Mark Kenny in his Saturday SMH column tells us that Abbott was oafish and destructive as LOTO. He insulted everyone, from our first female Prime Minister to international leaders and their nations.
Thank God he has apologized to most of them and has now become a statesman. We are so lucky to have him.
Abbott always said that “the office maketh the man”. But who knew he would morph from grub to butterfly so quickly and so thoroughly?
We should put the lies and the exaggerations, the intimidation, the threats, the schoolboy antics, the misogyny, the backflips and the club-footedness on foreign affairs of LOTO Days behind us, as he has. They were just used by him so that he could become Prime Minister. We’ve lost a thug and gained a leader.
Regrettable, yes, but necessary, says Kenny, for the national good. We should forget all those broken promises. They are just messy baggage on the way to Abbott’s blossoming as a true Prime Minister. Oh well, it was worth it Kenny assures us.
Abbott’s performance on the international stage has been impressive and conscientious. He has worked hard, said and done the right things for Australia.
It is a pity the same cannot be said for his standard operating approach while in opposition.
A cynic might say, “What the fuck else could he do? Punch Bambang in the balls for afters?” But that would be so wrong. International statesmanship is a subtle game, only for players capable of great subtlety, like Tony. Iron Fist, Velvet Glove and all that. Brilliant!
Meanwhile, Peter Hartcher has found someone else to toady up to. One guess who it is…
Tony Abbott promised to restore trust in government. He has a perfect opportunity. The system of parliamentary travel expenses is flawed, open to abuse, and helps bring all federal politicians into disrepute.
Abbott has been on the defensive for his own use of the system. He’s repaid some of his travel claims, a tacit admission of mistaken or wrongful claims on the public purse. He’s defended the rest.
It would be more than smart to address this head-on.
He’s said he won’t change the system. He seems to have decided to tough it out. He knows that this story will eventually fade away, as they always do.
But each of these stories, which break out episodically year in and year out, erode the public trust, one outrage at a time. As each wave of news recedes, they wash away a little more. There isn’t much left.
If he’s serious about restoring trust in government and, if he’s smart, Abbott will take this as an opportunity, not a threat. He will call a press conference on Monday. He will say that, now he’s back in the country, he’s had a chance to consider the matter.
If he does, Abbott will turn a political liability into an asset. Political baggage can become a political bonus, an embarrassment turned into an achievement. If he doesn’t, then we’ll know that his promise to restore trust was just a slogan to win power.
Hartcher’s delusions that politicians take his advice aside… y’know… it had never occurred to me that Tony’s promise to restore trust was just “a slogan to win power”. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read it was possible. Couldn’t be… could it?
No matter. There’s an easy fix.
Years of rorting his travel expenses so that he can attend Iron Man events, triathlons, bike rides, horse races and the like, for cheap political points, can be cancelled out, erased from the punters’ memories, as if with some kind of Men In Black neuralizer device… all with a simple press conference.
This will not only cause the nation to instantly forgive him for his transgressions, but to love and admire his maturity in fessing up to the sins that have been committed… by others, of course. Tony is real good at apologizing for the sins of others.
Hartcher is a Big Picture Man, an “International and Political Editor”. His boss said recently that Pete can turn up with any old rubbish and they’ll put it on the front page. Peter Hartcher is a “Fairfax brand”.
Not for Peter is the messy, grubby mire in which “the media” insists on wallowing. Abbott has committed no big error in his eye. What’s a few (hundred thousand) dollars lifted from the public purse when the public wasn’t looking, when you’ve got a country to get ready for running for the 8 years prior to actually running it.
Wasn’t it the head of the “Tamworth Festival Stakeholders Group” (yes, such an organization does exist) who said the other day how great an honour it had been to have Tony attend the country music festival?
“I believe any visit from a politician of that standing only serves to reinforce the brand of Tamworth as the country music capital,” Mr Harley said.
“Any increase in knowledge about the event can only benefit the community in future political debate about it.
“I don’t know if it was a valid work expense but I certainly see it as a massive benefit for Tamworth.
“We’ve had a lot of politicians come by over the years but to have a future prime minister present at the festival does a lot for its credibility.”
(Warning: Statesman at work with stakeholder)
Mr Harley is also one who chooses not to sink to the level of considering whether over $5,000 on hiring a Learjet is a “valid work expense”. One wonders whether such a “benefit for Tamworth” is of similar benefit to the nation. I amuse myself by considering whether the Tamworth Festival Stakeholders Group (when they speak, the nation listens) would have been as enthusiastic if they had been asked to stump up with the charter moolah.
