tip off

The tent embassy: fact v fiction, black v white

There is perhaps no event in the last few decades that better sums up the divide between black and white Australia than the debacle that engulfed the Embassy celebrations. It had everything: media misreporting; white political mischief; black political disunity; police violence; frustrated activists. And it had the odd rat-bag, black and white.

If nothing else, the debacle that engulfed the Tent Embassy celebration has once again exposed to the rest of the world the racist underbelly of a very ignorant nation. But first the facts, because a lot of people have formed opinions on the Embassy based on media reporting.

And that is almost always a bad idea.

The Embassy celebrations kicked off with a large march through the streets of Canberra. It was loud and proud – by some margin the most inspiring march I’ve been to. It was a festival atmosphere and a celebration in every sense of the word. There was virtually no mainstream media present, certainly nothing comparable to the pack that would descend on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy a few hours later.

The rot began to set in shortly after lunch on January 26, when one of Julia Gillard’s senior media advisers, Tony Hodges, phoned Kim Sattler, a union official who was visiting the Tent Embassy.

According to the official version of events Hodges told Sattler that Tony Abbott had just been interviewed by media about the Embassy, and he expressed the view that it was time to move on. But what Sattler passed on to Embassy activists was something else altogether.

Audio of the exchange between Sattler and young Central Australian Aboriginal leader Barbara Shaw, reveals that Sattler says Tony Abbott has just told the press the Tent Embassy should be “pulled down”, not that it’s time to move on. 

It’s a pretty subtle difference, but Shaw relays that message – pulled down — to the crowd, word for word.

Shaw then directs people to The Lobby Restaurant, a few hundred metres from the stage. The rest, as they say, is history. Or in this case, the whitewashed version of history.

Several hundred protestors descended on the restaurant. A small handful of them began banging on the glass walls on two sides of the building. The crowd was chanting ‘Shame’ and ‘Racist’. The object of their anger was Tony Abbott.

Anyone who has seen the footage can understand that Abbott, Gillard and in particular their security minders had reason to be concerned. Protestors were furious at what they’d been told Abbott had said.

After half an hour, Gillard’s security detail is captured by a Channel 9 news crew informing the Prime Minister that they’re becoming increasingly concerned for her safety, and have decided it’s time to go.

The subsequent images of Gillard being bundled out of the restaurant are startling. Gillard looks terrified as she’s rushed to her vehicle, surrounded by her personal security team and police, including one with a riot shield. Not surprisingly, the story made headlines around the world. The fact that Gillard stumbled and lost her blue suede shoe in the process only added to the colour.

Also not surprisingly, the vision sparked widespread outrage among average Australians – news sites that offered the opportunity for comment on the issue were inundated. Overwhelmingly the responses from readers were negative.

The coverage from the ABC – supposedly the moderate national broadcaster – best sums up the unfolding media circus: ‘Gillard puts on brave face after riot rescue’.

It’s a pretty compelling headline. It’s also complete bunkum.

The ‘riot’ – at a glass-walled restaurant, mind you – saw not one pane of glass cracked, let alone broken. There were no arrests and no injuries. It was a loud, angry protest. Nothing more. Of course, it did have the potential to get out of hand, but all protests do. It’s worth noting, the only damage to the Lobby restaurant was to a door – the one which Gillard is rushed through as she exits the building. And who caused the damage?


The National Capital Authority, which owns the building, inspected the Lobby the day after the protest, and confirmed to Embassy organisers that the AFP had broken the door in its haste to leave. Not only was there no riot, but there was never any actual threat to Gillard’s safety, nor that of Abbott.

As footage that emerged after the media had already written the script clearly showed, the only people pursuing Gillard and Abbott when they were rushed from the building were police, journalists and photographers. There were no protestors within coo-ee, and certainly none chasing down a terrified Prime Minister nor an Opposition Leader, who can be clearly seen smirking and smiling as he’s rushed to the car.

But that’s not such a newsworthy story.

So instead, we got this, from Channel 9:

“They made for the safety of a getaway car. The only thing between them and an angry, raging mob were police with shields.

“The Prime Minister, cradled by an officer, lost her shoe, stumbled slightly in the mayhem, the moment of terror, captured here on Julia Gillard’s face.

“Tony Abbott was pushed to the waiting car.

“When she got to the vehicle you can see Julia Gillard shoved inside.

“And in a sign of the danger, the rare sight of Mr Abbott bustled in beside her.”

The media reporting gave the widespread view that Gillard had somehow been attacked, as the comments on news sites consistently showed. But in defence of the Channel 9 journalist, he did get one aspect of his story right: he noted that AFTER the Prime Minister’s vehicle left, the violence began.

One of the most memorable images from the ‘riot’, at least from the Aboriginal perspective, is footage captured by a news crew of a police officer punching an Aboriginal man – dressed in traditional costume and carrying a spear – in the face). It can be seen 15 seconds into this clip.

The images were replayed around the globe – BBC World News, for example, used the footage over and over again during its coverage of the event.

