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The Mad Monk Strikes: Tony Abbott, Taxi Rides and Coronavirus Despotism

This is a man who decries the use of experts. He prefers things rough, ready, pungent with vernacular promise and populist feeling. To be in the front seat of a taxi, no less, is considered a right. But former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, made a trade envoy of Brexiting Britain to much consternation and now fellow of the right wing Australian think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, is clear: the coronavirus regulatory world is despotic.

In a video presentation for the IPA, an organisation claiming with decidedly arbitrary taste that the quality of Australian life has declined by 28.5% since 2000, Abbott insists that Australia has “much to be proud of.” But coronavirus rules enacted “for our own good” were dangerous, threatening “freedom and self-reliance.” A virus had been allowed to “dominate our lives” for a whole year, “and in the process put safety before freedom, prudence before courage and avoiding danger before accepting risk.” Experts had become a high priest caste, with the populace “conditioned to have [them] give us all the answers and to have governments then tell us what to do.”

Abbott sees much gloom on the horizon for the “Australian way of life” under assault by “virus hysteria and health despotism.” Trodden upon were such entitlements as sitting in the front seat of taxis “along with singing, dancing and having too many friends and family around for a barbecue.” A closet Bohemian is old Tony.

From afar, there is much to say pandemic regulations have, in some of their variants, slipped into a form of authoritarianism, creating regimes of control and monitoring that will stubbornly linger. These come in various forms. Countries such as China have opted for fists and truncheons, the surveillance option and a good deal of mistrust over the behaviour of their citizenry. In contrast, the voluntary aspect of observing social distancing, minimising movement and keeping gatherings small in number has been a feature of such states as Sweden, with mixed results.

In Australia, a more punitive, coercive approach has been endorsed, with no better example being the state of Victoria. Abbott has previously described the Victorian response to COVID-19 as typical of a “health dictatorship” where “homes can be entered, people can be detained, and the ordinary law of the land suspended.”

Extensive, poorly circumscribed police powers have been exercised harshly, with the Ombudsman of Victoria clear about the consequences. The sudden lockdown of the North Melbourne and Flemington housing towers in Melbourne on July 4, 2020 “was not,” claimed the office, “based on direct health advice and violated the Victorian human rights laws.”

Ombudsman Deborah Glass at the time stated that, “Many residents knew nothing of the lockdown or the reason for it when large numbers of police appeared on their estate that afternoon.” Residents were left without food and medicine. “At the tower at 33 Alfred St., the focus of the investigation, residents waited more than a week to be allowed outside under supervision for fresh air.” Certain rights had been breached, including the right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty. “In my opinion, based on the evidence gathered by the investigation, the action appeared to be contrary to the law.”

In other words, Abbott is not totally bereft of sense in the matter. Where he tends to fall over and, it should be said, flat in the mud of argument, is his unqualified contempt for coronavirus regulations in general. The economic imperative, not to mention a good deal of social Darwinism and managed natural selection, tends to feature in the Abbott world. No one really wants the aged and frail to live beyond a certain point, so why not admit it? Youth and resilience must be given a chance. This much was said in his September 2020 speech before the Policy Exchange think tank in the UK.

This brings us to that problem of values, a term used with such regularity by politicians and pundits of all shades it loses shape. The jubilant Executive Director of the IPA, John Roskam, was happy to indulge this in announcing the appointment of Abbott as a distinguished fellow. “Mr Abbott has consistently defended mainstream Australian values, often in the face of tremendous hostility, and his 2013 election victory was a watershed that foreshadowed the cultural and political realignment seen around the Western world in recent years.”

Roskam fails to enumerate what these values are, but if they involve a pro-authoritarian, Fortress Australia mentality in the face of a global refugee crisis, he would be on to something. To cut to the chase, liberty and human rights are not for the swarthier types.

The director might well also thrown in remarks made by Abbott at the Third Demographic Summit held in Budapest in September 2019, one filled with jittery concern about Western Christian civilization and demographic decline before the dark hordes of Islam. As an example of Australian values, Abbott was all reproach of the English royals and the decision by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to stop breeding at two children. The royal family might well be “entitled to have as few or as many children as they choose. But having fewer children in Western countries will hardly make the climate better given all the children that will be born elsewhere.” Fine, cradle-to-grave values.

Such talk delighted his audience, all spears at the ready for the next invader waiting to breach the borders of Christendom. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was glowing about Abbott’s “respect … for the brave, direct and Anglo-Saxon consistency” Australia under Abbott showed “on migration and defence of the Australian nation.” Racial and cultural purity, as fictions, are never far away.

