The photo of Mr. Andrew Wilkie shaking hands with Mr. Brendan Etches, the man responsible for accusations of bullying and torment during the MPs time at Duntroon Royal Military Academy, looks strained but calm. The Mercury uses the word ‘tense’ to describe the meeting, which shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone considering that Mr. Etches claims that Mr. Wilkie’s actions contributed to his leaving the academy.
As with a lot of things, the ‘young and dumb’ defence is not entirely out of place here. Mr Wilkie asserts that he has no recollection of the specific event that has caught the medias attention.
‘…a humiliating ceremony when a group of 17-year-old, first-year cadets was forced to stand and salute to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933.’
In fairness to Mr Wilkie, we’ve probably all done a number of questionable things in our youth that we don’t clearly recall (I am no exception… even if I’ve only done the things I can recall, I’m in no position to throw stones). That’s the problem with politics though isn’t it? If you want in, you had better be prepared to have all your dirty laundry on display. According to the Mercury article ‘Mr Etches told Mr Wilkie yesterday he did not believe’ that he didn’t recall the incident… Again it’s easy to see Mr. Etches point of view. Assuming that the incident left such an impression on him, it’s hard for him to believe that the perpetrator didn’t find it a day worth remembering.
‘Mr Wilkie admitted to Mr Etches he used to believe bullying at places like Duntroon was necessary to “toughen up” young soldiers for the rigour of army life. But he said he had since changed his mind.’
With the above quote in mind, for Wilkie it could well have been just another day. Another one of those things he was doing that was part of life at Duntroon. I can certainly see that being possible.
You might notice no particular argument about who might be right or wrong in this case? Is Wilkie culpable? Should his current political career suffer for this past action? The truth is, hell, I don’t know. I don’t like it, it sounds stupid and pointless to me. I understand his past belief in the necessity of hazing, I’ve heard the argument before and truth to tell, it might even hold water but this case does make me angry. In the end, I do believe that how he handles this particular revelation will be more telling as far as his career is concerned than the revelation itself.
Mr Wilkie isn’t my favourite candidate, I didn’t vote for him, but despite the differences in our political orientation (and the level of importance we place on Pokies in the current political climate), I’ve always believed that he says what he thinks and he does what he says. No one can ask more of a politician than that. As long as he’s honest, and true to his word, it’s then up to the people to decide if he gets the job. One way or another, it’s the vote that will tell one way or another if the people will decide this is more than they can forgive, and that’s the way it should be.