Alternative footage, captured by an embassy activist, sheds new light on this officer’s behaviour, and what led up to the assault. Shortly after Gillard’s vehicle has left, the protestor’s footage shows the officer unleash a barrage of abuse – and blows – at protestors and media.

At 1:05 he comes into the shot screaming “Media f**k off or get out. Get out media, get out”. He turns his attention to a cameraman from SBS and yells, “F**k off c*nt,” before manhandling a sound technician. The exchange clearly shows the officer as the aggressor.

At 1:17 the cop starts yelling, “Move rear, move rear. Move f**king rear,” as he continues to push and swing at protestors, before finally hitting one of them in the head (at 1:28).

At 1:30,a second cop stars in the video, with wild eyes and a huge grin on his face, nodding his head and willing protestors to take him on, all the while pushing and manhandling them.

As soon as one protestor yells “Get him on camera”, the cop seems to realize he’s being filmed, wipes the smile off his face and steps back from the crowd.

The camera pans back to the red-headed officer, who is now in full-swing, literally. He’s screaming “Get back off the road idiots” as he pushes more protestors. You can hear one off camera respond, “Little f**king big man. Little big man, pushing people eh?” It draws the attention of the officer, who responds by pushing him in the chest.

The protestor replies, “Hey, you push me, I’ll spear you brother.”

The cop pushes him again, and you see the protestor push the cop back. The cop looks down at his own chest – an act which people widely interpreted to mean he was spat on (he wasn’t) - then hits the protestor in the head. You can’t actually see the hit – it’s slightly off camera. But it’s of such force that you can certainly hear it. The news footage BBC ran shows it nearly knocked the protestor off his feet.

What follows is one of the more ironic images from the demonstration. Tiga Bayles, an early Embassy activist and a former Queensland Father of the Year, steps into the frame and blocks the cop, saying ‘No, no, no, it’s alright’. Other protestors – including the first man assaulted — also surround the cop to prevent further attacks.

It’s not often you see groups of peaceful protestors having to step in to try and calm a police officer down.

The cop keeps pushing and swinging until a female protestor puts her hand on his shoulder (at 2:04) and says, “You are inciting, you are inciting.” Like his colleague earlier, the cop’s demeanor changes completely – he seems to realise that everything he’s just done has been captured on film.

He stops yelling, and starts pleading, “I’m just trying to get you off the road.”

Seconds later, Sergeant Chris Meagher – a community liaison officer who spent the five days working cooperatively with Embassy officials — can be seen walking into the shot, and removing both officers from the front line of the confrontation. A protestor can be heard yelling, “This officer here is way too pumped up. The officer in the middle, this one right here.”

You can hear someone reply, “Yeah, we got him.”

And remember, all of this occurred AFTER Gillard has left the scene. The supposed threat has gone. So why the police violence?

A measure of how pumped up the red haired officer was before confronting protestors is captured in this video. 

It shows him mistaking one of Gillard’s personal security team for a protestor, and then elbowing him in the head as Gillard’s car speeds away.

Officially, the Australian Federal Police are happy with the conduct of officers.

Unofficially, the officer’s conduct is under review, with the possibility of ‘retraining’, particularly in relation to his dealings with media.

Hysterical commentary aside, the media reporting before, during and after the event was typically very poor. It was also laced with a thousand missing facts.

One of them is that Michael Anderson, one of the original founders of the Tent Embassy was approached by Kim Sattler and told that the Prime Minister’s office was on the phone, and wanted to speak to him. He didn’t take the call because he was in the middle of a radio interview.

The point being, it wasn’t a simple case of the PM’s office relating Abbott’s whereabouts to a third party, who then passed the information on to the Tent Embassy. Gillard’s office actively sought to provide the information directly to the Tent Embassy.

That puts quite a different complexion on events from those advanced by Gillard – that Hodges had merely passed on the information to a colleague, who then blabbed it to the Embassy.Media commentary has also missed the stark shift in Gillard’s rhetoric before the details of her media minder’s involvement emerged, and her rhetoric after. A few hours following the event, Gillard played the role of ‘no big deal’ in a clear pitch to try and capitalise on widespread outrage against protestors, and sympathy for the way she was supposedly treated.

“I am made of pretty tough stuff and the police did a great job,” Gillard said on the evening of protest.

It was a brand of spin that worked – a Herald/Neilsen poll released a week after the Embassy debacle showed a six point rise in Gillard’s popularity, despite the involvement of her office in the leak. There’s a very good analysis of the poll – and the embassy debacle’s affect on it – by Phillip Coorey.

It is Gillard’s highest rise in the polls since taking office.

But the morning after the event, Radio 2GB was reporting allegations that Gillard’s adviser had staged the whole event. Realising she was firmly back in the frame – but this time at risk of losing public sympathy – Gillard went on the offensive. The target was the Embassy protestors, who had suddenly become “violent”.

“The people who initiated those violent acts, the people who were involved in those violent acts are responsible for the violence that was there,” Gillard told media (indeed they were, and we all look forward to the police officers responsible being charged).

In the course of her press conference, Gillard referred to violence seven times.

