The Australian Federal Police announced this morning it will not launch an investigation into the Tent Embassy demonstration on Australia Day that resulted in Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott being evacuated from a Canberra restaurant and caused mass media hysteria. Abbott had been calling for an AFP inquiry after news that one of Gillard’s staffers played a role in instigating the protests.
One of Gillard’s press advisers, Tony Hodges, decided a response from the Tent Embassy would be appropriate after hearing Abbott’s Australia Day comments about the relevance of the Tent Embassy. Hodges called ACT union leader Kim Sattler and repeated Abbott’s comments, telling Sattler that Abbott was at an event just a few hundred metres away from the embassy. Sattler called at least two people at the Tent Embassy and told them Abbott had said the embassy needed to “move on”.
After Gillard learned of Hodges’ role in alerting protesters to Abbott’s whereabouts, he was forced to resign.
The whole event reflects badly on Gillard, says Michelle Grattan at The Age:
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“The affair has thrown more questions over the PM’s credibility, reinforced criticisms of her office, and left her waiting for the federal police response to the opposition’s demand for an inquiry.
Coming after her broken promise to Andrew Wilkie on pokies, which has made the government’s position shakier in Parliament, this is a further blight on the start of her year.”
The actions by Tent Embassy protesters have destroyed any chance of constitutional changes, argues Paul Sheehan in The Sydney Morning Herald:
“At least the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra has finally achieved one constructive thing in its 40 years as a moral eyesore: it helped kill off the proposed amendment to enshrine racial preference in the Australian constitution.
That proposed amendment is now dead. Everything else will merely be its funeral. The Australian public will not enshrine special privileges for any group on the basis of race, especially after the events of the past few days …
… And what a pack of gutless wonders contributed to this debacle.”
An AFP investigation is a worthy idea, says The Australian‘s editorial:
“The events surrounding the tent embassy protest on Australia Day have become marred in claims and counter-claims about who said what to whom and why, leaving many questions unanswered as to how events transpired and who is to blame.
What this murky and undignified affair has exposed is the unseemly underbelly of Australian politics where the dark arts of political skulduggery, deception and deceit are marshalled by political apparatchiks and activists to advance or undermine one politician over another.
It is why the call yesterday by Tony Abbott for a full Australian Federal Police investigation, which may be able to determine how Julia Gillard and the Opposition Leader came to be put in such a volatile and potentially dangerous situation, is one that should be welcomed.”
The lack of arrests of Tent Embassy protesters just shows the special treatment Indigenous Australians get, declares Henry Ergas in The Australian:
“According to Fred Chaney, the rioters at the Aboriginal tent embassy have no more in common with most Aborigines than the Cronulla rioters have with most other Australians.
There is an obvious sense in which Chaney is right. But there is also a fundamental difference: at Cronulla, law-breakers were arrested and charged in large numbers; at the tent embassy, they were not.
Nor is there any question as to why this is so: the tent embassy rioters were Aboriginal, or claimed to be; the Cronulla rioters were not.”
This is a media farce, argues blogger The Piping Shrike:
“In reality, both Hodges and Gillard were doing much the same thing, both using the indigenous protestors to cover up problems elsewhere. Hodges was trying to stir up the Tent Embassy to go for Abbott, following in what is now a well-worn tactic of a government incapable of offending anyone with an advertising budget, of making Abbott the issue. Gillard was making claims of violent demonstrators to justify a security fiasco from which she came off not that well.
Meanwhile indigenous demonstrators must no doubt be thinking this is all about them — rather than, as usual, merely in the way of a state out of control.”