Wednesday March 30 2016.
Leaders rarely go with good grace. Almost always they feel they have been hard done by. Tony Abbott has joined a long list who stubbornly cling to the past in the hope that they might reinvent a future. Abbott was never a popular leader. He fell into the Prime Minister’s job without the any attributes of leadership.
Here a just a few examples of why he was never suited for the job.
‘Do you really think my chief of staff would be under this kind of criticism if her name was Peter as opposed to Peta?” Mr Abbott asked the ABC’s Lyndal Curtis.’
Do you really think I would be attacking the Prime Minister in the manner I do if her name was James and not Julia.
‘I think people need to take a long hard look at themselves with some of these criticisms.’
The Guardian has judged him as ‘politically incorrect to the point of dementia.’
New Statesman said Abbott represents ‘politics at its most crass, exploitative and disturbing’
UK Labour MP Paul Flynn called him ’a bigoted airhead.’
The LA Times called itself ’scandalised by his prejudices.’
The Sydney Morning Herald said ‘Tony Abbott had plumbed new lows in government decency.’
Le Monde thinks he is ‘sexist and vulgar.’
The influential Huffington Post said ‘he is simply an idiot.’
In the midst of the New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell’s resignation over a bottle of wine a reporter asked a seemingly legitimate question about corruption on the conservative side of politics in that state. The (then) Prime Minister’s reaction was indeed unrepresentative of the highest office in the land. His anger at the mere suggestion of corruption from his side of politics was palpable. Lest we forget.
But then his ability to feign indignation is only surpassed by that of Christopher Pyne. The fact that the journalist in question was a young lady, who he addressed as Madam, did nothing to dim his reputation for misogyny.
You can watch the video here.
There are those who say that blogs of the ilk for which I write are simply going through an exercise in character assassination. Not so. I was never a Howard hater like many people. Hating people is repugnant to me. However I do believe that Tony Abbott was demonstrably unfit for the highest office in the land and therefore open to the most severe examination.
There are three reasons. Firstly he was arguably the worst liar to have ever walked the halls of parliament. A liar by his own admission and by evidence. Secondly he is a luddite of the highest order. Anyone who cannot comprehend science and is dismissive of technology belongs in another time and is intellectually unsuited for leadership in the complex word of today. Lest we forget that he appointed Malcolm Turnbull as the then opposition spokesperson to destroy the NBN. Thirdly he is a characterless man of little personal political morality which has been on display throughout his career. He is and always has been an unpopular gutter politician of the worst kind. Lest we forget.
It is said that when opposition leaders ascend to the highest office they are judged by their performance in it. That their past misdemeanours are of little relevance. I cannot subscribe to that. Lest we forget.
Trying to convert a lifetime of negativity into motivating inspirational leadership was a bridge to far. To say the least he was totality uninspiring. In fact I can think of no other person in Australian public life who has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.
But one should not use the aforementioned language without substantiating one’s claims. So, lest we forget these indiscretions from his past.
None of these events are in chronological order. They are just as they came to mind and are listed randomly in order to build a character profile.
1 When the President of the US visited he broke long-standing conventions by politicising his speech as opposition leader.
2 He did the same when the Indonesian president visited.
3 He did the same when the Queen visited.
4 He could not help but play politics with the death of an Australian icon in Margaret Whitlam.
5 He would not allow pairs (another long-standing convention) so that the minister for the arts could attend the funeral of painter Margaret Olley. Another Australian icon. Malcolm Turnbull, a personnel friend was also prevented from attending. There have been other instances of not allowing pairs.
6 He refused a pair whilst the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on bereavement leave following the death of her father.
7 Then there were the callous and inappropriate remarks he made to Bernie Banton.
8 At university he kicked in a glass panel door when defeated in an election.
9 Referred to a woman Chairperson as “Chairthing”.
10 He was accused of assaulting a woman at University, and later acquitted. He was defended by a QC and the girl defended herself.
11 Another woman accuses him of throwing punches at her. And hitting either side of a wall she was standing against. He says it never happened but others corroborate her story.
