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anya Plibersek ad­mits she’s never more mo­ti­vated to clean than just be­fore guests are due to ar­rive. And on a re­cent Sat­ur­day at lunch hour,when the Stel­lar team rings the door­bell of her Syd­ney home, she all but proves it.

“To be re­ally hon­est with you, I started madly tidy­ing the house at 6.30am,” says the 48-year-old deputy leader of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party.

In­deed, by the time Plibersek gets a chance to sit down for our talk, she has al­ready com­pleted a round of pan­cake mak­ing, a trip to the gym for a fam­ily box­ing ses­sion, a visit to the shops for gro­ceries and, on top of that, whipped up some Bircher muesli for the Stel­lar crew.

The fact that she has squeezed a rare photo shoot and in­ter­view into her lim­ited time home from Can­berra isn’t un­heard of. She tries to set aside a few week­ends a year in her sched­ule that are sacro­sanct, but as she tells Stel­lar, “Some­times they get chewed up as well… there’s not many when there’s not some­thing on.”

Plibersek is used to the fast pace and full plate. She’s one of the most pow­er­ful women in the coun­try, help­ing to helm the op­po­si­tion in the lead-up to an elec­tion next year, while man­ag­ing the high-pro­file ed­u­ca­tion port­fo­lio – and, at home, help­ing to raise daugh­ter Anna, 17, and sons Joe, 13, and Louis, eight.

Plibersek sees more than a bit of her­self in her daugh­ter, who’s now un­der­tak­ing the HSC. “[She’s] a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist, a bit hard on her­self, very self-mo­ti­vated,” she says. “Yeah, I used to get up at 4.30am to study for a cou­ple of hours be­fore school.”

Not much ap­pears to have changed. By the time she turned 14, Plibersek,who was raised in Syd­ney’s work­ing-class south to Slove­nian im­mi­grant par­ents, was or­gan­is­ing friends to go to peace ral­lies; a year later she had joined La­bor.

De­spite her early pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with pol­i­tics, her first choice of ca­reer was jour­nal­ism.af­ter be­ing knocked back for an ABC cadet­ship, she took a re­search job in the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence unit of the NSW Min­istry for the Sta­tus and Ad­vance­ment of Women.then, in 1998, she was elected to Fed­eral Par­lia­ment with 15 other women in­clud­ing Ju­lia Gil­lard, Ni­cola Roxon and Julie Bishop.two decades on, many of her alumni have been moved on, yet her seat in Syd­ney is still con­sid­ered ex­tremely safe.

“I re­ally like [the jug­gle],” Plibersek says. “This morn­ing I had a whole list of things that I needed to get done in a cer­tain time pe­riod and I just see it as a chal­lenge; I ac­tu­ally find it quite fun. If you’re or­gan­ised and plan ahead, I think you can re­duce the stress lev­els a lit­tle bit. I like the feel­ing of man­ag­ing to get lots of things done.”

She cred­its her hus­band of 18 years, Michael CouttsTrot­ter, for help­ing her to main­tain the in­tense de­mands of her ca­reer and stay in touch with their fam­ily’s needs with­out worry.

“I could not do my job if Michael wasn’t so fan­tas­tic at be­ing a par­ent and a part­ner,” she says. “I’m away a lot and I don’t feel like I need to tell him what to do for the chil­dren when I’m not there. He knows what he has to do. He well and truly does his share and does it with­out any re­sent­ment,which is re­ally amaz­ing. I don’t know if I’d be so great if he was away half the year do­ing his job. It means that I can go to work when I need to with­out guilt or worry about the kids.”

The cou­ple met in 1991. On their first date, Coutts-trot­ter told his fu­ture wife that he’d spent three years in jail for deal­ing drugs, but was at that point on pa­role and off drugs. Plibersek has said she never doubted he was on the straight and nar­row; to­day, Coutts-trot­ter is the direc­tor-gen­eral of the NSW De­part­ment of Fam­ily & Com­mu­nity Ser­vices.

At home, the pair is big on gen­der equal­ity. “We share the work very equally and the kids see that,” Plibersek says.

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