Dear Mr Abbott,
Commiserations. Wish we could wish you a happy new year. We can’t. it won’t wash. Everything’s against it. Rupert’s rubbished you. Bolt’s become a blistering barnacle. Even lame, tame, Piers ‘party parrot’ Akerman is on the attack. The economy is nose-diving. Unemployment soars. Export receipts are plummeting. A plunging oil price threatens international capital and world financial stability. Balancing the budget? Even Joe Sooky concedes that you will break that promise too.
It’s not as if you’ve been doing nothing, as you say. You’re busier than a cat watching two rat-holes: with your neo-liberal tea party attacks on welfare, your trashing of the environment, your scorning of climate science, (and most other science), and your persecuting of refugees; your assaults on the elderly, the frail and the needy.
Meanwhile cyborg Employment Minister Eric Abetz, another 1950s throwback, readies Work-Choices off-stage and there will be hell to pay when that cat is debagged. But nothing much has come to anything; really achieved anything you wanted, or like yourself, will ever amount to much. So much on; so little to show.
So here’s a New Year’s resolution or two, just in case you don’t get time to do your own. Like talking points, really. You’ll get the hang of it. But first, a word in your ear.
Prime Minister, there is no nice way of putting this. You are beyond saving. Beyond redemption. No resolution will help you hang on to power, get re-elected or ever be trusted but it might tide you over until the end. The end is certain, whether you are wiped out in the next election, or you are impaled on Peta Credlin’s size 11 stiletto heel, you skewer yourself on a sharpened bicycle spoke, or you are lost in the surf at Portsea. You are going nowhere, and it shows.
In the meantime, here are a few tips. It’s not all positive, Mr Abbott, but it can’t be helped. There’s so much you must cut out. Let’s start with ‘getting the message out.’
Stop parroting ‘ we must get the message out’. The message is out. Australians get you loud and clear: we just don’t like what we see and hear. Messaging, moreover, cuts both ways and you can’t speak out, reach out without first listening in. Your empty ‘messages’ are nothing but hollow reminders of your lack of credibility. Moreover, they waste time and energy. Beyond your spin cycle, your real messages are your words and deeds. Time to stop spinning, tune in and listen.
You are reactionary, backward-looking, ill-prepared and unfit to govern. That’s the message you convey. You can’t get away from it. The bad news, for you, is that voters get this message loud and clear. The good news is this leaves you a fair bit to work on. Start by stepping out of the past.
Revering the past, continually referencing the past, just confirms you as yesterday’s man. Stop reminding us Howard faced adversity, too.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Your love affair with a mythical past signals an incapacity to deal with the present. Mention Menzies or hark back to Howard and you only earn yourself further derision for your presumption. False analogies and parallels are dangerous. They make you look fat-headed and trapped in the past. Snap out of it. If you can’t face the future, at least look as if you know you need to focus on the present. Above all you need vision. Step up, stand out from your backward-looking, reactionary and regressive ministry. None of them can do anything but pull you down further like the undertow in the Portsea pier to pub in January.
Nostalgia saps your mindset, your weltanschauung, your shtick. ‘Turn back the clock’ might as well be your party slogan. You yearn for a 1950s Camelot ruled by Ming and Santamaria. You dream of a stable, comfortable, Australia of order and propriety. It never existed. It’s a wife in the kitchen, children in bed, slippers by the fire and pipe-dream, a fabrication based on myth and falsehood. More to the point, it is a dangerous delusion and a retreat from reality. Let’s get real about the 50s.
In the 1950s an intolerant, hypocritical, narrow society stifled individuality and oppressed difference. It was a racist, xenophobic, White Australia of privilege and entitlement ruled by Anglophile white males. No time to be a woman, or an ethnic minority, it was also an era of defensive nationalism in the face of new contact with outsiders; a time of acute cultural cringing and low national self-esteem. For many if not most, it was to be endured, suffered rather than celebrated or venerated. You want to put a bit of distance between yourself and the 50s.
Unfairness has hurt you most. The Australian people have long lost tolerance for you and your government. Your behaviour is unfair, reactionary, autocratic, anachronistic, backward-looking, untrustworthy and dishonest. You are gaffe-prone. You conspicuously lack what it takes to govern modern Australia, a diverse multicultural modern nation. You lack independence, initiative and vision. You are putty in the hands of big business and big capital but you oppose anything which helps ordinary people.
