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Issue #1638      May 14, 2014

Book review

TONY SPEAKS: The wisdom of the Abbott

A little but important book

The little paperback is a highly revealing anthology of the current Prime Minister’s statements. Three of the less rational examples will suffice, for a start:

“…I will never be anything other than pro-immigrant, and Australia is an immigrant country. Having said that, I simply note the observation that Paul Keating made a long time ago, that the best migrants are our own kids”.

“As you know, Julia, a politician shouldn’t be allowed out without a chaperone”. (Ms Gillard replied “I think that only applies to you, but we’ll leave that there”).

(To a baby): “Come to the big scary man!”

Despite his occasional absurdity, it would be a bad mistake to dismiss Abbott as a fool. His real intentions have become shockingly clear in the conclusions of the National Commission of Audit’s report, for which his government prepared the brief.

Concerning industrial relations Abbott quoted Domingo de Soto, who said: “If they freely accepted this salary for their job, it must be just … If you do not want to serve for that salary, leave!”

Prior to the election Abbott described WorkChoices as “Dead, buried and cremated”, but he later equivocated, commenting: “WorkChoices wasn’t all bad.”

Promising no extra taxes and conveniently ignoring the GST, he observed: “To the best of my recollection there were no tax increases whatsoever in the life of the [Howard] coalition government.”

Promising manufacturing industry support he declared: “We have a good record when it comes to working with the car manufacturers to help them not just survive, but to flourish, and we will act in the same spirit in the future.”

Concerning the status and rights of women he declared:

“… 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”,

“Amanda Vanstone could be relied on to provide a ‘women’s perspective’ if necessary but otherwise brought a practical common sense to the consideration of political problems”,

“The problem with abortion in Australia is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience”, 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 … both need to be moderated, so to speak.”

His duplicity and sheer nastiness is demonstrated in his 2007 response to an action by Bernie Banton, campaigner for asbestos disease victims. Abbott commented: “I know Bernie Banton is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t mean he is necessarily pure of heart in all things, and this was just a stunt.”

However, he later remarked about his statement: “Once I saw it in black and white in the paper the next morning I thought, ‘No, this is a problem, I’d better call him up and apologise.’ ”

When asked how he reconciled his religious beliefs with the harsh treatment of asylum seekers, many of whom have suffered religious persecution, he snapped: “You know, the last thing I want to claim to be is a latter-day Mother Teresa. I mean I’m running for office, not for canonisation.”

When asked what Christ would have done regarding asylum seekers, he sniggered: “Well, Jesus wouldn’t have put his hand up to lead the Liberal Party, I suspect”.

On another occasion he declared in all seriousness that “Border protection freed people from the oppression of people smuggling”.

A clear and present danger

Last November, in a memorable Freudian slip Abbott exclaimed: “There will always be some issues that are contentious, but the best way to deal with them is openly, candidly and behind closed doors, and that is what I propose to do.”

The closed door has indeed become a symbol of the Abbott regime. Two weeks ago he refused to disclose the real reason behind the sudden cancellation of his visit to Indonesia except to say he had to work on the budget. The cancellation related to the intervention of another asylum seeker boat by the Australian Navy, and to an attempt to tow it back into Indonesian waters. Abbott was not willing to face the Indonesian Government after this incident.

Ironically, the meeting concerned open government in the region!

Abbott maintains that the Howard government’s intervention to ensure the independence of East Timor was entirely altruistic. He said “There was nothing in it for Australia”, but later complained that “it would have been easier to drive a hard bargain with Indonesia than with a more obviously needy fledgling state over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea”.

He also declared: “Tasmania is a beautiful place and the last thing we want to do is compromise the environmental values of Tasmania, but we can’t sacrifice the forestry industry on the altar of the environment.”

His determination to serve the economically dominant fossil fuel industries is nowhere more evident than in his attitude to climate change, one of the biggest threats to the future of mankind.

He remarked: “I am, as you know, highly unconvinced by the co-called settled science on climate change”, which on another occasion he called “absolute crap’.

In 2011 he told the Minerals Council of Australia: “As I look out at the people in this room … I see big employers, … big exporters and … people who contribute big time to prosperity that every single Australian wants and mostly enjoys. Our prosperity absolutely depends on the people in this room and others who are so regularly and consistently defamed by this government as big polluters”.

Tony Speaks is worth reading, not only because it will give you plenty of good laughs, (possibly accompanied by a grinding of the teeth), but also because of the insight it offers into Abbott’s real character and intentions.

We shouldn’t forget that despite his often bizarre statements, Abbott was smart enough to grab the Liberal leadership and take the coalition into government. And now he’s leading the nation into some very dangerous waters indeed.

Tony Speaks, the Wisdom of the Abbott, was edited by Russell Marks and published by Black Inc, and is available for about $10 from newsagents and bookstores.

Next article – South Africa elections: ANC triumphs with some change

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