Do you know a con-artist when you see one?

After many pieces about many issues, I’m ready to have my say about Abbott himself. So sit back with a beer, or a glass of your best red, and come along for a short ride. 

I won’t bother going over his broken promises and lies. There are many other people already doing that. The only point to make is that condemning Abbott for deceit is a ‘lay-down misere’. (For those who don’t know that expression, check out the rules of the card game Five Hundred.) 

The people have now seen through Abbott. He gave indications of his real self over the years, with what became known as ‘Abbottisms’, but I think many people simply accepted these as the gaffes that most politicians make at different times. He did give clues that he couldn’t be believed, such as the famous interview with Kerry O’Brien in 2012 when he explained that we should only trust his scripted remarks. 

And at his swearing-in as prime minister he said:
 
We hope to be judged by what we have done rather than by what we have said we will do.
 
That has also registered with the voters and they are now judging what he has done

Abbott says these things because he obviously can’t think on his feet. Someone like Keating always had a quick answer and could turn defence to attack with well-aimed barbs. Abbott is incapable of doing that. His thinking is obviously slower. He does not retain the facts of a situation to draw on quickly when making a reply. He is hopelessly reliant on his preparation — his scripted remarks. I think the lack of retention even creates difficulties when he has been well prepared beforehand. Once he has to leave his script or briefing behind, it appears he can’t remember all of it and still flounders for what he can recall and what words he is supposed to use. That gives rise to the slow speech and the repetition of words and phrases as he tries to dredge something up from what he can remember of the briefing. 

The electorate knows now that they were conned, and they don’t like it. Australians can usually detect bulls**t and know to take no notice of bulls**t artists, or sometimes to be even a touch sympathetic towards them because the poor buggers can’t help themselves. But when a bulls**t artist becomes a con artist, that is an entirely different matter, a major crime because it takes advantage of our egalitarian and trusting nature. 

Australians are used to politicians’ bulls**t and accept some level of it in the context of elections. John Howard said recently, Australians will accept change and reform by government if they can see that it is in the national interest and is ‘fundamentally fair’, even if it was not part of the bulls**t promised before the election. 

Abbott, however, took this to the next level. He said different things to different audiences. He said one thing one week but something different the next. He got away with it because most people heard or read little about the inconsistencies. (Thank you mainstream media for not giving those inconsistencies the prominence they deserved.) On his overseas visit in June, he had the gall to tell President Obama that the increase in the petrol excise was like a carbon tax. When his predilection for telling different audiences different ‘truths’ extends to foreign leaders, then this is a man that even foreign leaders cannot trust. 

His bulls**t includes that he hadn’t even said the bulls**t in the first place; that the electorate had not heard him properly, that it had misunderstood. One of the greatest crimes a politician can commit is to call the electorate ‘stupid’, which is basically what Abbott has done. 

Abbott has lost credibility, not just because he lied to the electorate but because the lies were part of an elaborate con which has now been laid bare and he has effectively told the electorate so by telling voters they weren’t listening to what he actually said. That should make it next to impossible for Abbott to recover. 

However, never write off a con artist. Even when they seem down and out, they will still be scheming, still telling lies, still running the con. And don’t forget, the con is not just being run by Abbott. He is only the front man. The con is part of the master plan of Abbott’s handlers and supporters. 

Even the budget was a con and will likely lead to another con. 

The MYEFO and the budget are basically political documents (which I will explain in a moment). It is only the PEFO (Pre-election financial outlook) that comes out with purely Treasury estimates. The PEFO last year showed a budget deficit of about $60 billion over the forward estimates (four years). But when Hockey put out the MYEFO that had grown to $120 billion, largely from the proposed abolition of the ‘carbon tax’ and other decisions by the Abbott government. By the time of the budget, with the drastic cuts contained in it, and foreshadowed by it, the deficit over four years was reduced to — you guessed it — $60 billion dollars. This is the old ‘sale’ trick: if I increase the price of my $50 item to $100 for a week or two and then ‘slash’ it to $50, I can tell people they are getting a 50% reduction, and I haven’t lost a thing, just suckered in the punters. I think Abbott and Hockey may have learned that from their business mates. 

What helps make MYEFO and the budget political, rather than just economic estimates of finances, is the choice of forecasts offered to the Treasurer. The Treasury, as with the making of most economic predictions, bases its forecasts for the forward estimates on a number of variables and provides the range within which those variables are likely to operate: for example, GDP may grow anywhere between 2.25% and 3.00% and so forecasts based on 2.25%, 2.5%, 2.75% and 3.0% may be considered. But instead of Treasury economic experts saying 2.75% is our best estimate, it is the Treasurer who decides which set of forecasts to use. 

Just after the budget, there were some financial experts suggesting that the budget estimates were ‘conservative’ or, in other words, on the low side of the potential range of future growth. Why are they low? — because that is the range that Hockey selected. 

Why would he select the lower growth forecasts? — because it helps justify the ideologically driven cuts. They divert attention from the real underlying reasons for the cuts and allow the debate to centre on the ‘finances’: whether or not a commentator believes or contests the figures, they are still debating the figures, not the ideology. 

