Reading Nikki Savva’s The Road to Ruin is a depressing read, because it validates what many of us believed before Tony Abbott became Prime Minister.
Tony Abbott and his road to irrelevance
Many believed he was unelectable. He lacked seriousness. He lacked grace. He, like so many other ‘Rhodes Scholars’, appeared to have gotten his degrees out of a Wheaties box. He believed that he understood the country and its people. He was dangerously over-confident, and heedless of consequences.
The mistakes flowed thick and fast, and the photos of him being coddled by his Chief of Staff, the cleaning of crumbs from his clothes, the solicitous looks bestowed on the ‘warrior prince’, reminded us of how our mothers prepared us for those ‘moments of truth’, like going to school on your first day.
His greatest mistakes were that he did not listen, not to his parliamentary colleagues, and not to the public mood.
Never a policy specialist, he imported what he needed from the IPA’s shopping list, and then failed to understand that Australia had changed.
He excelled in saying “No”. Loudly. As Opposition Leader he was never a believer in climate change, and he capitalised on the Labor Party’s convoluted and tortured responses to it. He can be squarely blamed for the current existential catastrophe, by sowing doubt where there was no room for any.
He also undermined, and removed the Liberal Party’s only hope for a successful future, Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull is the acceptable face of liberalism, and the embodiment of the sensible centre.
Abbott played to the backward-looking members of the community, who put climate change, same sex marriage, Indigenous rights and multiculturalism into the too-hard basket. He thought he could rule without the cities, and frankly, without the young.
Peter Dutton has no idea of the damage he is unleashing
We are now watching a dreadful remake of the same movie. Peter Dutton is reprising the role of Abbott, down to the same faux seriousness, the same appeal to those who look backward, the same dog whistling to the chronically angry.
They want us to return to the golden days of fortress Australia, where we will choose the types who come to our shores, we will choose the low road, and we will bring the country to a position halfway between the cheerful nihilism of Boris Johnson’s Brexit, and Donald Trump’s failing state.
For a man of such limited intellectual resources, Dutton has managed to confect a formidable coalition of nay-sayers.
Of course, he didn’t have to work very hard getting the National Party on-side. They decided on a No vote before the ink was dry on the proposition.
Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine, who represent possibly the most potent symbols of the No side, are incomprehensibly voting against their own interests. Their power to split the vote, and hence the country, is immense. Lidia Thorpe, who seems to be sacrificing ‘the good’, for the sake of ‘the perfect’, is similarly powerful. And wrong.
Dutton’s reasons are purely self-serving
Dutton has continued with his paper-thin repudiation of the Voice referendum with a typically threadbare slogan worthy of Tony Abbott: “If you don’t know, Vote No.”
Anyone with a shred of intelligence would substitute the words “Find Out”, instead of “Vote No”. The No side is not interested in sharing enlightenment, they much prefer doubt and fear.
He has never bothered to calculate the cost, to his party’s standing into the future, or to the social cohesion of Australia.
His recent statement that he thinks the Coalition can win government in 2025 is pure fantasy. But therein lies his reason for going hard against the Voice.
He sees it as a one-on-one contest against Albanese, and in some ways he is correct. Albanese has allowed this to degenerate from a contest of ideas to a personal political battle.
As many have noted the Voice is an advisory body only and placing it within the Constitution merely stops it from being abolished, like ATSIC was, by John Howard.
The Voice, whether enshrined within the Constitution or not, can be ignored. That is the salient point of the whole issue. The fact of Constitutional recognition is nice, but it does not help ‘close the gap’.
That objective lies with us, as to whether we demand that governments listen, and having listened, act to redress wrongs, and build a reasonable future for our fellow citizens. It is the least we can do.
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