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The Face of British Trade: Tony Abbott Goes to Blighty

The question was put by interviewer Kay Burley on Britain’s Sky News network to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “Is Tony Abbott the right kind of person to represent us – even if he’s a homophobic misogynist?” Hancock, while preferring to focus on the former Australia Prime Minister’s expertise in trade, also performed something of a distancing act. “I think the best thing to say is that I am totally focused on the coronavirus crisis and the future of the NHS and social care.”

Abbott is a man of certain talents, but it is doubtful whether trade is one of them. He is certainly a person of certain tendencies, sharpened by a long and bruising political career. There are few hornet’s nests he has not kicked, few waters he has not muddied in the name of conviction and madness. For years he was the acceptable face of Australian reactionary politics, entrusted with the task in the Liberal Party of suppressing the moderates and Tory “wets.” His time as prime minister was short lived; his role as political saboteur, lengthy.

The prospect of becoming Britain’s chief trade envoy as part of the Board of Trade has gone down in a good number of circles like a lead balloon. The disturbance has been such as to prompt some caution from a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “No decisions on the Board of Trade have been made.”

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has led the pack hoping to change Johnson’s mind. “I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and don’t think he’s the right person for the job.” Labour MP Marie Rimmer wondered if there were “trade experts who aren’t homophobic and misogynists.”

The UK’s Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry was beside herself at the prospect of Abbott becoming the UK trade supremo. “I find this appointment absolutely staggering,” being “disgusted” by it on a “personal level.” Johnson had essentially given his blessing to an “offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate change-denying, Trump-worshipping misogynist.” Were it not “so downright humiliating, it would be almost hilarious.”

Even certain members of the Conservative Party also found it hard to stomach. Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, was dismayed by what she considered the sheer awfulness of the idea. “He is a misogynist, he has very poor views on LGBTQ rights.” Such a man should never “be anywhere near our Board of Trade.”

Some of the criticism of Johnson has missed the mark. Brexit Britain and Abbott share a common fibre. Much of the movement to leave the European Union could be put down to the politics of sentimental, and sometimes vicious reaction. Telling Johnny Foreigner to sod off shares a certain stinging quality with ‘turn back the boats’, the slogan Abbott used so successfully to win government and implement as part of Operation Sovereign Borders. Any political party wishing to win office in Australia must now contend with that seemingly immoveable legacy.

Abbott’s antipathy to the EU, albeit one that has changed over time (he had been a gruff Remainer), strikes all the right Brexit high notes. The bureaucrats in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg are the faceless terrors of sovereignty; the Brexiteers, the audacious reclaimers of it. “The revolt of the British electorate against Brussels’s encroachment shows, yet again,” he wrote with praise in January, “that there’s nothing inevitable in the course of history.” Britain’s departure from Europe was no less significant than the fall of the Soviet Union, the end, he suggested, of supranational bodies that stifle and choke in the name of centralising objectives.

Abbott is optimistic for Britain, almost to be the point of being gaga. “As a former prime minister of a country that has a perfectly satisfactory ‘no deal’ relationship with the EU,” he wrote in the Spectator Australia in March last year, “let me assure you: no deal would be no problem.”

Whatever Britons’ views of Brexit and the EU, many would part ways with Abbott on his more colourful takes on life. He is a dedicated climate change sceptic, remarking in October 2017 that environmental policies seeking to address climate change resembled the practices of “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods.” His views of women are stubbornly unreconstructed, having an old kitchen and home flavour to them. When asked by Labour MP Claudia Webbe of the Commons foreign affairs committee about previous remarks (made in 1998) that men’s physiology and temperament was better adapted than women to exercising authority and issuing commands, he feigned ignorance. It “doesn’t sound like anything I’ve said.”

He also goes weak at the knees for such strongmen as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, a person he regards as identifying the correct crisis to confront: not threats posed by climate change (a bit of warming never hurt anyone) but the “extinction” crisis brought about by “our failure to produce more children.” Get thee to bed, Christian Europe, and multiply.

Johnson, as he tends to when controversy comes over to bang on his door, is hoping interest will wane as the flames die. But Abbott is incapable of lying low. Extra fuel is always ready for the fire. Even amidst the criticism of his suitability, he could not resist flourishing his Social Darwinian streak in a speech to the Policy Exchange, a conservative think tank he enjoys addressing. He accused governments, with the exception of Sweden, of approaching the coronavirus “like trauma doctors; instead of thinking like health economists, trained to pose the uncomfortable questions about a level of deaths we might have to live with.”

