The romance of the retro PM
The more we see of Tony Abbott the more we are see of a person to dislike and distrust. And what we see emerging is a Prime Minister who would be more suited to leading a country in the 1950s – not the 21st century, writes Ricky Pannowitz.
The 1950s were a time of great cathartic change in everything from design to popular culture. Owning a 50’s retro car is more about perception than functionality. The regressive experience may be romantic, but it is ultimately expensive to maintain and less functional for the modern imperative. Can Australia afford a retro prime minister in a modern age?
It is no accident that Tony Abbott is a man who has gone from being the romantic notion of a simplistic bygone era to uncomfortably impractical. Like a shiny old reconditioned car in a showroom reminding us of a reminiscent past, there are many impracticalities and hidden issues that were not apparent beyond a new paint job and the aggressive sales pitch. After Tony left the showroom his transgression of trust saw a fickle voting public, transfixed by the mantra of sales spin, hit by the reality of something impractically different from what they were sold. The sagacity of wisdom from experts experienced in the realism of such decisions was barely audible beneath fervour of pitched hype. People were told across the board, the real Tony Abbott is a radical religious neo con, not this guy they are selling as centre centric. Any old school mechanic would tell you this ride will be uncomfortable, unreliable and ultimately expensive. Was Australia sold a lemon by crooked salesmen or is it a case of the buyer beware?
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote; “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
Just as we look back at the attitudes from another less progressive and enlighten time as cultural cringe, equally cringe worthy is the attitude to Abbott’s regressive assault on the hard fought rights of ordinary Australians. The very fact that the ideals, which have been fought and won with bipartisan acceptance long ago, are in Abbott’s sights is in itself a glaring example of his reckless judgement in embarking upon a politically suicidal assault on social cohesion. The sociology of political change tends to occur after a slow conciliatory process which culminates in a glacial shift that is usually in step with changing attitudes of contemporary society. Reconciliation, gender equality, sexual equality, racial equality, universal heath care, superannuation, equitable quality education, anti discrimination, protection from vilification, humanitarian responsibility, equitable immigration, a healthy public broadcasting sector, freedom of press, freedom of speech, the minimum wage, fair industrial relations, economic sustainability, research and technological capitalisation and welfare for the disadvantaged, affordable healthcare to name a few are all measures of Australia as a progressive egalitarian society. Then there is Tony Abbott; a radical ideologist who maintains a narrow centric view embodying the current pendulum swing to the furthest right axis of the social divide. Abbott is putting it all or nothing out there at once in an expedient assault of his ideological will with indifference to consequence. There is no doubt that this is all propagated by a free ride on the populous news cycle which is afforded far more democratic weight than its current erroneous substance should allow. It’s also punctuated by a heavy agenda as there are much money and favour behind Tony’s assault. A 880 million dollar tax bill payed to a media proprietor who supported him during the campaign that could possibly be a down payment to purchase the soon to be privatised telecommunications infrastructure which would monopolise delivery of his future content. Abbott has many such scores to settle in his rise to the top job.
John Avlon who wrote; “A wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum – the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They’re the people who always try to divide rather than unite us” Partisan Division is a tactic that has served Tony Abbott well, until now.
Abbott represents the remnants of everything that connotes an old world view of a young, rich colonial power trying to punch above its weight on the world stage. A nation struggling with the shame of its arrogant colonial past whilst seeking to define the identity of its future as a progressive independent multicultural nation.
To understand Abbott one must look at the ideology of that which shaped him in his formative years as a student on the SRC at Sydney University. Deeply religious, highly opinionated and in contempt of anything that he considered to be of lesser social value or challenged his moralised ideological thinking; Abbott was a radical religious conservative chauvinist. Where others use university to explore, test and challenge convention through the development of critical thinking, Abbott was a defiant sycophant of ultra conservative class elitism, preferring to oppose and demonise progressive social thinking flippantly as a ‘socialist disease’ or ‘communist propaganda’. He dogmatically shoehorned all philosophy into the supposition of his inflexible world view. Tony Abbott was a political operative of Bob Santamaria, an ultra conservative religious anti communist in the 70’s who was the voice of catholic ultra conservative right. Santamaria groomed Abbott as the new charge of ultra conservative Catholicism which would ultimately come to embody the neo conservatism of the Tea Party movement and Toryism.
Abbott sees himself as a man of great morality, however this is at odds with his actions which define him as a bare knuckle combatant moralist who will say or do anything to win political advantage. Abbott is consistently a contradiction of his christian values, even when the issue on the table is at odds with the best interest of Australian society. Abbott demonstrates hypocrisy by virtue of his past and present actions. A fundamentalist catholic who entered the priesthood but ultimately failed due to the constraints of ethical dilemmas presented by his burning political ambition driven by a dogged lust for power at any cost. Abbott’s views are those of a religious conservative Australia in less progressive times that most Australians would rather forget than revisit. A dark age of xenophobic ardour, coercion of challenge to conventional institutionalism, suspicion of sociological advancement, political tyranny, scaremongering, corruption steeped in misogyny and the bigotry that maintained an indefensible position of religious faith over personal choice. Abbott believes there is no case for the separation of Church and state, in fact his religious beliefs consistently promulgate Christian influence over his Prime Ministership and publicly funded programs.
It was apparent to anyone that knew anything of Abbott’s politics and ideology before the election that he was incapable of governing for the majority as Tony Abbott knows no middle ground. Abbott’s view is all black or white; for or against as compromise is just not in his DNA. Tony is a poor negotiator who treats everything as a political game to win rather than a bipartisan outcome for the common good no matter what’s on the table. Abbott gives no quarter considering anything but ‘all or nothing’ weak and effeminate, irrespective of what the fallout or social consequence may be.
