The Australia Day event at The Lobby in Canberra has become all about Tony Hodges, Kim Sattler, Barbara Shaw, Michael Anderson, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, the police and a bunch of idiots who saw fit to hijack the day. It wasn’t supposed to be about them.
Our political leaders had gathered at the restaurant to bestow the new National Emergency Medal on 26 Australians who, paid or unpaid, did extraordinary work during the Victorian Bushfires and Queensland floods.
In her speech before the event was hijacked by an appalling set of bad decisions the Prime Minister said: “Today we award these Medals to a group of Australians who inspired us with their courage and service during two of the most devastating summers of natural disaster Australia has ever witnessed: the Victorian bushfires of 2009 and the Queensland floods and cyclone of December 2010 and January 2011.”
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So we now know who is responsible for putting Julia Gillard into the most peril she’s been in since she became Prime Minister - her own office.
A senior member of the Prime Minister’s team has tonight resigned after it emerged he was the one who tipped off an Aboriginal Tent Embassy contact that Tony Abbott was in the Lobby restaurant yesterday - information that led to the Prime Minister being dragged to her car in undignified scenes that are now world news.
Tony Hodges, who was the one trawling the Press Gallery yesterday afternoon trying to sheet home blame for the ugly scenes to the Opposition Leader, is tonight no longer working for the PM. If it wasn’t so disgusting it would be funny. This came a day after a member of senior Cabinet Minister Anthony Albanese’s staff saw fit to send his boss off to the Press Club armed with a raft of fantastic quotes from a Hollywood movie.
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Julia Gillard should be congratulated for maintaining even a shred of dignity after being dragged minus a shoe through a crowd at a speed she couldn’t keep up with. Most Australians were horrified by the images from the steps of the Lobby restaurant, and in turn would have been relieved when a composed PM, with two fresh shoes on, reassured everyone from outside The Lodge that she was fine.
She should never have been placed in that terrible position in the first place, and there are many questions unanswered about how and why she was.
1. The location for yesterday’s inaugural emergency services medal presentation was poorly chosen.
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The Aboriginal Tent Embassy has never engendered any public respect. It has never done anything to bring black and white Australia together. It is sadly fitting then that the 40th anniversary of this illegal assortment of galvo humpies was celebrated with an unprecedented outburst of violence which saw our Prime Minister being dragged along the ground and our Opposition Leader behind a riot shield.
The scenes in Canberra represented a new low in the four-decade history of this politically useless eyesore. If it was the intention of its inhabitants to draw attention to the plight of black Australians, they instead invited nothing but scorn.
The irrational nature of their conduct was captured in a single quote from Tent Embassy founder Michael Anderson yesterday: “To hell with the government and the courts.”
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I was there. The crowd was screaming, sitting right up against the sideline in fold-out chairs. There was lots of catching up and discussing the state of play, and lots and lots of family and kids.
All in all, there were over 15,000 spectators, more than some NRL games and certainly a better crowd than our Commonwealth Games athletes have been getting in Delhi.
So what is a white woman’s view of the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout? Well, it’s a bloody awesome weekend. This was not my first and will not be my last.
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Three weeks ago, in a small town on the NSW coast, a man and his mate were both stabbed during a brawl.
The man died.
That brutal act sparked a family feud. The small, tight-knit community, sodden with anger and grief, was then faced with the violent fallout. Chaos reigned. Up to 50 people took to the streets, wielding weapons and venting their fury on cars, houses, people. For two days they raged.
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The most dispiriting intellectual spectacle of the past decade would have to be the so-called “history wars”, where academics, politicians and commentators on the extreme left and right battled for domination in telling the story of modern Australia.
The history wars were essentially an exercise both in understatement and overstatement. The right-wingers tried to pretend that Australian history was nothing other than a happy story involving the orderly and humane progression of European civilisation on these shores, where no indigenous children were ever stolen, no families ever broken up, and whatever dislocation or hardship Aborigines experienced was at worst an accident, brought about by the purest of motives.
The left-wingers retaliated by branding the conservatives as liars, and telling a version of Australian history which reads like a long string of human rights abuses, with repeated acts of savagery against a wholly peaceful indigenous populace.
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It’s the kind of thing that would get you pelted with stones in the town square in less civilised countries. So as a celebration of our freedoms I’ll say it. Australia Day is a load of rubbish.
And it is increasingly celebrating the worst aspects of our national character, where rather than being a day for thoughtful reflection on our history and our values, it’s starting to look more a half-witted contest to see how much meat you can eat and how much grog you can sink.
This isn’t a wowser’s warning against barbecues and beer. Far from it. I’m a keen supporter of binge-drinking, I’ve never met a meat product I didn’t adore, and I think the likes of NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon should quit their day jobs and seek formal employment as nannies, such is their enthusiasm for treating adults like babies and criminalising fun.
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This article was written for The Australian ahead of Australia Day last year and is reprinted here.
MICK Dodson invites us - civilly and without a trace of anger - to open a conversation about January 26. It’s an indigenous perspective one can grasp immediately.
Aborigines lived here undisturbed for maybe 60,000 years, until one particular January 26 began their dispossession, and the lesser-known story of their resistance. It has always been my view, though, that we can make this part of the commemoration. After all Anzac Day recalls a tragedy, yet is part of our big story. And we remember it with respect, nonetheless.
Why is January 26 worth celebrating? There are many reasons.
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