The Menu Nobody Saw

Yesterday, we learned about an offensive menu produced for a fundraising dinner held by the Queensland Liberal National Party to assist their star candidate for the seat of Fisher, Mal Brough. At that time, Brough apologised for that menu, which he said had been prepared by someone outside the LNP. Joe Hockey, his guest of honour, said he hadn’t seen it, but condemned it anyway – and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott condescended to say it was ‘tacky’.

By 8pm last night, however, the story had changed. The restaurant owner, who that afternoon had been unable to recall even holding the event, suddenly remembered intricate details. He was the author of that document, he declared. He’d done it as a ‘private joke’, and no one had seen it except his son. Somehow, that ‘fake’ menu was left lying around where one of his staff could get at it, and that person posted it on Facebook ‘for political purposes’.

What was truly amazing, though, was that after that statement, Brough declared that he hadn’t seen the menu, after all. He’d simply apologised because he thought it was the right thing to do. It’s all the fault of the person who exposed the menu, who Brough insinuated was untrustworthy (claiming the man had been sacked from his job at the restaurant) and pursuing a shadowy political agenda. Oh, and in the space of one interview, he went from saying he never saw the menu, to declaring that the menu wasn’t even there.

Frankly, this story is utterly implausible.

Follow me here. This is what we’re being asked to believe:

A restaurant owner would have us believe he’d suffered a memory lapse that caused him to forget catering a political fund-raising dinner with the Shadow Treasurer as its guest of honour.

That same owner later remembered not only the event, but also creating, formatting and publishing the offending document – a task that would have taken a good deal of time out of a busy restaurateur’s day.

The document – apparently a private joke – was never shown to any of the guests.

The document was then effectively stolen by a staff member, who ‘leaked’ it for ‘political purposes’.

We should all just accept that explanation and move on.

That’s the meal we’re being asked to swallow (if you’ll excuse the analogy) – and which the media appears to accept without question.

So let’s question it, shall we?

Let’s accept for the moment that the owner did create that menu, and that it was never distributed. Where, then, is the menu that was used on the night? Restaurants don’t commonly throw away the menus they draw up for special events; they’re a valuable resource, especially if the client is (or may become) a regular.

Even if that menu has disappeared, where are the chef’s notes? Where are the receipts for the ingredients purchased for the evening? Either this restaurant has the worst office organisation in Australia, or someone’s being selective with the facts.

Then there’s the creation of the offending menu itself. It wasn’t scribbled on a piece of paper; that took time, and at least a little thought – not to mention a few clicks. Go to Google Images, type in ‘KFC Gillard’ and have a quick browse – but be prepared. All that work, for a ‘joke’ that the owner says he shared only with his son. If that’s really the case, why go to all the trouble? He could have saved himself a lot of time by simply having a conversation.

And finally, what about Brough’s statement? Yesterday there was no ambiguity; Brough had apparently seen the menu and knew it was not prepared by an LNP member. Today, he says he didn’t see the menu at all.

Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? In 24 hours, one person’s regained detailed memories of an event that took place months ago, while another appears to have forgotten what he said the day before.

No, there’s just not a lot of credibility in this new ‘explanation’. The story keeps changing, and at least one of the parties (Brough) has form in giving misleading statements. It’s all a little bit convenient.

It’s probable that the owner did create the menu, but it’s simply unbelievable that it was kept away from the guests. At the very least, we know there was one printed copy – and what’s more likely? That it was shown to one person and then left lying around for someone to steal (since it was allegedly ‘private’), or that it did the rounds of at least the most important guests? Remember, Brough did admit to seeing the menu yesterday.

This attempt to make the issue go away is ham-fisted at best. It’s just one in a long series of incidents at Coalition (or Coalition-friendly) events where the Prime Minister has been the target of ‘jokes’ and insults that can only be described as repugnant. No amount of backpedalling, cries of ‘we knew nothing about this!’ and claims that this is some underhanded government strategy can make the story more credible.

