Australia’s Ambassador to France tried to quit after his partner is told to “wait in the car”.
It is the leading political story of the day – the accusation that a career diplomat’s partner of 32 years was asked to “wait in the car” while the Prime Minister arrived at a small private airport, Le Bourget in Paris on Anzac Day.
Fairfax Media broke the story last night with reports that when the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott travelled to France last month his travelling party sent an instruction that the partner of ambassador Stephen Brady should not greet the PM – instead remain in the car.
Stephen Brady and his long-term partner, Peter Stephens had supposedly been waiting on the tarmac to greet the PM when they received the instruction.
The ambassador reportedly refused and was angry at the suggestion. Following the incident Fairfax Media reports he offered his resignation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
His resignation was not accepted.
The story has flooded the media with the hashtag #waitinthecar trending.
The ABC reports that the Prime Minister’s office did not deny the incident took place saying in a statement: “The Prime Minister was very happy to be met by ambassador Brady and his partner when he arrived in Paris last month.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tweeted shortly after the story broke “I sincerely hope this isn’t true”.
Following it up later with a statement:
“Australians deserve an explanation from Tony Abbott and if it’s true, Ambassador Brady and his partner deserve an apology.”
Fairfax Media reports that Mr Brady was furious with the request for his partner to wait in the car “literally screaming” at the protocol person.
The ambassador, who was given an Order of Australia on Australia Day this year for his “distinguished service to successive Australian governments”, and his partner became the world’s first openly gay ambassadorial couple when Mr Brady was appointed ambassador to Denmark in 1999.
On social media he has been referred to as a kind and gentle man, a professional, and a career diplomat of the highest standard.
So what actually happened here?
Well some headlines are accusing the PM of prejudice – while also pointing out that Mr Brady’s partner Peter Stephens used to worked for Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister – so perhaps a double accusation of prejudiced based not just on sexual orientation but on political views.
One theory is that it was simply a matter of protocol.
Mr Abbott was not accompanied by his wife Margie on the trip and therefore it was not protocol for Mr Brady’s partner to be present when he greeted the PM.
Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, told ABC “As I understand it the Prime Minister was very happy to meet the both of them. In fact the Prime Minister knows Stephen Brady very well, no doubt he has met his partner Peter before.”
Fairfax Media point out that the Prime Minister Tony Abbott hosted a farewell dinner for the couple when they left Canberra to take up the Paris job and that he has also been present at a “staff dinner” which the coupe attended in Paris on April 26.
According to The Australian Mr Abbott then went to dinner with the couple just 24 hours after the incident. In fact The Australian reports that Mr Brady did not offer his resignation to Mr Abbott.
Other reports put it down to a team who micromanage the PM with The Age writing there had already been criticism of micromanagement by the prime minister’s travelling party on his Europe trip.
Whatever the explanation it is a disturbing picture – adding to the already strained relations the government has with the LGBT community – and one that comes just a day after the Prime Minister’s seven-month high in the latest Newspoll and less than a week out from the federal budget.
What do you think of the reported snub?