Hugh Riminton: These Witless Eggers Could Scramble Our Democracy
The fool who smashed an egg onto the head of the Prime Minister today was stupid.
This has nothing to do with who you favour in politics.
In important ways, today’s assault could change our democracy.
READ MORE: Prime Minister (Nearly) Egged By Young Woman
Unlike most major Western countries, Australian citizens still have reasonable access to our political leaders.
For how much longer?
There is no doubt the serious people whose job it is to protect the Prime Minister will today be in a huddle.
Any assault on the Head of Government is a serious matter. His close protection detail will be agonising over how it happened and what they could have done to prevent it.
Unspoken by all of them is that the egg could have been a knife. Or a container of battery acid. Or worse.
The campaign event was at the Albury Country Women’s Association. The assailant, a young woman, was not obviously a member of the CWA. She made no attempt to disguise herself or fit in. And yet apparently no-one in the security detail saw danger.
This is because, despite all the horrors of the world, we still cling to something precious: the belief that politicians are answerable directly to the people -- especially at election time -- and that the people are entitled to engage with them.
READ MORE: What We Know About Egg Girl
We also -- still -- tend to see people as benign until proven otherwise.
But just as New York’s Twin Towers represented American capitalism and were therefore a target for those who hate America, the Prime Minister -- whoever it might be -- represents Australia. And is therefore a target.
Of course, today’s assailant wasn’t the first to egg a politician this year.
In March, 17-year-old Will Connolly cracked a yolker on the head of Queensland Senator Fraser Anning. Anning punched the slightly built teenager. He was then manhandled beyond reason by a thuggish bunch of the Senator’s supporters.
“Egg Boy” became a hero to some, both because of his target and in sympathy for the violent reaction against him.
Fraser Anning has made racist comments.
He has the thinnest possible claims to democratic legitimacy. He received just 19 direct votes at the last election. He entered the Senate when One Nation’s lead candidate was kicked out for not renouncing his British citizenship. Anning didn’t do One Nation supporters the courtesy of a single minute as their Parliamentary representative before he quit the party that put him there.
He is an accident of politics.
But he still shouldn’t have been assaulted.
When we don’t like people, we vote them out. We don’t beat them up.
Scott Morrison, by comparison, is unarguably part of the democratic process. He is the chosen representative of the voters of Cook. He was selected by his Parliamentary colleagues to the Liberal Party leadership, which gave him the Prime Ministership.
You don’t have to like him. You can vote against him and the party he leads. That is our greatest and most precious freedom.
But you can’t assault him. An assault on any political aspirant is an assault on all of us.
In Canberra, you have to go through airport-style screening to observe Parliament. If we have to go through the same process to see politicians during an election campaign, you can thank the witless throwers of eggs.
We will all be poorer for it.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.