Ugly racism row rocks Studio 10, shocks viewers
A DISCUSSION about Australia Day protests turned heated on Studio 10 this morning, with veteran presenter Kerri-Anne Kennerley branded "racist" by fellow panellist Yumi Stynes.
The panel was discussing the weekend's 'Invasion Day' protests, in which thousands of Australians took to the street to call for changing the date of Australia Day, arguing it has "become a symbol of inequity and institutionalised harm".
A clearly impassioned Kennerley turned to the camera to deliver a message to the protesters.
"OK, the 5000 people who went through the streets making their points known, saying how inappropriate the day is. Has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five-year-olds are being raped? Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done?" she asked.
In 2004, a national survey of 6677 women suggested that sexual violence against indigenous women was three times more common than against non-indigenous women.
The panel was momentarily silent - until Stynes spoke up.
"That is not even faintly true, Kerri-Anne. You're sounding quite racist right now."
Stynes' statement was met with gasps from the studio audience - and Kennerley herself said she was "offended" by the assertion.
"Well keep going then, because every time you open your mouth you're sounding racist," said Stynes.
"I am seriously offended by that, Yumi. SERIOUSLY offended," said Kennerley.
"These people are desperate for help. Aboriginal elder women are desperate for help, and they're not getting it. Where are these people (other than) one day of the year? You'd be better off doing something positive," Kennerley continued.
At this point Studio 10 host Sarah Harris attempted to play peacemaker, imploring her co-stars to "take it back a notch … everything's going to be cool."
But they weren't done.
"Just because I have a point of view, Yumi, doesn't mean I'm racist," said Kennerley.
"Yeah, you're actually connecting rape, child abuse, you're drawing a straight line … and you're implying those 5000 protesters, none of whom you know personally, are all lazy and idle. You're asking if any of them have ever done anything as though it's clear they haven't," said Stynes.
Kennerley chided her for "drawing a line that isn't there."
"That's the line! I see it quite clearly," said Stynes.
"Well … get new glasses," said Kennerley.
Harris again tried to rein in the debate, asking the pair to refrain from name-calling. Kennerley insisted it had been a friendly disagreement.
"This is just an issue that Yumi and I have. There are probably 20 other things that we do agree on - this is just one that we don't," said Kennerley.
The steely glances between the pair suggested they might be hard pressed to find 20 other things they agree on.
As the episode ended, Harris addressed the earlier "fiery" conflict, saying they "make no apologies for it."
"Yumi and I had a difference of opinion, but that's called a mature society where you can have different opinions without name-calling. It's called TOLERANCE," said Kennerley.
Harris and Joe Hildebrand both repeatedly stressed that they were "all friends", before Kennerley called on Stynes, who had remained silent.
"Yumi, I'm looking for a comment back here."
"Well, you did say name-calling..." said Stynes.
"You called me a racist," said Kennerley.
"And you are implying that I did the wrong thing by saying that to you," Stynes continued - promising they would continue the debate in the next episode, and even offering Kennerley a sarcastic-sounding "love you" through gritted teeth. To be continued?
"How many different days do we have to have in the country? A day for this, a day for that. How many bloody days do you want?" asked politician Jacqui Lambie.
"Some people want it changed - a minority want it changed - and it's about time the parliament had a backbone and said 'Enough.' I'm sick of minorities too, to be honest with you. I'm just sick of us all bending over for minorities. That seems to be the political ambition at the moment and it's just killing the country," she said.
Fellow politician Sam Dastyari offered the other side of the debate.
"The counter view is effectively this. If your national day is a day of inclusion, (but) if there are sections of the community that don't view it that way, if people feel excluded, I think we're better off picking another day for it," he said.
Lambie remained unconvinced, declaring that Australia is "now heading into where the minorities rule, not the majorities."
"That's madness Jacqui. That is madness. That is such an overstatement," Dastyari said.
The Today show's new entertainment reporter Brooke Boney made headlines earlier this month when she called for an Australia Day date change during her first week on air at Nine.
Gamilaroi woman Boney explained that she "can't separate 26 January from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than school, or that my little sisters and my mum are more likely to be beaten or raped than anyone else's sisters or mum. And that started from that day.
"For me it is a difficult day and I don't want to celebrate it. Any other day of the year I will tie an Australian flag around my neck and run through the streets."
Sports reporter Tony Jones said he was "upset" at the "us versus them" mentality that he felt permeated the debate.
"I'm sorry, but we do see white Australians in similar situations. We see kids going to school without lunch, without a school uniform," Jones said.
"But the statistics tell us that our lives are harder," Boney said.
"That is not me making it up, saying woe is me or feel sorry for me because I don't want anyone to feel sorry to me. What I'm talking to is the statistics. That's what I said to you about my brothers being more likely to go to jail. Our lives being harder."
"It shouldn't be an us versus them thing," Jones said.
"Well, I wish it wasn't," Boney said.