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Abbott’s blunder

By David Donovan - posted Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tony Abbott again showed again why he is not fit to be the Australian prime minister last week when, during a trip to England, he offended British politicians along with Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader both went abroad last week. Tony Abbott flew to Britain for a British Conservative Party conference and, at about the same time, Julia Gillard flew to Afghanistan, on her way to Europe, to meet with our forces in that country. In a press conference in Afghanistan, Gillard revealed that Abbott had been invited to accompany her to meet with Australian troops.

In Birmingham at the conference, Abbott explained his decision:


“I thought it was important to do this trip justice, I didn't want to get here entirely in a jetlagged condition.”

Understandably, this statement was poorly received by serving soldiers and their families. One parent, Mrs Ward, told the Herald Sun:

"It's all about him, isn't it? I think they need all the support they can get, because it's a hell of a place and their morale is knocked down pretty easy, so it hurts when people say they can't be bothered ... Our boys are putting their lives on the line, the least he could do is go over there and say 'thank you'."

Beyond the public outrage, Abbott's "jet lag" explanation quickly began to unravel after the Prime Minister was reported as saying that she had quite easily managed to get eight hours sleep before her official engagements in Europe on Tuesday. In fact, Abbott was not due to meet the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, until Wednesday, well after Julia Gillard had met with a host of EU officials in Brussels.

It should be remembered that Tony Abbott has given himself the extraordinary luxury of being able to make things up without fearing censure. He gave himself this licence earlier this year when he told Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report:

"I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say, but sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks."


No surprises then, when speaking to the ABC's UK correspondent Alexandra Kirk on the ABC's AM program on Wednesday, Abbott now claimed to have misrepresented himself:

"Look it was a very poor choice of words on my part and I apologise if I've created the wrong impression and I apologise if I've given offence because the last thing I would want to do is give offence to the families of our troops."

Kirk asked Abbott why, then, had he given the jet-lag excuse in the first place, to which Abbott offered the following answer:

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About the Author

David Donovan, 40, is the editor of the online journal of Australian identity and democracy,, and a vice chair of the Australian Republican Movement.

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