On his calculations, Australian lockdown efforts to prevent what were predicted to be 150,000 deaths were rash and insensibly generous. “If the average age of those who would have died is 80, even with roughly 10 years of expected life left, that’s still $200,000 per quality life year – or substantially beyond what governments are usually prepared to pay for life-saving drugs.”

The international trade secretary, Liz Truss, has adopted guerrilla tactics in the House of Commons, beating off questions on Abbott’s suitability by attacking Labour for “absolute hypocrisy.” That party, she suggested, was hardly pure on the issue of misogyny, preferring to “virtue signal and indulge in tokenism rather than take real action to improve the lives of women.”

When asked about whether Abbott’s appointment might signal an embrace of climate change scepticism in future trade deals, Truss stormily accused the left for being “intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with them, but are prepared to defend anything from their own friends.” Abbott would approve.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Abbott, the Manly Masturbator, a skinful of stinking shitsouled scumbered scourings, is a welcome eject from our shores, if he fails to return. If he pollutes pommy plottings and ruins regulation or tory ratshittery, it is no matter to us, as his nostril relieving departure offers temporary relief from ingrained filth of soul and mind (hah) in yet another conservative rat. How can this caricature of a mediaeval plagued playschool public figure offer any real assistance? Is Johnson, grossly defective, so stupid as to think a reject can return to some relevance? Is he dreaming of needs in his own future, of how to cadge charity sinecures after a dumping? Abbott, as useful as an ulcerated knob, cannot possibly cover his ignorance and irrelevance to a more educated range of U K opinion than exists here. No.

  2. corvusboreus

    When Tony Abbott, through opus dei connections, got his first real job (an unqualified appointment to manage a cement factory) within a month he managed, through his negotiatory skills, to engineer threats of a general shutdown of the plant and all it’s trucks.
    To avert disaster, he had to grovel to the union and offer up his arse.
    Solid choice for a trade ambassador.

  3. Ross

    Tony Abbott, UK Board of Trade, what a ball tearer. That would keep comedy writers in material for years. Can you imagine Tones muscling up to some tough, articulate European women trade negotiators, shoulders hunched, knuckles dragging, munching on an onion and telling them to get back to their ironing because this is work for men, real men, tough men in red budgie smugglers. Tones would cause a riot in two seconds flat.
    And which world leader would he threaten to shirtfront first when, not if, his negotiations turn sour?
    Plus Tones would not like playing second fiddle to a woman, that woman would be his boss, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss. Comedy gold but probably won’t happen.
    Not even Boris (Johnson) and the Dom (Cummings) could be that stupid.

  4. Roswell

    Having seen a fair bit of Abbott for over a decade now and being well aware of how he operates, communicates, blows out brain farts, shoots from the lip etc etc, I find it amusing that no one in the UK was considered more worthy for this position.

    Did I say the UK? Sorry, the world.

    I’ve arrested people who were better suited.

  5. corvusboreus

    I reckon the increasingly less United Kingdom must be angling to open up lucrative markets in Hungary.
    As well as the fact that Abbott has often browned his tongue praising the ‘strength and purity of cultural conviction’ displayed by the racist demagogue named Viktor Orban, there is also the fact that, as a landlocked nation, Hungary is slightly less likely to see the insane obscene absurdity in Abbott’s repeated claims that the world’s oceans are not rising.

  6. corvusboreus

    To be brutally honest, I have finger-checked the pouches of roadkill marsupials and found better suited candidates.

  7. New England Cocky

    Oh dear, I hope Phil Pryor has not read the outburst by these English women politicians. He wears the AIMN mantle for direct description for ”things as they is” but to find others with his perspicacity and abrupt charm … well he may decide toe migrate back to Blighty … which would be a great loss to both AIMN and Australia.

    No, better to let the worthless Pom return home then cancel his Australian passport and deny access on his English passport to protect Australian voters from his miserable presence in the future. Alternatively, he could be be shipped to Manus or Nauru as a quarantine gesture for the duration of any political campaign.

  8. Roswell

    That was brutal, corvus.

    I’m guessing you don’t like the bloke much. If at all.