Also it lays the ground work for the next con. If, prior to the next election, the economy is performing at 3% growth or better, as is quite possible, Abbott and Hockey will claim all the credit, even though this may well be within the range of forecasts originally presented by Treasury. They will say, yes, our first budget was tough but look at what it has achieved. And now because of that, you can all have a tax cut (including big business of course). 

Although I have no evidence, I have a gut feeling that Wayne Swan, when he was Treasurer, made the opposite mistake: he tended to adopt the more optimistic forecasts. Why? — because Abbott had also conned him. The constant Abbott attacks on Labor’s economic management may have conned Swan into thinking he could disprove that by using the upper range of forecasts. In his case, when the real growth did not quite match the forecasts he used (although perhaps still within the Treasury range of forecasts), and revenue was less, he was left open to more attacks by Abbott and the opposition. It was a con that led to a win-win for Abbott. If Swan had adopted the lower forecasts he could have been attacked for ‘slowing’ the economy. Nice con if you can pull it off — which Abbott and his side did with the help of the media. 

I also think Abbott’s whole persona is a con: not just the makeover that was undertaken to make him appear more presentable on television, but take a look at his body language. 

He walks with an exaggerated swagger, a style of walk often described as using more space than is necessary for normal locomotion. The only other world figure I have noticed who walks with a similar style is Putin but I don’t think Abbott is in the same poltical power league — although he may like to think he is. 

The swagger is most often associated with machismo and arrogance, although it has also been linked with narcissism. Abbott tries to play up the machismo but may not realise he is also displaying arrogance. Since the election, Abbott has once or twice tried to suggest that he can be a caring and sympathetic prime minister but people will not hear that message while he continues to swagger. 

One other interesting habit of Abbott’s body language is the use of his left hand in handshakes, when he grasps the other person’s wrist or forearm. Allan and Barbara Pearse in The Definitive Book of Body Language describe this handshake as the ‘double hander’. It is normally a sign of sincerity and closeness and is seen as an ‘intention movement’ towards a hug: the left hand can be placed over the other person’s hand, or almost anywhere along the arm up to the shoulder, and more rarely on the other person’s back. It is usually used between people who are close, not with total strangers. The book states:
 
… if the person who gives you one doesn’t have a personal connection with you, look for the hidden agenda. It’s common to see politicians greeting voters using double-handed handshakes and business people do it to their clients without realising it can be business and political suicide, putting people offside.

The Pearses suggest that it is easier for us to control our hand signals than it is to control the body language signals portrayed by our legs. On that basis, I would suggest that Abbott is deliberately trying to conceal his arrogance (the swagger) by artificially portraying sincerity (the double hander). In terms of body language these could be called ‘contradictory signals’, which may be another reason why people generally have an uneasy feeling about Abbott — they cannot interpret these signals when they offer two conflicting images of the man behind them. 

An opposite interpretation is that Abbott is basically insecure and out of his depth, so deliberately adopts these postures to hide his true nature. The following video may suggest that he is not as assertive and confident as he likes to suggest. 

 

I leave that one for you to consider. 

Either way, his public persona, as well as his public policies, are a con. 

So now, do you know a con artist when you see one? 

What do you think?

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TPS Team

20/07/2014In a week where Abbott manages to upset the Russians, receive worldwide condemnation for repealing Australia's Emissions Trading Scheme and somehow find time to keep 153 people 'disappeared' somewhere; Ken returns to ask a question with increasing relevance as the year goes by. Your comments are always welcome.

