome the sudden “plot adaptation”?
That book just would not die. I started it when Simon Crean was the leader, and I couldn’t stop writing it because new turns of events kept happening. I was writing it from London, too, which meant I spent the days playing Travel Connect 4 outside Shane Warne’s house, and the nights on the phone to various Labor people. I cannot tell you how sick of it all I was by the end. Latham’s defeat wasn’t all that surprising by the time of the campaign though.
5. You won a Walkley Award (one of the top journalism awards in Australia) for your Quarterly Essay on Malcolm Turnbull. We know from watching shows like ABC Television’s Q&A program that the Member for Wentworth enjoys an interesting cross-section of followers. What attracted you to writing on Turnbull, and do you think he still harbours leadership ambition?
Malcolm is a truly fascinating individual – brilliant, great company, terrifying to be in an argument with, and yes of course I think he still harbours leadership ambition.
6. Another big career leap you’ve made was from traditional print journalism to the ABC – now writing online for ABC website the Drum (your articles often inspiring hundreds of comments), and sometimes hosting the Drum TV program on ABC News 24. You also received an Eisenhower Fellowship in 2011 which saw you examine new media and the process of political engagement. What was the biggest challenge for you in moving into online journalism, and what’s one observation you made in undertaking your fellowship?
The biggest challenge was also the thing that is the most exciting about online journalism – close contact with readers. It’s such a joy to be able to hear back from people and get into conversations. It’s also pretty confronting when you get people who will go out of their way to tell you what a lame-arse, useless dolt you are. And with dumb hair, of course. I get that about ten times a day. What I learned from my fellowship is that technology is changing absolutely everything about the media. It’s not worth resisting – you have to walk into it with open arms, and find the opportunities rather than freaking out about the threats.
7. Continuing your burgeoning television presence (you’re a seasoned regular on ABC Insiders and shows like Gruen Nation), you now host ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet, currently filming its second season. The show takes viewers into the personal worlds of our federal representatives – going into their homes, getting them to prepare and share a meal (and indeed some interesting discussions). The show is so refreshing because these days we’re normally fed sanitized, risk-adverse, robot responses from politicians. Is this what you had in mind when you began the show – to break down some barriers – or have their candid responses surprised even you?
The show has worked out pretty much exactly as I always hoped it would. I wanted to share the side of politicians that we don’t get to see, when they’re off duty. My theory was that you couldn’t talk like a robot in your own kitchen, and I think that’s turned out to be right. Of course, you’re never quite sure how people are going to respond with four cameras in their faces (that’s how many we use). But there have been some great moments – like Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, telling the story of her very talented husband’s early conviction for narcotics trafficking and subsequent imprisonment – an amazing story of real-life rehabilitation which she told with such calm and dignity.
8. If you could take ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ global, and with the help of a time machine could host a dinner party with absolutely anyone of your choosing from his/herstory, who would you invite?
Virginia WoolfElizabeth the FirstKeith FloydStephen FryJimmy Stewart circa 1938
9. If your daughter said she wanted to be a politician when she grew up – what would be your response?
That’s fine, dear. Perhaps wait until after Mummy’s dead.
10. If you could talk to your 20 year-old self, what advice would you give?
Just quietly, a nightie is not a dress. You look ridiculous.
11. Nominate a woman who inspires you and why.
This is obvious, but my Mum. She is unfailingly generous and optimistic, she has a great sense of humour, and she is a superb cook.
12. When you’ve had a bad day, list three things you like to do that will make you feel better?
Hang out with my children. Bake something incorporating a lot of butter. Get into bed with a book.
13. You’ve packed so much in already and I believe you’re still under 40. What’s next for Annabel Crabb?
To the very great surprise of all direct stakeholders, I am due to have my third child in December. That should keep me occupied for a while.
Annabel Crabb thank you for being such a Bonza Sheila. Check out links to Annabel’s work on the right-hand sidebar.
– Is the ABC’s Chief Online Political Commentator, with over ten years experience covering national politics.
– Writes a regular column in the Sunday Age.
– Is the host of the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet
– Is a regular on Twitter, providing parliamentary question time coverage on @CrabbTwitsard and other commentary @AnnabelCrabb