Thursday 28 January 2016
I don’t normally read The Australian newspaper because it’s behind a firewall and it’s owned by Murdoch. But mainly because of its bias and poor journalism. Here is an example. My comments are in italics.
Greg Sheridan THE AUSTRALIAN JANUARY 26, 2016
Tony Abbott agonised over whether to stay in parliament or to leave. He got a lot of conflicting advice. The case for leaving was substantial.
No politician in modern Australia, at least since Malcolm Fraser in 1975, has been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic and personalised abuse as Abbott.
When you look at the abuse handed out by Tony Abbott. Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and others to Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her tenure you have to wonder at the objectivity of such a statement. There was hardly a day in the Parliament in which Abbott didn’t label her a liar. Even members of his own party, at times shook their heads in shame at the sexism. Anyone with any sense of perspective would find this statement just so totality biased as to be deliberately misleading.
If he left politics, this would subside. The former prime minister is a strong and resilient person, but this kind of abuse takes its toll not only on the person directly affected but also on their family. It is also the case that the sooner he left, the sooner it was likely his record of substantial, perhaps historic, achievement would be reassessed.
Could you please repeat that? I’m really struggling.
No other prime minister could have stopped the boats.
The catalyst in stopping the boats was Kevin Rudd’s deal with Papua New Guinea. And we know the boats didn’t completely stop. He was paying people smugglers to turn them back.
The Abbott prime ministership prevented Australia from being engulfed in a tidal wave of uncontrolled, illegal immigration, as Europe has seen.
He was a Prime Minister who demonised those legally seeking asylum. A Prime Minister who tossed the subject around like a political football extracting from it every ounce of political mileage, never once seeking a regional solution .And look at his legacy of allowing innocent people to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives without recourse to the law.
Then there were the free-trade agreements, the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes, the attempt to address the growing budget contradiction.
The abolition of the Carbon Tax is looked on by the rest of the world as a dreadful decision. One that left our nation in the embarrassing position of taking a laughable policy to the Paris talks. A policy that will have to be seriously reconsidered in the near future if we are to seriously address the climate issue.
Addressing the budget contradiction. So his answer was to almost double the debt. A strange way of addressing a problem he described as a debt crisis of monumental proportion.
All of this will be reassessed and revalued more quickly if Abbott is outside parliament. Moreover, while he stays in politics almost everything he says will be misinterpreted by a lazy media through a leadership prism.
Yes they might, in the same way The Australian hounded Julia Gillard. You can speculate as much as you want as to the motives of him staying. May I suggest though, that a good place to start might be his historical political behaviour? It makes for good profiling.
In some measure, the same problem afflicts Malcolm Turnbull. Everything he says is freighted by foolish commentators as somehow containing some secret anti-Abbott significance.
Lenore Taylor got it right when she said:
‘The public liked Turnbull because he seemed different to Abbott, but his colleagues voted for him because they were eventually persuaded he would be – in essence – pretty much the same’.
Then there were the purely personal considerations. First, the miserable prospect of sitting mute as a backbencher in Canberra. Also, political life affects family life. It is extraordinarily difficult to be an attentive husband and father with weeks away in Canberra, and more weeks away interstate and overseas in the constant travel of political leadership.
It is something they have lived with all their married life. He is after all a career politician who has had little experience outside it. His wife seemed to accept her position. Except for one daughter they have all moved on. If sitting on the backbench was indeed a miserable prospect then why do it. What other motive could he possibly have?
Abbott had been prime minister for two years, party leader for six and before that a minister for a decade. It’s a long record of service. No one could reasonably ask him for more.
Who is? The fact is that he lost his job because his party felt he wasn’t up to it.
And, if he had the slightest interest in making money he would make much more outside of parliament than in. His parliamentary pension as a former prime minister would be substantially more than his salary as a backbencher.
On top of that he would be free to earn money in the private sector. He has enough close supporters in business to guarantee a board appointment or two. He could give lucrative speeches on the US conservative speakers’ circuit. He could write newspaper columns, the odd book, perhaps do some TV. There is always a consultancy or two on offer.
I seem to recall that he took time off from his job as an MP (with pay) to write a book. And isn’t he now making a few quid on the speaker’s circuit now. This gets worse the more I read.
