TONY ABBOTT: I am very, very confident, very, very confident that when the Australian people see the Budget tonight, there’ll be some things that they like, there’ll be other things that they don’t like, but they will know that the adults are back in charge and they will know that they have a Government that is capable of rising to the challenges of these times and, on that note, Madam Speaker I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
Thank heavens the political children who wanted us all to be in their image have been voted out of office. At last some adults are running the show again. Amanda Vanstone
A year ago, Tony Abbott infamously crowed that the ‘adults are back in charge.’ Standing, splay-legged, cock a hoop, grinning and fiddling with his bottom button in his parliamentary play pen, he seemed unusually pleased with himself. Even by his own low standards. In his first day in the house as Prime Minister, he dashed any hope that he might rise to the occasion, side-stepped any opportunity for healing, ignored all calls of duty in form of any vision statement and instead stooped to make yet another pot shot at his opponents. The Abbott government introduced itself with another cheap gibe. He couldn’t help himself.
Encouraged by Abbott’s lead, his followers, including Amanda Vanstone and others now put out to pasture have mined the same rich vein. The result has been a government characterised by immaturity and arrested development; more resembling the aftermath of a teenage slumber party where having fallen asleep exhausted after some heavy duty bitching and cat fighting, the kids have woken up to find themselves in charge of tidying up their own mess on their own. And they aren’t up to it.
Outside parliament, Abbott’s words typically caused consternation in some quarters. Peter Slipper, between court appearances, forced to listen to parliament on his radio in chambers, misheard the word Cabcharge and came over poorly. Had to take a packet of Bex and have a lie down. Tragically the only drink he had handy was a glass of Grange.
Voters felt a familiar twinge of disappointment like a bout of arthritis before bad weather. It was not that many really ever expected better of Abbott. It was just that having got rid of the other mob meant getting Abbott in the Lodge. And on his first day, he was rubbing their noses in it. His vision statement by default went something like:
Nyah … Nyah … Nyah … we’re the government and you’re not. Add to this the characteristic denial such as Abbott’s denial that he ever promised to spend the first weeks of government in an indigenous community and the dominant discourse descends into a childlike petty squabble:
“You said (or did or promised.”).
“No I did not.”
“Yes you did.”
MP attempts to produce evidence. Madam speaker turns off MP’s microphone after a few words.
Pundits pondered the utterances. Adults in charge? What could Abbott mean? Was this another puerile insult, implying that the Labor government was run by children? Surely not. Far too crude. Uncouth. Juvenile. Unworthy of a Prime Minister. Childish and demeaning.
Did Abbott mean that his government were adults? Adults returning to take charge? Events suggest the reality is otherwise. There is very little evidence of adult behaviour in his own ranks. Nor does he empower others in this area. Effective leadership requires trust and it requires modelling leadership yourself. It also requires making wise choices in ministerial appointments. The litmus test is Pyne. Anyone who promotes Christopher Pyne fails an acid test of leadership.
Surely not even Abbott is mad enough to believe he’s got any real authority. He’s pretty well spent any personal credibility. Too many flip flops. Too many changes of direction. Too much of a whiff of things bent from ICAC proceedings and similar. He’s even used up his novelty factor. There is only so far you can get in politics simply because you are not the party that used to be in power.
The Abbott government does not appear in charge of anything much. Yet much seems to be in charge of the government. As each day passes it seems that being an Abbott government is to be overwhelmed by opportunity. Combine a lack of capacity, maturity with an absence of vision. But don’t discount rat cunning and the politics of personal survival. Nowhere is this better reflected than Abbott’s abortive budget whose rotting carcase hangs around Hockey’s neck like a dead albatross.
Of course, as befits those who are yet to gain maturity, Abbott has been assigned a crew of minders. Peta Credlin, his chief rottweiler is not only married to Liberal party president Brian Loughnane, she has rapidly proved to be top woofer. Boss of the whole lost dogs home that is the parliamentary Liberal Party. All members are free to do as they like. But they must get Credlin’s permission first. In writing. And that’s an order.
What about parliament? Did Abbott mean that installing Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker of the House of Representatives meant that an adult would be in charge of the parliament? Absurd. Just look at her record since. Be quick or she’ll turn your microphone off. But only if you not a LNP member. Then you can say what you like. Of course if you have the funds and a cause to push, you can pay to have lunch with her in her office.
For her partisan performance and her work with the switch, for her manifest incapacity to know right from wrong, Bishop presents strong evidence that she has yet to acquire the moral development of an eight year old, according to Kohlberg’s theory. Either that or she has entered a second childhood.
Solutions to Bronwyn’s dilemma will doubtless soon be found. How long can it be before question time is contracted out to 2GB? Save a lot of bother with switching. You only get a microphone if Alan Jones or any other convicted felon on staff as there may be wants to give you one.
Sacrifices would of course be necessary. Much of parliament’s rich theatre would be lost. The edifying spectacle of willy wet-pecker Pyne goosing his leader at the despatch box would be lost for all time. So, too with a delay switch would potty-mouth Pyne’s debating style be cramped. Up until now, Bishop has enabled, aided and abetted him.
When Pyne felt compelled to use unparliamentary language to tell Bill Shorten what he thought of him, Bishop did not send Christopher to the naughty corner. Pyne was able to catcall through Question Time, and allowed to stand at the end and snarl at Shorten: You are such a c**t across the despatch box.
Bishop, responded by telling Pyne to “refer to the opposition leader by his correct title”. Adult, perhaps. In charge, no. Not even remotely got a handle on her job.
More recently Abbott’s other attack Rottweiler, Scott Morrison, has pounced on a Labor politician for daring to suggest in her maiden speech that the Abbott government was very keen on being distracted from its domestic incompetence by events overseas.
Slathering adolescent insults: ‘you muppett’ on radio he has dismissed as lunatic her insight that Abbott is keen to boost his popularity and his governments by beating up the terrorist threat. Send the boys and the girls off to the Middle East again, Tony to join the coalition of the wilting. Finesse the fine work we did earlier in liberating Iraq and conferring stability on the region. By all means mention the war. Take the heat off yourself and your dog’s breakfast of your first year in government. Are the adults in charge? Or are events in charge of a mob too immature to even behave like a government, let alone do the job of government ? Even a child could you tell what the evidence is to date.