Gee I really, really hate it when I find myself defending Tony Abbott. Well, to be honest, I am pretty sure that this is a first time. But I'm still unhappy about it.
OK, so what actually happened? Tony Abbott, leader of the Australian Opposition, was in Afghanistan, visting Australian troops. While in conversation with senior officers, he was filmed making the comment 'shit happens'. Australian prima donna television network, Channel 7 aka Prime, captured the footage. They were very quick to start claiming this was Abbott dismissing the latest death of an Australian soldier on active service in Afghanistan as 'shit happens.' That is not what happened. Watch the footage for yourself. This comment was made in a far broader context. That didn't stop Prime however from ambushing Abbott, playing the footage for him on a laptop and quizzing him over the angle that he was so dismissive of the death of Lance-Corporal Jared MacKinney.
Fair suck of the sav, you lot. Tony Abbott does not need Prime's assistance in making an utter dill of himself. He has shown his true colours and hypocrisy often enough over the past few years. But in this instance, Prime and the reporter in question, Mark Riley, have been guilty of nothing other than twisting the facts in a cheap ratings stunt. Spare a thought for a moment for his poor widow, 26 year-old Beckie MacKinney. Her husband and father of her young son, Nathan, has just died on active service. Beckie now has to relive all this over and over again, for no other purpose than Prime trying to score a point or two over arch-rival, Channel Nine.
Abbott being one of those individuals that so many of us just love to hate, Prime and Riley decided to play fast and loose with the facts in order to blow up a 'story' that didn't actually exist.
It is stunts like these that make me ashamed to be generally grouped with the media as a writer (having been so informed in no uncertain terms by a journo on a previous occasion after letting rip on the media). However I am not a journalist and make no pretense of being so. I am a story writer, primarily a fiction writer. And so should Mark Riley probably be after last Tuesday's stunt.
Unfortunately, Abbott does not get it all his own way. His response to Riley was to stand in quivering, rage-filled silence for some twenty-five seconds. He honestly looked like he was about to up his fist and clock Riley one on the jaw. But it was his later response that gets my goat. Jug Ears Abbott has come out, jumping up and down about how dare the media take a tragedy and use it just to push their own agenda.
Hold on a minute. Isn't this the same Abbott who has been using the floods in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia as a simple excuse to start pushing his own political agenda of unseating the current Federal government? And as usual, he doesn't let the facts get in the way too much. For example, his biggest platform has been that because of the floods, followed by Cyclone Yasi, the proposed National Broadband Network should be dumped. He then states that the loss of mobile communication (cell phones for my US friends) in the area hit by the cyclone is somehow proof that the NBN won't work. Ahhh excuse me Jug Ears. Mobile comms relied on physical broadcast towers that were damaged in the cyclone. The NBN will run on optic fibre cable buried underground and safe from the tender attentions of cyclonic winds.
Of course this also happens at the same time that press releases, email and a website statement all appear under Abbott's name, followed by requests for donations to the Liberal party for a fund to fight and cease imposition of a national levy to pay for rebuilding of shattered Queensland. In other words, don't give money for Queensland flood relief, give it to the Libs instead. Abbott denies all knowledge of this request going out. He and his mates then claimed it is common practice and referred to the Labor Party doing a similar email request only a day or so before. The only problem however was that the Labor Party request was for people to donate funds to flood relief funds, not a political donations grab.
For Abbott to go claiming Prime/Channel Seven have used a tragedy for their own purposes is nothing short of appalling hypocrisy as he has been doing exactly the same thing but on a larger scale.
If all this wasn't PR-suidcide enough, while Abbott is wandering around flood- and cyclone-ravaged parts of Queensland, accompanied by the non-entity that is the leader of the National Party (does anyone actually know who that is these days?), the Nats leader decides that is exactly the right time to start publicly claiming that Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, has let all of Queensland down during the floods and cyclone.
Give me a break. Just at present, Bligh is rapidly approaching sainthood status in parts of the country due to her non-step efforts during these crises and her frank and honest presentations to the press. There was a complete absence of any spin or political grandstanding. No make-up, tears, even appearing like a drowned rat at one point. And this wasn't stage-managed opportunism. This was genuine. Even if the subsequent Inquiry into the floods finds her government 100% culpable (which is not that likely given she hasn't been in the job long enough to be responsible for any and all infrastructure problems), that should not detract from her frank humanity during that terrible few weeks. But Jug Ears's partner in crime, leader of the Nationals, thinks it is a good time to go for her jugular. How many votes will that ultimately cost them in Queensland?
So, Channel Seven, Tony Abbott and his mates do a damned good job of screwing up all by themselves. They do not need dodgy stunts like that pulled by Mark Riley. The management of Channel Seven should be bloody ashamed of themselves for ever allowing this appalling stunt to go ahead. And how dare you put me in a position of having to defend Jug Ears!!
Meanwhile, that other commercial television network with the morals and attitude of a cheap used car salesman, Channel Nine, are probably now congratulating themselves for not dreaming up Prime's stunt for themselves, considering how it is blowing up in Prime's face, big time.