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20/07/2014Ken You are right, again. Our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is, by definition, a con man. A con man works by way of a confidence trick, which is [i]“an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their confidence, in the classical sense of trust.”[/i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence_trick In that sense, Abbott clearly is a con man. I’m sure that I do not need to repeat his many broken promises to validate my assertion, promises shattered after eliciting sufficient trust among the electorate for his Coalition to be elected convincingly. You know the sad story very well. That definition implies that the con man has a deliberate intent to deceive, to defraud. I believe that to be the case with Abbott, aided and abetted by his close associates and media advisers. The latter devised a clever and effective strategy to con the people into believing that there would be no new taxes, no cuts to health, education, the ABC and SBS, and so on, and that the Abbott government would do exactly what it said it would do. The opposite has occurred. Those who voted for him have been conned, conned just as devastatingly as those caught up in the Storm Financial scam, and more recently in the Commonwealth Bank scam. They have been succered. In the light of the last nine months of the Abbott government, who can argue against the notion that Abbott, as leader of the Coalition, is a con man and a fraudster? No amount of pseudo-rationalization about fictitious ‘budget emergencies’ can justify his fraudulent behaviour. In my view though, it is not as simple as that. It would be giving Abbott far too much acknowledgment to believe that he was a con man of accomplishment, one whose sole purpose was deliberately to set out to deceive the people and take them down. A classic con man is smooth-tongued, slick, convincing, even likeable. Abbott is none of these; indeed he is the very opposite. His con man behaviour is that of an automaton. His minders give him his lines, which he repeats faithfully, endlessly, monotonously, irritatingly. They know that such a verbal strategy works, as did Goebbels. And it has. This con man is different. When not repeating his mantras, reciting his three word slogans, he is usually bumble-footed, hesitant, seemingly unsure of himself, and verbally inept. Reflect on his usual response to pointed questions, those that demand a straight answer, those that probe an uncomfortable subject. His habitual response is first a deep breath, then a pause. Watch him. Count how often he then frowns, squints, opens his mouth widely and begins with ‘Look’, a convenient spacer that gives him a few more seconds to think about his response. Then comes a gravelly sentence hesitatingly uttered, often embellished with disarming generic phrases that might appeal to the masses, such as ‘any thinking person’, ‘any reasonable individual’, ‘it would be un-Australian to’, ‘the people expect’, ‘the people have given us a mandate to…’ and so on. The core answer is often so shrouded in vagueness that its meaning is obscure, or the question is avoided altogether. A competent con man would never be caught short as often as is Abbott. But we should acknowledge that the traditional con man usually has a restricted field of endeavour, whereas Abbott, as PM, is often assailed with a wide variety of questions, some not related to the main subject of the press conference or interview. Here is where he stumbles. Who will ever forget Abbott’s stunned nodding silence to Mark Riley’s question about Abbott’s ‘shit-happens’ remark in Afghanistan? Abbott’s responses seem more often than not to fit the pattern of ‘fast thinking’, described so comprehensively by Nobel Laureate author Daniel Kahneman in his widely acclaimed classic [i]Thinking, Fast and Slow[/i] (Penguin 2012) http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Thinking_Fast_and_Slow.html?id=oV1tXT3HigoC&redir_esc=y . Time and again, when in an unrehearsed situation where slogans don’t apply, when asked the unexpected question, we have seen Abbott open his mouth widely so as to accommodate both feet, and say the first thing that comes into his head, usually something he thinks his audience wants to hear. The reality that next day he will say the opposite to another audience is of no concern to him. Kahneman shows that we have two ways of thinking and responding: the immediate, spontaneous, ‘fast’ way that humans use habitually, and a considered, thoughtful, reasoned, ‘slow’ way that we all use too. Both are useful, one is not necessarily better than the other; indeed they are complementary. Kahneman regards the ‘slow’ way of thinking as acting as a brake on ‘fast’ thinking, a monitor that keeps the impetuosity of fast thinking in check, a censor that enables us to avoid blurting out words that we might come to regret, or ill thought-through concepts or ideas that can’t fly. To me, Abbott seems to use fast thinking, but without the restraint that effective slow thinking could give him. He blurts unwisely, he says what first comes into his mind, he uses words unthinkingly, and when challenged he finds himself in a hole of his own making, from which he then has to extricate himself, often painfully and in an ungainly way. His problem then is not that he habitually and preferentially uses fast thinking, but that his slow thinking apparatus lags behind, too slow to monitor, too slow to curtail the rashness, hotheadedness, recklessness, indiscretion, indeed foolishness of his fast thinking and the words and actions that follow. This is not the place for a dissertation on Kahneman’s thesis, but I can wholeheartedly recommend his book as one that gives great insight into the thinking processes we all use, and how that applies credibly to political thinking. In conclusion, I believe Abbott is a con man, but not the smooth one that the Wolf of Wall Street turned out to be. Without his minders fashioning his lines day after day, he would be a failure as a con man. What is perhaps even more disturbing and worrisome than the confidence tricks he perpetrates every day on the electorate, is his frequent use of fast thinking unfettered by slow, considered thinking that might moderate his outlandish utterances. After all, this man is our PM, our nation’s leader. Who among us does not want a discrete, diplomatic, thoughtful, logical, consistent, respectful, honest, strong, resolute, stylish, urbane leader that can ‘do our nation proud’ in any forum? Who wants a bumbling con artist that too often embarrasses us when he opens his mouth?

2353

20/07/2014Ken - this is a wonderful article. Thanks for writing it. Ad - You comments regarding Abbott's delivery are certainly relevant and have also been identified by others as well. Fairfax Newspapers were reporting that his delivery pace and style have changed significantly since he conned the electorate into supporting him. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-coached-to-speak-slowly-speech-expert-claims-20140118-311w9.html

pappinbarra fox

20/07/2014An excellent piece and well spotted AA that even as a con artist he actually lacks the "art" of the con. An interesting point about fast and slow thinking, but even when Abbott thinks fast he thinks slow and stumbling.

Ken

20/07/2014Ad A quick first up response. I did not say Abbott was a good con artist. In fact, I think I inferred the opposite, because he is a 'bullshit artist' who stepped over the line to become a 'con artist'. Everyone knows that a 'bullshit artist' is generally useless for anything important. So Abbott has proved but he got to where he is by taking his 'bullshit' to that level where it becomes a con. In my vernacular terms, one doesn't have to trust the con man, just start believing some of the 'bullshit': because there is so much of it, one begins to think that perhaps some of it must be true. More response for you, 2353 and pappinbarra fox, tomorrow, between cutting down a tree and doing my tax return.

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21/07/2014Ken I agree with all you say in your thought-provoking piece, and in your comment last night. Abbott exhibits all the disagreeable features we attribute to him. And we are stuck with him as our PM!

