Happy hour as political divisions dissolve in tears of joy

Rainbow coalition? It was a term designed for this moment.

Around 9pm on Thursday December 8, an exhausted, exhilarated, energised Penny Wong led her staff to one of Canberra’s grittier watering holes, the Kingston Hotel.

A tense and bruising final parliamentary sitting for the year had ended on an unbelievable high. In the House of Representatives and then spontaneously outside, MPs had cheered, hugged, clapped, and cried. There’d been singing and dancing and a soaring national pride you could cut with a knife.

Later, at the “Kingo”, amid a swaying, heaving clientele of “yes” campaigners, parliamentarians, staffers, and a smattering of reporters, many of them like Wong, gay, Labor’s Senate leader posed for selfies, and embraced colleagues – long-time advocates including Anthony Albanese, Mark Dreyfus, and Chris Bowen, and even the courageous Nationals MP and cabinet minister, Darren Chester.

Then came, Dean Smith with his coterie of supporters. Smith. Constitutional conservative. Liberal moderate, gay legislator turned gay icon as author of the bill that made equality a reality. A reality Malcolm Turnbull would triumphantly proclaim as, “the law of this land”.

In an adjacent space at the peri-parliamentary pub that night was the Pauline Hanson One Nation team – perhaps not having quite the same night. Even a rainbow has its limits.

Back with the winners though, the crowd chanted, Penny! Penny! and lauded the two courageous legislators.

Wong grabbed two chairs, stood on one and pulled Smith up to the other.

“A few people have showed courage in this debate” she began amid whoops and cheers, “and we could not have done it without this man’s courage … thank you Dean Smith.”

Smith responded, telling the crowd resplendent in their colours, that a discrimination had ended. He said that by passing the law, the nation had told the young LGBTQI Australians that like Wong and the other gay parliamentarians, they were OK.

Some Labor staffers broke out the old socialist anthem Solidarity Forever in a good-natured chide at the Liberals present.

Flush with success (and the publican’s product) old foes became friends. Albanese embraced Attorney-General George Brandis, the latter’s standing having grown considerably in recent months as his true liberalism emerged.

Wong would later try to convince Education Minister Simon Birmingham that learning Solidarity Forever is a useful life-skill.

Laughs and hugs. Nothing had been easy before this night. But then, nothing worth doing ever is.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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