Tony Abbott has become embroiled in an ugly diplomatic incident that’s seen his office accused of being homophobic after an Australian Ambassador’s same-sex partner was told to “wait in the car” rather than greet the Prime Minister on his arrival to Paris.
Following Anzac Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, Mr Abbott flew to a private airport in Paris where he was to be greeted by Stephen Brady, the Ambassador to France.
Mr Brady’s partner of 34 years, Peter Stephens, was reportedly told he wouldn’t be part of the welcoming party on the tarmac by a protocol officer, much to the upset of the Ambassador who refused the request and had Mr Stephens accompany him as the RAAF plane arrived.
The “bizarre” incident caused so much offence to the career diplomat he was said to be “literally screaming” at the protocol officer who delivered the request, according to Fairfax, and he later offered his resignation over the incident.
The media are painting this as Abbott being so homophobic that he couldn’t even bear to have a same sex partner meet him. But Andrew Bolt provides details many media left out:
Mr Abbott hosted a farewell dinner for Mr Brady and Mr Stephens when the couple left Canberra to take up the Paris job. The prime minister also invited them to a staff dinner in Paris on April 26.
So Abbott had specifically hosted them for a farewell dinner in Canberra. So what happened:
the order was not driven by homophobia but – I am informed – a fussy insistence of the usual protocol, that the prime minister travelling alone is met by the Ambassador without partner. Only when the Prime Minister is accompanied by his wife is he greeted by the Ambassador with his partner, too.
Now it may be a silly protocol, but it is the protocol. It has nothing to do with Abbott or the sex of the partner. But most people in Australia will have no idea of this.
Hartcher’s suggestion of homophobia is based on zero evidence, and is on the face of it is preposterous. Hartcher seriously believes the Prime Ministers gets someone to ring ahead to make sure no gays greet him at the airport? Really?