Tony Abbott gaffe list volume 2

Volume 1 of Tony Abbott gaffe list covers the period August 2010 to the election on 7
September 2013. It can be found here Like this list, it’s gaffes-plus. Crass comments also included.
Abbott kept away from the media in his first few weeks as PM so not much to record for
September 2013. Given Abbott’s propensity to misspeak, it is understandable. But the very
nature of the job means that approach was not sustainable even though Abbott does what
he can to avoid media scrutiny – like announcing media conferences to which no media
were invited (December 2013).
This gaffe list has been compiled by choosing@ch150ch Please tweet information/links to
other gaffes to @ch150ch Sources for gaffes are at the end of the document. I’ll update the
list from time to time. You might also appreciate this list
Sep 13 1

On 28 September Abbott attended the AFL grand final. News came through of up to
90 asylum seekers en route to Australia drowning off the Indonesian coast.
Australian vessels were involved in the rescue attempt. After the game, Abbott
refused to comment on or take questions about the tragedy, instead choosing to run
away (literally) from reporters. He made no expression of sympathy in relation to
the lives lost. By way of contrast, Italy held a day of mourning to remember asylum
seekers who drowned after their boat sank off the coast of Lampedusa shortly after
on 3 October. Both the Italian president and the Pope expressed their condolences
upon hearing of the tragedy.

Oct 13 2

It’s the APEC meeting and Abbott is in Indonesia. He holds a press conference and
angers Indonesian journalists by refusing to let them attend. The head of the
Indonesian journalists union claims that Abbott has broken Indonesian law by
denying them access to his press conference.

Oct 13 3

A Hong Kong paper reports that Abbott squirmed in Indonesia as he struggled to
explain his boat policy. He was ridiculed for the suggestion that Australia buy boats
from Indonesian fishermen.
Since early 2013 Abbott has spoken about turning back boats, a policy to which
Indonesia has been consistently and strongly opposed. It also caused friction during
APEC. I’ll return to it in a couple of months’ time.

Oct 13 4

Still at APEC in Indonesia, Abbott upsets Putin by being late for a leaders meeting
which was to start with a small celebration for Putin’s birthday.

Oct 13 5

Meanwhile back in Australia there’s a growing expenses scandal as the Australian
public learns that politicians claimed expenses to attend weddings and sporting


Last updated 6 September 2014. Arranged by month, may not be chronological within each month.

events. Abbott justified his expense claim when he was at an ironman event on the
basis of ‘official business’ but has not provided any proof of what that business was.
While some politicians repaid expenses (including Abbott), others resisted. Despite
calls for Abbott to show leadership on this issue, he initially failed to make comment
at all and when it became evident that that approach wasn’t working, he did speak
but resisted making any significant changes to the system.
In case you’ve forgotten, by way of example, Julie Bishop, Barnaby Joyce and
Theresa Gambaro claimed expenses of over $15,000 between them to attend a
wedding in India.
WA Liberal MP Don Randall was in the firing line on a number of counts, including
that he and a family member claimed travel expenses to go from Perth to Cairns,
which coincided with the renting out of a Cairns property owned by Mr Randall and
his wife. His name cropped up again in December.
Oct 13 6

At the East Asia summit, Abbott says that Japan is Australia’s closest friend in Asia.
Mark Kenny reported that ‘His comments about Japan may raise eyebrows in Beijing
and in Indonesia where he repeatedly said Jakarta was Canberra's most important

Oct 13 7

Abbott, in an interview with the Washington Post, refers to the previous ALP
government as ‘whacko’ and ‘embarrassing’. As David Wroe reported:
Norman Ornstein, an author and political scientist with the right-leaning American
Enterprise Institute, said he ''winced'' when he read the interview in which Mr
Abbott put the boot into the Rudd-Gillard government in unusually strong language
for a foreign interview. ''It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag
in your domestic politics when you go abroad,'' Dr Ornstein said. ''It certainly can't
help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party,
government and - at least implicitly - leader, with whom Obama has worked so
closely. Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.”

