One wonders whether, in her private moments, Julia Gillard regrets offering Tony Abbott a ride as the angry mob, seeing their prey within reach, closed in.
The prime minister today faced mounting pressure for a police investigation into suspicions that her own staff had something to do with the ugly Australia Day incident that led to her and Abbott being rescued from fired up indigenous-rights activists in Canberra.
A senior opposition lawmaker — shadow attorney general George Brandis — has formally asked that Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Tony Negus involve himself personally in the matter.
At issue: whether one of Julia Gillard's media advisers alerted the protesters to the whereabouts of the two leaders — or more specifically Abbott, who had earlier made some comments that were (rightly or wrongly) interpreted as inciteful to supporters of the Aboriginal "tent embassy."
Leaving aside that mobbing the elected leader of Australia is at best inadvisable, at worst unlawful (according to the Murdoch press, tent embassy co-founder Michael Anderson is resigned to the fact that at least one protester will face questioning over the incident, although he has in the meantime sought to blame "those Occupy movement people" — and good luck to him), the protesters may have had some inside help tracking down their nemesis, Abbott, it seems.
And Abbott — despite being invited by Gillard to escape the protesters under the protection of her security team, and even bundled in beside her as the limo sped away — wants to know who inside Gillard's office was involved, what they said and whether the prime minister knew about it. And he wants everybody else to know, too.
In a letter to AFP chief, Brandis — Abbott's Liberal Party colleague — reportedly said that an inquiry was warranted, "given the gravity of the security breach."
Brandis said there had been "inconsistencies'' in accounts of involvement by Gillard's staff, including a junior press secretary, Tony Hodges, who has since resigned. News.com.au writes that:
He also pointed to a 24-hour gap between Mr Hodges resignation and the information being passed to Prime Minister Gillard.
"As well as the obviously serious breach of security, it also appears that one or more offenses may have been committed against Commonwealth and ACT law," he wrote to Commissioner Negus.
The possible breaches, News writes, "include the offenses of incitements, affray and causing harm to a Commonwealth official."
All good and well ... except the AFP, apparently unmoved by Brandis' request, said Monday that it believed no crime had been committed. (It did, however, refer the incident to a special unit "for further consideration.")
Those inside the Government agree that while it might have been one "almighty cock up," it wasn't a deliberate attempt to have the country's opposition leader lynched.
"I don't think that any of the individuals necessarily were involved in deliberately orchestrating it like that, but that's how it worked out," Labor lawmaker Michael Danby told ABC News 24.
No matter. If the desired inquiry fails to materialize, Abbott's opposition coalition is already talking political sanction by way of a "no confidence" motion in parliament.
But even that's pushing it, according to the Australian Associated Press, as Abbott is "unlikely to be able to muster the 76 votes he needs to suspend parliamentary rules and debate the censure."
So what's Abbott's end game?
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan is fairly certain he knows:
"What we're simply getting here from Tony Abbott and the Liberals is a fully-fledged smear campaign," he told ABC Radio.
"The fact is the behavior of those people from around the tent embassy outside The Lobby restaurant was appalling. But for Mr Abbott now to try and turn all of that on its head and to throw mud ... is yet another example of just how negative Tony Abbott is."
Gillard herself has accused Abbott of having a "tendency to go too far," saying at a Jan. 28 news conference that: "For it to be insinuated that I would play some role in disrupting an event to recognize Australians who had performed miracles during a natural disaster is deeply offensive."
Gillard was handing out medals to emergency service workers when the protesters came calling.
Greens lawmaker Adam Bandt, meantime, says Abbott just needs to "pack up and move on" from the Australia Day issue.
Regardless, a year out from a general election and amid speculation over a challenge to her leadership from within (former Labor leader Kevin Rudd remains nearly twice as popular as Gillard, according to a recent poll), Gillard may deep down — in places even politicians don't like to talk about — wish that Abbott and his accusations had simply been swallowed up in a sea of indigenous indignation.