You were quick to repeal the mining tax for your mate Gina Reinhart. But you are happy to raise the petrol excise and the cost of doctor’s visits for ordinary Australians. You have let Hockey go soft on his promise to chase multinationals who evade tax. It was too good to be true anyway. Hockey took the opposite position when in opposition. But you step up your spending on chasing dole frauds. You cut funds for the homeless. You oppose anything progressive like renewable energy or public transport on principle whilst you indulge reactionary movements like the world family congress and vested interests in your fantasy that you can turn back the clock. Take your sneaky back door re-introduction of Work Choices, for example. Last week Eric Abetz crowed that he had “neutralised” Work Choices. He means it is far enough in the past for it to have faded in the public’s consciousness. And even despite your witch hunting Royal Commission into the unions, Work Choices will prove a dead parrot. Work Choices didn’t work under Howard and won’t work now. Economists will tell you low wages do not build GDP. And even if it’s a hit with your mates, your wealthy backers, it signals ‘mean and out of touch’.
Both of your two main achievements have been negative and both have helped us to hate you. You repealed a tax on carbon, a backward step which not only shrank budget revenue, it left us with no climate change policy and out of step with the rest of the world. You lied about its benefits to families. Despite your desperate spin, the carbon tax repeal has not lowered prices. But you continue to pretend that we are all $500 better off. Stop it.
Persecuting asylum seekers might stop some boats but it undoes a lot of good. And there are fewer votes in stopping the boats under Morrison than you count on. Time to stop. OK, you inherited the shameful off-shore detention camps but your boat turn-backs, your enhanced processing and all the cruelty revealed signals that you have taken persecution to extremes. It is cruel, covert and wrong. It flouts all decent principles of behaviour and thumbs its nose at the law. It screams inhumanity. It ignores our international commitments. There is a strange, disturbing zeal to it all, moreover, of loss of reason, sanity and plain good nature. Back up. Scrap the policy. Embrace humanity and honour our global responsibilities.
Granny- bashing, handbag-snatching is your real forte. It is, own up. You target defenceless groups, which are too weak and disorganised, unlike the miners, to fight back. You destroy their advocacy groups, silencing those who keep guard over a fair and decent society, groups who might challenge you or voice protest. You rob children of their futures by snatching environmental groups’ funding. You put a stranglehold on social, educational, health, research and advisory bodies. Any government which behaves in this way signals its own demise. People will reject you to protect themselves and the vulnerable. Any so-called savings in the area of welfare spending will cost you dearly.
Porting Australia into the past is future-proofing in reverse. It creates anxiety and a massive lack of confidence. You have declared open season on anything environmental, from laws to organisations. Your achievement amounts to wrecking anything enlightened or progressive whilst you venerate yesterday’s mistakes with your championing of coal. You lie about damage to the Barrier Reef.
Ask yourself: what have you really achieved? This question comes before claiming victory in fields, such as the economy being on the right track, when it is self-evidently a rout. So much of your media releases, your claims of victory contradict the population’s own perceptions. Much of what your ministers and spin doctors utter has the same theme: but you’re wrong you know. Putting a false spin on your ‘achievements’ just makes you sound more dishonest, for example, the talking point about a strong economy. You talked it down. Your spending weakened it. Cut the spin. You can’t polish a turd without getting smeared in ordure yourself.
Cut the talking points. Your ministers are hard enough to listen to without having to endure endless repeats of empty, meaningless slogans every day. Your communications unit is no better than a galah if all it can do is get you to parrot clichés, slogans and banal talking points. First up it would be listening. Communication is a two way process, Mr Abbott. It is as much about taking messages on board as getting messages out. And you can’t simply relay the interests of other lobby groups such as the IPA, the Sydney Institute and others in the pay of vested interests.
Kick the IPA out of bed. It is funded by yesterday’s interests, mining and fossil fuels. And you let it keep details secret. How about requiring advisory boards, institutes, groups and agencies to provide clear details of their sponsors?
Mr Abbott, these New Year’s resolutions are tough medicine but you have so often told us you are up for it. Your choice is clear. Either continue on your current disastrous course and steam straight into the iceberg of ignorance. (There won’t be many to rescue from the wreck.) Or you can take stock. Stop what isn’t working. Start listening. It’s too late to save your own career but it’s just possible that you may lessen the wreckage and destruction you inflict on the nation.