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21/07/20142353. PF Thank you for your comments and for the link to the [i]Canberra Times[/i] article about the new ‘Abbott-speak’. I found these sentences revealing; they confirm a much slower rate of speaking: [i]“Now in response to an interview question he's speaking at half the rate. ''I look at his rate of speech now and I think, 'He's got a lot of time to think about what he'll say next', and repetition is a very good strategy to buy yourself time. If you can't think what you're going to say next, just repeat what you said before.''… “He has to find a balance, because I think he's starting to drift towards a presentation that is so controlled and so managed he risks his listeners switching off. He's becoming a puppet.''[/i] Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-coached-to-speak-slowly-speech-expert-claims-20140118-311w9.html#ixzz383LhP5TA

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21/07/2014Ken, 2353, PF Adding to my last comment, Kahneman portrays our fast thinking apparatus as a mechanism for ‘jumping to conclusions’. He goes on to say: “[i]Jumping to conclusions is efficient if the conclusions are likely to be correct and the costs of an occasional mistake acceptable, and if the jump saves much time and effort. Jumping to conclusions is risky when the situation is unfamiliar, the stakes are high, and there is no time to collect more information. These are the circumstances in which intuitive errors are probable, which may be prevented by a deliberate intervention of slow thinking.”[/i] Faced with unfamiliar situations where the stakes are high, as he is every day, Abbott is in constant danger of jumping to conclusions. We have seen him do that over and again. Had he the sense to admit that he needed more information, had he been prepared to take the time to engage his slow thinking deliberative apparatus, he would make fewer errors of judgement and speech. His minders are trying to slow him down to reduce these avoidable errors, but his paucity of knowledge and experience, and his tendency to play the know-all macho-man, make him dangerously susceptible to jumping to faulty conclusions. I believe this is the result of his superficial, slogan-driven approach during opposition, and his avoidance of solid policy work, for which he already has a reputation. He comes to government ill-equipped to address the diverse policy issues that arise day after day, and is forced to fall back on slogans, repetition, slow speech, platitudes and tough talk to get him through. Knowing that they have been conned, commentators are now looking for substance, are finding it lacking, and are beginning to question his capacity to manage the daunting and demanding task of prime ministership. Abbott is steadily being exposed for the fraud he is.

Michael

21/07/2014Abbott the con artist is on full display with his current 'steady national leader in a time of tragedy' performance as the reality of the downed Malaysian airliner plays out in a place where he is incapable of going - true sympathy. He's putting himself as often as he can into public media but never saying anything more than his first skimming response, summed by his callow comment about taking a "dim view" of anyone who "facilitates" the death of Australians. The man, who supposedly trained as a professional wordsmith (mind you, this was to be a member of the Australian mainstream media, so perhaps both 'professional' and 'wordsmith' need to be viewed through that particular lens) chooses his words so consistently badly you must wonder whether he has some random whirligig of a loosely-geared mental thesaurus between his ears. A device that always seems to land on the least consequential, meaningful, or relevant (either in timeliness or gravity) to the situation he's commenting upon. And then, of course, of course, he compounds the problem by repeating phrases, often so often that a ten word sentence is delivered as a twenty word sentence using ten discrete words in total. Would you like me to say that again, so you get it? Again? But isn't he loving his Gerard Henderson anointed (on Insiders over the weekend) position as the "strongest" world leader in comments upon the plane's destruction? Henderson said twice (must be catching in certain circles) that Abbott was now a world-recognised strongman in going after the perpetrators of the attack. The fact that Abbott may well be on the right track as to who bears ultimate responsibility for providing the weaponry that destroyed the plane doesn't suddenly make him the leader of the free world because he shot off his mouth earlier than anyone else without full possession of the facts, or a clear understanding of precisely what had happened. Of course, Australians are now all too familiar with this signature style of ejaculatory Tony, and know how often it lands more as a damp squib than a truly telling blow, but acolyte with sponge in hand Handerson streaked forward in support of his man. As he would, since he and his ilk have so happily to themselves seen off "that woman", Julia Gillard. All is right in Heaven with a bloke's bum on the throne. Con man, flim flam artist, denominate his vapidity any way you will (and he will always find a way to embody it), Abbott makes William McMahon look like a cross between Mandela and Metternich, and for that historical rebalancing of the 'least equipped Prime Minister to lead Australia ever' I am sure the McMahon family are eternally grateful. In a sense, so should we be, because, the longer he stays there as PM the less likely he is to BE there when it really counts for anything - election night, and a change of government comprehensively delivered by a nation no longer content to be led by a man so hollow he can never ring true - no finely tuned bell, but an empty shoebox

Ken

21/07/20142353, pf and Ad Thank you for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. As I suggested in the piece, I interpret some of Abbott's responses as signifying a lack of retention, a poor memory - which is always bad for a BS artist and especially a con artist. When a politician has a good memory they are able to answer questions, able to recall their briefings, able to recall what they have told other people. That retention enables them to give quick and usually accurate answers. I think Abbott does not remember what he has been told from one day to the next. Three word slogans may have been not just a political ploy but the only way Abbott could remember what he had to say. I have also noticed the change in delivery. He is no longer 'Tiny-er-er' but 'Tiny-pause-pause'. But he is still forgetful and reverts back to repeating phrases he already knows even when they are not entirely relevant to the question he was asked.