12 He threatened to punch the head in of Lindsay Foyle who disagreed with him on a woman’s right to an abortion.
13 In 1978 a young teacher by the name of Peter Woof bought assault charges against Abbott. Abbott had punched him in the face. The charges never went anywhere. Abbott was represented by a legal team of six and the young man could not afford to defend himself.
14 And he did punch out Joe Hockey’s lights during a rugby match.
15 He established a slush fund to bring down Pauline Hansen and then lied about its existence.
16 He was ejected from the House of reps once in obscure circumstances. Hansard is unclear why, but it is alleged that he physically threatened Graham Edwards. Edwards lost both his legs in Vietnam.
17 In the year 2000 he was ejected from the House along with six others. Philip Coorey reports that he was headed toward the Labor back benches ready to thump a member who had heckled him.
18 Abused Nicola Roxon after turning up late for a debate.
19 Then there was the interview with Mark Riley where he had a brain fade that seemed like it would never end. I thought he was deciding between a right hook and a left cross. Something that I found mentally disturbing and worrying. After all, at the time this was the man who could be our next Prime Minister.
20 Together with Pyne he was seen running from the House of Reps to avoid embarrassment at being outwitted.
21 Being the first opposition leader to be ejected from the house in 26 years because he repeated an accusation of lying after withdrawing it.
22 The infamous “Sell my arse” statement verified by Tony Windsor. Will Windsor ever release the mobile phone transcript?
23 The interview with Kerry O’Brien where he admitted that unless it was in writing he didn’t always tell the truth.
24 And in another O’Brien interview he admitted lying about a meeting with the catholic Cardinal George Pell.
25 During the Republic referendum he told many outrageous untruths.
26 His famous ‘Climate change is crap’ comment and later saying that he was speaking to an audience. This of course elicited the question; ‘Is that what you always do?’
27 His almost daily visits as opposition leader to businesses with messages of gloom and doom about the carbon tax. None of which ever came to fruition. His blatant lying often repudiated by the management of the businesses. The most notable being the CEO of BHP and their decision not to proceed with the Olympic Dam mine. Whole towns being closed down. Industries being forced to sack thousands. The end of the coal industry etc.
28 And of course there is the now infamous Leigh Sales interview where beyond any doubt he lied three times and continued to do so the next day.
29 Then there was his statement that the Aboriginal tent embassy at Parliament House be closed. To call his statement an error in judgement is to kind. It almost sounded like an incitement to riot.
30 He is quoted as saying in the Parliament that Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Albanese had targets on their heads. He later apologised.
31 And of course there is also the lie about asylum seekers being illegal.
32 Added to that is his statement that the PM refused to lay down and die.
I think I have exhausted it all but I cannot be sure. Oh wait. Lest we forget.
33 We should not leave out his insensitive comments about the attempted suicide of John Brogden.
34 And the deliberate lie he told to the Australian Minerals Council that the Chinese intended increasing their emissions by 500 per cent.
35 His ‘dying of shame’ comment.
36 His ‘lack of experience in raising children’ comment.
37 His ‘make an honest women of herself’ comment.
38 His ‘no doesn’t mean no’ comment.
Then of course there were these Tonyisms. Similar ones have continued into his Prime Ministership.
Lest we forget.
39 ‘Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia’.
40 ‘These people aren’t so much seeking asylum, they’re seeking permanent residency. If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers’.
On rights at work:
41 ‘If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss’.
42 ‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience’.
43 ‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’.
44 ‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’.
45 ‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’.
On Julia Gillard:
46 ‘Gillard won’t lie down and die’.
On climate change:
47 ‘Climate change is absolute crap’.
48 ‘If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax’.
49 ‘I’d probably … I feel a bit threatened’
50 ‘If you’d asked me for advice I would have said to have – adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about all of these things…’.
On Indigenous Australia:
51 ‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’.
52 ‘Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that…’.
53 ‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done’.
On Nicola Roxon:
54 ‘That’s bullshit. You’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you?’
The list is by no means complete and I am sure readers could add many more to it. His ludicrous statement about our navy’s problems with navigation and blatantly lying about turning boats around as opposed to turning them back. Lest we forget.
His lying and nasty ill-founded comments continued unabated further empathising his unsuitability for the job. Take this for example:
When Tony Abbott said this what did you think?
‘You can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school’.