Of course, she never actually saw any (unless you count her tripping over one of her security advisers and losing her shoe as violence), because as Channel 9 accurately reported, it occurred only after Gillard had left, and then, as the footage showed, only at the hands of police.

Gillard’s attempts to fit the blackfellas up when it’s clear her office had set out to orchestrate the entire incident is disgraceful.

It goes not only to her credibility and her fitness to hold office, but it speaks volumes about her ethics, her cowardice, and her willingness to play politics with the nation’s most disadvantaged people.

And then there’s Tony Abbott. It was Abbott’s comments, after all, that sparked the whole debacle. Granted, he did not call for the Tent Embassy to be “torn down”, although that was how media reported his comments.

Australian Associated Press paraphrased his comments, noting that the embassy should be “pulled down”. Like a game of Chinese whispers, media then embellished it further until finally it was reported Abbott wanted the Embassy “torn down”. The AAP story was posted on news websites around the nation. It remained uncorrected for two hours (and is now the subject of an internal AAP investigation).

But having been asked on the very day Aboriginal people were celebrating 40 years of resistance what he thought about it all, Abbott could have elected to say nothing, knowing what an important day it was for Aboriginal people.

Instead, he chose to twist the knife that he has plunged into the back of Aboriginal people on countless previous occasions. Imagine the reaction if Aboriginal people came out on, say, Anzac Day and told Australians it was time to “move on”?

The events that followed his comments have also taken the focus off the full text of what Abbot actually said. Apart from calling for the Embassy to “move on” Abbot said:

“Look, I can understand why the Tent Embassy was set up all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then. We had the historic apology just a few years ago, one of the genuine achievements of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. We had the proposal which is currently for national consideration to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution. I think the Indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian.”

A couple of points Tony.

Firstly, the Tent Embassy was set up “all those years ago” because Aboriginal people were demanding national land rights, a treaty and sovereignty.

Call me a cynic, but last time I checked, there is still no treaty, still no national land rights, and still no recognition of sovereignty. Indeed, the Aboriginal are still demanding precisely those things 40 years later.

Secondly, you and your party opposed the National Apology during your 12 years in office. Thirdly, you’re refusing to offer bi-partisan support on Constitutional Recognition if it involves amending the legislation to remove the power of your parliament to discriminate against Aboriginal people.

As to your comment about “the respect in which they are held by every Australian”, you’re clearly not familiar with the myriad of Australian race-hate pages on Facebook, not to mention the views of the extreme right wing of your own party.

Have you not met Wilson Tuckey, a man whose nickname ‘Ironbar’ came from him flogging an Aboriginal man in a pub? Have you not heard of Pauline Hanson, or David Oldfield?

Abbott’s comments are clearly complete nonsense. Indeed they are Howard-esque in their ignorance (who can forget the former Prime Minister refusing to accept racism was a factor in the Cronulla riots, or predicting that the $2 billion NT intervention would cost “some tens of millions”).

Abbott, however, is rather blessed when it comes to media analysis. Don’t hold your breath for media to revisit and analyse Abbott’s original remarks or Gillard’s deceit. And don’t wait for the media to correct the public record about the riot that never happened.

And don’t expect media to scrutinise the use of the nation’s most disadvantaged people as a political football by both major parties, and as a metaphorical football by overzealous cops.

History has already been written. In the words of Abbott, it’s time to “move on”.

Tomorrow — the tent embassy incident and what it means for grassroot activism v boardroom blackfellas…

* Chris Graham is the Managing Editor of Tracker Magazine. He is a Walkley Award and Walkley High Commendation winner, and has twice won the Human Rights Award for his reporting on Indigenous affairs. He served as the Embassy’s media adviser for the 40th anniversary celebrations in Canberra.

CORRECTION, 16/2/12: A line in the original version of this story identified union official Kim Sattler as Aboriginal — that is not correct. The copy has been amended to reflect this.

  • 1
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Good read Chris balanced insights,while I don’t for a moment condone the rash actions of the politically inept Hodges methinks the bedside manner of Abbott’s regular dog-whistling is akin to SAS-like head surgery.

  • 2
    Lyn Gain
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant article. First one I’ve read that said that 40 years on indigenous people still haven’t got what they wanted when they set up the first tent embassy. It is a pity that the media coverage has obscured the current tent embassy message ‘Corroboree for Sovereignty’. A very good article by Ruth Forsythe has just been published which looks at the Australia Day debacle in the context of what sovereignty means for Aboriginal people. http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/australian-identity/the-meaning-of-indigenous-sovereignty/

  • 3
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    SB- please read this article!!

    Here is the heart of it:

    The ‘riot’ – at a glass-walled restaurant, mind you – saw not one pane of glass cracked, let alone broken. There were no arrests and no injuries. It was a loud, angry protest. Nothing more. Of course, it did have the potential to get out of hand, but all protests do. It’s worth noting, the only damage to the Lobby restaurant was to a door – the one which Gillard is rushed through as she exits the building. And who caused the damage? Police. The National Capital Authority, which owns the building, inspected the Lobby the day after the protest, and confirmed to Embassy organisers that the AFP had broken the door in its haste to leave. Not only was there no riot, but there was never any actual threat to Gillard’s safety, nor that of Abbott. As footage that emerged after the media had already written the script clearly showed, the only people pursuing Gillard and Abbott when they were rushed from the building were police, journalists and photographers. There were no protestors within coo-ee, and certainly none chasing down a terrified Prime Minister nor an Opposition Leader, who can be clearly seen smirking and smiling as he’s rushed to the car.

