Tuesday, 1 October 2013

So did Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott break a promise made to the Yolngu community?

On 22 September 2013 what is best described in the vernacular as a flaming row broke out on Twitter between journalists David Donovan and Samantha Maiden.

Despite this eyewitness tweet (below) being there for all to see, Ms. Maiden continued to assert that in August 2013 Tony Abbott did not state that he would spend his first week as Australian Prime Minister in the Yolngu community in north-east Arnhem Land.

Now, as Abbott was not speaking from written notes at the Garma Festival, I'm sure he didn't regard this as a firm promise because in the past he has told the world that people should only believe his carefully prepared scripted remarks.

However, it is obvious that those hearing and reporting on this speech took it as a commitment to return in his first week as prime minister and, as he made no effort to correct this misleading impression - he just accepted the audience applause - one must assume it was intentional on his part.

So unfortunately for the Sunday Telegraph National Political Editor’s credibility, David Donovan was essentially correct and despite the name calling she indulged in Samantha Maiden was hair-splittingly wrong.

Here is the exact quote preserved for posterity in a YouTube video:

“Why shouldn’t I, if you will permit me, spend my first week as prime minister, should that happen, on this, on your country.” [YouTube,http://youtu.be/F1OKujvU2wQ,then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at 21:27 minutes]

* Thank you to John Fraser for sending North Coast Voices a link to the Independent Australia post which outlined the Twitter exchange


As for “Tony’s” commitment, Denise agreed Abbott had definitely made it, but characterised it as merely a “slip of the lip”. Denise said that when “Tony” made his promise, she remembers looking across at his chief of staff (Peta Credlin) for confirmation. According to Bowden, Credlin immediately and emphatically shook her head and told her Abbott would be “far too busy in his first week”. [Independent Australia,3 October 2013]

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