Foot-in-mouth disease catching


IT seems our politicians have not heard that 'a closed mouth gathers no feet', because their feet just keep on finding their way up.

The latest one in hot water is Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott over his, by his own admission, insensitive comments about former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden.

"If we did that, we would be as dead as the former Liberal leader's political prospects," was Mr Abbott's response when asked about a health proposal at a Liberal party fundraiser.

The next day he said he wanted to make it clear that he had never 'told an inappropriate joke, never pinched a woman, and never made inappropriate gestures to women'.

He made these comments as Mr Brogden was recovering in hospital after an apparent suicide attempt, which followed his own foot-in-mouth incident.

Mr Brogden had previously called former NSW Premier Bob Carr's wife a 'mail-order bride' in front of a roomful of journalists, and admitted to propositioning female journalists.

While there is nothing new in politicians having a go at each other, Mr Abbott's comments attracted a storm of criticism, including calls for his resignation, not only because he was kicking a man who was down but also because his porftolio encompasses mental health.

"There is no way Mr Abbott would have made a similar 'joke' about a victim of a car accident or breast cancer," Mental Health Council of Australia chief executive John Mendoza said.

But Government MPs have defended Mr Abbott, saying he had done enough by apologising.

These politicians are not the first, nor will they be the last, to get themselves in the spotlight, often with few consequences other than some short-lived headlines.

Prime Minister John Howard has copped a few, being called an 'arse-licker' by former Labor leader Mark Latham, and a 'dead carcass, swinging in the breeze' by former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

But whether politicians are too naive to think the journalists that surround them will not report on their slip-ups, or whether they think that any publicity is good publicity, there will no doubt be plenty more.

Tell us what you think? Should Abbott resign or be sacked over his comments, or are we becoming too sensitive over political correctness. Drop us a line at 53 Moonee Street, Coffs Harbour, or email

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