I’m fed up with Tony Abbott and most of his Coalition team. I’m fed up with his unremitting negativity. I’m fed up with his destructiveness. I’m fed up with his nastiness. I’m fed up with his attitude towards women. I’m fed up with his rabble-rousing tactics. I’m fed up with his time wasting. I’m fed up with his deception, his disingenuousness, his misrepresentation, his downright lies, and his campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt that they feed. Most of all I’m fed up with his ceaseless obstructionism, standing in the way of the party elected to govern this country, my country, your country.
Last year, the people of Australia elected 150 members to the House of Representatives, 72 were Labor, 72 were Coalition, one was from The Greens; the other five were independents. Three of the latter joined with the Green to enable Labor to form government, giving a majority of 76 to 74. So whatever Coalition people say, a majority of those elected by the people have formed a legitimate government, whose task is to govern this nation. Yet Tony Abbott is doing everything he can to obstruct the legitimate government from governing. Although Abbott has many, many faults, none is as reprehensible as obstructing the governance of the nation.
As a taxpayer contributing to the salary and functioning of the Federal House of Representatives, I resent the unrelenting Abbott-led attack on everything the elected Government is trying to do. I resent his continual attempts to pull things down, to block every move the Government makes to legislate on our behalf. I resent the irresponsible scare campaign he carries out day after day based on misrepresentation and blatant lies. I resent the way he uses the word ‘toxic’ to describe Labor, the carbon tax, the minerals tax, and anything else he wants to deride, smear, demolish, destroy. Assuming an average annual salary of $160,000 for members of the House, the 150 members cost the nation over $24 million a year for wages alone. I am not getting value for money from Abbott or his Coalition members.
I resent the way he and his Coalition members waste time day after day in Question Time asking disingenuous questions that are deliberately intended to mislead. I resent the maliciousness of his questioning style. I resent the viciousness of this pugilist’s words, the meanness of spirit he brings into the chamber day after day. I resent the personal remarks he makes about PM Gillard, calling her a liar in a dozen different ways. I resent his demeaning sexism directed to her.
Now before some Coalition supporter jumps in to comment that the job of oppositions is to oppose, let me disabuse you of this commonly held myth. Oppositions are NOT supposed to oppose EVERYTHING, as Abbott does. We all know, because it’s in his book Battlelines
, that he believes in, and follows Randolph Churchill’s dictum: “The job of an opposition is to oppose everything, suggest nothing, and turf the government out.”
Churchill was WRONG. So you ask, what is the role of an opposition? In my view as a voter and taxpayer I expect an opposition to do these things: To hold the government to account for its actions and behaviour. To question government ministers and public servants about their activities, statements, intentions, policies and plans. To contribute to the governance of the nation by supporting good policy. To seek to improve legislation through amendments. To oppose legislation only if it believes it is seriously detrimental to the nation. To introduce bills via the private member bill mechanism. To engage in the committee system in a collaborative way.
While it is appropriate to oppose legislation which it believes may be dangerously damaging for the country, and all oppositions justifiably do this, this ought to be the case only if it is not possible to amend it suitably. I know Coalition supporters will try to argue that what Abbott is opposing is bad for the nation. But he has chosen to oppose virtually everything, and even with the plain packaging legislation for cigarettes this previous health minister, this fitness fanatic, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support it, as I understand because of threats from his backbench they would cross the floor on the issue if he opposed it. He even opposes good policy from the Howard era for which Nick Minchin has sought his support, declaring that when it comes to choosing between policy purity and pragmatism, with him pragmatism wins every time. Hillbilly Skeleton gave us a penetrating insight into this in her piece Post-Truth Politics
. His opportunistic, pragmatic weathervane attributes were nicely illustrated in the graphic accompanying that piece.
How can a government govern if everything it tries to do has to be drawn through the long, tedious and time wasting process that opposing everything necessitates? Even savings measures designed to get the budget back into surplus are opposed. Why? Because Abbott’s Coalition does not want the Government to ever produce a surplus. That would put paid to Joe Hockey’s mantra: “This government will never produce a surplus budget.”
