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Dealing with this ‘boy’ Prime Minister

At Head of Government level, there is a protocol that enables messages of disapproval to be passed from one leader to another in a way that maintains the dignity of the position, if not the person. It has been developed over the centuries to avoid the sort of crass, undignified, amateurish language used by those who have little understanding of the necessity of cultural niceties that are an integral part of international diplomacy.

abbottTony Abbott fits neatly into a category that doesn’t understand this diplomacy. And, he seems incapable of adapting to this level of diplomatic dignity. He is like a street thug pretending to be the Maître Di’ for a 5 star hotel; a role he is ill prepared for and either unwilling or unable to develop.

While occasionally giving the appearance of being able to hold a conversation with some world leaders, he has a predilection for common street talk which translates on the international level as unprofessional. In short, he doesn’t know how to conduct himself. As a consequence, for those of us who take pride in our international reputation, he has become a national embarrassment.

The most recent example is, of course, his brain snap comment about shirtfronting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 meeting in Brisbane next month. His follow-up comment, ’You bet you are’ was so out of sync with the first remark that it suggested he was not in control.

The Russian response to this ‘boy’ prime minister comment has been dignified and restrained but more importantly, it has been predictable. They know how to conduct themselves on the world stage. To be warned to choose one’s words carefully by Premier Dmitry Medvedev, a man who has more diplomacy in his little finger than Abbott could hope for in a lifetime, is a lesson Abbott, we dearly hope, would heed. But given his past performances it is unlikely.

The last international leader I can recall who became a figure of international amusement was, coincidentally, a former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. Boris was a drunken fool; a buffoon who somehow worked his way up the Communist party chain of command while keeping the most bizarre of his antics under the radar. You can read about some of his more colourful goofs here.

YeltsinHe lasted eight years but that was probably because of the tremendous upheaval Russia experienced in transition from a socialist economy to a market based economy; from communism to capitalism. No one really knew what was happening at the time both inside and outside the country and that failing allowed a great deal of the wealth of the country to fall into the hands of a small number of oligarchs. Internationally, Yeltsin was a figure of derision.

Tony Abbott is not a Yeltsin; not even close, but he is fast becoming a figure of amusement to the rest of the world. That we are a small player on the world stage could be regarded as a blessing in disguise, but not for long.

While Abbott’s antics are not even close to those of Yeltsin, the ‘shirtfront’ comment coming on the back of his comments about the Scottish vote for independence will ensure that future overseas trips taken by him will attract a lot more attention from the international media and for all the wrong reasons.

For that alone, the Liberal Party should be taking some action. He is their responsibility. Forty two of their parliamentary members voted him leader. Given the quality of his opponent at the time, one can only conclude that those forty two members had a brain snap. Surely it is time to correct that moment of madness. How much more of this should we be expected to endure?

Should they not act, then in all likelihood, the people will in 2016. The quality of the Coalition governance has been appalling. They fail on several fronts; the economy and the environment being the most obvious. But an election is still two years away. The prospect of two more years under Abbott’s leadership is becoming intolerable.

BishopThe most likely successor, although not without her own idiosyncratic oddities, is Julie Bishop. She can at least hold a conversation and would be viewed in a far better light internationally. So why wait? The Liberal Party should put the people first; they should show some ticker and end this charade. It is time to restore some international diplomacy to our reputation and regain some national pride.

One can only hope that in the corridors of conservative power a transition conversation is in play. With an opposition that is viewed as lacklustre and subservient, the timing is perfect. Not that it is likely to save them.