  9. corvusboreus

    Umm….. I respect his efforts when he follows basic orders in his occasional roles as a volunteer fire-fighter and/or surf lifesaver.
    It’s only when he uses words that his… umm… inadequacies become apparent.

  10. Roswell

    I can’t stand the prick either. I respect what he did in regards to his fire-fighting efforts, but I hate him nonetheless.

  11. Jack Cade

    Abbott never came clean about his British citizenship. I’d assume that he still holds a British passport. If he is offered this position – that is, if the offer is not withdrawn – he will stuff it up and be given a knighthood, thereby sullying an already discredited honour system even further. Not many men can claim to have pissed on Rhodes Scholarships AND knighthoods, so he will be an footnote in the history of two nations.

  12. Phil Pryor

    Cocky, you noticed the pom comments, but, one hopes the hopeful knight, Sit Anthony Fatt-Dick becomes a Nauru resident.., fitting.

  13. New England Cocky

    @Ross: You wrote “Tony Abbott, UK Board of Trade, what a ball tearer”but surely you mean “Toxic RAbbott UK Bored with Trade, what a pall bearer”.

    Ads others have noted, RAbbott has the distinction of being the only Prim Monster able to devalue everything he touches as his perfect record shows. He has proven to be out of touch with the reality of Australian voters and a walking talking disaster, so expect the damage done to the English economy by leaving the EU common market to be magnified by the influence of RAbbott.

  14. ajogrady

    When Tony Abbott is so openly and blatantly ridiculed and despised by so many people around the world surely a large percentage of the ridicule and contempt should be levelled at and reserved for those who voted for him and the party that chose him as their leader to represent their beliefs and values.

  15. Jack Cade


    As I’ve pointed out, he has never changed in his behaviour or his attitudes and his electorate knew what he was and re-elected him for a quarter of a century. It was only when his absurdity and crudity became notorious that they decided he reflected badly on them. He hasn’t changed and neither, I’d suggest, have they. They just didn’t relish the scrutiny.

  16. ajogrady

    I understand your point about the scrutiny or lack of scrutiny by the voters in the electorate but a maggot could win that seat if it was covered in blue and had Liberal after its name. Abbott did prove my point for a very long time. My point was where was the scrutiny of the L/NP by the general voting public when the L/NP made a maggot their leader to represent their beliefs and values. The Australian voting public have voted 3 times in 7 years for the party that has the exact same beliefs and values when they made Tony Abbott their leader. There is no point blaming the corrupt poor governance on the L/NP, its what they do. They dont vote themselves into power. Gullible and apathetic voters do. The shit show that is Australia now can be laid squarely at the feet of these voters and they need to be called out for their dereliction of duty to be informed that has caused and created the desimation of a once great nation, Australia.

  17. ajogrady

    Jack Cade

    The post above was a reply to you. In my haste to reply I forgot to mention your name.

  18. Jack Cade


    I assumed it was!!

    As someone has pointed out elsewhere, people excuse themselves when they are embarrassed by their representative by denying that they voted for them. What they DON’T say is ‘…I voted for PHON, or Clive Palmer.’

  19. ajogrady

    Jack Cade.

    Gullibility and apathy are rampant in Australian voters and are more contagious then the Covid-19 virus. This makes them an easy mark for the shysters and con artists in the L/NP. Again my point is that it is voters who have bought this curse on Australia and it is their responsibility to inform themselves. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.
    At present the rabid and rancid rights privatisation of the aged care sector is proving to be what many who opposed it would be. That is it is a vehicle for the merchants of death and the mercenary hyenas of capatalism to operate unhindered whilst allowing unforgivable suffering and misery to be performed in the guise of care for far to many elderly Australians that goes unpunished in this Neo Con world of profit before people. Australia still does not have a working energy policy let alone one the looks to the future and embraces sustainable 21st century renewable energy opportunities. In the future the copper basterdised NBN will hold Australia back when the rest of the world enthusiastically take up 5G and the technologies that will come of it. The pentacostalot Pinocchio, the man with the plan, the horse has bolted Ruby Princess plan, that will cause Australia to endure a painful recession for far longer then necessary. Being contemptuous, contentious, contempable, arrogant and dismissive is not leadership. but this is what Australians voted for.
    The L/NP have been a impediment and a handbrake on Australia reaching its true potential but again this is what Australians voted for. How do you educate mugs who vote against their own best interests but vote for the interests of a small affluent and influential group?

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