Such musings aside, it is clear that becoming Prime Minister has set Tony Abbott free (as well as providing him with freebies). We should rule the page off. That was then. This is now.
Abbott’s rorts were, apparently, a brilliant way of softening up the public, just as his insults to our Asian neighbours were a brilliant way of getting the various brown and yellow Prime Ministers and Presidents around the region punch-drunk. When they’re groggy and flustered by Abbott’s “whirling dervish” act – perfected in the boxing rings of British academe – Tony has them just where he wants them. He was Good Cop and Bad Cop all in the same package. Or perhaps Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would be more to the point?
The trick is, instead of kicking them in the head when they’re down, he offers them his “statesman” act, and they love him all the more for it.
“Better to seek forgiveness than permission”, is Tony’s old catch cry, and why should he seek the nation’s forgiveness for his rorting, all the more for them to love and respect him?
Abbott can wipe out the rorts and, if he’s lucky, he can get someone to take the fall for him. Brilliant politics, viewed from Hartcher’s superior, elevated perspective.
The Prime Minister is a bludger.
A loaded word, I know, but it is a perfectly good Australian expression and it describes exactly what Tony Abbott was up to as he swanned around from bike ride to fun run at the taxpayers’ expense. He was bludging on us.
The greed and gall are eye-watering. To throw up a few of the more brazen examples: a one-day trip to the 2011 Birdsville races cost us $12,482 in charter flights, he hit us for $9347.12 for another chartered plane to the 2012 Tamworth Country Music Festival, and $5622.73 for yet another private flight to the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar races in 2011.
He did manage the 2010 Melbourne Cup a little more cheaply, slumming it with the peasants on a regular airline flight, but with his wife Margaret and daughter Frances in tow that gouged us for $2376.87. We bought the plane tickets for all three.
On and on it went. We were lumbered with the bill for triathlons and ocean swims and bike-athons. Abbott, as leader of the opposition, had his snout deeply into the public trough to fund his excursions around the country for recreation and entertainment. Time and again.
Of course he’s wrong. How could a man who has become one of our greatest Prime Ministers – in just three weeks – possibly be labelled a “bludger”? But it’s an interesting point.
Hartcher would see Mike Carlton as merely part of “The Media” (Carlton used to be a shock jock, don’t you know?)
That Media, over there; the grubby one, obsessed with petty details and tawdry “rorts” stories, the Media that can’t see the higher plane of statesmanship that fine minds like Hartcher, Kenny and the entire stable of tied Murdoch hacks at The Australian can.
Abbott’s rorts are only superficially bad. In one day he can – if he takes Hartcher’s advice, and ignores the cheap jibes of hacks like Carlton – turn disaster and dishonesty into triumph.
And Peter and Mark and all the rest will be there to record every breathlessly exciting moment of it, and tell us how wonderful Tony truly is.
Mike Carlton, on the other hand, can continue to write his amusing little pieces, clever yes, but hardly of the import of a Hartcher Declaration.
Seriously, it’s depressing that they feel the need to not only elevate Abbott to Supreme Statesman, but to do it so quickly.
Three weeks? Is that all it takes?
What’s the rush?
There’s no “dawning realization” a year down the track, even if for decency’s sake.
No legislative body of work, or glittering Parliamentary performances.
No policy outcomes, no polling feedback.
No budget balancings, or surges in productivity and employment.
He didn’t even meet Obama.
All there have been are a couple of apologies (mostly for his own ham-fisted behaviour) to bemused regional Prime Ministers and their nations, a marked dearth of information (usually one of the chief raw ingredients of any assessment of a politician’s success or otherwise), a few declarations of undying love to as many Asian leaders as possible, some guff regarding selling us down the river with quick-and-dirty trade agreements, the abandonment of half the nation’s population as viable Cabinet ministers, several reversals of policy garnished with denials they ever were policies in the first place, and rorts… lots of them, petty, trivial and mean, local polly pigs with their snouts in the trough.
Yet, out of all this has come the Acme Instant Statesman… just add water. And the fawning has-beens in the commentariat have been pouring it on.
There’s no class to it, no smoothness. One day we have a leering, lurking bovver boy, saying and doing whatever it takes to bring everything and everyone down to his level of boorishness. Next day we have a statesman – nuanced, considered and disciplined – doing good things that no-one else, not Gillard, not Rudd, no-one could do. Abbott can not only ride bikes and run lots, but he can twist the nignog potentates around his little finger. Is there nothing he’s not capable of?