    The disturbances that followed all happened after both Gillard and Abbott were gone.

    Great article, thanks.

  • 4
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Thumbs up from me, great journalism.

  • 5
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    PS - an indigenous mate of mine tells me how he and his mates picked up the lost shoe, and they tried to return it to the PM, but she was gone by then. They tell me they debated selling it on ebay, but in the end handed it to a party official.

    All very “riotous”… not.

  • 6
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    That cop was a security officer, not a cop. Talk about wildly foaming at the mouth.

    But why the whereabouts of Abbott had to be a secret is beyond me, is this North Korea?

    The thing is we have two packs of savage cowards in the parliament who love bashing up gays, aborigines, refugees, the disabled, the sick and the unemployed and a racist media who let them.

  • 7
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Now we have heard what Kim Sattler said and there can be no dispute a riot was incited.

    The tone of the voice and the actions prove it completely.

    The fact that Gillards version and Sattler version is completely different also shows the huge amount of cover up, and this has been now uncovered completely.

  • 8
    Col in Sydney
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Eureka. Crikey has caught up with the comments I was leaving on this website the day after all this happened. Congratulations! I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one making comments to this effect - but even now this author hasn’t managed to grasp the real point of this whole event and the media coverage and political commentary it has attracted since.

    The important point about this even, indeed the only point of significance in this event, was that the police officer whose job it was to escort the Prime Minister to her car (and his boss) are incompetent morons. Yes indeed, there was never ever any physical threat to the PM from protestors who were standing in a neat group on the restaurant verandah watching the bozo police from a safe distance.

    The only reason any of this - who told people Abbott was there, what they said, what the protestors did, everthing - is in any way newsworth was because that moron police officer first knocked Julia Gillard over and then - as recently shown footage demonstrates very graphically - he TWICE banged her head into the car door frame trying to get her into the back seat. He is just a useless idiot.

    The fact that Julia Gillard then came out and said that the police had done a wonderful job was where the whole event descended into the most murky political waters. By doing that, Gillard demonstrated again that she will tell bald-faced lies until her face is blue and that she has zero capacity to stand up to men doing “security” work. She has no capacity for command.

    It was because she was not able to push this idiot away and say, “Leave me alone!” that she was subjected to the worst physical humiliation of any prime minister in our history. It was because she was then personally incapable of standing up to her own “security” personnel to simply state that the police had hopelessly and incompetently overreacted that she set off the following fiasco.

    Because Gillard insisted that the police had to be taken seriously, she had to then go on and say that there had been a serious risk, which meant Abbott could then complain about the “security breach” involved in someone telling the protestors his whereabouts, which were already widely known, which meant Gillard then had to denigrate and falsely blame the protestors.

    This all comes down to Gillard’s personal failings - she has no personal authority, she has no presence, she lies when she sees an advantage in it, she lies about other people without concern for the damage it will do to them or others, she saddles blame for her own shortcomings on her junior staff, she defends the indefensible while attacking the blameless. She is just a disgrace.

    But, anyway, good to see that Crikey was only weeks late in publishing something to the point.

  • 9
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    A friend from Christmas Island pointed out that this behaviour by the AFP was played out on CI last year when they incited riots in the hated NW point Detention Centre. That violence was perpetrated on Detainees and SERCO guards so did not count! They got away with it becasue the media witnesses were unable to get closer than the Hill in the dark.

    Pumped up aggressive and brain dead but just look at their ANNUAL REPORTS to see how they have profited from the pumped up brain daed politicians in Canberra running on the adrenalin of the non existent terror threats.
    As you sow so she ye reap….

  • 10
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Excellent work Chris. Best thing I’ve read on the whole debacle.

  • 11
    Chris Graham
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks folks :)

    @ Suzanne Blake: “there can be no dispute a riot was incited”? Have you actually even read the article, or are you only reading the bits that attack Gillard? 1. There was no riot. 2. The matter has not been completely uncovered… watch this space.

  • 12
    Michael Chessell
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the enlightenment Chris, interesting how a litle bit of leg work from a proper journo can reveal the facts that dissolve away all that the political and media spinmeisters can vomit up, and reveal it for what it really is - agitation and propaganda (agitprop). It leaves you with little respect for either group, but a lot of anger and contempt.
    And what of the actions of the police - the individuals and the organisation? From their perspective it seems there was only one thing wrong with their actions - it was done ‘in camera’! Can just imagine the reprimand the ‘Ranga Rambo’ got - “listen maaate, nothin wrong with a bit of state sponsored thuggery, just don’t get caught on video”.

    Arrgh, what a world!

  • 13
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Yes, thanks Chris. Excellent article. The whole thing seemed so hysterical and confused I gave up on it. But you have explained a lot.