‘There will be no change to school funding under the government I lead’.
Then he said the Coalition would deliver on its education election promises, not on what some people ‘thought’ it was going to do.
Now some time back Tony Abbott told us that the best way to understand the truth of what he was saying was to have it in writing. Otherwise what he was saying was just idle chatter for an audience.
So now I’m a little confused. You see now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all. That when he says something and I take it to mean one thing he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard at all. It was only my interpretation of what he meant mean, did he say what he meant or did he mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really what he meant.
I know what I thought and I know what I’m thinking now. Lying deceptive bastard. Lest we forget.
When asked in parliament in February 2013 whether he stood by his statement of ‘no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS’ made the night before the election, Mr Abbott responded:
‘Of course I stand by all the commitments that this government made prior to the election. If there is one lesson that members opposite should have learnt from the experience of the previous term of parliament it is that you cannot say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.’
He was still saying the same thing some time later.
Convicted of lying by his own words I would have thought. And not a word of protest from the main stream media at the time.
Something truly remarkable had happened in Australian politics. The Australian Prime Minister who was as opposition leader a person devoid of character, was now attempting a personality conversion to rival nothing hitherto seen in an Australian leader. During his tenure as opposition leader he used colourful aggressive language. He was bullish in his attitude to others, particularly to the female Prime Minister of the day. His negativity was legendary. He held in contempt procedures of the House of Representatives and the conventions it upheld. Lest we forget.
Then a few months into his term of office we were expected to believe that he had transformed into a mild-mannered, cultured man of some distinction. Walking the global stage as a gentleman with noble intent.
We were expected to put to one side the old Tony Abbott and embrace the new one with unbridled fondness. Lest we forget.
Well I am all for self-improvement. I like to think I have practiced it all my life. But in this instance I was not be conned with his nonsense.
David Marr’s quarterly essay “Political Animal” gave an engrossing even gripping insight into the persona of the then leader of the opposition leader. I made many observations as I read it and I cannot of course comment on everything. I must say though (given Tony Abbot’s statement that he finds gay’s intimidating) that I was a little bemused at how Marr even got to interview him. They apparently spent some time together which must have been excruciatingly uncomfortable for the then opposition leader. And given that Mr Abbott only allowed him to use just one quote I should think he probably wasted his time. Another thing that took my attention was the influence of Catholicism in his private and political decision-making. He apparently finds it difficult to make decisions without referral to his faith. Lest we forget.
Regardless of what political persuasion you are I believe we like to see character in our leaders. Now how do we describe character?
“Character is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of a presidential campaign, but unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.”
When looked at in isolation the lies and indiscretions of Tony Abbott, his problems with women and even his negativity could perhaps all be written off as just Tony being Tony. Or that’s just politics. However my focus here is on character and whether Mr Abbott had enough of it to be the leader of our nation. My contention is that because we are looking at a litany of instances of lying, deception and bad behaviour over a long period of time he simply didn’t have the essence of character which is one of the main ingredients in the recipe of leadership. On the evidence the former Prime Minister fell a long way short.
Lest we forget.
It is however, it’s the area of truth that shows the worst aspects of his character. The future of this country is of vital importance. Given his performance of late he would do well to consider these words.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. It was always easy to understand what Abbott said because he only ever spoke in slogans. The difficulty was always knowing what he means.
‘As he spoke I expected the very essence of truth but his words came from the beginning of a smirk, or was it just a sneer of deception.’
If politics is fundamentally about ideas it is also about leadership. In this piece I have deliberately steered clear of policy argument in order to concentrate on character. On numerous occasions I have invited people on Facebook to list five attributes of Tony Abbott that warranted his election as Prime Minister of Australia. I have never received a reply. And when you look at the aforementioned list, is it any wonder. He is simply bereft of any character at all. He has been described as the mad monk and many other things but essentially he is a repugnant gutter politician of the worst kind.
My thought for the day.
‘It is better to be comforted with the truth than be controlled by lies.’
The phrase ‘lest we forget’ is generally used as a mark of respect for those who have died in war. It does however have other meanings. One of which is a warning against lying and the perils of self-pride, exaggeration and bad leadership that eventually leads to an inevitable decline in power. It is in that context that I use it.