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The Abbott years

In 2013/14 I wrote short stories, then, in a mood of political disgust, I wrote about Tony Abbott. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

The Abbott years

Tony Abbott defeated Malcolm Turnbull by 42 votes to 41 to become the party’s leader and Leader of the Opposition.

He was sworn in as the 28th Prime Minister of Australia on 18 September 2013. He was, in my opinion (at the time), the most unqualified man politically and psychologically ever to be elected to the position.

And so began a period that has seen our country move to the far-right of politics. A move that could only be described as disastrous for the nation and our future.

Whoever eventually replaces the existing Coalition government will be charged with righting the wrongs of a succession of failed leaders over a generation together with the enormous problems forced on us by a very destructive pandemic.

Successive leaders, blinded by their crimes of complacency to what was apparent and ignorance of what was not, have shown an absence of any ability to think beyond self and power.

What is fundamental to the political observer is following the progress of a changing tide in political discourse, trying to work out the how and why of so many complexities.

Tony Abbott, after his years in Opposition, created a negative image of our nation. He never had a positive word to say about his country. As Opposition Leader, he used simplistic slogans to talk about complex problems and, in doing so, suggested he had answers when he didn’t. He spread negativity like rust throughout the community because he saw a need to promote a sense of crisis, an Armageddon about everything.

He, if nothing else, was a very colourful character. He was aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity was legendary, and he had little consideration for ideas other than his own and said NO to his opponent’s policies regardless of their worthiness. He was by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity.

Added to that, he had a political gutter-mentality and little respect for the institution of Parliament and its conventions.

Everything is wrong, and he is the only one who can fix it. There is a budget crisis when none exists. There is a debt crisis (while adding to it) when none exists. There is a crisis about the cost of living when Australians have never had it better. It’s a deliberate tactic of social engineering. Create an illusion of disaster, and people will believe that perception is, in fact, a reality. And of course, keep on doing it when you attain government.

In terms of leadership, he was a failure. Many said that he was the most exemplary Opposition Leader the country had seen, but he could never bridge the gap of Leader of the Opposition to Prime Minister. On the international stage, he was a dismal failure.

He attacked the price on carbon, which he misnamed the “carbon tax,” stating that:

“Let’s be under no illusion. The carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”

Abbott’s former Department head later admitted that his mission to “axe the tax” was only about politics. Nothing whatsoever about reducing our emissions and honouring our commitment to the Paris accord.

When Abbott repealed the “Carbon Tax,” a tax that had been working well and emissions were dropping, the Coalition, who had put ideology before the common good, staggered like drunken adolescents from one side of the street to the other. They have been unable to put together a comprehensive environmental and energy policy since. It was arguably the worst policy decision in Australian political history.

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. Alternatively, that’s just politics. However, my focus here is on character and whether Abbott had enough of it to be the leader of our nation.

Julia Gillard – our first and only female prime minister – was subjected to the most obnoxious and depraved attacks that, in a political sense, were unnecessary if gaining office was the only objective. However, it seems that some men cannot help themselves, so they went for the jugular and, in so doing, he may have set back the political aspirations of women for generations.

I contend that because we are looking at a litany of instances of lying, deception and bad behaviour over a long period, he did not have an essence of a character, which is one of the main ingredients in the leadership recipe.

Some would argue that it was John Howard who sent us spiralling towards the right of politics. But conversely, I put the case that it was Abbott’s force of personality, following Labor’s revolving door leadership that the electorate liked. The mood was for a mongrel, and in Abbott, they got one.

They didn’t consider the baggage that he carried with him.

When Barak Obama visited, he broke long-standing conventions by politicising his speech as Opposition Leader.

He did the same when the Indonesian President visited.

He did the same when the Queen visited.

He would not allow pairs (another long-standing convention) so that the Minister for the Arts could attend the funeral of painter Margaret Olley, an Australian icon. Malcolm Turnbull, a personnel friend, was also prevented from attending.

He refused a pair whilst Prime Minister Gillard was on bereavement leave following the death of her father.

Tony Abbott is far, far more mean-spirited. His 2014 Budget reflects his incapacity to understand inequality. He demonstrates this in the way he ignores human misery and how he belittles those suffering from it.

He is, in a nutshell, nasty to the core. Stories surface that he has been inherently vicious for as long as people have known him. Still, it was not until 2005 that I first noticed his extreme level of nastiness and lack of compassion for human misery when it was hoisted onto the national stage. It came only hours after the NSW Leader of the Opposition, John Brogden, had attempted suicide. The Age reported at the time that:

“The day after Mr Brogden was found unconscious in his electorate office with self-inflicted wounds, Mr Abbott publicly joked at two separate Liberal Party functions about the disgraced leader’s career-wrecking behaviour.