  • 14
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Interesting article which adds to the overall picture but still seems to be missing some parts (that I have read elsewhere) and makes substantial leaps in logic to get to it’s conclusions like most of the MSM.

    Gillard trying to fit the blackfella up, indeed…

  • 15
    michael crook
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Good article Chris, interesting comment Pamela.

    The recent behaviour of police has been a great cause of concern. While here in Queensland we generally have very well behaved police there is still a residual ( at least I hope it is residual) racist element.

    The Melbourne police actions in breaking up the occupy protesters were a terrifying harking back to the Joh days in Queensland when police brutality was viewed as a sport.

    NSW ditto.

    The involvement of Queensland police in removing the occupy movement in Post Office square was extremely disturbing and I intend to gather my facts and write to the police commissioner.

    The week before an assistant commissioner had declared in the media that the occupy assembly was doing no harm and were of no interest to the police. So what changed, what prompted the calling back to duty of very tired police, many of whom had only finished their shift at midnight, for a briefing at 2 am and an intervention action at 4am.

    I consider that the actions of Queensland police in moving on the occupy assembly was in fact a breach of Queenslands “right of assembly” laws passed during the Goss years.

    For those of us in Queensland who remember the seventies and eighties this is very very disturbing. The community needs to build bridges with the police force that is there to protect us and it is only by supporting our police that this will occur. But not, I repeat not, by pandering to the the Queensland Police Union, which, when confronted with any criticism, responds with hysteria.

  • 16
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Good read which pretty much sums up the political machinations behind the whole debacle.

    However, though it wasn’t implied, I still feel obliged to point out that the alternative footage seems to demonstrate one bad egg in the AFP rather than institutionalised police brutality. When you’re asked off the road by police, you get off the road. If you want to stay and argue with the police (or blow your top and try and push them back) you’re going to be forcibly moved out of the way, and it could very well hurt. Police get frustrated too, and expecting them to retain some Zen-like calm in the face of a group of shouty people is more than a little deluded.

    That being said, this particular officer needs swift punishment - his conduct was aggressive, entirely unprofessional, and completely out of line with the rest of the AFP officers present. He was overly and pathetically ‘pumped up’ and is in need of some serious deflation…

  • 17
    Chris Graham
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Interesting Mark - I backed up every claim with a fact. You make broad claims, with no facts to back them up. By all means elaborate.

  • 18
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Yes it was blown out of proportion and the cop/cops didn,t handle it well . Whats missing from the article is why a chinese whisper was taken as fact and they raced off to confront Abbott . It certainly didn,t do the tent people any good PR wise or advance their cause .
    I am a bit puzzled why the advisor resigned as he passed on remarks already aired on public media . The function wasn,t a secret or the attendees including politicians , recipients and their families . What are we to make of seniors being bussed in to parliament by political hacks or more generally the fizzer the truck convoy was ? Those involved direct involvement not just passing on already aired comments . No mention of the AAP in the article regarding their original correct reporting of Abbotts comments and the later reporting that indicated a pull down scenario . Who was the reporter who asked the question that prompted Abbotts remark and what relevance did it have appearance at the opera house setting ?
    No matter who did what and when the final result is the tent embassy shot itself in the foot . Abbott , Hodge , Sattler , police and the AAP all contributed but the tent embassy people suffered because they went like sheep . Was there nobody in that crowd asking questions or was up with media regarding the embassy ? The comments were after all reported on both tv and radio .

  • 19
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Also @ Chris, regarding Suzanne Blake:

    Sounds like your typical political staffer to me, just typing in a bit of unsubstantiated rubbish to try and cast some doubt over the accuracy of the article. Why they think it’s worth posting Daily Telegraph-esque comments on a left-leaning publication’s website is utterly beyond me.

  • 20
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Chris! Good article!

    SB - Tell me, if Abbott intends to spend a week in an aboriginal community if elected(please NO!) why couldn’t he and Julia Gillard too for that matter, spend some time at the Tent Embassy? Why didn’t he participate in the PEACEFUL march earlier in the day? Why make that comment at a media conference, why not face to face at the Tent Embassy? No guts! Like all bullies!

    If he couldn’t speak to aboriginal people face to face due to earlier commitments, why make the comment? If HE didn’t want it to be misconstrued/why run the ‘risk’ of being misreported - unless he wanted it to be that way?

    We’ve all heard the ‘other’ meaning of ‘move on’? It’s used by the police to protesters, up trees for instance, or blocking roads etc. If they fail to ‘move on’ the police then move in to arrest them. Why did Abbott use this language when he must know how it’s frequently used?

    Turn the whole thing on its head. What if Abbott did it on purpose? To deliberately stir up trouble so that he could blame the PM?

    We’ve all played that party game about the story at the beginning of the line, and how it’s distorted etc by the end? I recall it as being a game at Tupperware parties etc. Quite funny really. Clearly shows how people just repeat ‘hearsay’ rather than fact!

    IF there is culpability on the PM’s side, there should be too on the side of the Opposition leader!

