By Dr George Venturini*
Abbott & Co. = “a bunch of psychopaths?” (continued)
Abbott’s time as Prime Minister was characterised by gaffes, scandals and deeply unpopular policy. But is there something more than incompetence? Were Abbott and his ‘mates’ (many of them still around) in government pathologically incapable of caring for anyone but themselves?
There are a number of hallmarks of sociopathy, and a few stand out.
There was lack of remorse or guilt.
Despite having confronted several time on television for reneging on his pre-election vows of no cuts to the A.B.C., or S.B.S., on health and on education, despite clearly disregarding these commitments, Abbott not only failed to apologise – he refused to acknowledge that any promises had been broken.
There was impulsivity.
Early in 2015 Abbott became infamous for making his ‘Captain’s calls’ – seemingly arbitrary decisions made without consultation, apparently even of his ‘mates’, including his ‘brothers in the faith’ in the Cabinet: Joe Hockey, Kevin Andrews, Mathias Cormann, Barnaby Joyce, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb – and, of course, Malcolm Turnbull. And spare a thought for the ‘humble servants’, such as the stolidly Teutonic Eric Abetz, the Hillsong Church ‘impresario’ Scott Morrison, and that Torquemada of The Law, George Brandis. ‘Captain calls’ include reinstituting imperial honours – bestowing a knighthood on Prince Philip, attempting to delist Tasmanian heritage wilderness, and dismissing the chief government whip.
There was glibness.
When Abbott talked about ‘stopping the boats’, he was really talking about stopping desperate refugees fleeing persecution. When he talked about ‘lifestyle choices’, he was talking about the homeland of entire communities. When he said: “shit happens,” he meant that a serviceman had died. And when he said “absolute crap,” he was summarising several decades’ worth of interdisciplinary research on climate change.
There was antagonism/aggressive behaviour, with the consequent difficulty in maintaining relationships.
Sociopaths react badly when criticised. When the Human Rights Commissioner found that the government’s treatment of refugees amounted to criminal neglect, Abbott’s reaction was to launch a swift ad personam attack on her.
When the same conclusion was reached by the United Nations, Abbott took it upon himself to speak for the Australian people, and informed the U.N. that Australians were “sick of being lectured to”.
He has also been known to issue threats to foreign governments, (‘Bali Nine: Tony Abbott denies threatening Indonesia over clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’) and heads of state, (Tony Abbott vows to ‘shirt-front’ Vladimir Putin at G20) and question the mental integrity of Labor voters (‘Tony Abbott’s threats, scare tactics only dig him a deeper hole).
By the way, ‘shirt fronting’ may be common to many Australians but it will be a mystery to much of the world. As many fans of Australian Football League already know, a shirt fronter is a ‘real Aussie’-rules term for a front-on charge aimed at ‘bumping’ an opponent to the ground. It was the Oxford Blue again, as in the seventies at the University of Sydney, proposing physically to attack the adversary – the enemy? – by applying a method which is increasingly frowned upon by the A.F.L. The bully was going to show that he is a political man of action, for him the diplomatic equivalent of the gunboat variety. Fascist ‘diplomacy’?
There were callousness and lack of empathy.
The Abbott Government’s ministers appeared unwilling to propose any legislation which directly benefits anyone but themselves. Concern for the old, the young, the poor, the disabled and the disadvantaged was entirely absent from the government’s first budget, the subsequent protests and objections brushed aside with patronising admonitions of “pull your weight.” (J. Svensson, ‘Is Tony Abbott a political sociopath?’, 19 March 2015).
And there was, unquestionably, risk-taking.
Only on 20 July 2015 it was reported by Channel Ten television that the federal Attorney-General Senator George Brandis QC had secretly met with Cardinal George Pell two months before. The Attorney-General had made several attempts at concealing the encounter.
The Attorney-General should never have met Cardinal Pell given the fact that the Cardinal had been a key witness and was due to appear again before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
It is not credible that Attorney-General Brandis did not know that Cardinal Pell was a witness at the Royal Commission, and that Pell had already given evidence in March and August 2014 and had been put on notice in May 2015 that he would have been required for further evidence later in the year. This eventuated between February and March 2016.
Further, when the Royal Commission will deliver its recommendations to the Australian Government, Attorney-General Brandis might be having a substantial say on such recommendations. It is obvious that, by meeting Cardinal Pell, he should have been fully aware that he was exposing himself to a possible accusation of perceived bias. (‘Tony Abbott and Brandis both secretly met with paedophile protector George Pell. Why?’).
Tomorrow: Grande finale
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.