If any visitor to The Political Sword
can name any legislation, other than machinery bills, that Abbott has supported, please inform us.
The macabre skeleton of Abbott’s objectionable attributes outlined above requires flesh to be placed on the bones. First Abbott’s negativity:
He describes the Government as the most incompetent in Australian political history. He sees no good in anything at all the Government does, except condolence motions for fallen soldiers and support for an Australian presence in Afghanistan. Everything else is awful, hopeless, bungling, flawed, useless, appalling, entirely without merit. Does he really expect any sensible person to believe that this Government can do NOTHING right? He must, because he goes on with this day after day, week after week, month after month. Next his destructiveness:
Every day he is out there trying to destroy Julia Gillard. He regularly calls her a liar, someone never to be trusted, unable to make decisions and keep her word. He labels her and her Government incompetent, unable to manage money, or anything else for that matter. Pink batts and the accompanying ceiling fires and deaths are still regularly thrown back at her, and the BER, despite its 97% success rate, is persistently lampooned as an example of Labor’s ‘waste and mismanagement’. He berates the asylum seeker policy as an abject failure, and no matter what she does to stem the flow of boats he finds something destructive to say about it, the latest being his cynical pseudo concern for the welfare of boat people, while when in Government he never showed concern – remember Tampa and ‘kids overboard’. And if you need any further evidence of his destructiveness think not only about his trenchant opposition to pricing carbon and the MRRT, but about his intention to ‘repeal these taxes in government’, in other words to destroy them. We got an inkling of his destructiveness early on when he instructed Malcolm Turnbull to ‘demolish’, or in other words destroy the NBN, and of course he hoped that in the process his rival Turnbull too would be destroyed.
But his destructiveness goes even further. Day after day he is intentionally trying to build in the mind of the electorate a way of thinking about Julia Gillard that conjures up images of untrustworthiness and ineptitude that the moment her name is mentioned, voters will automatically reject everything she says as spin, lies and promises she not only cannot keep, but will not keep. History has many examples of how vilifying a person or a group over and again eventually convinces the people. Joseph Goebbels said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
We know where that led. Abbott too knows this. That is why he viciously repeats lies about PM Gillard and her Government day after day. Next his nastiness:
Some will ask why he needs to be nice. No he doesn’t, but being civil and courteous are not incompatible with being in opposition. Kim Beasley and Kevin Rudd were able to be so; Abbott has chosen deliberately not to be so. As he asks questions in QT he exudes nastiness. He spits out his vitriolic questions with spite contorting his face. There is nothing attractive about his demeanour. The only time the venom, the nastiness, the cynical sarcasm evaporates is when he is seconding a condolence motion. Why should this nation’s PM have to suffer the indignity of this man’s unremitting viciousness and meanness day after day, in parliament and out; why should we the public have to witness this endlessly uncharitable and offensive behaviour? Now his attitude to women:
We have seen the disparagement that he heaps on women again and again. His ‘doing the ironing’ comment which enraged many women: "What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it's going to go up in price, and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up"
; his refusal only last week to reprimand Senator David Bushby for his ‘meow’ retort directed at Penny Wong, instead calling Julia Gillard a ‘hypocrite’; his statement in the House that he looked forward to her becoming ‘an honest woman’, a clear reference to her marital status; his description of a woman's virginity as ‘the greatest gift’ she could give someone, and even his remark that his daughters looked ‘hot’ in Lycra on a bike ride; and perhaps most blatantly his standing in front of a placard labeling the PM as ‘Brown’s bitch’. He is sexist, but either doesn’t see that, or else he doesn’t care. Next his rabble-rousing:
The Canberra ‘revolting people’ rally was one of the more grotesque examples of rabble rousing, but there are examples every day of his inciting antagonism when he visits markets, greengrocers, butchers, drycleaners, newsagents, steel factories, car manufacturers, mines, in fact any venue he can lay his hands on so long as the media is there to give him his visual for the 6 o’clock TV news. The message is always the same. The carbon tax is toxic, will raise the price of everything, will destroy thousands of jobs, will ruin business and industry, will close down mines and plants, will create ghost towns, and will generally devastate our society and those thousands of good folk struggling to pay escalating household bills. But HE will save them from this ‘fate worse than death’! It’s boring, nauseatingly repetitive, but, if one can judge from the improvement of the Coalition’s position in the opinion polls, it is working for him as he systematically poisons the electorate against PM Gillard and her Government. Next his time wasting:
