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The ABC and Tony Abbott's 1999 Banana spat

media-relations-sydney

Recent remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) led The Australian newspaper's Strewth columnist James Jeffrey to dig back through the archives, where he came across a 1999 article covering Mr Abbott's efforts to retain the country's status as a constitutional monarchy.

As James notes, even then there was tension between Aunty and the young junior minister but it was more about Mr Abbott's use of the ABC's much-loved B1 and B2 than any suggestion the media outlet wasn't playing for the home side.

Oh, and the article in question was written by yours truly. I remember the event well but don't recall the ABC reporter doing his best to defend the national broadcaster's intellectual property.

Here's Strewth's take:

YOU have to admire the Coalition's sense of humour. Malcolm Turnbull is the most senior member of the government to have defended the ABC against Tony Abbott's displeasure, a defence that prompted Kevin Andrews to do what is traditionally done in times of tension and/or Cory Bernardi, which is to describe the Liberal Party as a "broad church". Then a short time after that, the very same Turnbull was wheeled out to fire the first proper shot: an efficiency study into Aunty. Somewhere, Stephen Conroy is watching in awe. In the meantime, while we wait for the ABC to be transformed into something acceptably patriotic - preferably called the Oi-Oi-Oi-BC - we look to a possible root of the problem. Let's travel back to 1999 and the republic referendum. Behold this photo of a zesty young Abbott campaigning in Melbourne for the "no" vote, accompanied by two faux Bananas in Pyjamas adorned with the message, "Vote no to the banana republic". Aunty was not happy and sent a reporter to explain copyright issues to Abbott. As this august organ reported at the time, "Mr Abbott told the reporter: 'Thanks mate, you've made your point.' But he refused to stop use of the costumes. ... 'It's a big free country, and if anyone wants to dress up in a suit, that's their business.' " The ABC continued to antagonise Abbott and crack the poops over this misuse of its famous fruit. Strewth can't help but suspect the fates of both Aunty and SPC were sealed in that moment. Though we could be overextrapolating again.