Nov 13 8

Abbott kept senior Indonesian officials waiting for 45 minutes. The delay arose
because of debate in parliament as to whether it was parliamentary or not to refer
to opposition leader Bill Shorten as Electricity Bill.

Nov 13 9

Abbott attended CHOGM, held in Sri Lanka. Because of Sri Lanka’s poor human
rights record, India and Canada boycotted the meeting. British PM David Cameron
who did attend was highly critical. Abbott said “Obviously the Australian
Government deplores any use of torture. We deplore that, wherever it might take
place, we deplore that. But we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances,
difficult things happen.” Abbott also gifted two Australian patrol boats to assist Sri
Lanka stop its citizens flee a country with such a questionable human rights record.
Abbott’s comments about torture were widely condemned. United Nations Human
Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, reminded us that torture was strictly prohibited
under both Australian and international law.

Nov 13 10

It is revealed that in 2009 Australia tried to listen in to the mobile phone calls of
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and senior Indonesian
officials. Abbott’s response in parliament where he expresses regret for any
embarrassment that SBY may have felt – rather than apologise for what occurred –
angers the Indonesians even more. Even though this was made clear, Abbott
repeated the same line in parliament the next day.
A UK paper refers to Abbott as producing gaffe after gaffe on the world stage.

Nov 13 11

The situation was not helped when Abbott adviser Mark Textor tweeted “Apology
demanded from Australia by a bloke who looks like a 1970’s Pilipino [sic] porn star
and has ethics to match.” Australian and Indonesian newspapers reported that this
was a reference to Indonesia’s highly regarded Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
Abbott fails to make a strong statement about this.

Nov 13 12

The deteriorating relations between Indonesia and Australia were marked by
demonstrations outside Australia’s Jakarta embassy.

Nov 13 13

Aung San Suu Kyi visited Australia. In an interview she said that she did not like being
referred to as an icon. Later that day she met with Abbott who introduced her as an
icon. He also compared his four years as an opposition leader to her time in
opposition. Ms Suu Kyi was under house arrest for 15 years during which time she
saw her now-deceased husband a handful of times and was separated from her

Nov 13 14

The end of the month and into December saw policy backflips over Gonski education
reforms. Prior to the election Abbott, to neutralise it as an election issue, claimed
that the Coalition and ALP were on a unity ticket when it came to Gonski but it was
now becoming apparent that Abbott’s government had no intention of
implementing Gonski.
Abbott, who campaigned strongly that he would not break an election promise, said
“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that
some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have
liked us to make”. The Gonski backflips did not go down well with voters or political

Dec 13 15

Despite being one of the figures at the centre of the expenses scandal, WA
backbencher Don Randall was re-appointed to sit on the Parliamentary Privileges
Committee which oversees MPs' standards. Abbott’s failure to make public
comment did not help perceptions of his leadership being weak.

Dec 13 16

Australia learnt on a Friday that Nelson Mandela had died. All around the world,
including at other countries’ embassies located in Canberra, flags went to half-mast
soon after the news was out as a mark of respect for one of the great figures of
recent history. Not so with Australia’s flags. Abbott was not a Mandela supporter.
Finally, after much pressure, and far too late, he announced that Australia’s flags
would be lowered on the Tuesday, the day of the memorial.

Dec 13 17

By this time, Abbott is coming under much criticism for rarely facing the media and
his failure to respond to legitimate questions. Where is the accountable
government he promised in the lead up to the election? Before going to South Africa
for Mandela’s memorial service, Abbott announces a media conference. He talks to
a camera but no media are invited to be there.

Dec 13 18

Abbott says that workers who will lose their jobs when Holden shuts down will be
liberated. As he often does (see volume 1 of gaffe list), he has recycled someone
else’s words without acknowledging them, and in a different context. His remarks
were offensive to those who are concerned for their futures. (Paul Keating’s remarks
were made when he was reflecting on events from many years before. Abbott’s
were made within days of the announcement of job losses.)

