14 June, 2013

How to do damage control

This week provided a study in contrasts of how to manage an embarrassing story from the Liberal Party and the Australian Defence Force.

When news broke of a menu from a Liberal Party fundraising dinner which made offensive sexual references to the prime minister, the member who the dinner was raising funds for, Mal Brough, apologised and Liberal leader Tony Abbott condemned it. Rightly so.

Then, that evening, the restaurant owner claimed that the menu was an in-house joke that was never distributed to attendees. That set Brough up to deny on Thursday ever having seen the menu which he apologised for the day before and which, as Latika Bourke tweeted, he was aware of when she asked him about it. Tony Abbott then said it was time for everyone to move on, despite the fact that the Liberals' story of the menu never making it out of the kitchen just doesn't add up. It's also despite the fact that Tony Abbott had a fit of the vapours last year over sexist text messages sent by Peter Slipper, who Mal Brough is running against. It was Abbott's opportunistic outburst about Slipper's texts that led directly to Julia Gillard's misogyny speech. Whether it was distributed or not, was this menu a window into the Liberals' minds?

So the opposition is left looking like a bunch of headless chooks. That's how not to do it.

Here's how to do it:
A video made by army chief Lieutenant General David Morrison went viral last night. It's a response to new allegations of sexual abuse in the defence force. In it, he tells any serving soldier who would participate in, or even tolerate sexual and sexist abuse to get out and find another job. He didn't try to deny the problem. He didn't try to rationalise or minimise the problem. He spoke directly to the perpetrators and told them they were not welcome in his organisation.

And today, everyone loves the ADF. By confronting the situation and not insulting our intelligence by telling us it isn't happening, or accusing critics of playing gender politics, he did far more for the ADF's image than a year of weaseling and spin from Tony Abbott could do for his party. Australians know when someone is bullshitting. Lt Gen Morrison knows this. Mr Abbott still doesn't.

Watch and learn, Tony


  1. I'm just as concerned over Joe Hockey tweet and the lack of attention it received. Tony Abbott should have discipline Mr Hockey over advocating a PM should Not be shown respect.(Let alone aiming that tweet and behaviour towards a woman).
    Because if Abbott becomes the PM he also can now be prepared to accept No Respect and because of having daughters he shouldn't have stayed quiet on how women should be treated.


    1. I wasn't aware of that one. There are so many insulting comments from the Coalition and their supporters that it's easy to lose track of them all.

      They will reap what they've sown, one way or another.