April 9, 2008

Australian Prime Minister in trouble over Elgin Marbles joke

Posted at 9:35 am in Elgin Marbles, International Association

Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Prime Minister has been criticised by some groups over appearing to make light of the Elgin Marbles issue. It is not clear at the present, what his own personal views on the controversy are, although historically Australia has tended to support requests for reunification.

Herald Sun (Australia)

PM Kevin Rudd in hot water over Elgin Marbles joke
Gareth Trickey
April 08, 2008 10:15am

A JOKE told by Kevin Rudd that compared ownership of the Elgin / Parthenon Marbles to the Ashes urn has caused a stir among Australia’s Greek community.

Australia’s Greek Community leaders have questioned Mr Rudd’s comparison of the fight for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles with Australia’s desire to win back the Ashes cricket urn.

Mr Rudd, who is in Britain as part of a world tour, told a packed lecture theatre in London’s West End, “The loss of the Ashes is as unjust as the loss of the Elgin Marbles.”

The Prime Minister then acknowledged such a comment would “get you into trouble”.

Greece has long campaigned for the repatriation of the marbles to their original home on the walls of the Parthenon in Athens.

The British Museum refuses to return the marbles, named after British Lord Elgin, who took the sculptures off the walls of the Parthenon in 1801.

Steve Petrou from the National Centre for Hellenic Studies said Mr Rudd’s joke about the sacred Marbles was insensitive.

“I’m sure he will apologise but the damage has been done,” Mr Petrou said.

“If he says something like that in such a light-hearted style obviously he does not appreciate what Australia is all about.”

Mr Petrou said Mr Rudd’s joke indicated a change in the government’s view on multiculturalism.

“If we start making jokes about colour and we start making jokes about values of other nations then we show an insensitivity,” he said

“I’m sure everyone who is involved with the Marbles has a big heart and will forgive the Prime Minister’s slip of the tongue.”

David Hill, chair of the International Association of the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, said the return of the marbles to Greece was the number one world heritage issue.

“I wouldn’t use the analogy myself but I’m not sure his comments are making light of it,” Mr Hill said.

“I don’t mind whatever context he puts it in or whatever humour.

“If Rudd is saying the Parthenon marbles should go back to Greece, that’s a superb thing for him to say.”

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