This is manifest grotesquely in QT, where he and his Coalition members ask questions, mainly on the same theme, to get a spot on the TV news and of course to embarrass the Government. They seldom do embarrass, and the responses of Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Stephen Smith, Jenny Macklin, Anthony Albanese, Nicola Roxon, Tanya Plibersek, Simon Crean and other ministers usually expose the disingenuousness of the question, the misinformation it contains, and demolish the questioner to boot. But Abbott does not mind. It’s the nasty question asked with such accusatory venom that he wants on the TV news. As that is what comes first in the news, he punts that the viewers will hear his vicious question that calls Government actions into serious question, but that they won’t listen long enough for the rebuttal. It’s cynical politics, but that’s the way our Opposition Leader does it. He doesn’t care how much of the parliament’s time he wastes achieving his sinister objectives. And this year particularly, in almost every QT, at around ten minutes before three o’clock, Abbott has moved a censure motion or raised a matter of public importance that he hopes will get on the 6 o’clock news. The matters raised are puerile, but that matters nothing to him, nor does the time he is wasting; all he cares about is gaining political advantage. If he were an employee, he would be sacked for profligate waste of time. What about his deception, disingenuousness, misrepresentation and downright lies that feeds his campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt?
This is gross and occurs with almost every utterance. For example in QT last week he misrepresented a suggestion in Ross Garnaut’s final report: “I ask the Prime Minister: will she repudiate Professor Garnaut's proposal for an unelected, unaccountable body to set emissions reductions targets?”
Garnaut never said that. The committee he suggested was to advise Government, which would then make the decision. Abbott knew he was misrepresenting Garnaut, but he didn’t care. What he wanted to do was get publicity by whatever medium for the notion that the Government was intending to abrogate its responsibility for setting emission targets. I could quote scores of similar misrepresentations, deception, and bald-faced lies perpetrated in the House. You know them too.
His deceptiveness is not in doubt. In that infamous interview with Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report, he himself conceded that he does not always tell the ‘gospel truth’ and that only what is scripted and written down should be believed. You heard him in Whyalla telling workers that their steel industry will be destroyed by the tax on carbon and their city will become a ‘ghost town’. That is arrant nonsense and he knows it, but to him truth is irrelevant, so long as he can continue the poisoning of the public’s mind against the tax and perpetrate a corrosive atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt, his stock in trade. Yet how often has his deception been exposed by the media? Seldom, even by sound journalists. And the likes of Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Terry McCrann, and shock jocks Alan Jones and Ray Hadley not only fail to challenge his lies, but laud his approach and give him an armchair ride in their outlets. Yet if they see the possibility of labeling Julia Gillard a liar, it’s JULIAR. Finally the ceaseless obstructionism:
This is what I resent most of all. It does not matter what PM Gillard proposes to do, or does, Abbott will criticize, find no merit in it at all, and do everything in his power to obstruct her and her Government. He obstructs every attempt to reach a budget surplus by opposing its attempt at savings, and there are many. He opposes any attempt the Government makes to tackle climate change with his ‘toxic tax’ mantra. He opposes every attempt to get miners to pay a fair amount for the minerals they take from the ground and sell at high prices overseas and urges miners to join him in his fight with the Government. He sends his Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband out to ‘demolish’, to destroy the NBN, to do everything he can to obstruct this most major of all infrastructure projects, even to the extent of his calling into question the integrity of the CEO of the NBN Co, Mike Quigley. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct with the intent of making this country ungovernable is his aim. That over 100 bills have been passed since Julia Gillard became PM shows how ineffectual he has been to date in actually blocking bills, but only a fool would underestimate his capacity to delay, obstruct and eventually destroy anything in his path.