Jan 14 19

Meanwhile relations with Indonesia continue to deteriorate, and are generally
assumed to be at their worst since 1999, largely due to Abbott’s aggressive ‘turn
back the boats’ policy. Following the news that Australian naval vessels had entered
Indonesia’s territory on a number of occasions (for which Australia’s Immigration
Minister Morrison apologised profusely), the Indonesians announced that they
would be deploying war ships to strengthen their border security. Indonesian
Foreign Minister Natalegawa was reported as saying that Indonesia was “not really”
on a war footing. He also said that he found Australia’s policy “unhelpful”.

Jan 14 20

A bit of cultural cringe. Abbott is in the cricket commentary box and describes
Alastair Cook, the English captain, as “an extremely stylish man in every sense”.

Jan 14 21

Abbott attends the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland. A gathering of
world and business leaders with (one assumes) considerable brain power. After
answering questions from the media (Abbott possibly less inclined to run away when
the world’s media is present), the UK edition of the Huffington Post carried the
headline “Tony Abbott Reduces Syria Civil War to 'Goodies' Against 'Baddies' ”.
Abbott made a speech at the Forum. He used a phrase first used by US conservative
radio host Rush Limbaugh - No nation ever taxed itself into prosperity – without
acknowledging that he (Abbott) was not being original. Abbott was also criticised for
the over-simplistic style of his speech, and his references to Australian domestic
politics, both unsuited to this venue. One example - Mike Seccombe wrote “He
speaks in short sentences and anodyne generalities…”

Jan 14 22

But, however cringingly embarrassing was Abbott’s speech, it pales into
insignificance when compared with this exchange with the founder and chair of the
Forum, Klaus Schwab.

Jan 14 23

Award-winning singer Megan Washington performed at the Australian of the Year
Awards. She later tweeted “Guess who was standing on stage with me and talked
through my entire song? Tony Abbott”.


Jan 14 24

At that rare occurrence, a press conference at Parliament House, Abbott explained
how it was that professionally trained and highly skilled naval personnel entered
Indonesian territorial waters on a number of occasions.
“Even people who are at the very top of their game... will occasionally make
mistakes… Test cricketers occasionally drop catches, great footballers occasionally
miss tackles and regretfully, there were a couple of occasions when this mistake was
made…On the high seas, all sorts of things happen. There are winds, there are tides,
there are other things that they're focusing on.”
We all know that of course. Like driving a car. Music, scenery can be a distraction
and suddenly you’re lost, and going the wrong way down a one way street. So easily

Jan 14 25

Abbott takes a swipe at Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, after it reported
on allegations of abuse by Australian navy personnel. During an interview with a
right wing radio shock jock, Abbott called the ABC unpatriotic and claimed it was
“taking everyone's side but Australia's" and it should show "some basic affection for
the home team".
As Fairfax’s Michael Gordon wrote “Tony Abbott's tirade against the ABC betrays a
deeply flawed view of the role of the Australian media in general and the national
broadcaster in particular. Worse still, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny…This
astonishing proposition – that coverage should be somehow skewed by nationalism,
or patriotism – sits uncomfortably with the ideals of a robust democracy with a free,
fair and fearless media.”

Feb 14 26

Arthur Gietzelt was a former Labor politician who passed away in February 2014,
aged 94 years old. A NSW state memorial service was held in his honour. A number
of MPs spoke in the House of Reps as part of a condolences motion.
Rather than restrict himself to making comments suitable for the occasion, Abbott
had to make a snide comment.
“I move:
That the House record its deep regret at the death on 5 January 2014 of the Hon.
Arthur Thomas Gietzelt AO, former Senator for New South Wales from 1971 to
1989, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and
tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
He was a long-serving and notable member of this parliament… Arthur Gietzelt was
a minister for four years in the Hawke government. He was a lion of the Labor
Party—or at least he always asserted that he was a lion of the Labor Party and of no
other party.
Arthur Gietzelt was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his service to the
Australian parliament and to local government. He served his country; he served his

people, and on behalf of the government I offer condolences to his wife and to his
Laurie Ferguson tweeted “Once more in condolences today for Arthur Gietzelt,
Abbott offered his crass rudeness and insensitivity. He lacks any sense of time or
Feb 2014 27

A central plank of Abbott’s government is to ‘stop the boats’, regardless of the harm
caused to asylum seekers in onshore and offshore immigration detention centres;
through the turnback policy; or being left in limbo living in the community on less
than newstart allowance but not allowed to work. Abbott labelled asylum seekers
During the annual Closing the Gap speech which concerns Aboriginal disadvantage,
Abbott said with apparent sincerity “There is no country on Earth where people are
made more welcome. There is no country on Earth whose people have more innate
generosity to others.”