To set the Instant Statesman scenario up you have to suspend disbelief and accept that a new PM, still wet behind the ears in the job, can get on a plane, jet up to Asia and – literally overnight – heal all problems, cure all ills, and single-handedly reverse not only his own policies, but mollify the hurt feelings of his antagonists, converting them from contempt to companionship.
I wonder what Vladimir was thinking (and he hadn’t even been insulted)?
You have to ignore that trade agreements and co-operative ventures between nations, currency parity deals, international business initiatives, export agreements, military collaborations, law enforcement protocols and meaningful, lasting friendships between nations take more than just a pumping handshake and some one-on-one bloke talk.
They take years of behind the scenes hard work, negotiations and give and take. The details of such things are thrashed out not between leaders, but between officials, working long into the night, over years, going back and forth to their political masters, ironing out policy problems, examining the legal ramifications, crossing dotting I’s and crossing T’s (while attending to their P’s and Q’s as well).
But suddenly, according to our immensely insightful media commentariat, all the Asian Prime Ministers and their nations, sullen hundreds of millions of them, recalcitrant and hurt at the way Abbott has characterized them for years, plus the Chinese Premier, are all sorted out, sitting pretty and content, sure now they have met their match, and their mentor.
“White man send gunboat and shake hand. Yellow man likey-likey?”
They’re children, really. They just need a good talking to from The Iron Man to clean up the wrinkles.
If you read Mark Kenny, it only took a day – one single day – starting out with a hearty handshake and ending with a state dinner at which Abbott grovelled in apology.
“I was just kidding SBY! Har-har-har!”
At least most of his colleagues in the toadying media gave it a week and a few more apologies and kow-tows before they dared start out on their paens of praise.
Abbott was lucky to get out of Jakarta without his balls hung around his neck as a memento, after all he’d said about them and the way they run their country. Ditto for Malaysia.
I call it “survival”, at best.
In an unseemly rush to prop up their man, the Media has labelled it tantamount to “diplomatic genius”.
From grub to butterfly in the blink of an eye. They should have commissioned David Attenborough to do a doco on him: Life: From Sewer to Salon.
We’d read Abbott’s own musings on how “the office makes the man”, on how you mature as you grow, about how he hoped he could progress from pure politician to Great Leader, a man for all Australians to be proud of. But who knew it would happen so quickly?
Yes, there are the rorts and the down-home cheapness of claiming for mates’ weddings and footy matches, of charging the taxpayer for plotting to frame the (then) Prime Minister as a hands-in-the-till “Bonnie” to her union-thug-boyfriend’s “Clyde”, but Hartcher thinks Abbott can turn even this nasty business into a triumph.
And – in the unlikely even Abbott succeeds – you can bet your sweet bippy that Pin Stripe Pete, one of Australian journalism’s greatest and most embarrassing fanboiz, will be there to write it up.
Come to think of it, even if Abbott doesn’t turn the Rorts sow’s ear into a political silk purse (there’s a pun in there somewhere), one suspects Hartcher will tell us he did, anyway. There’s no prophecy better than a self-fulfilling one.
It’s all so unseemly, so contrived, so cringeworthy the way that they have turned Abbott from a brainless boofhead into Superman so quickly.
What polls there are have stayed stubbornly grim, even dipping for the government a little. The punters don’t seem to be too impressed. There may not be too much Buyer’s Remorse at this stage – it’s too early – but their certainly doesn’t seem to be a lot of Confirmation Bias either (except if you’re a media harlot).
We have no parliament. We have no press conferences. There is little information on just what is going on. Yet Abbott is transformed.
The leering, “sexy beast”, strewing double-entendres in the path of anything wearing a skirt (including netball girls)…
… husband of the hapless Margie, father to the Kirribilli Virgins, rorter extraordinaire, endorphin junkie and bodily self-abuser… is a changed man. We are told we should ignore his past indiscretions which were just awful (NOW they tell us!) and reconsider the man as Prime Minister.
Where Julia Gillard had everything about her – her breasts, her ankles, her backside, her nose, her voice, her hair, her thighs, her glasses, her shoes, her jackets, her boyfriends, her sexual activities under the flag, her dog, her job from twenty years back, and even her earlobes – put under a malignant microscope, Tony Abbott gets a free pass on all of his own (and many) flaws.
It’s unsustainable, of course. The question, is how long will the Abbott beatification last?
Real damage can be done while it does.