As if often the case, Abbott slips up on the issue of what norms undergird his country. Being tenaciously Anglophile, he can still make the specious remark that Australians are distinct in not necessarily wishing to form queues. “Thanks to the pandemic, we’re now told to form orderly and socially distanced queues – as if we were English.” Given the fact that he has been, since the 1990s, a member of governments that insisted upon queues being the natural order of life, not to mention governing war zones, applications for asylum and detaining refugees indefinitely, this seems something of a retreat.

Sadly, then, constructive critique of the global coronavirus state goes begging, lost in the miasma of parochialism, mad pseudo-eugenics and the tangle that any talk of values always presents. But that is the Mad Monk for you, ever consistent in placing bombs of destructive despair into his own bed even as he chides others for the way they have made theirs.

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17 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Abbott remains an absurd unwiped arsehole, a leader in negativity, an Australian political perverted disgrace, a mental masturbator driven by ugly, primitive, mediaeval romanist, authoritarian, fascistic set dogmatic soulless, sensational, outspoken regression, as childish as any failure in politics here has ever been. Drenched in mangey superstition and idiocy, devoted to posturing, obsessed with attention seeking hopeless poses, he reflects the depravity of entrenched religion in politics, a suppository of pissweakdom.

  2. Henry Rodrigues

    The meddling monk back at his favorite pastime, passing judgement and offering guidance in matters he know norhing about. Looks like this fool will end up becoming another one of the conservatives idealogical icons just like his ignominious mentor the lying rodent holed up in Woolstoncroft. Such clear and utter bullshit, that the conservatives love and thrive on.

  3. Pete Petrass

    Perhaps someone should tell scabbott about Sweden. They tried the do nothing herd immunity angle that scabbott preaches and we all saw how that worked out for them.

  4. Pat daly

    If you were looking for a definition of a WALLY the mad monk fits the definition admirably

  5. Paul Smith

    Phil Pryor you took the words right outa my mouth. It musta been when you were…. ahem…. well, no …. let’s not go there…. but OMG I wish I had authored the phrase “unwiped arsehole”.

  6. Kaye Lee

    The 2017 version

    “Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods, we are more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect,” he said.

  7. Michael Taylor

    I’d hoped that Abbott had permanently returned to the 1890s.

  8. Terence Mills

    On a brighter note, Nielsen Ratings on television audiences are publlshed daily in Crikey.

    It gives me a boost every day to see the pay TV ratings for the Sky-after-Dark muppet show :

    Paul Murray Live (Sky News) — 77,000
    Credlin (Sky News) — 68,000
    Chris Smith Tonight, Inside the News (Sky News) — 56,000

    By contrast Peppa Pig always out rates these talking heads – clearly a discerning audience out there – there’s a message there for Murdoch !

  9. Kronomex

    Michael, I sincerely doubt that The Mad Monk has progressed past the 1890’s let alone the 1980’s. Now I’m off to watch Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 Crime Noir “The Killing.”

  10. Andrew J. Smith

    Abbott seems to have become a global ‘consultant’ promoting US led radical right libertarian economics (generally Koch linked via AtlasNetwork think tanks inc. the IPA) and eugenics based white nationalism (in a parallel universe based in the US with e.g. ,Bannon prominent), promoted as white Christian nationalist conservative family values through friendly media e.g. NewsCorp.

    One does not think it is coincidental that similar policies are promoted and adopted by selected nations under various guises, with people like Abbott running round e.g. UK, US, Hungary and think post Brexit the same were hoping Italy (then with Salvini) and Poland would follow.

    The objects of the ire and angst are the EU, other trade blocs/agreements, diverse media, ‘BigTech’, transparent financial flows, taxation, environment, employment regulation, social security, ‘globalisation’ (in Hungary = ‘Soros’), education, promotion of Christianity etc..; aware of any threat to the old status quo.

    Relevant to Hungary, two very recent news stories round same themes via quick Google search (so useless isn’t it?):

    ‘Hungary will draft a bill forcing global technology giants to implement more transparent operations that conform to rule of law criteria and ensure freedom of expression, Justice Minister Judit Varga told daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet on Tuesday ‘ (ReMix News 27/1/21) This is in Hungary where media is dominated by friends of the government and unfriendly media closed down or taken over but Facebook etc. have been compelled to remove content posted by the same government’s own MPs with reactions claiming conspriacy against conservative Christian nationalist values.

    ‘E.U. Border Agency Pulls Out of Hungary Over Rights Abuses. The decision by Frontex comes after Hungary disregarded a ruling by the E.U.’s top court that the way the country handles asylum seekers violated the bloc’s law.’ (NYT 27/1/21). The border control methods are similar to Australia and now being mooted for the UK; creating a ‘hostile environment’ (as done in the US…).

    Not only is strong and obsessive antipathy projected towards the EU by Hungary, like Poland, but clear majority of the public support the EU (while governments do not complain about the significant funds coming their way), negative attitude promoted towards refugees, immigrants and especially non Christian, enacting libertarian economic policies (except showering pensioners, friends and/or regions with state funds), control of media and the judiciary.