    This article reinforces what I said from day one. That the only violence I saw was that by the police/AFP etc? The media always depict aboriginal people in a bad light if they can get away with it. I’ve commented before. They trot the same old footage out of a park in Darwin or???Been doing it for decades!

  • 21
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Chris Graham - Suzanne Blake is determined to ignore all the facts and stick to her bizarre belief that there was a riot and labor was to blame and Labor was trying to get Abbott physically hurt or even killed, … because she was saying that kind of thing yesterday in another crikey article blog space. The timing of your article has been most helpful to put her frightened ideas to rest. Pity she just cant accept the facts.

  • 22
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    A lovely spin followed by another lovely spin. Beautiful to watch. Yep, all Tony had to do was step outside for a friendly chat with a crowd of people interested in dialogue. Julia could have sat with him for a glorious new paradigm of a civilised Australia.

    Yeah right.

  • 23
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    @JIM @ADVOKATO: SB lives in a rural area. This means she gets all her lack of information from The Weekly Times.

  • 24
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    David: nobody is saying that there was not a frustrated and noisy crowd there that day. But think about it: not a pane of glass got smashed, or even cracked. No cars turned over. No cars set on fire. No rocks thrown at the police…. And the only actual phsycial violence between some protestors and police happened after all the main politicians were gone.

    So: a riot?….. No way. Those who say that are nuts. Since when is a noisy protest a riot? Isn’t that a part of democracy? Freedom to protest, freedom to call politicians to account? Freedom to assemble?

    For those who call what happened a riot, they are falling into the 1984 Orwellian double speak: Changing words to mean new things so that they can rewrite history the way they want to.

  • 25
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Footage showing the sheer look of terror on Tony Abbott’s face whilst being hustled away by police behind Julia Gillard said it all - he will always run in second place when the going gets tough. I’m surprised not to have heard Tony in this instance exclaim “oh well, shi*t happens”! Instead the usual opposition effort to blame Julia Gillard personally for aiding and abetting in setting it all up was entirely predictable. Thanks to Chris Graham for the excellent article we now find out how overblown (by the media) and farcical the whole fiasco really was. The supressed panic look on Tony’s face was priceless.

  • 26
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    You only have to be in the thick of a protest with a handful of particular protesters who are a small minority to the majority of well behaved to understand those particular protesters will do ‘anything’ to draw the pack media of which only happened when there was a perceived danger. They travel the country to fill their people with hatred.

    Last time I was amongst a particular indigenous person who attended a protest day the said person had enthralled so much anger in nearby indigenous a large kitchen knife was produced; a day when the Prime Minister was prior present and observed by police.

    The end result was a stunt that had the officers take reasonable cause for caution based on past previous scenarios. As usual the media will focus on officers indiscretion outnumbered by some ignored disgusting aggressive dangerous behaviour based on a whisper. Yeah, intelligent bunch of people right there.

    Then there was the flag burning footage and the child spitting on the Australian flag. If my child spat on an indigenous flag Id clip him round the ear then drag him off for the spray of his life.

    The media divide and conquer, the same minority ‘professional’ protesters divide and conquer again inciting violence. Professional protesters that disgrace their elders and the future indigenous children that receive the result of their actions. Tony Abbot has more respect for their children than they do.

    Its same old, same old. Next!

  • 27
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Imagine if it was The President of the United States?

    Bang, bang, they shot me down?

  • 28
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Yes great piece. It seems that if video footage is available any construct of the facts is acceptable to the MSM, and the more dramstic the better. Truth comes a very poor third.

  • 29
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Innit interestin’ … here you have a “race riot” - sorry RACE RIOT - right on our very national doorstop on our very national day… and all anyone can talk about is who said what to whom when… gossip and conspiracy.

    Nuffin at all - not a bloody word - about why they were there these black ambassadors … again, after all this time. Not a word about why these outraged people sniffing out conspiracy and scandal are quite comfy with the idea of a RACE RIOT… like well what else would you expect… saw it coming… we’re always having RACE RIOTS here. The real scandal doesn’t get a mention.

    Aside from the glaringly obvious - that this looked more like a family Christmas gathering than a RACE RIOT - it speaks volumes about how issue-shy - how de-politicised - how trite and trivial our political discussion has become.

    Maybe in five years time we’ll be seeing real riots. Then who will we blame?

    You did it. No you did. No she did. … and meanwhile the reality of Aboriginal life and death grinds on.

    Orestraya … where only the ore is refined.

  • 30
    Jim Reiher
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    well said Peter

  • 31
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Im thinking down the same line as David. Whatif (sorry Greens :) either Abbott or Gillard were supported by someone who had the nous and the manners to go outside and invite identified tent embassy leaders to come inside and chat about what caused the group to come over to the restaurant and the window banging. Abbott and Gillard could have showed their fibre as leaders and convinced the tent embassy leaders they had been misled. Once this was established turn a speaker around and point it out the window then let the tent embassy leader speak, settle everyone down. Once this has happened all leaders could walk outside and shake hands with those gathered in a united stand agains divisive mischief. Now this is not a far fetched scenario, if only the people close to power had recognised that there were leaders outside who could be invited inside and this is the point. Instead of the result of wisdom we saw the result of fear - entirely fabricated. We do need leaders.

