Disrespecting the PM

By Andrew L. Urban

“Love her or hate her, to disrespect the PM is to disrespect our entire system,” writes Jacqueline Maley (Why it takes a flying crust to burst the political bubble, Sydney Morning Herald, June 1, 2013). Maley is commenting on an incident the Thursday prior, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s arm was grazed by a flying sandwich, assailant unknown, during her visit to Lyneham High School in Canberra.

This idea of not paying disrespect to the Prime Minister is to be welcomed in a generous and decent democracy, but Maley seems the only person in Australian media or politics who is prepared to state it publicly. There is no evidence that anyone else has such fine sensibilities, and in fact the voting public is sickened by the rivers of disrespect flooding the chamber of Parliament – and beyond.

What about cartoons that disrespect the PM (and other politicians)? I think PMs have to earn respect like everyone else, and perhaps what Maley should have said is that throwing a sandwich at the PM is to be deplored on the grounds that it is – however minimal – a violent act. Where do you draw the line? Do we overlook untoasted soft white bread sandwiches – but prosecute anyone lobbying a whole loaf?

Disrespect – in the form of political activism – is hard to define; it’s probably impossible to eradicate.

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