Australia Day ceremonies are usually the dullest of events. But not when Australia’s political leaders are together just walking distance from a gathering at the contentious Aboriginal Tent Embassy. When the crowd there heard a report that earlier in the day Opposition leader Tony Abbott had suggested its removal, a spontaneous protest took place at the Lobby restaurant where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was awarding emergency medals.
The fracas quickly turned to farce. Developments have included: that Mr Abbott’s remarks were misreported; the original tip-off came via Tony Hodges, one of the PM's media advisors (who has since resigned); accusations of a media beat-up of violence; a shoe lost by Ms Gillard was returned after suggestions of an ebay auction; a go-between was named followed by strong denials. At least that’s the best guess at the moment.
Preston Institute knew who to blame in Silly Advisers, Silly Media – This is Canberra, Today:
Yesterday’s “outrage” involving the PM and Tony Abbott has been one of the more diverting stories doing the rounds of our media. It appears to tell us more about the media and contemporary politics more than it does about Australia’s protesting spirit.
The story itself, of an escape from a Canberra restaurant besieged by unarmed protestors, provided some great footage for the TV print media to run around the world and back.
…The reality seems to be more prosaic, with Gillard and Abbott under little substantial threat.
In a very detailed analysis at the The Conscience Vote Marian Dalton argued that:
If no one remembers anything else from Australia Day, they’ll remember the footage of Prime Minister Julia Gillard being dragged to safety…
It was an ugly display, and it did nothing good for the cause of the Tent Embassy.
What remains, then, is a shameful display of behaviour that did nothing but harm the cause of indigenous rights, and the Tent Embassy in particular.
Skepticlawyer couldn’t resist the imagery of the abandoned shoe in her post When one’s IQ is less than one’s shoe size, and we’re only talking one shoe…
Tony Abbott gives me the screaming heaves, he really does. He’s the worst sort of godbothering big government conservative. But he did not call for the tent embassy to be ‘torn down’ and he did not ‘incite a riot’. Any rioting – as is usually the case – was the responsibility of the rioters.
There is speculation in the media that Tony Hodges misquoted Abbott, making his comments more aggressive. In a perverse way, I hope that’s true, because to respond to the above with violence suggests that at least some people in Australia have made their way into political cloud-cuckoo-land.
In the post, Australia Day 2012: Evil prevails, when good men say nothing, Gladly the cross-eyed bear defends the need for the tent embassy but not the manner of protest:
Indigenous Australians have every reason to be angry. They have every reason to defend their embassy. But this is Australia and, whatever our history, whatever the mistakes of the past, here, today, we do not fight political battles with physical violence.
…I am sickened and appalled at what appears to have been an attempt by some Aboriginal activists and their cohorts to bully and frighten Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday.
In the latest twist, johnboy revealed on RiotAct’s open forum that:
In the Canberra Times the Secretary of Unions ACT, Kim Sattler, is denying she was the one who riled up the Tent Embassy with news from the Prime Minister’s Office that Tony Abbott was in the nearby lobby restaurant.
When contacted by the Sunday Canberra Times this morning, Ms Sattler said she had been at the tent embassy but she was not the go between.
“I heard it from the crowd,’’ she said.
This is a bit tricky as The Age reports that Prime Minister Gillard is saying it was Ms Sattler.
Who knows the truth at this stage.
Mike Stuchbery captured the spirit of things on his self-titled blog:
There’s the soundbite, the outrage, the money shot and what’s left is for the carrion-eaters to blog and crow about.
Nobody comes away from today’s events in Canberra looking good.
Least of all, the protesters
He even has an eyewitness in his “little brother”, if you’re interested in an alleged firsthand account.
Perhaps modern politics is more about image than about reality. And a contest amongst both media and commentariat to be the most outraged. Ironically too many were ready to chastise the tent embassy crowd for reacting hastily to incorrect information, only to do the same thing themselves to media reports.