  • 32
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Also it is almost as if the Police were also set up. After all it was a lunch to honour emergency services workers that was interrupted. That must have distressed some police officers particularly if friends or colleagues were being honoured. Really if you were delibrately trying to start a riot the circumstances could not have been more ideal from every angle.

  • 33
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Race riot, or be ing rowdy Ostrayan way? According to footage I saw, they were chasing after the PM then her car, surrounding, and tapping or slamming it so the security acted approriately. No law was broken, no charges were la id, riot pigs*ass f*cken simpl eton.

  • 34
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink


    We’ve all heard the ‘other’ meaning of ‘move on’? It’s used by the police to protesters, up trees for instance, or blocking roads etc. If they fail to ‘move on’ the police then move in to arrest them. Why did Abbott use this language when he must know how it’s frequently used?”

    More than that Liz. The “move-on power” is employed by Police to control public drunkeness and other forms of public social misbehaviour. Or potential misbehaviour.

    It was considered one of the Holy Trinity … the trifecta that ends up filling our remand centres and gaols with Kooris…. drunk and disorderly, refuse to follow a lawful direction (move on) and resisting arrest/offensive language. Not sure of the law now (I know they’ve just beefed these police powers in NSW in 2009 and the Queensland laws are even tougher, but I don’t know how it works in other states.)

    So telling an Aboriginal person to move on has a deep and bitter taste to it. It happens a lot. It’s loaded. Like a gun. Provocative even if unintentional. Just a typically stupid Abbottism.

  • 35
    Bob Durnan
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    It seems part of what we have here is yet more “media misreporting”: possibly some “white political mischief” by a “frustrated activist”, or, perhaps, from an “odd rat-bag”?
    I say this because, whilst the whole shebang had many lessons and implications, several of which are dealt with well in his article, Graham’s account is not totally devoted to “the facts” and an honest analysis.
    David Hand (Posted at 4:49 pm), and ‘feelthecause’ (Posted at 5:28 pm) seem to be more on the money in certain respects.
    [‘gatekeepercb’ (Posted at 6:06 pm) fails to understand that the anti-Intervention groups, which seem to have been in charge of things at the Tent Embassy on the day, have a clear track record of opportunism, inaccuracy and incitement in their propaganda and at their demonstrations].

    Chris Graham, whilst neglecting to acknowledge the forensic work (on which he has based much of his article) done more than two weeks ago by several diligent journalists (see particularly Bill Hoffman in the Sunshine Coast Daily http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/story/2012/02/01/tent-row-lesson-media-too/ ), proceeds to mislead us on one very important point, and in so doing unfairly scapegoats the security detail and possibly the bulk of the police.

    “The rot began to set in shortly after lunch on January 26” says Chris. But wasn’t there already a set of potentially significant problems present prior to this?
    The vital component omitted from Graham’s picture is this: although the majority of those present were undoubtedly sincere and responsible supporters of genuine Aboriginal grievances, the 40 year anniversary event appeared also to have more than its fair share of the vulnerable and alienated lost souls and very angry people who have been attracted increasingly to the Tent Embassy site over the years – i.e. the marginalised, disaffected victims of colonialism and racism; plus the usual rag tag collection of disorganised and undisciplined half-smart activists, and a fair whack of aggressive oppositional egotists who habitually occupy the anti-Intervention bandwagon.
    A lot of these people do not identify as Aboriginal, but presume to know better than many Aboriginal leaders how Aboriginal demonstrations should be conducted, and behave accordingly.

    As Graham himself writes: “Several hundred protestors descended on the restaurant. A small handful of them began banging on the glass walls on two sides of the building. The crowd was chanting ‘Shame’ and ‘Racist’. The object of their anger was Tony Abbott. Anyone who has seen the footage can understand that Abbott, Gillard and in particular their security minders had reason to be concerned. Protestors were furious at what they’d been told Abbott had said.”

    This situation went on for “half an hour”. Graham admits “it did have the potential to get out of hand”.
    Understandably, the security people and politicians were alarmed and apprehensive about how all this would turn out, with no signs of leaders attempting to control the demonstration, or constrain the hot-heads amongst the protesters, and no end in sight of the growing anger. What if panes of glass did shatter? What if more protesters arrived, or those present surrounded the one door still available through which the political leaders could attempt to exit? What if one of the young blokes with a spear had a short fuse, or one of the undisciplined ring-ins tried something very stupid? Under these circumstances it is unsurprising that some on both sides would be “pumped”.
    Graham neglects this important aspect when examining the conduct of the security people and the anger of some police. Of course, police should be trained to contain their anger, and should have been much better supervised on the day. By the same token, capable responsible leaders on the protesters’ side should have been aware of the potential problems in such a situation, and should have taken steps to calm and control their crowd, and communicate with the security people and police. Graham’s article exonerates the protest leaders from not having exercised their responsibilities.

  • 36
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Imagine what would have happened if Gillard had gotten all prime ministerial and gone out to address the protesters. The media would be hailing her courage and leadership. in stead we have what we have.