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  1. mysay

    really this loony shouldn’t be allow to speak unless peta is screaming in his ear,
    i was thinking maybe he didn’t hear her correctly when he spoke about shirtfronting putin, the next day she made him repeat ROBUST DISCUSSION eight times ,
    when he was interviewed.This man is deranged and dangerous

  2. David Stephens

    I like the riff and the conclusion though I have a concern about the premise. I wrote this to the Canberra Times the other day:


    The hares are off and running about “shirtfront” but I suspect they are running in the wrong direction. Like your editorial writer (“Pugnacious PM vs Putin,” October 15, Times 2, p.2) I am fairly sure the prime minister meant to say “buttonhole” rather than “shirtfront.” Not being very familiar with ironing he might be forgiven the error. “Shirtfront” is not an indication of impending biffo; it is instead another entry in the pantheon of Australian political clangers, along with “what’s GOS?” (John Kerin), “Karl Rove” (Kim Beazley) and “suppository of wisdom” (Tony Abbott). Given that the current prime minister can now claim two notable exhibits, perhaps we should resurrect and reassign another famous prime ministerial clanger: “everywhere I go in this country, people know that something is wrong” (Billy McMahon).

    David Stephens, Bruce

    I suspect further that the ‘you bet you are’ non-sequitur was the result of the PM realising he had just dropped a clanger. I agree that for that moment he was definitely not in control and I suspect the not-in-control moments will get closer and closer together. It would be a kindness to move him out of a job for which he clearly lacks the specifications.

  3. Norm in Ngunnawal country

    I thought that these blunders were dog whistles, and when Abbott corrected, rephrased, denied them the next day, the record was corrected but the original message had still been heard.
    Then I realised that .they were the blunders of a person who is out of control, and the corrections and cover-ups were by his staff.
    Now that he is doing it on the international stage, it has become dangerous.
    Also, he does not realise that the internet puts everything onto the world stage.

  4. abbienoiraude

    As I have written on another post, and I quote it again here; surely you are jesting that Blinky Bishop should be a’contenda?

    “Diplomacy is an art. Diplomacy is a true learned profession.
    Abbott has no idea about many things ( women, the poor, the disabled, seeking asylum) but he certainly has no bloomin’ idea about ‘diplomacy’.
    One of the major strengths of any government is how they handle diplomatic situations, relationships with ‘difficult friends’, who they choose as Foreign Minister and what their behaviour is like on the International stage.
    (I am squirming with embarrassment).

    From the very beginning little Blinky Bishop was trying to get under someone’s skin, anyone’s skin, to find her master a bone..I mean a war. She insulted so many countries I lost count.”

    She may fool some of those in the media some times but to me she is a wannabe leader with none of the qualities, starting with diplomacy and going right through to …well actually caring about anybody at all. Her self awareness and grandstanding, her cutesy flirty manner is as cringe-making as her bosses bovver boy antics.

    No thanks. There must be a Judi Moylan type for the LNP to turn to in this quagmire of a mess they have created?

  5. Anne Byam

    We all age …. and changes occur – especially to the face …. lines appear – laughter, frown – whatever wrinkles.

    I have had a look at the Abbott in 2010. Just 4 years ago. He has aged 10+ years since then – most of it in the past year.

    I don’t know what ‘actual’ age that makes him now …. but it is certainly not of mature age. He turns 57 in November. Time he acted his age, methinks. …….. ah but, perhaps he is going through some kind of belated male menopause. ? That would explain a few things !! 😉

    I really wish he would read a few good books on diplomacy, and how to react appropriately in ANY given situation. He honestly seems quite incapable of it.


    Aside from all that ……

    Very good article John Kelly …. thank you.

  6. M-R

    “he has become a national embarrassment”
    Nup. I knew before the useless idiot was even elected that he was going to be a national embarrassment. You did, too, John, didn’t you ?
    And since the election he’s been a national embarrassment from the first time he opened his mouth and uttered puny little words that showed his agenda: to destroy everything Labor had put in place. And I think that’s still his agenda.

  7. donwreford

    I thought, Bronwyn Bishop, as a leader would be a incapable leader, when she is on to something, the monotones and flatness is to me irksome, sort of working out before she speak’s, what is political correct, and sounds wooden, her staring out opponents, I would think is as detrimental as the shirt saga, frankly I do not think their is a leader material on either side, of politics.
    I know Latham, is a outsider, when I hear him speak, he seems as if he is convincing in forth rightness, his handshake with Howard, did not help him, maybe he has matured?