Abbott’s general tactic for even the most extreme obstinacy is usually to deny or offer a conditional, insincere apologetic acknowledgement to minimalise political capital before reloading to maintain assault. This is a man who has strategically manoeuvred to make his move at a time when political discourse in the country has arguably hit the lowest ebb in the nation’s history. Abbott has taken Howard’s most extreme regressive policies that tapped into the dark underbelly of prejudice, racism, hatred, misogyny and class welfare; then amplified them one hundred fold into a sensory assault strategy based on divide and conquer. The new ‘Minister for Women’s Affairs’ has long held grudges and his retribution can sometimes appear contemptibly childish to prove a point. Simplistic language dispenses a bitter pill administered with faux spin that is manufactured for the political expedience of powerful ideological encroachment rather than any visionary social progression. Tireless three word sloganism as a grinding, unrelenting mantra for political sleight of a back hand to his detractors.
This continuing language of deception is evidentiary in a budget that is little more than a manifesto of social engineering rather than a statement of prudent economics. Every thread of the Australia’s social fabric at odds with neoconservative ideology is attacked as unsustainable, unwarranted, superfluously unimportant or irrelevant. We all must do the ‘heavy lifting’ as Australia just can’t afford anything that Tony is opposed to and anyone who questions the budget with conflicting factually inconvenient critique is a ‘fiscal vandal’. The message behind the transparency of the language is arrogant, insulting and rhetorical ‘heavy grifting’ at best. The process of implementation of the budgets methodology was a prequel led by the “Commission of Audit”. This was a series of warning shot across the bow of middle Australia designed as conditioning for the predictable shock and awe of an unnecessarily tough budget to come. “You will thank us”, he reiterated, “we’re making the necessary hard decisions”. “Budget Emergency” “Big Black hole” Tony’s fire truck had arrived and its full of gasoline.
Under the scrutiny of experts across the political divide and with superficial micro explanation by the architects, both the audit and budget just don’t add up. Abbott is not a good orator with a fundamental understanding of economics at best. His subsequent response affirms he is in fact an “economic simpleton”. When pressed to explain himself he resorts to the rhetoric of slogans, outright lies and attack, all tactics that served elect him. This may well work in a election campaign but as a PM under the microscope in clear air, its a different proposition. The treasurer delivered the budget, tried to explain it and his approval together with his confidence rating severely tanked just like Abbott’s. Abbott and Hockey are not good performers under pressure, especially when thrown to the wolves without a script. The sheer weight of this ideology is drowning Abbott and Hockey and may well sink this government. Abbott’s freestyle oratory incompetence has seen a series of gaffs unbecoming and unworthy of his high office, further eroding his already dismal relationship with the Australian voting public. The mean spirit, retribution, hash cruelty, and inequality coupled with lack of detail, poor salesmanship with the absence of any qualified evidentiary substantiation underpinning the methodology constitutes a the budget bordering on amateurishly incompetent at best. If an election was held now this government would be deservedly decimated into political wasteland. The harsh critical analysis from all corners of society is a resounding vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Abbott Government ‘trying it on’. Such fervent discrediting asserts Abbott’s first budget to be nothing more than the wish list of corporate interest, free market capitalists led by assumptions from a socially disconnected elite. A doctrine of those who shape the ideology machine of the controlling neo right of the LNP.
Australia underestimated Abbott and his ability to tap into a festering reserve of underlying hatred, intolerance and political apathy that has polarised political debate in Australia. The reality of political lies is when they are exposed the voting public’s retribution is brutal and unforgiving. John Howard is testament to this fact and he was popular, a luxury not afforded Tony Abbott. Consequently Abbott may well be the most hated Prime Minister since Billy McMahon. History will not be kind to this government, especially now the cloaked reality has lifted and the sobriety of the real Tony Abbott’s rhetorical lies hits his enticed aspirants in the hip pocket. The voting public have began to realise they have been conned, surprised and subject to the will of a man that has no plan other than rhetorical propaganda simplified to three word slogans as a means to impose his extremist ‘retro’ ideology. Everything that Abbott said he was not and would not do, he is doing or has done. He has abandoned the people who believed his lies hoping to win them over with more of the same medicine show. This is of no surprise to those who understood Abbott before he was hastily reinvented. The real Tony Abbott is a man who embodies the personification of everything that he professes to be against such as entitlement, dirty deals, subterfuge, character assassination, slush funds, political perks, corruption, nepotism, racism and misogyny. This is evident by his words and actions. The real Tony Abbott has no shame whatsoever. When faced with the prospect of being caught in a lie, he compulsively qualifies the lie with another. The real Tony Abbott has the auspicious honour of being unpopular when elected and descending lower in the polls, all the while selling himself by claiming a mandate.
There aren’t many people left for Tony Abbott to upset. As thick skinned and unfazed by being disliked as Tony is, there is not much possibility of Abbott riding this out unscathed. Abbott and his cohorts have been very sloppy along the way, with a trial of political impropriety that is lying in waiting for the next headline. Abbott’s biggest miscalculation may have been to arrogantly open a can of worms that his machine will not be able to control. The bygone political operatives of the time they wish to emulate had the benefit of controllable information, however in an instantaneous information age nothing is controllable. The process of lighting a fuse to test credibility and competence with show trials, may well see Abbott with nowhere to run. Tony was born to rule and has fulfilled his ambitious quest to do so against all odds, but for how long and at what price? The gloss is washing off the car, the tyres are flat, it’s overheating, blowing smoke, this lemon is breaking down on the first leg of the journey. It may have seemed like a romantically good idea at the time but ultimately this bomb is an impractical rusty relic destined for the political scrap heap no matter how you paint it.
When you reduce the complexity of consequence down to the simplistic, the devil is always in the detail and the detail is most certainly in the devil they didn’t know.
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