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It was only a fracton of a second, just when he entered


the hall, all confdent and smiling. I saw his bleached-
blond, tghtly backcombed curls and then it shot through
my head: Hey, I know this man. Although Ive never ever
met Geert Wilders before, I wanted to shout, Hello. Just
because I hardly see a familiar face here in Australia.
But I didnt shout, as I notced something. My video
camera, pointng at Wilders, is switched of. And no
mater what I do, it does not switch on again. So when
dozens of photographers and TV cameras captured the
most well known politcian from the Netherlands taking a
seat at his press conference, I was panicky and turned all
butons on the camera.
I have been in Australia for half a year now and Geert
Wilders visit is the frst event I can report on, with media
atenton in both Australia and in the Netherlands. But it
remains to be seen whether RTL-nieuws, my only fxed
client, wants a story from me. According to the editor this
is just another visit to a foreign country by a member of
parliament. Unless anything special happens, they dont
want a full report on it.
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Australia correspondent
Rob van der Wardt thinks
that Wilders just wanted to
hug some Koalas
However, with a broken video camera, I will never be
able to deliver a story. Fortunately I discover that I have
accidentally fipped a buton that switches the camera
to standby mode at once. In the Netherlands I never
experienced problems like this. As a NOS reporter, I
had the luxury to work with a cameraman, just like my
Australian colleagues here. Now as a freelancer I have to
do everything myself. Fortunately my camera seems to be
working and I can focus on the press conference again.
There are about ten journalists in the room. Behind them
fve TV-cameras are flming. In front of them is Wilders.
So far he has no trouble in answering any questons.
Most journalists want to know more about his ideas on
Islam, and why he doesnt see it as a religion, but an
ideology. They ask how the Koran compares to Hitlers
Mein Kampf and how he wants to stop migraton from
Islamic countries. But I have heard all his answers in the
Netherlands. Unlike many Australians, this was not new
to me.
The only questons I found interestng are the ones that
words and photos Rob van der Wardt
are about Wilders motves to come to Australia. I never
quite understood that. I see Australia as the immigraton
naton. Immigrants from all over the world live in this
country. And they have successfully blended in. I never
heard of any Muslim causing a problem here.
Wilders response is, as always, simple and
straightorward: Wilders agrees that in this country,
problems with Muslims are stll not as advanced as in the
Netherlands or in the rest of Europe. He is here to warn
Australians not to make the same mistakes
as the Dutch. If the Australians dont listen to
him, they can expect the problems we have in
Europe soon.
Personally, I think Wilders isnt that concerned
about Australia. I think he just loves to make
these fully paid trips to diferent countries.
And I cant blame him. Since 2004 Wilders has
been living like a prisoner.
That year extremist Mohammed Bouyeri
fatally shot flmmaker Theo van Gogh and
pinned a note to his body with a knife. It said
politcians Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali would
be next.
Since that day Wilders is under constant
protecton. He had to leave his home and
lived in army barracks for years. A recently
published death-list from Al-Qaida has him
ranked on fourth place. Without security,
buying a carton of milk in a store is simply
not possible for Wilders. The only place
where he can move somewhat freely is at
his workplace, the highly secured House of
Representatves.
I think when he gets the opportunity to
combine business with pleasure, he will
jump on it. When he received an invitaton
from the Q society to come to Australia
with all his security being paid for, he does
not decline, just because there are no real
problems with Muslims here.
It is my personal opinion. However I have
litle to prove it. Im at a press conference,
so why not ask Wilders himself. As soon
as I get the chance, I ask him how he had
prepared for this trip. His reply was: Well,
I make these trips more ofen. I went to
the United States, Denmark, Israel, Italy,
to many places. And what I do is tell my
story and of course I have a look at what is
happening in the country itself.
This is a very politcal reply. It is a reply, but
its not an answer to the queston. So again,
I ask him what research has he exactly done on Australia?
Of course, I have talked to many people here, People
of the Q-society. Checked the politcal situaton. The
problems with Islam are actually the same in all Western
countries. One country is more advanced than the other,
so the story I tell here is not that much diferent than I tell
elsewhere.
And when I ask him if he is going to do other things than
photo lef: Geert Wilders holding a Koala at the Sanctuary (photo Geert
Wilders) above: Geert talking about the koalas and kangaroos;
below: more serious talks ;
below right: Rob van der Wardt with protestors in the background
to give speeches, a smile appears on his face.
Well Im here mainly to speech, but Im
going to do fun things of course. We went to
a sanctuary yesterday, with kangaroos and
koalas. That is Australia too. Its not why Im
here, but great fun.
Afer the press conference a group of
Australian journalist have a litle chat. I dont
know them, but afer half a year of working
in solitude I cant resist to approach them.
I really miss these occasions and I want to
know why they think Wilders has come to
Australia.
Chip le Grand, from The Australian, like me,
thinks Wilders is here just because he was
asked to. Australia hasnt had any problems
with young Muslims being over represented
in crime. The issues of integratons and the
problems Mr Wilders says will arrive have
not arisen yet. So at this point there is no
evidence there is actually a problem that
needs addressing in Australia.
Later that day all journalists have moved
to the far north of Melbourne for the frst
speech by Wilders. We are not alone.
About a hundred protesters have prepared
themselves in front of the gate of the parking.
They think that Wilders is a racist and try to
stop visitors who have paid to hear Wilders speak. Some
pushing and pulling, shoutng and scantng occur. The one
hundred policemen, who are also at the scene, intervene
sometmes. But at no point does it escalate.
About 4 reporters make their analyses in front of the
cameras or even talk live with their news anchors in
studios in Sydney. The protestors and the police force are
in the background. While observing this, Im having a litle
laugh. All of this, this hassle, is probably just because a
Dutch politcian wants to enjoy a nice holiday in Australia
and hug some koalas.
Rob van der Wardt has been the Australia correspondent
for RTL-Nieuws since September 2012.
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