  8. silkworm

    Fearless Leader was misquoted. What he really said, reading his cue card, was, “This is a shit font.”

  9. mars08

    The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.

  10. Anne Byam

    Pay that one silkworm …… loud laughter from above my keyboard. 🙂

  11. clarelhdm

    Asbestos Julie? No thanks. Never.

  12. stephentardrew

    The LNP and labor could have simultaneous spills to minimize damage and I am sure they will both be better off. The Asbestos Queen: you gotta be jokin John. Dangerous!

    John on a certain level I think Abbott is a lot more dangerous than dancey, singy, loony Yeltsin. Yeltsin was an ignorant fool whereas Abbott is a knowing fool and a compulsive liar. Yesterday after having been criticized by Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson over the ANU debacle he just keeps on lying and bleating on regardless. I am the Prime Minister and no one can contradict me. Just ask Peta.

    Then off with the planes and troops with no signed agreement while diplomats look on in horror. Iraq: “We don’t want your troops Tony.” Tony: “Yes you do, yes you do, yes you do to infinity.” “Read my lips Tony we do not want your troops.” I could hear Obama in the background saying keep him the hell out of this. Am I missing something or do we have another war monger in the making. You know shit happens there just soldiers. And er, um, ah you know got plenty more where they come from and cheaper too. Whether he believes it or not that is the image he is presenting.

    As an inveterate liar we have no idea what he has in that bag of spontaneous tricks waiting to cascade out into heavens knows what catastrophe. You know those kiddies born in Australia just send em back. Ebola let those other fools sort it out. As the US has learned to their cost involvement means adequate preparation otherwise watch out. Two nurses dismissed for speaking out. That looks promising. Too bloody much of a political hot potato for Captain Courageous. With Abbott self preservation overrides every contingency. What the hell has the suppository of wisdom got hidden in his chamber pot? Probably what’s left of his brains and moral integrity.

    As further supporting evidence refer to his lists of lies. And you know what? It is not going to stop.

    So I rest my case Yeltsin the fool as opposed to Abbott the devious manipulative lying fool. I think I know which one is more dangerous.

    Thank heavens he did not get to lead Russia or we may be all suffering radiation burns. Bit extreme that just to lighten up a little. Still makes ya wanna cringe.

  13. clarelhdm

    Actually i think he is so parochial he doesn’t care. He thinks this blokey behaviour enamors him to the Australian electorate, (and it does, for a certain sector), and he cares little what those of greater intellect and cultural awareness think of him.

  14. mars08


    Actually i think he is so parochial he doesn’t care. He thinks this blokey behaviour enamors him to the Australian electorate…

    “…As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    ~H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), American journalist and critic

  15. Sir ScotchMistery

    I enjoy working with liarberals.

    One came in the other day because her 4 year old computer was acting up. I was in the middle of dictation something important for the AIMN, and she heard me, and asked if I was some sort of “leftard?”

    I thanked her profusely, picked up the computer, handed it to her and told her to get that idiot prime minister she is so fond of, to fix it. I then invited her to find someone else to care for her computer.

    One down, how many to go?

  16. Kevin Arnold

    And did you hear Andrew Forrest’s interview this morning on ABC? “And I said, Mr Prime Minister……..” OMG. Just gets more embarrassing every day

  17. Kaye Lee

    Don’t forget Tony was 10 minutes late for the meeting in Bali after missing an pre-meeting informal gathering where SBY sang happy birthday to Putin who apparently thereafter completely ignored Tony.


    The climbing mountains video also made me cringe. Even when Tony has been prepped on small talk he just can’t do it and worse still…he sticks to the script even when it isn’t working. The ever present Credlin also gives me the willies. Watch Klaus Schwab trying to walk away…the body language is just sad.


  18. Richard Ure

    Frederick Kempe’s excellent “Berlin 1961” shows how Kruschev’s and an inexperienced JFK’s hubris and failure to listen to their diplomatic advisers, not to mention their perceived need to preach to the choir, prolonged and exacerbated the Cold War. I fear history could repeat itself.