Feb 2014 28

A young Iranian man, Reza Berati, is killed in Manus detention centre which is an
Australian facility. Initial reports are that he was beaten to death. Dozens of asylum
seekers were injured, some seriously. One man lost his eye, another was shot in the
buttocks. Government efforts to control and restrict information fail. Immigration
Minister Morrison fronts press conferences to effectively blame Berati for his death
on the basis that he was outside the centre when he died. This was untrue.
Numerous reports refer to PNG locals entering the centre and attacking detainees
who were trying to hide from them.
Abbott’s take on what happened is bizarre if not downright sick and twisted. He said
of his government, “We will not succumb to pressure, to moral blackmail” as if Reza
Berati’s death was an attempt to pressure the government to afford asylum seekers
their human rights.
As more information emerges and Morrison is under pressure to explain how and
why he made inaccurate statements, Abbott praises Morrison saying, “You don’t
want a wimp running border protection, you want someone strong and decent. And
Scott Morrison is both strong and decent”.

March 2014 29 Abbott makes an address to the International Women’s Day Parliamentary
Breakfast. Oddly, most of his speech was about him, his attitudes and the benefits of
his paid parental leave scheme rather than about women.
Even more oddly, he used the Queen (Elizabeth in the UK, that one) as an example
of how Australia’s glass ceiling(s) have been smashed.
“Anyone who is in Australian has won the lottery of life and if you look at our
country and the deal that it gives to women; it is obviously pretty good. It wasn’t so
long ago as a Sydney-sider that there was a female Lord Mayor, a female Premier, a


female Prime Minister, a female Head of State in our Governor General, a female
Monarch, obviously, and indeed the richest person in our country was female.
So, this is a nation which has smashed just about every glass ceiling, but we need to
do more – we need to do more.”
He didn’t remind the audience that of the 19 members of the cabinet, only one is
Mar 2014 30

During a speech at a timber industry dinner Abbott tells his audience they are the
nation’s ‘ultimate conservationists.’ I don’t trust myself to make further comment.

Mar 2014

Abbott goes over to meet a group of year 9 students from Newtown who are visiting
Parliament House and gets more than he bargained for. I found some of his
comments cringe-worthy and others offensive. But listen for yourself

Mar 2014 31

Then Abbott made his ‘Knights and Dames’ announcement. It was met with disbelief
and ridicule. The twitterverse went into overdrive as tweeters changed their names.
From me “And now my tweet has been faved by Sir Bumpy, Sir David, Sir Fletcher &
Earl of Eastwood”.

Mar 2014 32

The outgoing governor-general Quentin Bryce was the first to be made a dame.
Relevant here is that she is the opposition leader Bill Shorten’s mother-in-law.
Question time was a rowdy affair. As it was about to end, Abbott sneers "If only he
had the class of his mother-in-law”. It’s understood that even though exchanges in
parliament can be robust, family members are not drawn in. A tacky, grubby
comment by Abbott.

Mar 2014 33

Mark Kenny kindly sums the last couple of weeks in a piece entitled ‘Abbott’s
fortnight of blunders and stuff ups’. Sinodinos and Australian Water Holdings;
fallout from the decision to unwind Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms;
proposed - and highly contentious - changes to the Racial Discrimination Act &
Brandis’ “legally correct yet politically insane observation, that people have a right
to be bigots”; all topped off by Knights and Dames.

Mar 2014 34

Abbott makes a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of Peter Cosgrove as governorgeneral. He makes the bizarre comment “As Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne
travel the length and breadth of our country visiting all the places that aren’t
important enough for Prime Ministers….” Someone should ask him to name those
places. Perhaps, given his failure to meet with those who have lost homes in natural
disasters, the ‘not important enough’ places include those devastated by fire or


April 2014 35

Abbott talks up the possibility of finding missing flight MH370. The South China
Morning Post reported that he said officials “knew the position of the black box
flight recorder to within some kilometres”. Its headline read ‘Australian PM's
confidence over black box signals from MH370 rejected by search chief.
The headline from UK’s International Business Times was “Scientists Attack
Australian PM Tony Abbott for 'Playing Politics' Over Ping Reports”.

