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Let’s be honest. Any tiger parent would have done (almost) the same as Anthony Albanese.
When he was still in opposition, Albanese scored a plum internship for his son, Nathan, now 23, after a chat with the consulting firm PwC’s chief lobbyist. Somehow (and the path here is not quite so clear), Nathan Albanese is also now a member of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. On his own merits or a gift from his dad? You be the judge. I know I already am. And those who say it’s about Nathan’s security, spare me.
Anthony Albanese celebrates with son Nathan on election night last year.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
It’s given critics a red-hot opportunity to criticise the prime minister, especially since he’s a former member of the ALP’s Socialist Left faction. Last time I looked, that lot were utterly opposed to the reproduction of privilege.
But let me confess, I am a tiger mother. The kind of parent who nagged her offspring about times tables and piano practice. The kind of mother who repeated, endlessly, the mantra that education is the silver bullet. The kind who, mostly against their will, wanted the best for her children. I didn’t organise any internships for them, but would have if I could have.
Seize every opportunity. Make the most of it. I’m surprised they still speak to me.
I only reveal my eccentric parenting practices because I don’t want Anthony Albanese to feel as if he is alone. I mean, he’s not the first then-opposition-leader whose offspring has experienced a serendipitous outcome. Not that you can make a direct comparison with another former opposition leader because it’s 60,000 steps – or dollars – away from the scholarship awarded to Frances, daughter of Tony Abbott.
So how much do Australian parents leverage their own privilege? All the time, according to UTS sociologist Christina Ho – and it’s not just politicians. She calls it concerted cultivation, an expression first used by US sociologist Annette Lareau to describe strategic and intensive parenting that maximises opportunities for children and shores up competitive advantage.
Ho says that in her interviews with Australian parents, they portray themselves as easy-going: “We just want our kids to enjoy their childhoods and play, not to stress too much.”
Haha. I might have even used that line myself. Unfortunately, not one of my three ungrateful offspring ever wanted to be a journalist, so my cultural capital was wasted on them. Ho says Anglo-Australian parents like to differentiate themselves from Asian parents – but she says these middle-class parents all have the same drive to provide their kids with professional opportunities and contacts. In an age where there is so much uncertainty about the future, you can understand that, especially for Albanese, who had the great fortune to be born at a time when university education was free and a glowing future was possible for all of us, even a kid from public housing.
The good news for Albo the Younger is that his internship is long done and he seems to have escaped the ever-widening net of PwC horror. Let’s hope it stays that way.
But Nathan, may I have a word?
Ignore the haters who keep saying you did the wrong thing by taking the gig. Ignore those who criticise your father for giving you a hand-up when they would do precisely the same for their own kids. But, Nathan, from this moment onwards, as a chairman’s cub, ditch the chairman’s club. You didn’t get that privilege because of anything you did but because of your dad (and really, you also have an outstanding mother, who won’t appreciate my mention of her here, but Carmel Tebbutt is the best premier NSW never had).
And despite your father telling us you aren’t a public figure, you are. You get the privilege, you have to take responsibility, too.
I don’t know whether you want a life in politics, but your dad didn’t pick up the common touch by hanging around with the likes of Alan Joyce and a host of politicians. No fun to be had there. Who is in the lounge? A bunch of your dad’s “mates”. Shorto. Wongo. Plibo. All of them nearly-old and way past peak fun.
Add the bizoids and it could hardly be a worse vibe for a bloke your age. At 23, you should be in cattle class with the rest of us. This is where the truly hot and vital reside, along with the old and exhausted. There are no spare chairs to be found anywhere.
Accept the fact that sometimes doting tiger parents get it wrong. My own kids will attest to that.
Jenna Price is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and a regular columnist.
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