  • 37
    Mal White
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink


    Your attempts to blame it on Tony Abbott for his comments are really drawing a long bow.

    His comments, while clumsy, were well meaning.

  • 38
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Mal …

    No Mal wrong end of the sights mate …

    I’m not blaming Abbott - for anything other than being the insensitive boor he always is. I’m not saying that he intended to offend anyone by saying “move on”…. just that anyone who knows the slightest thing about the daily lives of Aboriginal people would know that is a loaded expression, would not use it, would think before he opened his trap. Too much to ask. But I’m not blaming him or saying he is responsible - just that he’s actually rather dumb and insensitive. In fact - there’s really nothing to be responsible for… just a protest and a hypervigilant undertrained police force. A bit of fair dinkum Aussie expression. Most appropriate.

    I would be blaming the governments and the voters who have allowed the circumstances necessitating such a protest to remain virtually unchanged for 40 years. That’s the only scandal here.

  • 39
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Do not listen to radio at all,but those who do might know what I have read as 2UE or 2GB actually broadcast that abbott had said they were to move the tent embassy.
    If so the inflaming could have come from there .
    Why would the PM want to be disturbed when she was handing out medals,sort of begs the question why was abbott even there,he could of been elsewhere filliting a fish,or maybe being there was his stunt for the day.

  • 40
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    He is always clumsy,but never well meaning.he now uses Aspirations instead of core or non core outright lies.

  • 41
    Edward James
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    schnappi most of us have listened to the video and heard what was said. Some of us have listened to the ABC interview with tony abbott early that morning in Sydeny and we know what he said ” time to move on! ” Edward James

  • 42
    Mal White
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink


    One of the problems with our politicians is that they are so careful not to say the wrong thing, that they end up using lots of words to say very little at all.

    It is frustrating listening to long contorted answers from our leaders to very simple questions.
    I think we would be better off doing the opposite of what you suggest. That is be less demanding on minor slip ups.
    If not the ability of politicians to carefully waffle on without giving anything away will only get worse.

  • 43
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink


    But why are you and the media ignoring what one or more radio stations have said,news travels quicker by radio .

  • 44
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    The Australia Day incident at the Lobby restaurant seems to have provided a licence to many to vent r-cial h-tred and ab-se. Have a look at some of the comments on this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phtBQBzuw5g

    The arrival of an Asylum Seeker boat can invoke a similar response in the tabloids, blogs and talkback radio. I’ve been shocked at hearing people say that the Navy should fire on refugee boats. Do they know what they’re saying?

    I’ve heard about Godwin’s law but comparisons to the N-zis is warrented here. How did a sophisticated nation like Germany succumb to madness. I think there is a dark side of human nature that lurks just below the surface in many people, suppressed most of the time but which can break into the open in times of great stress, for example a major depression. Should the economy in this country go belly up, I think there will be lots of willing recruits to an Australian N-zi party.

  • 45
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Your right, pollies have now to structure sentences in manner that they cannot be edited out by the media to be interpreted in another light later on. This avoidance of entrapment has left news boring and sentences that unstructured the sentences almost mean nothing.

    You can see how Abbot made a statement then people like Sattler have chinese whispered it to protest organisers who then handed a flaming torch to professional protesters. Abbot was baited with the question.

    The professional protesters then built the fire of anger to give the pack media something worth getting in their cars for to come down and see a crowd disrupt some very worthy emergency services personnel who saved lives have acknowledgement of saving those lives by risking their lives.

    Mountain out of a mole hill and untold disrespect to service workers.

    All on a whisper. No respect. Bunch of dickheads which includes Sattler.

  • 46
    Posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    And here is one of the protesters pictured in The West giving the finger to people inside the building. The protester is now back in Western Australia on Heirisson Island. Low and behold, The Greens


  • 47
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    @Mal, look at Abbott’smovements on the day. Instead of being present at the Australian of Year ceremonies in Canberra in the morning, he is participating in a budgie smuggler photo op swim in Sydney (classic “What would Putin do?” moment). Then, having changed into a suit, takes part in a faux interview with the Opera House as a back drop (nice bit of iconography). He makes a series carefully crafted statements that are contrived to deliver the maximum implied offence with the minimum explicit reference. It would be interesting to find out if the questions had been written, or vetted previously, by Abbott’s press office. He then flies to Canberra to attend a single event which, coincidence of coincidences, is taking place less than 100 meters from the Tent Embassy. If SB wants to talk about incitement, here might be a good place to start.

  • 48
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Which part of nothing much happened don’t people understand.

  • 49
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    @ shepherdmarilyn

    Like with other issues, you are perhaps Liz45 and the only people saying ‘nothing’ happened. The Sgt Schultz defence.

    Same with the illegals.

  • 50
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    You are of course right SB, something did happen. Tony Abbott displayed his complete lack of understanding of Aboriginal history and the issues facing indigenous Australia.

    Everything that happened after that was consequence.

    Once again, just like the “shit happens” incident, he has displayed that he does not possess the presence of mind to lead a scout group, let alone this country.