  19. brickbob

    Good article Mr Kelly,and the only little ray of light left shining on me is 2016.

  20. corvus boreus

    Apparently everyone, especially the press, is supposed to stop saying ‘shirtfront’ and start saying ‘robust conversation…robust conversation…robust conversation…’.
    Behavioral conditioning for infantile reptilian minds.
    Sadly, it will probably work.
    Straya. (sighs[with facepalm])

  21. stephentardrew

    Hey Corvus I am going to robust conversation you so just watch out mate.

    Bring your buggies and gloves fella.

    You are allowed your choice of robust conversational weapon but remember no verbs bared.

  22. corvus boreus

    I have concerns that the next statesman-like statement Tony utters might be a threat to ‘turkey-slap’ someone(“I learned this little trick at seminary”).

  23. Anne Byam

    Corvus ….. you have bombed a bit !!! 🙂 …….( October 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm – your comment. )

    Initially the word was ‘rebust’ ( for God’s sake !! ) …. and then corrected to ‘robust’. I heard it myself, and shrieked at the TV ( much to my husbands’ horror ) …..

    This bloke doesn’t even know how to SPEAK English, let alone understand it, or understand his position as alleged leader of this country.

    He is one helluva dangerous individual, and must be dealt with – totally. .


    p.s. how does one get rid of a Credlin ? Cos I think she’s one of the biggest worms in the works, frankly.

  24. CMMC

    He has finally admitted to being a shirtlifter.

  25. Conrad

    For Heaven’s sake do not promote the cause of J Bishop for P.M. The only two things that keep her going are her rigid neo-conservative Tea Party ideology, which she is unable to think outside of; and her ingrained cold-war view of the world. Apart from that she has never spoken out in any manner that has compassion for the under-privileged, nor taken the side of those against corporate tax theft. Plus her visage must be counted a great disadvantage: always tightly controlled, looking as though a carrot has entered her colon from the wrong direction.

  26. Sean Stinson

    If Abbott really wants to poke a bear maybe Peta should take him on a trip to the zoo?

  27. david

    Sean he already has his own private zoo…collection of animals and reptiles called Govt caucus.

  28. mysay

    re abbotts citizen ship ,SOME THING REALLY STINKS.IS their anyone out there that can help

  29. John Kelly

    David, you are right to think something stinks. I suspect he did renounce British citizenship but at a time well after he first entered parliament and probably later than subsequent re elections. Our only recourse now is to challenge the eligibility of his re election to his seat at the next federal election in 2016 which must be done within 40 days of the declaration of the result. This will force him to produce his RN form showing the date he renounced British citizenship.

    I also emailed Geoffrey Robinson in London asking if he would take the matter up with the British government who also appear unwilling to release his RN form. I have not received a reply as yet.

  30. david

    Posters may recall a petition circulating last couple of months re Abbotts UK citizenship and if he hasn’t relinquished it he is ineligible to stand for the Australian Parliament.
    At the same time a freedom of information request was sent to the Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet by Jan Olson asking for the documentation declaring, Abbott had indeed renounced his British citizenship.
    Jan has finally received a response and as suspected, something stinks!!!


  31. Lorraine Stansfield

    Conrad I agree with your every word. Julie Bishop would be another disaster.

  32. david

    Thanks John appreciate your interest along with mysay. I have forwarded the FOI response to Bill Shorten and ALP Head Office, although the impression gained after Labor showed no interest in pursuing the matter from the start they are not particularly interested, a trait not unfamiliar within the Parliamentary Party last few months.
    Love to put a couple of dbl bangers in Bills trou to wake him up, runs hot to stone motherless cold. Some whispers all is not well within caucus. He is making great play lately about the new Opposition unity but he is the only one saying so publicly.
    Found it rather odd,.

  33. Anne Byam

    To John, David, My Say …….. Reference the link ( which I read with interest and then a sense of futility ! ) …. and your comment John about ” our only recourse is to challenge Abbott’s eligibility etc. ”

    Who would have the power to do that – to challenge that is …. where would it be done, and what is the least required time for an election to be called ? ( will try and find answers to that one myself ) ……

    In other words, is it possible for this creature to legally side-step the issue, or work around it in some way ?

