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Oct 10, 2012

Mussels off the menu on the ABC

Yet Crikey suspects many media consumers, especially those who rely on the broadcast media for news, would be utterly confused about exactly why Peter Slipper resigned from the speaker's chair.

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It was a series of vulgar text messages from Peter Slipper — including one comparing  female genitalia to shell-less mussels — that eventually forced him out of the speaker’s chair.

Yet Crikey suspects many media consumers, especially those who rely on the broadcast media for news, would be utterly confused about exactly why the speaker has resigned. The mussels remark, first reported by The Australian Financial Review last Thursday, dominated parliament yesterday and is repeated in print today by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

The TV networks, however, have been far less forthcoming. In Channel Nine’s lead story 6pm news story last night, press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes said the remarks were “too disgusting for broadcast”. ABC political correspondent Mark Simkin, whose 7pm report was accompanied by a blurred graphic of a text message, also gave the remarks a wide berth.

As a rule, ABC online has referred only to Slipper’s “offensive language to describe female genitalia”. Lateline, which airs at at 10.30pm, also made no mention of the “m word” last night — even though host Emma Alberici conducted a 15-minute interview with Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek about the messages.

We’d be interested to know what Crikey readers think.

Do ABC viewers have a right to know what Slipper said in his texts and why he was forced from his post? Or are the remarks simply too unpalatable to broadcast? Have you heard the remarks repeated on radio or TV? We’ll follow up the issue tomorrow. 

Matthew Knot —

Matthew Knot

Crikey media editor

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11 thoughts on “Mussels off the menu on the ABC

  1. Chris_B

    I didn’t read the text message but the analogy may not be all that inaccurate if this photo is representative http://bit.ly/PoVxVf

    What strikes me, however, is the new meaning I now construe when I hear the phrase “Could I have a word in your shell-like?”

  2. David Heslin

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thoroughly disgusted. Not by Slipper’s private text messages, mind you — the man’s gay, he’s allowed to dislike vaginas — but by the fact that he was made to resign over them. It was completely contemptible of Abbott to raise this motion, and equally disappointing that Windsor and Oakeshott pushed the ex-speaker out of the aeroplane because of it.

    Let’s get one thing straight: unless Australia has suddenly morphed into an Orwellian state in which thought-crime is to be policed, I MUST be allowed to say whatever I damn well please in private conversation, whether that involve the c-word, m-word or comparison of sexual organs to any creature on God’s green earth, so long as it is not threatening, belittling or harassing to the direct recipient. I DO NOT believe that it should be the right of the opposition leader of Australia to call for my resignation from whatever position I might hold, however lofty, due to my conduct in private conversation. That is completely beyond the pale.

    I’m quite serious here. If you don’t support the right to be a juvenile, misogynist idiot in private conversation without being hounded from your job because of it, you don’t believe in freedom of speech. Actually, you barely even believe in a free society at all. If you still think that Peter Slipper did the right thing by resigning and that Tony Abbott did the right thing by tabling a motion to that effect, do us all a favour and take a hike to North Korea. This is not the sort of society I want to live in.

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