I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the lead story around the nation’s media – well, we should have a media environment where I would be surprised, although obviously we don’t – but, come on. Does anyone seriously think Tony Abbott was suggesting, amongst a group of soldiers in Afghanistan who clearly were not offended by his words, that he was indifferent to their deaths? That it was just “shit” that “happens”?

What a pathetic beatup.


Well, except for the weird bit where, following questioning, Tony sort of freezes and stands there for almost a minute, nodding menacingly, while his brain apparently reboots – that’s kind of disconcerting in an alternative Prime Minister.

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But the way the remarks themselves have been reported is extremely dodgy. Abbott was not saying that he didn’t care if the soldier died – he was saying it wasn’t the fault of other soldiers, that they didn’t fail to provide support, that the death was just one of those incredibly tragic things that happen in war. He was talking to adults who know perfectly well that war is dangerous, and adults who have in fact bravely accepted the real risk of death or serious injury – not children who think war’s a matter of popping overseas, pressing some buttons and then coming home unscathed. He was supporting them, instead of minimising the magnitude of their commitment. The context was obviously completely different from how it’s being portrayed by the hacks – as you can tell from the reaction of the soldiers around Abbott when he speaks.

Yet it is this, not Tony and his party’s actual dodgy policies, that our commentators speculate is going to damage Abbott’s leadership the most. This expression of understanding of the soldiers’ plight is more newsworthy and more damaging than a national leader campaigning against wealthy Australians paying a flood levy to help their fellow country men and women rebuild their communities.

And the national media complain about politicians treating them with contempt! I wonder why.

PS Then again, Tony did bask in the ridiculous glow provided by the national media when he was filmed, on that very same trip, looking all tough whilst firing machine guns heroically at the mountains – maybe the lesson here is, live by the crappy national media, die by the crappy national media?

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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