May 2014 36

Abbott told an anecdote about his university days. During a rugby game he threw a
punch and got a point for that in a best and fairest competition. He said “The point
of the story is that sometimes you’ve got to throw a punch to be the best and
fairest.” Paula Matthewson (AKA Drag0nista) in The Hoopla wrote:
The words “appalling” and “offensive” don’t even begin to describe this conclusion,
both in isolation as well as the context within which it was made.
Last month, Tom Meagher wrote a searing piece about the pernicious culture of
everyday male violence against women, which had mostly escaped his notice until
the rape and murder of his wife Jill Meagher…
Abbott’s clumsy suggestion, even as a joke, that decking an opponent on the
football field is somehow fair play, is a perfect example of the normalising of
violence that Meagher is warning us about.

May 2014 37

Budget 2014. From “Confusion abounds over government plans to
deregulate university fees after Prime Minister Tony Abbott contradicted his own
The next day “Embarrassing bloopers by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer
Joe Hockey have revealed they don’t understand who will be forced to pay their
controversial new $7 GP fee.”

May 2014 38

And then there was the wink/smirk. I’m sure you recall. Abbott on talkback radio
when a caller identified herself as an age pensioner with chronic medical conditions
who worked on a sex phone line to make ends meet. Enough has been said about
that. (I might just mention it got a run in overseas media.)

June 2014 39

Abbott issued a media release and video about his upcoming overseas trip which
included a few words about attending D Day Landings commemorations and segued
clumsily to domestic politics (Australia open for business, carbon tax etc). Mixing the
different topics did not go down well with the twittersphere. The media release was
then withdrawn and replaced. The next day the original was back up. Messy, messy,
messy at a time when Abbott and the government still under fire from budget

June 2014 40

The week before he goes to America, the US TV show ‘Last Week Tonight with John
Oliver’ features some of Abbott’s gaffes in its ‘Other countries’ Presidents of the USA’

June 2014 41

Abbott appears in a YouTube video to wish the Socceroos well a few hours before
their match with Chile. Unfortunately he got skipper Mile Jedinak’s name wrong,
calling him Mike. The video was pulled before the Chile game.
SBS helpfully summarised a few of Abbott’s recent overseas gaffes as did New
Matilda. Nothing major. Falling asleep at the wrong time, mangling the French
language, and so on. But following on from the John Oliver segment, not good PR.

July 2014 42

Abbott was asked a question about foreign investment after delivering a keynote
speech. His answer: I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign
investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely-settled,
Great South Land.
Referring to Australia as ‘then unsettled’ drew plenty of criticism, and analysis of
what he actually meant. Some defended him. Using different words, he could have
answered the question without creating controversy.

July 2014 43

The Japanese PM visits Australia. Abbott makes a speech in parliament that draws
criticism from both China and Diggers. The state-run Chinese press agency described
Abbott’s words, which appeared to praise Japan’s behaviour during the Second
World War, as appalling and insensible. “By making such a comment, Abbott showed
how insensible he is towards people in China and other countries who had suffered
greatly as a result of the ‘advanced’ war skills of Japanese troops and their sense of
honour during their aggression.”
The head of the RSL said that many Diggers would disagree with Abbott’s praise of
Japan’s military prowess during the war years.

July 2014 44

The headline says it all. “Tony Abbott posts priceless picture with Japanese leader
Shinzo Abe, embarrasses the nation”. From the article “…this cringe-worthy corker
posted by the PM last night has yet another Abbott embarrassment written all over
it.” In case you’ve forgotten, it’s the pic of Japanese leader Shinzo Abe and Abbott
with feet on a big tyre, in what one UK paper called ‘a crotch shot’.

