Tony Abbott's broken Indigenous promise and News Corp Breaking Bad

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Tony Abbott has broken his campaign promise to spend the first week of his prime ministership with the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land, so News Corp is now pretending he never made it. Managing editor David Donovan reports.

LAST NIGHT (22/9/13), I was quietly sitting at home with my family watching a DVD when I received an email from a bloke called Rex:

'Do I recall Tony Abbott promising during the recent election campaign that he would spend the first week of his term in office in an Aborigine community? Is this a broken promise, or is my memory playing tricks?'

It was an interesting question, because I also recalled hearing about this promise on ABC radio during the election campaign and, indeed, it receiving quite a bit of coverage in the media before the election. It was taken by many to show the vital importance Abbott puts on the issue of Indigenous affairs, something IA has had a significant amount of doubt about, as shown by this story, as well as this one.

As far as I was aware, Abbott had not spent the days since he was sworn in last week in an Indigenous community.

So, while watching the final episode of Breaking Bad (Series One), I sent out the following tweet:

I was astonished to find that, within a minute of me posting that tweet, the national political editor of News Corporation's Sydney Sunday masthead, the Sunday Telegraph, responding to me directly, denying Abbott had ever made this commitment:

I was intrigued by this. I don't follow Maiden and she doesn't follow me. So why was she going into bat for Abbott — and why so precipitously?

Anyway, as I said, I remembered hearing about this promise many times, so I did a quick search on the internet and came up with the ABC story where I recalled first hearing about it:

Surprisingly, Maiden claimed that this ABC report never happened.

So, I tweeted her an excerpt from the transcript of ABC PM, which stated (in part) the following [IA emphasis]:

SARA EVERINGHAM: At the annual Garma Indigenous culture festival organised by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, he announced a new Indigenous advisory council headed by the former ALP national president Warren Mundine.

He also promised that if the Coalition wins the election he'll spend his first week as prime minister with the Yolngu people in north-east Arnhem Land.

It seemed pretty clear cut to me: either Everingham lied or had it wrong – and no correction had ever been issued by Abbott or the ABC as far as I was aware – or Abbott had made this promise and broken it.

But Maiden still tried to claim there was no reference, even though I had given her one and from a highly credible source, the national broadcaster:

Making me even more suspicious, because in my experience ad hominem attacks generally signify a weak argument, Maiden then decided to question my commitment to Indigenous people:

Was I a candidate for prime minister at the last election and I'd forgotten? I have been awfully busy lately. Anyway, my love of our First People is well-known and IA spends a lot of time publishing stories about Indigenous matters.

Never mind that, Samantha went on swinging, calling me a crackpot and an embarrassment:

And that I was somehow out in the community peddling minsinformation:

Frankly, this lack of self awareness from a Daily Telegraph employee is what I find embarrassing, but never mind, according to the "fair" Maiden, I had been 'caught out pedalling [sic] bullshit':


Moving on, poor Sam wasn't helped when a tweet from Greens' Senator Rachel Siewert emerged confirming Everingham's account:

And she was helped even less when a document on the Garma website emerged:

Thanks Heather.

[Editors note (15/2/14): This press release now been removed from the Garma website, but here is a screenshop of the relevant part (click on the image to read the press release in full):

Now, before we go any further in the story, let's stop for a minute to count the people who have, so far, confirmed Abbott made the promise to spend a week in an Indigenous community: there's been the ABC's Sara Everingham, Senator Rachel Siewert and now the Garma festival people — I make that at least three.

Was that enough for Sam Maiden? Nope, not on your nelly!

Here's what she said about the Garma statement:

With "typos", huh? Hmmm... Is it just me, or is there just a subtle whiff of casual racism there?

According to Sam, the silly Aboriginals were probably just confused:

Maybe they didn't understand English too well, hey Sam?

Anyway, as you might expect, a speech made in front of hundreds of people is difficult to stuff back down the memory hole and so, before too long, friendly Aaron Bakota tweeted a video of the entire event.

Here is the exact quote from Abbott as he looked across at local Indigenous leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu:

"And why not, if you will permit me; why shouldn’t I, if you will permit me; spend my first week as prime minister, should that happen, on this, on your, country."

The crowd cheered and applauded, and no-one there could have taken that as anything other than a commitment by Tony Abbott to spend his first week as prime minister on Yolngu land.

To save you the trouble of tracking through the entire speech, here's the relevant bit:

At this point in the conversation, some saw it as maybe past time for Samantha to finally admit defeat and issue an apology:

Don't be silly! That's not the Limited News way. The Limited way is more about changing your story, deflecting and continuing to attack, attack and, most importantly, attack.

Excuse me while I throw up.

Then the problem somehow became, according to Sam, that I was some sort of 'inner-city hipster':

Which must make me the world's first 42 year-old hipster from Dingo in Central Queensland.

Samantha Maiden has still not apologised. And on the night in question, despite everything that had occurred, she continued questioning my integrity — even strangely criticising my research skills:

For the record, that initial innocent tweet as I watched TV was the first time I had ever mentioned this commitment by Abbott anywhere. It seems that my "research", which was simply engaging with people on Twitter in an open and honest way to find the truth, was infinitely more effective than relying on Samantha Maiden's arrogant assertions, obvious distortions, snarky insults, pathetic smears and, let's face it, outright lies.

My attitude towards Maiden now is best expressed by one of my last tweets to her last night:

In any case, the question is not really why Sam Maiden lied; the question is why she was so determined to support Abbott against all the available evidence?

As George Bludger said:

Sam calls me a conspiracy theorist – over and over again, in fact – but, you see, something is not really a theory when everyone knows it's true:

You can follow David Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. (Following Samantha Maiden is not recommended.)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License


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