Anthony Albanese's engagement shows challenge for prime ministers to keep love and politics separate

8:03 am on 16 February 2024

By political reporter Matthew Doran for the ABC

This undated handout photo obtained from the Facebook account of Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on February 15, 2024 shows Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) and his girlfriend Jodie Haydon posing for a selfie photo in Canberra. Australia's prime minister, Anthony Albanese, revealed in a romantic tweet on February 15 his engagement to girlfriend Jodie Haydon. (Photo by Handout / Facebook account of Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Facebook account of Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS NO ARCHIVES - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon posing for a selfie photo in Canberra. Photo: AFP / Facebook account of Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Analysis: When Jacinda Ardern wed long-term partner and fishing enthusiast Clarke Gayford last month, at a picture perfect vineyard in New Zealand's windswept Hawke's Bay region, the nuptials made global headlines.

The marriage of the photogenic couple had been delayed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19, and Ardern was no longer Kiwi prime minister when she tied the knot.

Anthony Albanese's future union is unlikely to feature as prominently, given the veneration of Ardern by the world's press.

And the fact she was the bride.

But there is novelty in his decision to pop the question after a romantic Valentine's Day dinner, getting down on bended knee (one imagines) on the balcony of the prime minister's official Canberra residence.

In the middle of a parliamentary sitting week, no less, with first pooch Toto likely loitering nearby.

Albanese is the first Australian prime minister to become engaged while in the top job, and only the third to take office without being married.

He had separated from Carmel Tebbutt, a former New South Wales state politician, in January 2019 - before he became Labor leader in the wake of the party's 2019 election loss.

Julia Gillard was unwed when she became PM in 2010, moving into The Lodge with then-partner Tim Mathieson and repeatedly brushing off questions about a potential union.

John "Black Jack" McEwen was a widower when he was sworn in as Australia's 18th prime minister in December 1967, after the disappearance of Harold Holt - his wife Annie having passed away 10 months prior.

Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford, pictured on their wedding day - 13 January 2024 - at Craggy Range Winery in Hawke's Bay,.

The Albanese-Haydon wedding is unlikely to attract the same level of interest as that of Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford, the ABC believes. Photo: Supplied / Felicity Jean Photography

A long-speculated engagement

While a prime ministerial wedding might be a unique event, Albanese and Haydon aren't alone in formalising their partnership.

There were 127,161 marriages in Australia in 2022, according to the Bureau of Statistics - figures for 2023 aren't public yet.

Haydon has been a fixture alongside Albanese throughout his time as Labor leader, and as prime minister, prompting speculation about their future.

She took to the stage at the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL Club with Albanese's son Nathan, as the now prime minister declared victory in the 2022 election.

And as he charged a glass to the ties between the United States and Australia during a state dinner at the White House last October, Albanese gave a nod to Haydon's presence.

"I only have one regret about tonight, which is I'm not quite sure how I top this for date night with Jodie at anytime, anywhere in the future," he quipped.

Perhaps a ceremony and reception in the grounds of The Lodge might hit the mark?

The role of Australian prime ministerial spouse may not be as a high profile as, say, those who occupy the White House.

But many prime ministers have made a point of citing their partner's support while holding the top job.

Scott Morrison, for example, regularly referenced the sage advice of his wife, Jenny, during his term of office - sometimes copping criticism for doing so.

The not-so-private life of a prime minister

Just last month, the prime minister was being grilled by Sydney radio jock Kyle Sandilands about when he would be "putting a ring on that missus".

"What I am not doing is discussing my relationship on Kyle and Jackie O," he replied.

"These things are all private, I'm entitled to a private life."

Well, private until you publish it on social media and invite crews to The Lodge to show off the ring (which the PM helped to design, with the expertise of a jeweller in his electorate).

Even as the engagement well-wishes flow in the first few hours since the prime minister's announcement on social media, the obvious next question is when the wedding might happen - asked of many freshly betrothed couples.

Could it be a pre-election celebration, with a poll bounce on the prime minister's gift registry?

Or would Albanese wait until after polling day, to ensure the marriage doesn't clash with politics?

"We'll have those discussions, between us ... but we just want to live in the moment at this point," the prime minister said in response to questions on the date.

"It's only been 24 hours!" Haydon laughed.

Whatever the plan, it's probably a little early to be sending out "save the date" cards.

This story was first published by the ABC.

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