Do you sometimes wonder how the Turnbull government has managed to get itself into such a mess?
Of course Malcolm Turnbull must shoulder much of the blame himself. A piece that I will post next week: Thirty pieces of silver
attests to this. By sacrificing his long-held principles and values on the altar of his enduring ambition to be Prime Minister no matter what the cost, he has brought about many of the vicissitudes he is now enduring.
A look further back though uncovers a set of circumstances and decisions that were made before Turnbull assumed leadership, made by just one man – the malevolent Tony Abbott – who masqueraded as Prime Minister from 18 September 2013 to 15 September 2015, three days short of two years. Yet in that short time he managed to destroy so much of what this nation needs, leaving an untidy mess for his successor, who still struggles to repair the damage.
Abbott has not changed. Just a few days ago he once more exhibited his destructive nature when he publicly attacked Turnbull’s leadership and policies, which he predicted would lead the LNP to electoral defeat if it "didn't lift its game"
. This time his destructiveness was aimed at his leader and his party.
If you need any persuasion, it will not take too many examples to convince you of Abbott’s destructiveness. Here they are.
Deliberately ineffectual action on climate change
There is no more disastrous area than this to illustrate Abbott’s destructiveness.
It was well before his election as PM that Abbott exposed his denial of the reality of global warming. In July 2009, he told the 7:30 Report
he thought the science of climate change was "highly contentious"
and the economics of an ETS "a bit dodgy
Then he let it slip at a meeting in Beaufort in October of that year that "The argument is absolute crap … However, the politics of this are tough for us. 80% of people believe climate change is a real and present danger."
He toyed with the idea of supporting Rudd’s ETS proposal, as he thought it would not be "a good look for the Opposition to be browner than Howard going into the next election".
He habitually thinks politically.
Quizzed about his Beaufort remarks by Laurie Oakes, Abbott said: "I think that the science is far from settled on all of this. But there are good prudential reasons for taking reasonable precautions against significant potential threats. That's why I think there is a strong case for an ETS but it's got to be the right ETS. It's got to be an ETS that protects Australian jobs and protects Australian industries... I am confronted by a hostile Liberal audience on this particular issue; I am trying to bring them around to support the position of the leader and the shadow cabinet.”
When challenged about his Beaufort meeting statement, Abbott said he had used "a bit of hyperbole"
at the meeting rather than it being his "considered position"
. Later, he conceded that on climate change he was a bit of a ‘weathervane’.
Clearly, Abbott saw political advantage in opposing action on climate change.
We all knew back then what Abbott’s climate change tactics really were, but just a few days ago Peta Credlin publicly exposed Abbott’s political chicanery. An article reporting this in BuzzFeedNEWS
began: “Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin has let slip that one of the most damaging political campaigns in recent Australian political history was based on bullshit.”
Credlin made her comments during an episode of Sky’s Sunday Agenda
: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”
The article continued with Credlin's comments:
“It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know.
“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s just provide some context. Australia has a complicated history in trying to do what many countries have already done – put a price on carbon emissions.
“Emissions trading scheme proposals contributed to the demise of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009 and Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010. Julia Gillard finally introduced a carbon-pricing scheme in 2011.
“It was Tony Abbott who re-framed Gillard’s scheme as a “carbon tax”, even though after the first year the price on carbon emissions was no longer fixed, and was instead set by the market.
“Abbott rode the anti-carbon tax movement all the way into The Lodge and eventually had everyone, including Labor and the media, calling it a carbon tax".
There it is – the brutal truth - straight out of the horse’s mouth!
'Direct Action' fraud
To placate voters who believed that Australia ought to take some action to combat carbon pollution and global warming, Abbott invented the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action Plan’. From the beginning it was a hoax. This is how Turnbull described it: “Direct Action is “a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing”
and “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”
As part of the DAP, Abbott created his ‘Green Army’ that was supposed to employ lots of young people in conservation pursuits, but we will never know how big or effective it was because it was axed by PM Turnbull and Treasurer Morrison before a review of it had been undertaken. We certainly didn’t hear much of what it was doing. Another ‘fig leaf’.
Abbott tried to convince voters that his DAP would cut emissions with little cost. Turnbull’s assessment was blunt: “First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. Somebody has to pay.
"So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, "bullshit." Moreover he knows it.”
Abbott engineered an LNP party room vote against an ETS, challenged Turnbull over his support for it (known then as a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) and defeated him as leader by a single party room vote. But in the end it was Kevin Rudd who put the final nail in the ETS coffin by shamefully reneging on action to combat climate change which he had pompously proclaimed was: “The greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”.
Enough said. Climate change denial, abolition of the ‘carbon tax’, deliberate inaction via the DAP, opposition to an ETS and to existing renewable energy targets, together expose Abbott’s careless and destructive approach to the problem of global warming, which left unchecked will destroy our planet.
And in the process, Abbott injected his own brand of personal invective against his arch enemy, Julia Gilliard.
Demolition of the NBN
Here is another stark example of Abbott’s destructiveness. I hardly need remind you of Abbott’s infamous instruction to then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “Demolish the NBN”
after Labour had launched its groundbreaking Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) National Broadband Network, which would have given this nation a competitive advantage in a globally-wired world.
Instead, Turnbull’s multi-technology mix, combined with a second rate Fibre to the Node (FTTN) scheme has left us languishing 45th in the world of Internet speeds, behind schedule in rollout, and likely even more expensive than Labor’s plan. You know the distressing details of a good system ruined by Abbott’s malevolent interference, all in pursuit of destroying what his opponents had created.