So do what have we done to deserve an Opposition Leader like Tony Abbott? The answer is nothing at all.
We have him as a result of the roll of the dice in a crap game played behind the closed doors of the Coalition party room on 1 December 2009 – yes it’s that long ago! The game was set up by Nick Minchin and a phalanx of climate deniers/skeptics in the party’s ranks who were determined to remove Malcolm Turnbull because of his support for Kevin Rudd’s ETS. But the dice rolled differently to what Minchin had planned after Joe Hockey, his preference for leader, equivocated over opposition to the ETS. So to everyone’s surprise Hockey was eliminated in the first ballot and Abbott then defeated Turnbull by a single vote. So sheer chance has given us this man – and we have suffered ever since. What an awful legacy.
Ten days after Abbott’s election to Opposition Leader, on 10 December 2009, I wrote a piece on The Political Sword
titled The pugilistic politician
. You may care to glance through it again. The last paragraph reads: “Until the election
[that was the 2010 election], which Rudd seems likely to postpone until at least August, we can expect Abbott, the pugilistic politician, to attack Government policies and actions incessantly and relentlessly, to keep Coalition policies under wraps as much as possible to avoid having to defend them, and to exhibit venom, vitriol and vituperativeness the like of which we have not seen in politics in Australia for a long while. It will be unremittingly ugly. What a prospect for 2010!”
You can see that the only change in the intervening eighteen months is that Abbott has become even more extreme, more strident, more venomous, more noxious than predicted.
Fred made the first comment on that piece. It began: "The use of aggressive machismo language by Abbott worries the hell out of me."
He concluded: "I really do strongly, very, very strongly, question the suitability of this person to have a major public role in this country."
How right Fred was.
Given Abbott’s extreme behaviour, which balanced columnists acknowledge, it might reasonably be expected that there would be an outcry from those journalists who respect the democratic process, who give some weight to the need for truth and decency in political discourse, but sadly few voices have been raised in condemnation of Abbott’s demeanour, behaviour and utterances. Even mature and respected journalists like Paul Kelly decline to do so, instead, as Lindsay Tanner states so clearly in his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy
, they see the contest between Abbott and Gillard as a sporting event, and gleefully report the scores, lauding Abbott for pulling the Coalition ahead in the TPP stakes and excitingly edging towards the PM in the PPM stakes. Not surprisingly, the likes of Dennis Shanahan delight in this; the Paul Kelly’s ought to know better.
Coalition supporters will ask: Is there nothing good about Tony Abbott. Well there is. It is reliably reported that he is a pleasant person to chat with over a beer. Journalists generally seem to like him. He is a family man devoted to his wife and daughters. He seems to have sincere affection for indigenous people. He is one of the few Liberal politicians who have put his values and beliefs into writing in his book Battlelines
. He is a hard worker for his party, has abundant energy and keeps himself very fit. He has persistence. Some see him as a good leader, but the recent fracturing of Coalition unity calls that into question. He is a master of three word slogans and has learned to keep on message so long as he’s not probed too deeply. He has elevated his party in the opinion polls, although he has not done so well personally. Now I’m running out of admirable traits. Perhaps Abbott supporters can help me out.
It seems that Tony Abbott’s prime objective is to be PM, and judging from what the Independents say, will do anything to grasp that shining prize. Everything I have written here reinforces that argument; his ruthlessness in pursuing the prize is on display for all to see.
Yet what has he got to offer? His does not look prime ministerial (as does Malcolm Turnbull), he does not act prime ministerially, he lacks the skills and attributes needed in a prime minister, particularly an understanding of global economics, and instead offers all the objectionable and obnoxious attributes detailed in this piece. He is a hollow man, unworthy of this high office.
I’m sick and tired of the relentless attacks that this pugilistic Leader of the Opposition makes on the elected PM of this country and her Government day after day, his fists flailing wildly in every direction hoping he can land a punch and be seen doing so. In my own small way I’m punching back. If only more would do so, if only our MSM journalists would join us.
So I ask again: What have we done to deserve an Opposition Leader like Tony Abbott?
I can’t think of a plausible answer. Can you?