Ken

21/07/2014Michael love your comment - you can be my ghost writer for my next piece :-) (or perhaps you should write one for us) Agree that he makes McMahon look good. At least McMahon didn't take deliberate decisions to trash the country. One other thing that had crossed my mind about Abbott being so loud on the MH17 tragedy is that it is possibly under the direction of the US. Relations between Russia and the US are already strained over Ukraine, so if they can get Australia and the Netherlands to lead the charge, and keep the pressure on Putin, they are achieving their strategic aims without being open to accusations of playing superpower politics over such a tragedy.

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21/07/2014Ken I agree with your comment about Michael's contribution. I hope one day Michael you will write a piece for [i]TPS[/i]. Ken, you make the point about Abbott reverting to slogans, no matter what the subject. I have noticed that too. It seems that oft repeated mantras are his primary defence. No doubt his minders feed him suitable catchphrases every day, and as much as he can remember them, he trots them out when lost for rational words.

2353`

21/07/2014Apparently Newman is trying the same trick. Faced with a swing against him of 18.6% in a by-election on the weekend for the saet of Stafford - the Queensland Government's favoured slogan of 'strong choices' was mentioned by Newman a number of times in the media since. Despite Stafford being a traditional ALP seat - the result for Newman was worse than the result in the Redcliffe (held by the Liberals Terry White - yes that one - for years) by-election earlier this year. There were a number of ethical questions regarding the LNP 'one term' MP. Newman only lost that one by around 12%! P.S. Michael - a piece for TPS would be welcome. If I can do it . . .

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21/07/2014Ken In Abbott's just held press conference about the downing of MH17 where he describes the changing attitudes of other national leaders, he is using the descriptor 'firmer and sterner' to describe them - another clever catchphrase with nice alliteration. Abbott has smart media advisers, who have probably read Kahneman's book. I hope Bill Shorten has copy!

Zathras

21/07/2014Abbott's public persona as a caring citizen has also been manufactured. His highly visible public role as a volunteer fireman is little more than tokensism as he is allegedly not qualified to be on a fireground, not having undertaken the 5 days minimum training. All he does is drive trucks, a bit of backburning and pose for a lot of photo-ops. During the South Coast fires when his unit was on standby, he returned from his holidays to be with them but left as soon as the cameras did. Likewise his charitable events - for which he eagerly bills the taxpayer for meals and accommodation to attend.

Ken

21/07/20142353 It may mean Newman has a poor memory too :-)

Ken

21/07/2014Ad 'firmer and sterner" - yes, Abbott does have good media advisers. Or did News Ltd tell him they were going to use that phrase in their later news and suggest he may like to use it so they could quote him. The fact that it was not just "firm and stern" cleverly leaves the message (BS/con/spin - whatever you like to call it) that they are in fact, following Abbott's lead and [u]becoming[/u] 'firmer and sterner'. Expect to see an improvement in Abbott's 'satisfaction' rating in forthcoming polls. Like most PMs during a 'crisis' he will gain by this.

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21/07/2014Zathras Welcome to The Political Sword family and thank you for your comment. You are right. Abbott is erzatz, the artificial product of his minders, who programme him each morning to utter easily remembered slogans and catchphrases, which a compliant media faithfully broadcasts to undiscerning ears who lap them up and regurgitate them unthinkingly at their regular watering holes. It's Nineteen Eighty Four all over again. George Orwell would have been proud of Abbott's minders.

Ken

21/07/2014Zathras Welcome, I don't recall you having commented at least in recent times. So a warm welcome, or welcome back, as the case may be. You are right, that Abbott's 'caring citizen' persona is also a con. I think the fire fighting is part of the machismo image, part of the spin that says I am not just a politician but a 'real Ozzie man' out here fighting the bushfires. As I suggest in the piece, Abbott's swagger counters the 'caring' message because of its hint of arrogance (even narcissism). Where I grew up, it is also typical of the BS artist who makes out he is more important than he is, that he has saved the world a dozen times, that he has cared for his dying mothers. 'Mothers' plural because the BS artist invariably tells half-a-dozen different stories about his dying mother, even though you spoke to his mother only a week ago. You get the picture. I think Abbott fits the persona perfectly or, as they say, if it walks like a duck and squawks like a duck ...

Ken

21/07/2014sorry 'quacks like a duck'. I was thinking of something else as I wrote.

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21/07/2014Ken Abbott's minders/media supporters are indeed very smart.

Ken

21/07/2014I would just like to make a point regarding the 'Nigel, no friends' video. Take a careful look at the bloke to Abbot's right (our left as we look at it) as Abbott finds his place. He is helping a woman find her place and smiling and then turns to see who is arriving but turns back with what seems at least a'no-one important - I don't need to acknowledge him' demeanour. It may, however, be even worse than that because he actually turns away quite quickly once he sees Abbott - perhaps he did recognise him!