Mr Abbott was asked at a fund-raising lunch about a particular health reform proposal and reportedly answered: ‘If we did that, we would be as dead as the former Liberal leader’s political prospects’.

Smutty to the core. And to a mate.

He also claimed that Bernie Banton was a mate. Not that he acted like one.

When Abbott was the Minister for Health, the dying asbestos disease sufferer Bernie Banton obtained a petition containing 17,000 signatures of those who supported listing the mesothelioma drug Alimta on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

This petition was to be presented in person to Tony Abbott. If it was not disrespectful enough to snub the petition, then his verbal response certainly was.

Mr Abbott was quick to dismiss the petition:

“It was a stunt,” Mr Abbott said on the Nine Network.

“I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t necessarily mean that he is pure of heart in all things.”

It would appear that he likes making fun of dying people. Does he expect we will all laugh along with him?

He even has a go at deceased people. Margaret Whitlam was not even in the grave before Tony Abbott used her death to score cheap political points.

“The death of Margaret Whitlam caused such an outpouring of saddened fondness that comments by Tony Abbott linking her passing with the sins of the Whitlam government appear to have struck an incredibly wrong note.

He said she was a ‘woman of style and substance and a marvellous consort to a very significant Labor leader and an epochal Australian prime minister’.

‘There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam Government but nevertheless, it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam’ Mister Abbott said.”

The answer to “what took place and why” is that, in our apathy, our indifference, we allowed and are still allowing a laconic attitude toward our politics to dictate who wins. We do so in the forlorn hope that we will, also.

When on earth will we wake up?

Leaders on the extreme right of politics seem to have the same human characteristics of nastiness, offensiveness, spite, resentment, malice, contempt and bad manners. Abbott, like others on the conservative right, seemed to fit into a slot in history. One that was utterly rejected by his colleagues who, in due course, sacked him. He was subsequently replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, who was not right-leaning enough. He, in turn, was replaced by Scott Morrison, who had planned his ascension in precise detail where he continues the work of Abbott.

My thought for the day

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 politics. But unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.


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  1. BB

    Toxic Tony was a terrible cancer on Australian politics and he remains today still a cancer on the Australian landscape.
    Mere words are insufficient to describe the destructive negative force he inflicted on the social fabric of Australian society.
    He was/is the most disgusting person to have gained the PM’s office, bar one, the present PM, Scott Morrison is even worse.

  2. New England Cocky

    John Lord, another gem from the past that I have now been able to enjoy.

    Being more positive and turning to the future, there is only one solution to the Little Johnnie Howard, Toxic RAbbott, Misguided Turdball and Scummo politicians and that is:

  3. Henry Rodrigues

    And all these rotten Liberals/Nationals are there because of the support and backing of the crinkled old bastard who plagues this country. with his wealth and his corrupt media empire. That is the crux of our woes.

  4. Williambtm

    John Lord, another fact-filled article, thank you. Although no mention of Abbott lairising about in a pair of speedos and not knowing who he bonked in times past. He almost became the father of someone else’s child, which did nothing for his religious monk-like propriety.

    I am yet to work out a means of resurrecting the Town square Stocks, these being a necessary humiliating device to curb the L/NP party habit of telling porkies to the people.

    I recall the Kerry OBrian interview when Kerry asked if Abbott had any idea of the truth, Tony Speedos replied, well you know how it is Kerry, you know a sort of…well, ‘say, a spirit of the moment’ thingy… snigger-snort-snark? Kerry not at all amused had reacted like an old-time school master searching for his lengthened thick leather strap made of old horse harness, used for inflicting maximum pain, it being a severe punishing instrument.
    So there it was, Tony Speedos was immediately assessed as a constant bloody liar.

    It was all over the news when Speedos was told of an Australian war casualty, “Yeah, I guess schitt happens” was his response.
    Enough of that bastard for now.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Abbott, the Manly Masturbator (his attitudes and vanity, not necessarily acts…) was, and still is) a blot on the crevice of the fundament of the sphinctre of Australian political history, one of many in conservative recalls. I shared some U3A classes with Abbott’s father Richard, a quiet, small man, perhaps wondering how he had engendered such a bastard legally. A failed romanist candidate for celibacy, his non entry into the ranks of prelates saved many a small child, at least statistically. Absolutely negative, charged with false confidence, powered by ego in search of a cause, he went on his drive to be thoroughly obvious, to be noticed, to enter the books and get comments. My old classmate Jack Howard was similar, possibly worse, by having done so much harm, still unravelling. There are those today, unwell, insecure, less well off, slightly damaged and reduced, who owe these conservative egofixated negativities a curse and a blow. As with Thatcher, articles are available, common enough, to show poorer than acceptable death rates out of bad policy in work relations, housing, health, education, social support. Executives who cause harm, (most do) by their orders, commands, policies, actions, attitudes, are actually murderers and thieves, but they know and care not. Australia has had some non event conservative leaders, Reid, Cook, Bruce, Lyons (he tried a bit), a lazy non achiever personally in Menzies, Holt (the ultimate show pony). Guzzler Gorton, Silly Billy Mc Mahon, Fraser, The appalling Howard, then the recent trio. It is a long saga of mixed luck, stealing credit, stuffups, ignorance, obtuseness and sheer shitskulled showpony shams.

