Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Something good can come of any circumstance and being sentenced to 14 days health home detention is no different.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

As I start day one of house arrest in the Marshmallow State of South Australia, I feel like I have travelled back nearly 30 years.

You see, this isn't my first stint in forced isolation, but back then, there was a real health danger rather than a politically expedient border shutdown.

In my early twenties, I'd spent some time travelling the world and went to one of the places people shouldn't visit, but young people still do.

There, I managed to pick up a spot of tuberculosis (TB) despite being vaccinated as a teenager.

The funny thing about TB is that it can lay undetected or even dormant for many years before it becomes a problem. That's what happened to me, and it was several years later when it became apparent that I was ill.

As a fit young man, I rapidly lost a lot of weight and developed a bloody cough. When I mentioned this to a medical friend, he had me immediately whisked to the hospital, where I was installed in the infectious diseases ward.

After the diagnosis, I was isolated in hospital for several months and then isolated at home for a further six months.

In the days before the Internet, the daily respite was the newspaper crossword puzzle and a brace of interesting books.

I also had to participate in a contact tracing process. As I'd caught several flights in the days preceding my diagnosis and managed a hotel, this was quite an exercise.

One of my luncheon companions that week was the then Leader of the Opposition, John Howard MP, who was chasing Prime Minister Keating and trying to win the 1996 Federal Election.

Rightly or wrongly, I didn't want Howard to enter isolation like me just before an election campaign, so I left him off my contact list.

I was delighted when he won, but waking one morning following the victory to hear PM Howard had been 'hospitalised with an unknown respiratory condition, ' the first words to my wife were:

"Dear Lord, I think I've just killed the Prime Minister."

Thank goodness it was nothing that dramatic. John Howard recovered from his pneumonia and did the country proud.

There are so many more stories from that period of my life. The time alone, battling a serious illness, contemplating what is truly important eventually led me to get involved more fully in politics.

Until then, I was a Liberal Party member but more an interested observer, more focused on business than politics. However, the time in isolation led me to want to commit more to making a difference and volunteering with a political party was a positive step.

Little did I know that decision would lead me to nearly 14 years of service in the Senate.

I can confidently say it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't suffered from TB.

Instead, I would have remained focussed on my then business interests, and life would have taken me down a different path.

To me, this tale demonstrates that something good comes from every trial. Doors always open, and one has to step through them when they do.

That's how I approach this latest period of isolation, several decades after the first. Two weeks as a fifty-one-year-old is a doddle compared with nine months in your early twenties.

Even better, this time, I have the company of my wife of 25 years with me.

Something good will come of it. And if it doesn't, we've had a couple of weeks break where we have the perfect excuse to relax.

As the Monty Python crew sang, "Always look on the bright side of life."

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