Pappinbarra Fox

22/07/2014Correct me if I am wrong but were not Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop absolutely bagging Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard for entertaining the idea that Australia should seek a place on the Security Council of the UN? The con has by definition an element of hypocrisy, but the hypocrisy here of this lot of bounders knows no bounds.

Ken

22/07/2014PF Absolutely right. Abbott and co were saying that it was a waste of time, effort and money and that the government should be getting on with the job of governing OZ, not chasing such ridiculous things as a place on the Security Council. Just before the MH17 tragedy, I had been wondering what had happened regarding our place on the Security Council because nothing had been said about it since Abbott was elected. Now it has fallen into Abbott's lap to his political advantage. He and Bishop are making the most of it by putting up the resolution that was voted on. They will trumpet that it was Australia's resolution, their resolution. They have gained, won a political advantage, however you like to put it, by something that would never have happened if they had had their way in the first place. It is strange, but con artists and BS artists often seem to have the luck fall their way, which is another annoying feature of them.

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22/07/2014PF, Ken Abbott will be hoping for a boost to his approval ratings, which he may get because his one-eyed supporters will judge him as being tough, standing up to Putin and then expressing doubts as to whether Putin will live up to his fine-sounding words. That Abbott has jumped the gun in accusing Russia of aiding and abetting the MH 17 crime will not embarrass his supporters, as we saw on Insiders when Gerard Henderson fawned all over Abbott for his 'strong' stance. It is noteworthy that only in response to Abbott's phone call to him did Putin warn about jumping to conclusions and politicizing the situation. It seems obvious that Putin felt Abbott was doing both, a view that is likely shared by many here in Australia who know Abbott's habitual behaviour so well. The one who has come out of this well is Julie Bishop, who has prosecuted Australia's case effectively in the UN. She deserves credit for that, but we should expect her to acknowledge that her capacity to do what she has done was due to the Rudd/Gillard push to secure a seat for Australia on the UN Security Council. Acknowledging an opponent's contribution would be a bridge too far. It will be interesting to see what effect this tragic episode will have on the next Newspoll. Abbott will try to squeeze from the public the last drop of acknowledgment he can muster. He would be wise to resist the temptation to overplay his the hand he has been dealt so fortunately. Will he be able to resist

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22/07/2014PF, Ken That sentence should have read: 'But acknowledging an opponent's contribution would likely be a bridge too far.'

Ken

22/07/2014Ad, PF I still think there is some American guidance behind Australia's position. America would not have been able to present a resolution to the Security Council without a Russian veto (would be my guess) - not only for political reasons but because they lost few people on MH17. The Dutch would have had a good case but are not on the Security Council. The other non-permanent members of the Council are currently, Argentina, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Nigeria, South Korea, and Rwanda, none of which are involved in MH17. It is a matter of pure luck that Australia is on the Security Council when this has happened. Because we had the third highest number of casualties on the flight, it was legitimate for us to present a resolution. If we hadn't been on the Council, it would have been very interesting to see how this would have played out.

2353`

23/07/2014Ken, There has been a description published (can't find a link right now) of how the Australian resolution 'got up' in the UN. Apparently Kim Beasley, the Director of the CIA and a high ranking official of the US State Department were involved - along with the Australian and Russian Ambassadors to the UN. In brief, they worked out a game plan, identified the potential obsticles and negotiated a 'reasonable' solution that everyone could live with. In short Abbott and Bishop (the younger) were clever enough to let the professionals do what they do best). I suspect that even if the Russians did have a role in the provision of the weapons system that shot down MH17, Putin and the Russian Government realise it is an event that could destroy their already shaky reputation and will within (their definition of) reason support the 'humanity' related acts that are now occurring in the repatriation of bodies etc. It seems that the Ukraine war is now a front of mind issue - something that neither side of the conflict appeared wanted to happen - and there will now be some accountability for the actions of both sides.

Ken

23/07/20142353 Yes, the officials have done a good job but that is what officials do. All the Minister has to say is, 'I want a UN Security Council resolution on this' and the officials go to work. But I still question whether Abbott and Bishop (the younger - I like that and hope you don't mind if I use it in the future) have the nous to have come to that decision for themselves. Or was there a phone call from someone high up in the US Department of State to, probably, the Secretary of our Department of Foreign Affairs suggesting a resolution might be a good idea. And it would probably only be a phone call at that level so as to keep US politicians out of sight and leave no direct traces. If it did develop that way, even Bishop (the younger) would have been given an oral brief, not a written brief. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but that is the way that these decisions often develop at a bureaucratic level and would, in my view, be quite normal. Politicians, however, always take the credit.

ausdavo

23/07/2014Abbott the con man is in control because we have d***heads preparing the reports for our newspapers and TV stations. They certainly never questioned his conflicting statements. As well huge advertising expenditure meant that money hungry & greedy BIG business, BIG mining, BIG coal & BIG banking have bought this government of Australia lead by the total dunderhead Abbott. You are quite right in stating that it is his minders' briefings that have allowed him to present his garbage - which then remained unchallenged. What a future we face unless we get rid of this Government. If this occurs, a NEW government must immediately ban BIG MONEY from ever again buying Aussie votes with their LIES in advertising and demand that the press report accurately or lose their licenses!

pilgrim

23/07/2014On another note, watching the TV Condolence Book signing at Parliament House yesterday, it struck me that this was politicising the occasion, insofar as endless members of cabinet came up to sign, followed by just Kate Lundy from the Opposition, and then diplomats and other dignitaries. I thought that no doubt most members were out of Canberra, but whoever organised the event had no idea about planning a meaningful ceremony. A small band, a small choir, and then acres of silence watching people writing.

