One politician we’re all happy to belt around
One of the many life lessons we have been taught by former South Australian treasurer Kevin Foley is that it is best to wear a disguise when buying hotpants for your girlfriend.
Earlier this year it was reported that Foley had bought some raunchy undergarments for his sheila du jour from an Adelaide boutique on his return from an overseas trip. The story emerged from the store where he made the purchase, proving that the bums who were happy to take the bloke’s money were equally happy to get straight on the telephone to a gossip columnist to peddle their invasive little story.
Despite being a very good treasurer and a likeable if flawed human being, it appears to be Kevin Foley’s lot in life that no form of ridicule or no level of rumour-mongering is off limits. His treatment by the public, sections of the media and his political opponents following his assault outside an Adelaide bar, even at the noteworthy hour of 4am, is something which we should reflect on now that the truth has emerged following the guilty plea by his assailant in the Magistrates Court this week.
That process of reflection should begin with the viewing of the CCTV footage on the Adelaide Now website which shows Foley on the receiving end of a king-hit which could have cost him his life. That’s no exaggeration, and if you have seen the video, you will agree. It’s not just a punch.
It is a punch with a run-up. As police prosecutor Snr Sgt Fred Wojtasik told the court, the hit was comparable to the single blow inflicted on cricket legend David Hookes by a brutish Melbourne bouncer in 2004. Had Foley’s assailant connected square-on, the court reports on the case could have been accompanied by an obituary.
Rewind to November 2010, when the assault occurred, and the discussion around the Foley attack went to nothing other than what Foley had done to deserve it. There was a presumption of complicity, based on Foley’s deserved reputation as a bit of a ratbag who like getting on the squirt and chasing skirt. If anyone had belted Foley it followed that the obvious and indeed only question was whether he had been mouthing off, going the grope, or both.
When Foley was allegedly assaulted again in a subsequent, separate incident, discussion of which is off limits because it is still before the courts, the former treasurer was memorably asked on ABC morning radio whether maybe he should just get out of politics. It was put to him that his life was a circus.
Many listeners complained about the interview, and understandably so, as it appeared to suggest that any public figure facing random harassment or abuse or violence should resolve the situation by folding their tent and returning to a life of anonymity.
The key element to this week’s hearing in the Magistrate’s Court is that it had absolutely nothing to do with Kevin Foley being a public figure anyway, and everything to do with the assailant being sloshed and having what the defence lawyers (in typical exculpatory fashion) like to call a “brain snap”. If any other member of the public was on the street that morning, and happened to intervene in that argument between the couple, only for a drunken and violent bystander to misunderstand, they too could have wound up in the casualty ward.
The quote which summed it up best was again from Snr Sgt Wojtasik:
Despite much of what has been said in the public arena, this has never been a prosecution about Kevin Foley the politician. This has been a prosecution about Kevin Foley, a member of the community and a citizen who was entitled to be walking down a public street and going about his business without being assaulted by a total stranger.
Kevin Foley has on occasions been seen around the traps in an advanced state of refreshment. His horizontal pursuits have been the subject of tittle-tattle in a city light on for celebrity. He has publicly discussed his fight with depression, talked about his regrets over the personal choices he has made, his sorrow at his failed marriage.
He has certainly given the underemployed Liberal members of the Upper House something to talk about behind their hands as they dine on subsidised stroganoff in State Parliament’s Blue Room.
Those who argue that as treasurer he should never have been on the streets at 4am may have something of a point, albeit one which I’d only grant on tactical grounds. The old maxim that nothing good ever happens at the pub after 2am anyway might be something of a start for Foley as he sorts himself out. If he really wants to get properly pissed into the small hours he can always go home to a six-pack of Bundy cans.
Beyond that my personal view is that the guy is free to behave as he likes. If people want nothing other than the strictest moral rectitude and a life-long commitment to temperance in their politicians, maybe they should move to Kabul.
And anyway – as this case panned out, it became obvious that the problem here is not public figures who are out on the razz, but vicious little maggots, not dissimilar from the one who felled Hookesy, who can’t control their misplaced anger. They, not Kevin Foley, are the problem here.
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