    I’ll lay odds that it is more than something that stinks. He is not going to change his stripes, and will do ANYTHING to stay in power – absolutely anything.

  34. John Kelly

    Re challenging an election result, this is the situation at the moment…

    Commonwealth arrangements
    13.1 Disputes may arise over the results of a federal election, or with regard to a number of
    procedural elements of the electoral process administered by the AEC.
    Disputing election results
    13.2 A unique judicial body,1069 known as the Court of Disputed Returns, is the sole recipient of legal
    challenges to the validity of federal election results.1070 The jurisdiction of the Court of Disputed
    Returns is vested in the High Court.1071 The High Court is empowered to try the matter itself, or
    refer the matter, in whole or in part, to the Federal Court of Australia for trial.1072
    13.3 A petition challenging the validity of an election may be lodged by a candidate who
    contested the relevant election, a person qualified to vote at the election, or the AEC.1073
    The petition must:1074
    • outline the facts relied on to challenge the election;
    • set out the specific outcome being requested by the petitioner;
    • be signed by an eligible person and attested by two witnesses;1075 and
    • be filed in the Registry of the High Court within 40 days of the return of the writ.1076
    At the time of filing the petition, the petitioner must lodge a deposit of $500 with the Registry
    of the High Court as security for costs.1077

  35. John Fraser


    Abbott would like to think of himself as the Boris Johnson of Australian politics.

    But it is with regret that I must inform him that he does not have the same parental origins.

    Nor equal intelligence.

  36. stephentardrew

    You had me there for a minute John.

    I though you meant Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

    Natasha will be so pissed because he is a perfect match.

  37. Anne Byam

    To – John Kelly ……thanks for that information ( October 17, 2014 at 4:43 pm – your comment ) ….

    Have only just come back online …. so am a bit late in my answer and acknowledgement.

    It looks like a process very much set against the average person to pursue in any way. A cost ? …. of $500 to lodge ? plus all the red tape ?

    Am wondering if another political party could pursue that course ….. and if so, how we might persuade them to do so.

    I think it most definitely needs following up …… perhaps we can hope that a non-Murdoch news outlet might do it. We can but hope !!

  38. Rais

    After Ms Bishop’s first visit to Indonesia prior to the Australian elections the Chairman of the Indonesian Parliament, brother to former President Megawati, was so angry he refused to take part in a joint press conference, announcing that he had “a headache” and going home. Much as I wish the government had an alternative to Abbott I don’t think it’s Bishop. Incidentally, the Indonesian President elect, Joko Widodo, has said he will be firm with Australia about any violation of Indonesia’s borders and Mr Joko’s party president is Ms Megawati.

  39. Anne Byam

    Rais ……….

    now that could turn out to be VERY interesting. ….. Julie Bishop is waaay too outspoken, for one who is so far out of her league.


  40. Anne Byam

    I don’t know where else to put this post…….. and I am not at all sure of it’s veracity.

    It was on Facebook … under the page titled “Australians against the Liberal Party” …. ( which I might add, chucked a bit of a hissy fit and threatened to go off Facebook because it had received much abuse – but came back anyway !! lol ) …….

    A commenter added this : ( it might be a load of BS ) but thought it worth posting :

    …………….. Mick Thompson ….. ” Don’t know where you have all been. … But the British government did get back to the woman that made the request state there is no record of him revoking his British citizenship. Simple. JUST TAKE HIS AUSTRALIAN ONE AND DEPORT HIM BACK TO THEM.”

    As I said – who knows if this is just a furphy for the hell of it, or is a comment made in belief that it’s true.

    I cannot find any reference to it ——- maybe someone else here can. That he did NOT revoke his British citizenship, that is – according to this rather vague Facebook comment.

    I have left a message on the posters’ message board, asking for more details. If anything interesting happens !! I will post again.

    I have my doubts, but one never knows.

    Seize every opportunity – no matter how small.

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