Ken

23/07/2014ausdavo yes, you have picked out key points. The silence of the media on Abbott's inconsistencies. And the why that should be so, you answer with the role of big business who supported Abbott and the LNP. Big business wants lower company tax and more 'flexible' workplace arrangements - read lower wages, fewer conditions, even longer hours. I like your idea of media being required to report accurately or lose their licenses. That would certainly put the cat among the pigeons! Unfortunately it wouldn't stop Murdoch's newspapers but at least it's a start. And also a warm welcome to you. I don't recall you having commented in recent times (if my memory has failed me, please forgive me)

Ken

23/07/2014pilgrim I hadn't seen that about the condolence book. Interesting that they did it at Parliament House. I would be interested to know where in Parliament House? - in the Great Hall? I think where it was held will partly indicate what they were trying to gsin. Also interesting that Cabinet has obviously been meeting. Issues about MH17 are an obvious reason but I wonder whether other decisions are being considered.

pilgrim

23/07/2014Ken Yes, it was in the Great Hall. What significance do you see in that setting?

Ken

23/07/2014pilgrim It is an attempt to play it up and keep it in the political realm. I can partly understand that if diplomats and so on were there but this is Australia. A more common-man approach, in the circumstances, would have been better. Set the condolence book up outside the Great Hall in the foyer/entry area, even on the 'Great verandah' (although a bit cold in Canberra for that at the moment). It is common people who have lost their loved ones and it would have been better to bring the dignitaries into that situation rather than have a special signing for them in the Great Hall. Although it will appear well on telly, I think they have actually missed an opportunity. No doubt the condolence book will be available for all at some point but I think it should have had an Australian flavour (more open to everyone), not a political flavour, from the very start.

2353`

24/07/2014Ken, I agree that the original idea for the resolution in the UN probably didn't orgiinate in Canberra/Sydney/Perth or whereever Abbott and Bishop (the younger - you like it - it's yours ;-)) were stealing oxygen from at the time. It does demonstrate your other point very well - the bureaucrats continue to do their job and the politicians take the credit. It is a common occurance and implied in my original post above.

totaram

24/07/2014Ausdavo: If this occurs, a NEW government must immediately ban BIG MONEY from ever again buying Aussie votes with their LIES in advertising and demand that the press report accurately or lose their licenses! You can only hope and I hope along with you, but that isn't going to cut the mustard. What can we do? That is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind.....

TalkTurkey

24/07/2014Ken, Your lead on the PiG~THiNG demanded an earlier response but I got jammed on rewriting the last few verses, I published this pome here while *J*U*L*I*A* was still PM so the ending had to be changed but my feelings haven't, except to harden. The Ruler of the Whole Countree When I was a kid, I came out from England to Australia as a Ten-Pound Pom: My folks went to Sydney, where we lived on the fringe And every Pommie loved to have a real good whinge! [i][And every Pommie loved to have a real good whinge!][/i] I learnt how to whinge so plaintively That my Mummy said one day I'd rule the whole country! [i][He learnt how to whinge so plaintively That his Mummy said one day he'd rule the whole country!] [/i] As a choirboy I loved to perch Above the congregation in the Catholic church I loved the sensation being so much higher Than all the other people, and I ruled that choir! [i][Than all the other people, and he ruled that choir!][/i] I sang so loud and raucously They sent me away to University! [i][He sang so loud and raucously They sent him away to University!] [/i] As a uni student I earnt respect From people like Joe Hockey, whom once I decked! I threatened all the women and I punched the wall And I never really had to study much at all! [i][He never really had to study much at all!][/i] I punched that wall so religiously That I thought I had a calling in Theology! [i][He punched that wall so religiously That he thought he had a calling in Theology!] [/i] For reasons that I don't quite foller I got selected as a new Rhodes Scholar! It might have been the fact that the Bishop was my buddy Because the roads to power were the only roads I studied! [i][Because the roads to power were the only roads he studied!][/i] So I got sent to England, all for free To a College for Theology, a Priest for to be! [i][And he got sent to England, all for free To a College for Theology, a Priest for to be!][/i] I played with my beads and I prayed on my knees But I wasn't very happy so I said [i]God please, I really don't want to be praying every hour - What I really want's to get my hands on Power! [/i] [i][What he really wanted was his hands on Power!] [/i]And would you believe it, God said to me [i][b]Saint Tony Oz Prime Minister's Thy Destiny![/b][/i] [And would you believe it, God said, said He [i][b]Saint Tony Oz Prime Minister's Thy Destiny!)[/b] [/i] Longtime I sought my Holy Grail With Gina Rupe and Peta I could not fail! I lied on behalf of the Born-to-Rule Class I sold my soul and I sold my arse! [i][He sold his soul and he sold his arse!][/i] And with backing from the Meeja and the Super-Rich I finally put paid to that JuLIAR bitch! [i]With the backing of the Meeja and the Super-Rich He finally put paid to that JuLIAR bitch![/i] So now I've reached my destiny I'm Prime Minister the way my Mummy said I'd be I strut and I posture and I huff and puff And everything I say is just the same old stuff [i][And everything he says is just the same old stuff] [/i]I rant and I rave and I go where I like If I don't like the question then I'm on my bike But though I'm important as I can be For some reason I can't fathom Aussies don't like me! [i][For some reason he can't fathom people don't like HE!] [/i]* So Aussies here's a hint for you all I've known it ever since I punched that wall You may get to be important just like me, As long as you can always get a ride for free! [i][As long as you can always get a ride for free!][/i] Just lie and bully and betray your class And make a real good profit when you sell your arse: The Arse-Bigot will absolve you every week for free And you'll be the hated ruler of the whole countree! [The Arse-Bigot will absolve you every week for free And you'll be the hated ruler of the whole countree!] *W.S Gilbert committed this unspeakable breach of Grammar, so must I. http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/gilbert_and_sullivan/when_i_was_a_lad-lyrics-446448.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpJ_IAUs8nI