What is giving this story traction and credibility is that no one in the mainstream media is asking the right questions. No one is following up on the restaurant employee who said they saw the menu out in the dining room. No one is challenging the owner to prove his claims, or even pressing him on why he changed his story. And no one is pinning Brough to the wall for his categorical statements yesterday. We’re just being told, over and over, the new story.

To carry the food analogy one step too far, I don’t like being spoon-fed – it’s lazy journalism, and it’s insulting to the people who look to the media for answers.

It’s a little difficult to get those answers when there’s a wall between people like Brough and the rest of us – but at least we can ask the questions. We shouldn’t simply accept the word of a man known to be elastic with the truth, or a man unwilling to provide proof for a frankly unbelievable story.

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28 Responses to The Menu Nobody Saw

  1. Victoria says:

    Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers
    and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have
    done a extraordinary job!

    • JenniferGJ says:

      Can we follow or join you? I am a female in my mid-fifties living in Tony Abbott’s electorate and overwhelmed by the attitudes of those who voted for him.

  2. Ant Manton says:

    Who cares?!

  3. To be devil’s advocate, Brough did say that he assumed the original story to be true therefore apologised, but only saw the document because of social media images flying around. As the restaurant owner I’d be so mortified that it got out that I’d also deny any knowledge of the event until it became unavoidable – no big surprises there on the initial denial. As the blogger says, there would be a bunch of employees an eager journo could pester – so the fact that there’s be nobody saying “actually, they were distributed on the night” is a stronger an argument for this being a beat-up than it is for the “no smoke without fire” position. The fact the original poster, who clearly did post the image for political reasons, hasn’t come forward and said “no, it was distributed” also makes it look like Brough is clean. Of course, until that person steps forward and explains themselves, it’s all speculation.

  4. Louise says:

    Its stupid and incredible that something so small could be blown up to be considered so important. Politicians are made fun of all the time, but somehow we can’t because there is a female at the helm? God forbid I’m sure rubbery figures puppets would be banned in 2013 too ….. And that;s IF everyone is lying and it really was used as the menu ….

    I think we need a blue tie brigade.

    • Jazz says:

      It’s not ‘small’ – I like a good dig at a politician as much as the next person, but based on their policies and silly things they have said or done – lampooning NOT disgusting sexist slurs. The Liberal party is run by a bunch of bullies. I am ashamed to be Australian recently as we let this go on with a seeming lack of concern over what kind of values these kinds of acts and comments stem from.And these are the potential future leaders of our country.

      • JenniferGJ says:

        Jazz, I agree. So we stand up and say no now. Every day in every way, and at the coming federal election.

  5. Geoff Burmester says:

    I’m a designer too, and agree that it’s a simple but professional bit of typesetting.
    The copy has certainly been given a thorough look over. Most menus contain a few howlers; this one’s pretty good.
    I doubt it’s been offset printed; you’d get that result putting a bit of fancy stock through any decent office copier/printer.
    Then we come to the text itself …
    The references are just too specific; who’s going to go out of their way to single out Simon Crean?
    Then there’s the stuff about the Greens and the Liberal amount of wine …
    A specially created menu disparaging the ALP and the Greens, for a small gathering of LNP diners/potential donors, WASN’T intended to be seen by anyone.
    Add in the ridiculous changing explanations …
    I’m going to say “no”.

  6. Anne Blogs, I would be very interested to see what you came up with. My email address is crazyjane13@gmail.com.

  7. David Harvy says:

    I made a comment about a matter I perceived as being untasteful on a political posting and was told to lighten up and purchase a sense of humour. This is rubbish not worth commenting on. All you lot lighten up.

  8. Anne says:

    Thought the ‘explanation’ was dodgy when I heard it on the early morning news. Felt the restaurant owner had been encouraged to take the rap for this sickening story that clearly was no beat up given the reports coming out about it yesterday, and the scramble to rewrite the script today. The mainstream media’s reportage has been appalling – especially The Australian – and as an example of the depths to which politics has sunk in this country, this story has no equal. I can only hope it resonates all the way to September 14th and the ballot box – and I sincerely hope every woman of voting age in this country thinks long and hard about her vote before potentially ticking the boxes that allows Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge..