  6. Potoroo

    “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

    — Captain G. M. Gilbert, US Army psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials

  7. Henry Rodrigues

    Well enunciated Phil. Hats off !!

  8. Ross

    John Lord writes about a succession of failed leaders and how right he is. Having lived to witness
    the progression of so called federal leaders from Ming the Merciless to the current Scotty That Smirking Prick From Marketing the list makes depressing reading.
    Anthony John Abbott is an ignorant incompetent fool whose brief time in the big chair is best quickly forgotten for collective mental health reasons and I’ll bet you a shiny penny no one thought anybody could possibly be worse, how wrong that thought was.
    In 1964 the writer Donald Horne wrote “Australia is a lucky country run by second rate people who share in its luck” now some sixty years later the quote would read “Australia is a lucky country run by FOURTH rate people who share in its luck”. You could assume Mr Horne’s quote represents most if not all sections of Australian society.
    Yet we are still a lucky country in spite of the people who run it.

  9. David Stakes

    And along the bottom we slither, I hope people awake from their torpor and elect a real Government of the people.

  10. Williambtm

    Ross, I would like you to be correct in your last sentence.
    Far more likely to be correct if the corporate thieves & plunderers of our natural resources from the USA HQ corporations were barred from entry into Australia.
    The annual plunder amounts to a huge number of $Billions annually for Jack Schitt in return.
    They pay bugger-all taxes on their earnings thus able to transfer the totality of their earnings to the Bahamas or a similar tax haven.
    Beware that the USA is bankrupt, the IMF and the World Bank are in the hands of receivers as we speak.

    The derelict strategy of long-term quantitative easing programs of creating non-securitized ink-stamped paper has diminished the value of their fiat currency across the World.
    China and Russia know enough to have dumped the US trade dollar.
    The goons in Australia’s government will not admit to the failures of the above by the “group of words only” US military alliance.
    Not really worth more 2 knobs of Goat schitt.

  11. Florence Howarth

    The difference between Abbott when it comes to lying. Tony, admitted, knew he was lying. Just sees nothing wrong in doing so. Scott doesn’t know when he lies. Worse, he believes everything he utters from his mouth.

    Have no idea which is worse.

  12. ajogrady

    6″Honest John” or “the lying rodent” was used by Howards own party members sarcastically and pointedly to describe his penchant to lie. As bullshit baffles brains Morrison and his cabal of sycophantic foot soldiers masquerading as a competent government prove on a daily basis Howard is not Robinson Crusoe. Incompetent lying, cheating, misogynistic corrupt to the core religious nutters and misfit climate crisis denying crazies plus the obligatory taxpayer funded bludggers and shirkers are backbone of the L/NP that are no where near representative of a cohesive and egalitarian functioning society.

  13. wam

    Then, as now, lord, you ignored the two factors that gave labor the chance to leave the rabbott hanging, without a safety net. Ruined both times by ambitious leaders seeking power, at any cost. So far only 8 years of uncontrolled LNP spending.
    Such a deliberate omission is out of ‘character’ and hard to understand, lord?
    Perhaps you agreed with the rabbott on denying man’s involvement and with his decision to give himself unlimited funds?
    ps michael and john,
    this is from an atheist page exposing how the census has put us in as a religion so we are advocating marking no religion and NOT atheist, it too big to send to you. (NB Muslims are <3%):
    “Hello all. First post for me. I received below message in a group from a friend. I would value your help in formulating a reply which would go to everyone on their list My first thought is that they are actually encouraging people to commit an offence by making a false statement. But lots of other things need to be said eg. are you really happy that churches received some $600M jobkeeper money from the public purse?
    ———- Forwarded message ———
    From: Tony
    Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2021 at 11:01 am
    Subject: FW: Oz Census & religion
    As you may or may not realise, the next Australian Census will be taken on Tuesday, 10th August, 2021.
    There will be a No Religion option. Please be careful how you answer this question. Bear in mind that although many Australians have no religion these days, the Muslim population in Australia will all declare that they are Muslim and this fact will be counted to ascertain what type of country we are in regard to religion.
    Even though you may now have no religion, please consider entering the religion you were christened or born into, when answering this question. Otherwise in time Australia could be officially be declared to be a Muslim country because the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census will reflect this. Just imagine the possible repercussions if that were to happen. Sharia Law?
    For Australia’s future I would ask you to please pass this message on to your family members and friends”

  14. B Sullivan

    “The poor will always be amongst us.” Jesus Christ, after being accused of an extraordinary waste of money that could have been spent alleviating the plight of the poor.