Ad astra

25/07/2014TT What a splendid poem! How perspicatious was W S Gilbert's commentary on politics then and now: "If you stick to your desk and never go to sea, you all may become Ruler of the Queen's Navy".

TalkTurkey

25/07/2014Budget Crisis? What budget crisis? from [i]The Guardian[/i] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/23/tony-abbott-achieves-the-impossible-unity-among-economists

Ad astra

25/07/2014TT What a revealing article, which reflects what many here have been saying for ages. The Coalition invented a 'budget crisis', and has milked it for all it was worth. It's debatable how much this was ideologically driven, and how much it was simply pandering to its uber wealthy sponsors. As is so often the case in politics, probably both apply. The question is the extent to which the electorate has swallowed the Coalition's hype. If the polls are any indication, the voters have not. And as the benefits of 'axing the carbon tax' fail to materialize, the suspicion that they have been conned once more will reinforce the feeling that the con artists are at it again.

TalkTurkey

26/07/2014So very sad. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/combet-the-day-julia-gillard-told-me-she-would-step-aside-and-back-me-for-pm-20140725-zwddy.html#ixzz38Vv2wvjF?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=nc&eid=socialn%3Atwi-13omn1677-edtrl-other%3Annn-17%2F02%2F2014-edtrs_socialshare-all-nnn-nnn-vars-o%26sa%3DD%26usg%3DALhdy28zsr6qiq

jaycee

26/07/2014 That article about Greg Combet and the deal Julia Gillard offered him in the last days as leader of the Labor Party, shows the MSM. Up as not only being the grossly uninformed rabble we here in the fifth estate thought they were, but also demonstrates the sincerity of purpose of Gillard and her leadership that was denied in the journalistic pieces that sought to endlessly paint her as a grasping desperate politician. The article in The Guardian was written up (without the option of commentary, I notice!) by one of those MSM. Gatekeepers ; Ms Taylor..of the ; “mind the context” fame. She stands accused, along with many of the Canberra press-gallery buffoons of encouraging, feeding, and in some cases fabricating the leadership fiasco that led to the undermining of the Gillard govt’…along with internal traitors still in situ..(Fitzgibbon as the main baboon) and many and various villains who either lick-spittled their way to a by-line or called for as much “falling on swords” as their “honoury doctorates” would allow! These cadet graduates from the Bob Hope school journalism, spent more time thinking up pithy one-liners to throw to the plebs in the stalls while giving salacious winks to their bosses in the dress-circle, than pursuing the “Hippocratic oath” of journalism..; “See, Hear and report without fear or favour”…instead , these pariahs whose intellect, not capable of operating beyond the group-think equal to a school of sardines bounced echoes off each others outrageous attempts to insult and bring about the demise of an honest govt’ with spoon-fed gossip and rumour from the dirt-files of the LNP. Spin machine…these journalists who thought like fools, or rather ; fools who thought they were journalists are responsible for this travesty of governance that we are now lumbered with…it is THEY who manufactured the outrage and fermented the hatred toward this nation’s first female prime minister that was more disgraceful than the hatred they concocted against Lindy Chamberlain or Dawn Fraser… And now, as if in sync with a clarion call from the deep woods of Murdochmania, they jerk to attention like automatons and grind out their daily gruel of sop and slop to pander to their own insecurities of both employment and worth!…they have security of neither!…We name them in our memories as they are named forever in history..We damn them to oblivion with their perfidy ..and we curse them as not fit to be recognized as fellow Australians…. Damn your eyes and damn YOU to hell!

jaycee

26/07/2014http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/combet-the-day-julia-gillard-told-me-she-would-step-aside-and-back-me-for-pm-20140725-zwddy.html

TalkTurkey

26/07/2014jaycee I would actually like to hear what you really think about them!

jaycee

26/07/2014Ruminations, TT....ruminations...
What does two plus 1 equal?