James Packer and David Gyngell undermined efforts to curb street violence when they threw punches at one another on a Sydney street, say the parents of boys who have been killed in similar attacks.
The two men, who are public figures, business leaders and the subjects of intense media scrutiny, also failed as “individuals and as parents” when they chose to attack one another in public, according to a psychologist who specialises in violence and masculinity.
Those are the views of people who spoke to The New Daily about the stoush, which sent the Australian media into a frenzy early this week.
News Corp reportedly paid $200,000 for the photos, taken by paparazzi. The images then filled the first seven pages of its tabloids. Beside a photo of James Packer with a fist wound back, Melbourne’s Herald Sun ran an ad on the front page promising “7 pages of WORLD EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS”.
The fight and the publication of the images comes as state governments work to control deadly street violence. Supporting those efforts, the community has gone so far as to intervene in the language, changing ‘king hit’ to ‘coward punch’.
In response to the brawl, NSW police are investigating the incident and are reportedly considering affray charges.
While the question of what this will cost Packer and Gyngell cannot be answered yet, the costs of this sort of violence are well known to other members of the community.
The New Daily asked a psychologist and the parents of victims to share their responses to the Packer-Gyngell punch-up.
Dr Michael Flood
University of Wollongong
Expert in interpersonal violence and masculinity
“This is a very old story of men assaulting other men. You look at the statistics: 460,000 men were physically assaulted last year, many in public and most by other men,” Dr Flood said.
“What’s unusual about this story is that they weren’t young men, it wasn’t outside a pub and they were lifelong friends.
While it wasn’t, as far as we know, alcohol fuelled, Dr Flood said he thought what happened on Sunday outside Packer’s Bondi Beach home was a symptom of “masculinity fuelled violence”.
“Men often assault each other because of the idea that real men are tough, they are aggressive, they respond to conflict and confrontation with violence. They don’t walk away,” he said.
“The two men involved in this case, they’re hard men who play hard in work, who are prepared to dominate and beat their media and political opponents and so, I suppose, there is a sense in which violence is an extension of that.”
Dr Flood said that it’s highly unlikely Packer and Gyngell would acknowledge they behaved badly.
“They could atone. It won’t happen. They could make a public statement saying this was a failure of leadership.
“In not doing that they failed as public figures, they failed as individuals and they failed as parents.”
Hugh van Cuylenburg
Chief Executive of anti-social violence organisation Step. Back. Think.
Mr van Cuylenburg said watching Packer and Gyngell was frustrating because it undid a lot of the hard work not-for profit organisations do to stop senseless acts of violence.
“I spend every day of the year in schools teaching kids about empathy, respect and positive decision making skills,” he said.
“It’s so frustrating that when we turn on the TV we have grown men, who are supposedly very intelligent, and who are both very successful in their careers, resorting to violence in order to settle conflict.
“From my point of view this will undo a lot of good work we are doing with young people.”
What’s the solution?
“I would like to see them reach into their pockets and help organisations that are anti street violence. They don’t have to say sorry but this would be a great way for them to show they understand their actions.”
Spokesperson for STOP. One Punch Can Kill, an anti-violence charity set up in memory of her son David Cassai who was fatally punched at a New Year’s Eve party in 2012
Caterina Politi’s son was killed from injuries he received during a fight at a party in Rye, Victoria. She said Packer and Gyngell should consider donating some funds to anti-violence campaigns, which were used to support victims of crimes and their families.
She said she was deeply disappointed in the media figures for behaving like children.
“How do you educate young people not to do things like this when these old farts are getting into fights on TV. It’s just ridiculous,” Ms Politi says.
“Death doesn’t discriminate. They (Packer and Gyngell) are well educated and they could have taken their argument indoors, but they were in a public place, somebody apart from themselves could have been hurt.”
Founder of the Matthew Stanley Foundation
His son Matthew was killed after being king hit in September 2006
Mr Stanley said the actions of Packer and Gyngell were “downright dangerous” and both men should be offering their sincerest regrets at the message they have sent young people.
“They are two high profile men who should have known better … and they have put the work I do back years,” he said.
“You could be talking to me right now with one of the men in custody for manslaughter or about the punch that put one of the men in a coma,” he said.
A better way for the pair to have addressed their very public fight, he offers, would be for them to publicly atone for their actions and gift a donation to anti-violence groups.
“Big deal if they say they are still friends,” he said.
“They could have stood on the street and shouted at one another … instead they threw a punch. It’s too late to say you’re sorry after the first punch is thrown.”