John Alexander, the MP who resigned amid the parliamentary citizenship crisis and was just re-elected in the subsequent Bennelong by-election, drew criticism yesterday for a particularly tone-deaf comment that he made during his acceptance speech.
While all that’s really required of a pollie accepting a win is to smile politely, thank everyone, and get the hell out of there, Alexander, a former tennis player, decided to drop this astonishing nugget into his speech:
I got to a time when I thought my tennis career was finished, I hurt my back, I started coaching there, the back got better. I was eligible for the disabled sticker on my car! Then I got to about number fourteen in the world. The doctor at the time said ‘you have eligibility for a disabled sticker’, I said ‘I still have some pride’. That was before I entered politics.
Unsurprisingly, a number of people were fairly upset by this, and many have called for Alexander to apologise.
And look, it seems like he gave it a red-hot go. Okay, maybe a lukewarm go. He definitely gave apologising a go, in any case.
What he actually told reporters today was:
What I was saying was that nobody who doesn’t have the right or really deserves to have such a parking sticker should take it.
You can be mischievous with your interpretation, but my point was that no-one who doesn’t really need it should not have it.
He then pulled a classic non-apology (“if anybody’s been offended I apologise“), and finished up with the eyebrow-raising claim that “no-one has done more for people with disabilities than I have“.
Malcolm Turnbull has gone into damage-control mode, interpreting Alexander’s comments thus:
John has already said that those people who were offended, he apologises, John is a great Australian with a big heart.
Disability advocates are still not impressed – and frankly, who can blame them. Paralympian Kurt Fearnley puts it very succinctly:
I’m not one to get offended, and I’m not offended. Cause I choose not to be offended by the ignorant. But I spend my life convincing disabled kids that they are awesome. Then they hear that. You’re kidding yourself if you think that language is ok. https://t.co/av87hXYcSQ— Kurt Fearnley (@kurtfearnley) December 16, 2017
Might want to get yourself back to that doctor, Mr Alexander. You’ve got a blistering case of foot in mouth.
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Image: AAP / Paul Braven