But Abbott has never been motivated by money. He always wanted to give his family a decent life, but had no interest in trying to pile up money.
This is downright dishonest.
We know that this feeling is universal, because it’s exactly how Tony Abbott felt, after losing 40 per cent of his income in 2007 when the Howard government lost power and he went back to a basic backbench salary.
“What’s it called? Mortgage stress? The advent of the Rudd Government has caused serious mortgage stress for a section of the Australian community, i.e. former Howard government ministers!” he said at the time.
“You don’t just lose power … you certainly lose income as well, and if you are reliant on your parliamentary salary for your daily living, obviously it makes a big difference.”
Mr Abbott was notoriously knocked-around by his change of circumstance, which obliged him to take out a $700,000 mortgage on his northern beaches home, and fostered a period of gloom and introspection in which he remained mired for more than a year.
When Kevin Rudd announced a salary freeze for all politicians in early 2008 – a decision greeted with bipartisan loathing around the corridors – Mr Abbott remarked that it was “all very well for politicians who have other sources of income or who have very high income from their spouses”.
Mr Abbott’s spouse, of course, works in the child care sector, which is notoriously under … oh, stop me if I’m repeating myself.
He was not the only one to complain; quite a few former Howard ministers felt the sting of their reduced circumstances, and discreet approaches were even made to the new Labor Government to fiddle things so that shadow ministers might be paid more.
It never happened, of course. Governments are bastards like that, don’t you find?
The arguments for staying essentially boiled down to duty. His supporters had invested so much hope in him.
If he left, it was as if conservatives would be admitting that none of their number could ever serve in the highest office. It would be a great victory for the Left if their lynch mobs had chased him out of town. As a nation we are not blessed with a super abundance of politicians of the first rank. We can’t afford to lightly throw them away.
If Abbott stayed in politics, he would signal an intent to advocate the broad political values that have motivated him all his life. And, in the long run, he helps the government a great deal by staying.
By staying, indeed he would advocate the political values he aspires to. The problem is that they are not the same as the leaders. Therein lays the problem. The Coalition now has what the public wanted. A less feral leader but he is controlled by Abbott’s men.
You might also countenance the thought that he has little experience at doing anything else.
Turnbull went through a dark night of the soul when he lost the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009. He initially decided to leave politics and resign at the next federal election, but then changed his mind. As the next few years rolled by, his presence was actually a very big plus for the then Abbott opposition.
Correct. He often had to step in and demonstrate that there were some in the party that could be reasonable when Abbot continuously showed his ugly side.
It showed voters of a ‘small l’ liberal persuasion that they had a place in the Liberal Party. It helped stop the party from leaking votes to the centre.
How gratuitously silly is that statement. Robert Menzies would turn in his grave at the thought that any of today’s Liberal members even understood the term.
The Liberal Party has no serious competitor on the right of politics at the moment and therefore no imminent prospect of leaking votes to the Right.
But the centre right is always in danger of fracturing, just as it has in most Western nations, just as we see so many effluxions of right-wing populism in Queensland.
A coalition that can accommodate a Tony Abbott as well as a Malcolm Turnbull is inherently much stronger, and seems much broader than either factional Labor or sectarian Green politics, no matter that each man might find such coexistence disagreeable at times.
He is and will be in the run up to the election a thorn in Turnbull’s side. And an intentional thorn at that. It is naïve in the extreme to think otherwise.
Turnbull and Abbott are both grown-ups, both volunteers. We pay them to give us good government. We expect them to manage things between them well.
We pay for good Government and expect it from day one. Tony Abbott said that we would get it 12 months after the ball had been bounced. Even then it didn’t happen. We are still waiting for Turnbull to stop talking about it and start delivering. By the time the election comes around the electorate will be entitled to ask whether the Coalition can ever deliver on it.
Abbott is no Kevin Rudd. He is not motivated by revenge or any delusion of return to the prime ministership. His decision to stay in parliament is the latest episode in a lifetime of doing what he thinks is right.
After reading this last paragraph I am thinking I will give Tony the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it isn’t him who is deluded. It’s Bill Sheridan.
My thought for the day
‘Lying in the media is wrong at any time however when they do it by deliberate omission it is even more so. Murdoch’s papers seem to do it with impunity’.