Why does Australia’s prime minister keep getting hit with sandwiches?

Politicians are used to being targets. Hostile media, political rivals, and would-be assassins all figure in the daily threat assessments for public figures. But Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has recently been battling a menace of a distinctly more carb-heavy variety. On Thursday, May 30, Gillard (who readers may recognize from this epic rant about ...

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Politicians are used to being targets. Hostile media, political rivals, and would-be assassins all figure in the daily threat assessments for public figures. But Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has recently been battling a menace of a distinctly more carb-heavy variety.

On Thursday, May 30, Gillard (who readers may recognize from this epic rant about sexism in society) was targeted for the second time this month by a sandwich while visiting a high school. Reports vary as to the accuracy of the throw -- the National Times claims the sandwich hit her arm, while Al Jazeera reports that it "narrowly missed" the prime minister - - but video evidence appears to show a narrow hit:

Politicians are used to being targets. Hostile media, political rivals, and would-be assassins all figure in the daily threat assessments for public figures. But Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has recently been battling a menace of a distinctly more carb-heavy variety.

On Thursday, May 30, Gillard (who readers may recognize from this epic rant about sexism in society) was targeted for the second time this month by a sandwich while visiting a high school. Reports vary as to the accuracy of the throw — the National Times claims the sandwich hit her arm, while Al Jazeera reports that it "narrowly missed" the prime minister – – but video evidence appears to show a narrow hit:

All sources identify the sandwich as consisting of white bread, salami, and a "butter-like spread."

This incident follows a high school sandwich-throwing on May 8, when the Australian leader was targeted by a 16-year-old student armed with Vegemite.

Gillard, from the center-left Labor Party, is visiting schools to promote her education-reform agenda, which proposes increasing funding for secondary education at the expense of tertiary education. The program, called the National Education Reform Agreement, is deeply unpopular among Gillard’s political opponents.

So were the attacks politically motivated? Food-throwing has been used as a form of political protest before, most notably in Greece, where yogurt-throwing is something of a national sport. Are sandwiches a weapon of the weak for Australia’s disaffected high schoolers? Alas, it seems as though we may never know. At press time, no culprit had been identified in today’s incident, and the alleged perpetrator of the May 8 attack continues to maintain his innocence.

The motive, however, is not the only mystery. Among other pressing questions, one stands out: Who eats salami with butter?

Park MacDougald is an assistant editor at Foreign Affairs.

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