  9. Toni says:

    What is also very disturbing is that the media and the LNP have somehow turned this vile back upon the PM. My heart is breaking. Who the hell would want to be a woman PM of this country when faced with such hatred and vile. Every aspired educated woman in politics would be a fool to want this position. Im ashamed at the Australia we have today and I blame LNP, Abbott, Hockey, Pyne and Bishop for turning this country into the embarrassment the world will see`s us as.

  10. mbaker@hrblock.com.au says:

    Then there is this!

    Excellent article, by the way!

  11. Rob says:

    I bet there is a printer somewhere who made and delivered 300 – 500 copies. I am a graphic designer by trade. That’s a professional piece, not done as a one off joke.

    It appears to have stars printed in gold ink.

    It hold’s true to a “title case” typographic convention with sentence case where appropriate and consistent punctuation style. The use of en-dashes instead of standard hyphens. (A proof read piece)

    Note the very careful listing of the wines. Note the U with umlaut. Specific italicising of the type of wine next to the name.
    No jokes in the wine list and very specific third party references, all accurate, all precise.

    No extra spaces, no inconsistencies in typing, no stray “and”s where there should be an ampersand. This is not a slap together unconsidered production.

    • Rob, thank you for that analysis. Your experience is invaluable here – you’ve been able to cast further doubt on the owner’s claims.

      Tracking down the printer in question could be an interesting exercise. A staff member has come forward and confirmed the menu was distributed. Perhaps she might be able to shed light on this.

      Again, thank you.

      • Anne Blogs says:

        I’m a professional writer and designer and it just took me 85 minutes to reproduce the menu. Let me know if want a copy. The use of correct French and German text, en dash, and Italics for wine names all suggest that a professional designer had a hand in this.

        The only hints an amateur created this are the inconsistent capitalisation and use of Times New Roman font.

  12. Nick Padol says:

    Have a look at the quality of printing and paper used. Why go to that much trouble just to show one other person? Who are they trying to fool? Fess up,

  13. eleanawi says:

    If Abbott wins the election by subterfuge, then I will seriously consider moving to another country as Australia will no longer be the lucky country. Where to go though? The whole world is F*CKED as far as I can see.

  14. JenniferGJ says:

    The problem is one which no-one wants to acknowledge or admit to -that they all had a laugh because they thought it was funny. Sense of humour is a real indicator of peoples’ deep seated attitudes and prejudices. I recall making jokes along the same lines as my male academic friends in the 1990s, but the words from my equally clever mouth did not even register. Preconceptions run elementally deep.

  15. claude says:

    I don’t believe a word of what brough, hockey say. LNP accustomed to getting away with blatant lies and not being taken to task by media.

    • Veronica Levin says:

      You only had to look at Joe Hockey’s smirky face to know he was fiddling with the truth and holding back a chuckle about that menu when he said Gillard called him a fat man. Mr Hockey thinks its very funny and his smirky face gives it all away. Yes and how gullible do they think we are indeed. Wonder how much they pressured the restaurant owner to take the fall?

  16. Excellent critique. Seems to me anything to do with Brough – like the NT Intervention, the Slipper saga, and now this – can not stand up to scrutiny and penetrating critique.

  17. deknarf says:

    Well it’s one restaurant I won’t be going to on the basis that if it lies about its menu’s it’s more than likely to lie about what’s actually in the food.
    Do I believe this latest bit of claptrap — NO I DO NOT! Totally farcical and reminds me of a bunch of cockroaches scattering for cover when the light comes on!
    And people appear to want this bunch of NO Coalition morons as their next Federal government? If the Oz voter elects this bunch in September we have truly plumbed the depth of the cesspool!

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