Crikey Says

Oct 12, 2012

Crikey says: a witch-hunt Labor created

Politics went to strange places this week. Crikey reveals why we spent the week talking about shellfish, and Bernard Keane tries valiantly to refocus the agenda. Guy Rundle is in place for the vice-presidential debate. And is the Australia Post boss worth more than the PM?

We've heard the joke. The one said by comedian Allan Billison at the union function attended by senior Labor figures like Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard (although she'd left by the time the joke was said). It offends not in its s-xism, and not in its language, which does not match the gutter talk of the Slipper texts. It's not funny. In the slightest. We're not going to repeat it, and nor has any other media outlet. It's hurtful to those involved, and may be defamatory. Swan was on ABC Radio this morning. He said the joke was "inappropriate" and he had told the union so. When did he call them? "The next morning." When the next morning? "Early." Before journalists found out about it? "Well before." Why didn't he leave the function? "I was the guest speaker." What does this say about his judgment? "I in retrospect should have conveyed my opinion on the night." Has the government set a new benchmark it can't reach? "No, I don't believe so." Actually, yes. And nobody could reach that benchmark. The Coalition line is Swan and his colleagues should have left. Or perhaps charged the stage, tackled the comedian and demanded an apology while immediately expressing their own regret for, well, breathing the same air as the comedian. It's a witch-hunt demanding ridiculous standards of behaviour. And it's exactly the same charge Labor made of the Coalition frontbenchers who just happened to be in the same room as a vile shock jock mouthing off about the Prime Minister. Labor brought this onto itself. It's possible to separate a worthy debate on s-xism and aggressive public debate from the farcical way some MPs want to play it on the ground. Gillard's parliamentary attack on Tony Abbott in the name of misogyny was a powerful moment. Days later we're stuck talking about guilt by the vaguest of associations. Politics went to strange places this week. It ends in the strangest.

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4 thoughts on “Crikey says: a witch-hunt Labor created

  1. cairns50

    obviously the editor at crikey doesnt get it either

    labor didnt create or start this so called witch hunt, using that title is a poor one from you anyway mr or mrs editor

    this has been festering since tony abbott was a minister and the previous government and then spat the dummy out when julia gillard became pm after forming a minority government

    what alan jones said brought everything to a head, and exposed abbott and many in the liberal party for what they are

    sexist misoginyst people

    julia girllards speech in parliament the other day exposed abbott for what he is

  2. robinw

    Absurd isn’t it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been a situation either as an observer or in conversation where I’ve cringed because what is being said is rude, offensive or just plain objectionable. Sometimes I have managed to escape, a few times I have objected but mainly one just puts up with it because it is usually expedient to do so while disagreeing inwardly and cursing myself for my cowardice. I’ll put money on that there would be some at the Jones presentation and at that ALP do that were in the same predicament. Expedience is a terrible master.

  3. John Bennetts

    So, which of Abbott’s statements as recounted by Gillard were actually OK after all?

    The bar for public utterances must be raised considerably. A distinction must be made between utterances BY a politician and utterances by one ASSOCIATED WITH a politician by someone else, including by hired hands such as entertainers/comedians.

    Take-away message: PR must be managed by those with skin in the game and not left to the whims and gaffes of comedians (Union meeting) or other entertainers (NSW Young Libs Dinner).

  4. Mark from Melbourne

    I’d suggest there is a quite a big difference between a comedian making a bad taste joke and Jones’ very personal attack on the Prime Minister.

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