In the process, he has set this nation back, damaged our competitiveness, left individuals and businesses struggling with an inadequate, fault-ridden system, and all this from a Liberal leader, who ought to have embraced the NBN as essential to our nation’s prosperity.
Abbott sacrificed his Liberal principles in pursuit of destructive vengeance against his political opponents. Shameful! Disgraceful!
Strangling marriage equality
Abbott wishes the status quo on marriage to remain. Whilst conceding that a relationship other than between a man and a woman can be legitimate, he maintains that “…however deeply affectionate or long lasting it may be, the relationship between two people of the same sex cannot be a marriage because a marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman...
Whilst most people would concede that he is entitled to his opinion on this issue, the question is whether he is entitled to impose his views on the whole electorate. We know that his religious affiliation governs his attitude, which is understandable. But it is his devious way of engineering a decision on this matter that is so despicable and destructive of social cohesion.
He knows full well that the elected members of parliament are entitled and indeed competent to reach a decision on this matter, but fearing that this might result in a positive vote for marriage equality, he has deviously pushed the decision to a plebiscite under the pretence that this is the most democratic approach. He pushes this line despite a clear majority of the electorate being in favour of marriage equality, and also in favour of a parliamentary vote deciding the matter. While they are not objecting to a plebiscite, they see it as unnecessary, a waste of taxpayers’ money with a price tag of $160 million, and a pointless delaying tactic. The Coalition’s hard right inveigled Turnbull into agreeing to a plebiscite in return for their vote for him to topple Abbott.
Abbott knows that opponents of marriage equality will use the debate leading up to the plebiscite to unleash their venom on LGBTI people who are already vulnerable. The so-called Australian Christian Lobby, which does not represent any church or religious group, is ready and well funded to launch destructive opposition that will upset, damage and threaten the mental health of LGBTI folk. There is fear that those already on the edge may take their own life, so fragile are they.
Shortly after becoming PM, when the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, a bill to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, Abbott mounted a federal government challenge to this decision in the High Court, which ruled that the Act be dismantled as it clashed with the Federal Marriage Act 1961. This was Abbott’s first win; he is determined to have another, and kill off marriage equality once and for all.
Does Abbott care? No. A man with such destructive predilections is more concerned about political triumph than he is about the feelings and wellbeing of LGBTI folk. This issue is redolent with his mix of deviousness and destructiveness.
Imposing his moral views on others.
We know that Abbott has strong views grounded in his religious upbringing as a Roman Catholic. But he is intolerant of the views of others. Here are a few examples:
He is a trenchant opponent of embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia, and is uneasy about abortion, which he insists should be "safe, legal and rare"
. You will remember that in 2006, as Health Minister, he opposed access to the abortion drug RU486 so strongly that an angry Parliament voted to strip health ministers of the power to regulate this area of policy. Religious conviction overrode any vestigial concern Abbott might have had for women with unwanted pregnancies.
In his 2009 book Battlelines
, he advocated at-fault divorce agreements between couples, which would require spouses to prove offences like adultery, habitual drunkenness, cruelty, desertion, or a five-year separation before a divorce would be granted. He argued that this would be a way of "providing additional recognition to what might be thought of as traditional marriage"
Abbott harbours hard line moral attitudes. He is unconcerned about what others believe. He will not change his beliefs to accommodate others, no matter how damaging his position might be to them.
This piece is already long enough. I could mention the 2014 Abbott/Hockey Budget that brutalized the less well off, and his punitive attitude to asylum seekers, but there is no need here to elaborate further on Abbott’s legacy of destruction. If you need any more detail, I recommend Wikipedia’s account of Abbott’s career
Abbott is politically combative, adversarial, vengeful, and pitilessly destructive.
His dictum is that if an opponent develops a policy framework, it must be destroyed, simply because it is not his or his party’s. No matter how beneficial it might be to the prosperity, competitiveness or security of this nation it must be destroyed. No matter how beneficial it might be to groups or individuals, it must be destroyed.
It is Abbott who has shaped so many of the adversarial policies with which Turnbull has now to grapple. It is Abbott’s destructiveness that has left a trail of damage and distress that will take years to rectify, if indeed they ever can be.
This man, who promised 'There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping' after he was overturned by Turnbull, after lurking in the shadows for years has finally come out into the open with a clear intent to destroy his nemesis, and his party with him.
Last Friday he launched an all-out assault on Turnbull and his government, even suggesting another set of Abbott slogans: ““In short, why not say to the people of Australia: we’ll cut the RET, to help with your power bills; we’ll cut immigration to make housing more affordable; we’ll scrap the Human Rights Commission to stop official bullying; we’ll stop all new spending to end ripping off our grandkids; and we’ll reform the Senate to have government, not gridlock.”
It is now obvious to everyone that Abbott’s destructive hand is around the throat of his party and its leader. Writing in The New Daily
, Paula Matthewson put it this way: “The increasing intensity and destructiveness of Mr Abbott’s behaviour belies his claim to be interested only in protecting the Liberal Party’s conservative ethos. His behaviour is not one of protection but of destruction; a flagrant display of smashing the bat and ball, then setting both alight to prevent anyone else from playing.”
What a destructive blight on this fair nation Abbott has been, and continues to be. Has there ever been anyone worse?