    “The poor will always be amongst us.” Employment Minister Tony Abbott justifying the increasing numbers of the working poor on a Four Corners expose of poverty wages in Australia.

    When the Howard government privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service it was handed over to various religious groups who not only shared Abbott’s belief that “any job is better than no job at all”, but also had policies of only employing staff who shared their faith. Instead of condemning this practice Abbott argued that employees feel more comfortable working with people that are like minded.

    The media’s treatment of Abbott was to occasionally raise an eyebrow but generally let him get away with it. I was absolutely certain that he would one day become Prime Minister because he was so obviously unfit for the job. No matter how outrageously he behaved he was a protected species throughout his career until he made the fatal mistake of taking Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter off her.

  15. BB

    I think it’s stretching the imagination that ‘maybe’ Australia could one day be declared a Muslim country, or that the census would ever reflect such. The 2016 census has the Muslims at only 2.6%, then 52.2% of the Australian population declared some variety of Christianity, and no religion at 30.1%, and also take into account that 9.6% chose not to even answer the question.

    That “Sharia Law” in time could become accepted in Australia is a nonsense, such paranoia only exists down a rabbit hole.

    I wonder who exactly is feeling threatened by the fact that no religion is starting to become a dominant factor as to religious beliefs in Australia, probably many orthodox religions are feeling the pinch, as more and more folks move away from religions, so that eventually, soon I hope, no religion will become the dominant percentage and Australia will at last really be able to think of it self as a truly SECULAR NATION that it supposedly is, and become at last a more EGALITERIAN country.

    Religion in Australia is diverse. Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia of 1901 prohibits the Commonwealth government from establishing a church or interfering with the freedom of religion.[note 1] In an optional question on the 2016 Census, 52.2% of the Australian population declared some variety of Christianity. Historically the percentage was far higher; now, the religious landscape of Australia is changing and diversifying.[1] According to the 2016 estimate, religious distribution is as follows: Protestant 23.1% (Anglican 13.3%, Uniting Church 3.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 2.3%, Baptist 1.5%, Pentecostal 1.1%, Lutheran .7%, other Protestant .5%), Roman Catholic 22.6%, other Christian 4.2%, Muslim 2.6%, Buddhist 2.4%, Orthodox 2.3% (Eastern Orthodox 2.1%, Oriental Orthodox .2%), Hindu 1.9%, other 1.3%, none 30.1%, unspecified 9.6%.[3] In 2016, 30.1% of Australians stated “no religion” and a further 9.6% chose not to answer the question.[1] Other faiths include Sikhs (0.5%) and Jews (0.4%).[1]

  16. Warren

    Including Atheism as a “Other” religion is a con and can distort the census.

    I ticked no religion. The sooner no religion” becomes dominate the better. The God bothers are running scared as they lose power and influence. Is that why our Federal Gov. is stacked with happy clappers? They are a small group but have influence way beyond there numbers. And the happy clapper pollies and bosses call themselves Christians? I must have read the wrong book!!

  17. Cool Pete

    I call him Tone The Botty for two reasons. One, he was a gutter politician. And two, I was inspired by the Dutch who used to call Arthur Seyss-Inquart, during his time as leader of Austria and Occupied Holland, Six And A Quarter, as a play on his name (Seyss-Inquart sounds like Six and a Quarter, in Dutch) and because he had a limp. Being disabled myself, I do not like making fun of a person’s disabilities, but I also went on the idea abbott-bottom-botty.
    Andrew Probyn should not have been told that an apology would be nice over his article that labelled Tone The Botty “the most destructive politician,” he should have been given a Walkley Award!
    I encountered an idiot on twitter who claimed that Tone The Botty was “an honest gentleman,” no, he was neither honest nor a gentleman. Tone The Botty validates something that my paternal grandfather used to say, “It’s not how well-educated you are but how well you use your education.” My paternal grandfather undertook study at an agricultural college, and I, myself, am university educated to Postgraduate Level, but Botty was a Rhodes Scholar and an idiot, while Paul Keating went as far as Year Ten and did his Leaving Certificate externally, yet was smarter than Botty.

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