July 2014 45

The repeal of the carbon tax, celebrated by Abbott & co, draws international
criticism, demonstrating just how out of touch Abbott is with the rest of the world.

Aug 2014 46

Abbott opens himself up for ridicule and cements his reputation overseas as a
numbskull in an interview with UK’s The Times. From The Times report:
“Scottish independence would be a victory for the enemies of freedom and justice,
Australia’s prime minister has said, in the most pointed intervention yet by a foreign
leader in the independence debate.
In an interview with The Times, Tony Abbott declared that independence would be
cheered only by those countries that opposed British values and justice around the
world. “

Aug 2014 47

I love ICAC (Independent Inquiry Against Corruption). In July 2013 when ALP
politicians were in ICAC’s sights, Abbott tweeted “#ICAC. This is Labor”. Now that
NSW state Liberal MPs are going down like ninepins for alleged involvement with
illegal donations from developers, Abbott has changed his tune.
Remember, the anti-corruption legislation, effective from 2009, was supported by
both NSW Liberals and NSW ALP.
When asked about ICAC this time around, Abbott blames ALP for introducing the
legislation and claims it is confusing. Further, he appears to characterise breaking
the law as merely ‘cutting corners’.
Seems that in Abbott’s world - ALP corruption bad, Liberal corruption of little

Aug 2014 48

An own goal. When taken to task for being late for a party meeting, Abbott explains
that the previous evening he’d attended a Liberal party fundraiser. In order for him
to claim travel expenses (paid by us, the taxpayers), he had to do some kind of
community activity, and for that reason, he visited Peter McCallum Cancer Institute
in Melbourne, which was what made him late.
Yes, dear readers. Our PM arranges his schedule, not with the national interest in
mind, but to ensure he can claim maximum expenses.

Aug 2014 49

Abbott does not seem to get that its offensive to dismiss tens of thousands of years
of history pre-European arrival. He said when opening a history exhibition that the
arrival of the First Fleet “was the defining moment in the history of this continent.”
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine,
has told ABC Radio that white settlement was "a disastrous defining moment for
indigenous people".
The head of the Stolen Generation Council for NSW, Matilda House, told the ABCs
AM program on Saturday: "I can't fathom how a ship or a boat sailed into Sydney
Harbour can overtake the 60,000 years before."

Oct 2014 50

Abbott declared coal is good for humanity and we should not demonise coal.

Oct 2014 51

In July 2014, the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was brought down over Ukraine. Of
the 298 who died, 38 were Australian residents. There had been some discussion as
to whether Russian President Putin should be invited to, and would be welcome at,
the G20 meeting to be held in Brisbane in November. Abbott announced he would
‘shirtfront’ Russian President Putin at the G20, adding ‘You bet you are, you bet I

Nov 2014

Abbott met Putin, no shirtfronting occurred.

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Nov 2014 52

As host country, Australia had some say in setting the G20 agenda. Abbott did not
want climate change included. However it was placed front and centre after a
landmark climate change deal was announced by US and China. Meanwhile Abbott
boasted about repealing Australia’s carbon pricing, emphasising just how out of step
he is with the rest of the world.
One of the most excruciating sessions was the leaders’ retreat. Abbott’s opening
comments were truly cringe-worthy. He surpassed himself, whingeing about the
difficulties he faced getting the $7 GP tax through the senate.

Nov 2014 53

Speaking at a breakfast event for the British Prime Minister, Abbott declared that
prior to 1788, Australia was nothing but bush. No acknowledgement of the tens of
thousands of years of Aboriginal culture.
Reports surface of Abbott being criticised for using ‘verbal gymnastics’ by his own

Dec 2014 54

Not earth-shattering but twice within one short interview, Abbott gets Kochie’s
name wrong , calling him Chris instead of David. Abbott later blamed it on a
Also on breakfast telly, Abbott - who is the Minister for Women - was asked what his
greatest achievement as Minister for Women has been, to which he answered,
repeal of the carbon tax. His explanation was ‘As many of us know, women are
particularly focused on the household budget’.

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Don’t know who should get the credit for spotting this as so many tweets making the same point

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36 (may be paywalled)
39 (you can see the video message here as well)

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