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.