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Response to egging of Senator Fraser Anning sends all the wrong signals

By Brendan O'Reilly - posted Monday, 15 April 2019

To assess the proportionality of the police response, it is useful to look at related cases.

In 2017 Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, had a lemon meringue pie smashed in his face at a business breakfast event in Perth (in protest against Joyce's promotion of same-sex marriage). The pie was launched by a man in his 60s wearing a business suit. Magistrate Greg Smith described the attack as "appalling" and said it was designed to humiliate Mr Joyce. The man pleaded guilty to charges of assault and trespass, and was fined $3,600.

In 2001 at Rhyl, North Wales, a shocking brawl took place after then British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, got off his campaign bus, the Prescott Express. Protestor Craig Evans chucked an egg at Mr Prescott at almost point blank range as the Labour politician walked past. In fury, Prescott swung round and punched the egg thrower in the jaw. The protestor managed to pin Mr Prescott down on a small wall as they wrestled each other. In the end, Police interviewed Prescott but decided not to prosecute him. Evans spent a few hours in police custody but no action was taken against him either.


Then there was the egging of British PM David Cameron during the 2010 election campaign. A 16 year-old threw an egg that struck Mr Cameron on the right shoulder as he visited the student's college. The student, Tyler Dixon, was expelled from school despite his apology letter being accepted by the new Prime Minister. Devon and Cornwall Police let the matter go because no damage was caused and no complaint was made.

My assessment of official and community reactions to the egging of Fraser Anning is that "egg-boy" has been treated leniently by authorities, and has been inappropriately celebrated by parts of the community. (I don't think he deserved a criminal conviction but he should not have gotten off scot-free either.) I do not object to the West Footscray man being charged for kicking, (assaults on the person are generally treated too leniently) but if he has to face charges, so too should "egg-boy". As far as Fraser Anning is concerned, hedid what a large proportion of men would also do as a reflex action to an assault.

The overall gist of reaction to the egging of Fraser Anning (whereby many elevated the perpetrator almost to social-hero status) seems to suggest that "egg-boy's" actions were somehow justified because Fraser Anning made offensive and inappropriate statements. The problem with this reaction is that, if it was ok for "egg-boy" to act so, then it is ok for anyone else to do the same to persons (especially public figures) they dislike or disagree with. Are conservatives entitled to egg people like Richard Di Natale or Bill Shorten? I don't think so.

Freedom of speech is another issue. While many of us find much of Senator Anning's language and views insensitive and offensive, he is still entitled to express his views as long as they are not slanderous/libellous and he does not advocate injury to others.

At the risk of being controversial, it seems to me that Anning's statement about the cause of the Christchurch massacre may have been at least partially valid in terms of motive. Brenton Tarrant did say in his published manifestothat his reasons for the disgusting attack were to "show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands, our homelands are our own and that, as long as a white man still lives, they will NEVER conquer our lands and they will never replace our people".

While this may explain Tarrant's hostility to Muslim immigration, Anning left out the most important consideration, namely that it required a character with no respect for human life to undertake such mass killings. It is one thing to oppose migration from Islamic countries but this is leagues away from justifying the mass killing of innocent people.


Overall, I can understand protestors, who say that they deplore violence of any kind. There is, however, a certain hypocrisy when people of political commitment condone violence, when the perpetrator is one of their own.

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About the Author

Brendan OReilly is a retired commonwealth public servant with a background in economics and accounting. He is currently pursuing private business interests.

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