    By coincidence, there is a UK/Koch Network liked think tank that has emerged in Budapest, The Danube Institute whose visitors include: ‘Other politicians who have spoken at Danube Institute meetings include the Australian politicians Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews.’ (https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/why-australia-s-conservatives-are-finding-friends-in-hungary-20190924-p52uim.html).

    An American friend and I used to joke that the same .pdf (like the IPA’s wish list) is circulating round the world, as evidenced by the similar policies, tactics and strategies; libertarian trap of encouarging antipathy towards ‘globalisation’ while leveraging it to the max for their own benefit.

  11. wam

    The rabbott has a great fear of challenge to his faith and does not involve himself in science, until it is in the church. He and fukwit andrews must be so worried by pope francis on climate and women. Just before 3010 election I was talking with friends of friends who told me why they supported the rabbott because he was a christian like them not like labor. When I pointed out that our sitting member was a christian like them, a former alter boy and his father was a regular helper at mass and a lay preacher. They smiled and left never to speak to me or look me in the eye since.
    Once properly indoctrinated never to stray.

  12. Kathryn

    My God, how much longer do we have to put up with the Mad Monk’s insane, inane, dangerous and puerile outbursts? It appears his verbal diarrhoea is getting worse and worse and his delusions are now being backed by the mercenary parasites in the right-wing Stink Tank known as the IPA.

    Its very rare that someone ticks every single box as an authentic, 100% pure moron but in Abbott’s case, I make an exception! Just when we think Australia cannot get any worse under the fascist jackboot of Morrison, a horrific callously inhumane right-wing extremist and Hillsong Cultist who is hiding unspeakable, increasing corruption and depravity behind a veil of bible-thumping hypocrisy, handing over millions of dollars to a paedophile-protecting cult (Hillsong) whilst defunding EVERYTHING that serves ordinary Australians, we have Abbott crawling out from under his rock to make insane comments about ignoring essential restrictions in order to combat one of the most lethal world-wide pandemics since the Spanish Flu! Does the internationally condemned, despised and reviled self-confessed misogynist, Abbott, even know – or care – that his claims to ignore masks, social distancing, take risks and “be brave and courageous” are the VERY THING that caused the untimely death of nearly 500,000 people in the USA, 110,000 in the UK and nearly 2.2 MILLION people around the world from Covid-19? Truly, someone needs to MUZZLE Abbott, force him into an industrial strength straight jacket and lock him up in a padded cell (preferably in an off-shore gulag, like Nauru). The Mad Monk is so stupid, he’s dangerous!

  13. Henry Rodrigues

    Abbott, Wanker Extraordinaire !! Scummo, Moron, 1st class.

  14. totaram

    Kathryn: I disagree completely with your last sentence. In the spirit of “freedom of speech” we should permit Mr. Abbott to continue on his merry (and doubtless well-paid) path. If hundreds of thousands follow his lead and courageously decide to tackle the virus head-on, especially now that a vaccine is available, that would just be natural selection at work. It is not for us to interfere in the grand design of nature and save these easily misled persons from an untimely death. The less of them that are around, the better for the health of everyone else. All we need to do is to oppose Abbott’s stupidities at every stage, so that those who are capable of seeing good sense are saved. The vast numbers of extra deaths in the home of “freedom” should be a learning experience for many in that country. At least we hope so.

  15. Gangey1959

    Who was the dickhead wot let ‘im back in?

    I thought that Australia had managed to get rid of this useless piece of areslicking , vacuous, braindead garbage and fobbed it back off on britain, from whence it came, but obviously I was wrong.
    From the pm who decided that Phil the Greek needed a knighthood and Australia no longer needed to produce our own cars, despite any of the spinoff benefits that might flow from $80B’s odd affiliated industries and because “real” Aussies wanted to drive BloodyMindedWanker mobiles like the new commcars anyway, any comment from it on anything from whether beans cause farts to how wet is the rain are just plain noise.

    Come on tones, give it a rest, old son. You lost. You are not the pm any more. Thank fuck. You are, however, still a moron. Without a purpose. You wouldn’t know, or understand, the “Aussie Spirit” if it grabbed you by your ears. (I thought you might have picked some of it up last summer fighting fires). It’s about innovation, creating something out of nothing, standing up for what is right for the many over the desires of the few.
    Read Henry Lawson’s poem” The fight at Eureka Stockade” http://www.ironbarkresources.com/henrylawson/FightAtEurekaStockade.html.

    If anyone wants to hear a stirring version, Mary Jacobs does it best, bu I cannot find a refference.

  16. Alc

    Ah the IPA. The Institute of Pure Absurdity.

  17. Henry Rodrigues

    Here’s another ALC…..The Institution of Perennial Asininity.

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