The Wizard of Oz that is our media scrum have continued their colour and light show about the “riot” that never was, now focusing on what unionist Kim Sattler said or didn’t say to organisers of the Tent Embassy. Mind you, it’s a curious debate, considering that what was actually said by Tony Abbott was on TV that morning and at least one media outlet reported his comments in this way:
However, the question of who said who and who said what to whom – usually a narrative structure more at home in a daytime soap than Federal politics – continues. This morning, to her audience of capital city News Limited readers, Samantha Maiden reported that Sattler “disputed” Julia Gillard’s account of events. The language of the article is intriguing. Problem is, that AAP have distributed a story in response to Maiden’s claims, where Sattler is reported to say that Maiden’s story was “inaccurate”. Who to believe? Here is Maiden’s story –
THE unionist named by Julia Gillard as the go-between who ignited the Australia Day fiasco has disputed the Prime Minister’s version of events.
Kim Sattler last night said she had been forced into hiding in Canberra after Ms Gillard took the dramatic step of identifying her at a live press conference as the person who tipped off Aboriginal protesters.
But Ms Sattler, a staunch Labor Party supporter and secretary of Unions ACT, said she was “the messenger who is being shot” and that she had only repeated information given to her by Ms Gillard’s then press secretary, Tony Hodges.
“I spoke to Tony Hodges on the phone,” Ms Sattler told the Sunday Herald Sun.
“He mentioned that Tony Abbott had made a statement about the embassy, that it shouldn’t exist at all.”
Sattler said: “He (Hodges) said, ‘You might want to get someone to respond to that’. He said, ‘By the way, he is next door at the Lobby at the function’.”
These all appear as direct quotations from Ms Sattler. On the face of it, the quotations seem to place blame on Tony Hodges and infer that he did distort Abbott’s words in the phone conversation – contradicting Gillard’s account from yesterday. Yet in the AAP story that appeared later in the morning, we have this direct quotation from Ms Sattler
In a statement on Sunday, Ms Sattler said the News Ltd reports were “inaccurate”.
“As I said in my statement yesterday, Tony Hodges from the prime minister’s office told me what Tony Abbott had said – that people should `move on’ from the Tent Embassy,” she said in a statement on Sunday.
“Yesterday the prime minister gave an accurate account of my role.”
It’s a bit puzzling which “Kim Sattler” we are to believe – the one who said to Samantha Maiden (or another journalist in News Limited) that she was “the messenger who is being shot” and was told that Abbott didn’t want the embassy to exist at all – or the Kim Sattler who was told just what Abbott actually said and has been accurately represented by Gillard. It’s a pretty important question, considering that the answer leaves us with the conclusion that Gillard was deceiving us or was telling the truth. Timing is still everything in the newspaper media and many more will have read Maiden’s account than AAPs.
The story will continue to have life well into the next week – journalists, opposition politicians and news organisations are enjoying the colour and movement. Note the dramatic “going into hiding” at the top of Maiden’s piece. Also, we have Christopher Pyne conflating the issue as only Pyne can, by saying to Sky News – “The prime minister’s office has verballed Tony Abbott. A riot has occurred as a consequence” and “This is the most serious security scare an Australian prime minister has faced since the Fraser government.”
We have also had the ABC weighing into it by putting up an article at 1pm this afternoon that begins with the sensational headline “Union boss ‘contradicting’ PM in protest fiasco” and following it with the all too frequent first line “The Opposition Says” –
The Opposition says the union official at the centre of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy Australia Day protests has contradicted the Prime Minister’s version of what sparked the action.
A contrast with the AAP story and its “Yesterday the prime minister gave an accurate account of my role.”
One of the more concerning elements of media spin about this, though, comes in the middle of the Maiden piece – with a poll question.