It’s the head-butt that stops the nation. Tony Abbott is nutted by Astro Funknukl Labe, a 38 year-old North Hobart DJ. Labe, a barista, bartender and post-punk anarchist who bears a passing resemblance to The Young Ones’ Vyvyan Basterd, pretends to shake the former PM’s hand Thursday afternoon. Then he head-butts him.
All of Australia is stunned. 2GB even interrupts its call of The Marriage Equality Handicap, to bring us the victim live.
The Marriage Equality Handicap, a weight for age stayers’ event, is the two horse race the fourth estate has cleverly fashioned from the Turnbull stable’s postal survey; a crafty evasion of any call to use parliament to democratically reform homophobic John Howard’s quick and dirty Marriage Amendment Act 2004 by legalising same sex marriage.
A 2GB pulpit helps Abbott extract maximum political mileage out of his assault. He puts the boot into all Yes supporters.
“There is no doubt that there has been some ugliness as part of this debate but I regret to say that nearly all of it seems to be coming from one side and that is the people who tell us that love is love,” he intones with a straight face despite what he says is a “… very, very slightly swollen lip” … It (is) pretty clear that this was politically motivated violence.”
In the eternal sunshine of the irony-free national discourse of talk-back favoured by our modern leaders, no-one rings 2GB to ask why he’s not using his forum to do something about real violence, for example violence towards women.
Given his new-found concern for violence, his hatred of Turnbull and his kamikaze political instincts, Abbot could well use 2GB’s reach to deplore the way Turnbull’s budget locks in all his own 30% cuts to domestic violence services.
The budget also makes massive funding cuts to women’s legal and housing services, which help women escape violence.
On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in three women has experienced violence by the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
Yet the former Minister for Women, typically, opts to play the victim, lie about his assailant and cheapen debate.
It’s a golden opportunity for Abbott to wrap himself in the self-righteous mantle of tradition worn by so many of the No camp while smearing those who want equality with the lie that its supporters are violent anarchists or worse.
“Traditional marriage” is a furphy. Fluid since time immemorial, its definition is continuously evolving. Federal Liberal Party President Nick Greiner, observes on ABC’s Lateline, “Marriage is not the same as it was a century ago. The Marriage Act has been changed 20 times since it was introduced by the Menzies government in 1961.”
Above all, Sean Kelly points out, Abbott can reprise the monstrous lie that Yes supporters are some organised gang.
In This is not a Horse Race, Kelly notes how Yes supporters are portrayed as a homogenous group who must beg the power elite for their human rights. They may be granted marriage equality but only if they ask the mob nicely.
Yes campaigners, moreover, are patronisingly cautioned whenever any untoward event occurs. “This is not the way to win the campaign” go the finger-waggers of the fourth estate. Yet the No case is free of such censure, Kelly writes:
There’s plenty of criticism of the arguments Lyle Shelton et al are running, yes. But when yet another aggressively homophobic flyer is distributed, or a Yes campaigner is assaulted, where are the crowds of talking heads saying this is how the No campaign will lose? Saying the No campaign will never persuade middle Australia with violence, or intolerant language?
While Abbott bangs on about how the handlers of the Yes pack should bring their dogs to heel, the well-oiled wheels of justice don’t skip a cog. Anxious lest The Onion Isle’s reputation be besmirched, or North Hobart property values go south, Tassie Police contact the victim before mounting a man-hunt in a drag-net operation for his elusive assailant.
More overcome with grief than Hamlet’s mother, Malcolm Turnbull calls to be there for his nemesis via mobile phone. He even gets Tony’s pal, Andrew Colvin of the AFP, the Liberal Party’s private police force, on to it. God help us if anything should happen to the nut who is single-handedly sabotaging his Prime Ministership; destroying his career.
Equally solicitous is Tasmanian Liberal king-pin, “Kaiser” Erich Abetz who harbours fears marriage equality will lead to people marrying bridges or the Bruny Island Ferry. Abetz, who, in 1994, campaigned to keep homosexuality a crime in Tasmania and who damns media for ignoring gays who come out straight, sees the incident as a sign of ugly intolerance.
” … yet again, another example of the ugliness of the “yes” campaign, the slogan of “Love is love” is unfortunately shown in practice to be intolerance, not wanting people to be able to have their point of view, hold their point of view.”
For Abetz, it’s another clear sign of the way in which freedom of speech is being systematically denied not only to George Brandis’ bigots but to all others in the No camp. It’s a common delusion amongst right wing nut nobs.
The Guardian’s Isentia research reveals Lyle Shelton of the murky but well-funded, Australian Christian Lobby gets more media attention than the three leading yes campaigners combined, new analysis shows – despite the no campaign protesting it is being “silenced”. Equally alarming is their claim of systematic persecution, and underdog pitch.
Rodney Croome AM, Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman, confirms Astro Labe is not connected with the state’s pro-gay marriage campaign. He stresses,
“There’s no link between (Abbott’s) attacker and the marriage equality campaign over and above a lapel badge.”
Yet by Saturday, a busy Eric Abetz tells media that some ‘yes’ campaigners appear to support Labe’s actions on social media. Worse, The National Union of Students LGBTI group’s meme of the postal vote survey with the photo-shopped question “Should Tony Abbott be head-butted” appear to endorse Labe’s actions.
Gratefully, The Australian runs this fake news of Labe’s link with the Yes campaign, adding only an “Eric Abetz says”.
Astro Labe, meanwhile, is incensed by Abbott’s wilful disinformation. The blood-nut wants to set things straight.
It’s just about Tony Abbott, the f***king worm that he is … “I’d had half a skinful and I just wanted to nut the c**t…”
It’s a gut feeling. His nutting of the budgie-smuggler is not a response to the Liberal MP’s anti-same-sex marriage fear campaign but more an expression of the visceral disgust he feels on sighting the most unpopular PM for twenty-five years. He’s not alone. #nutthecunt trends on Twitter. Now he’s upset by Abbott’s deceit and his wilful manipulation.
“How dare he start politicking and making it about marriage equality just because there was a sticker on my jacket?”
No-one pays the party-pooper any more attention. Why spoil a good story by checking to see if it’s true? Everybody knows those Yes campaigners go too far. Just as everybody knows too many renewables in the mix caused SA blackouts. By Sunday, Barrie Cassidy will ask Tanya Plibersek if she is getting nervous about the prospects of the Yes cause.
Abbott, meanwhile, is not to be blamed for judging a Yes campaigner by his sticker, nor is his assailant’s physical violence to be in any way condoned – yet nothing excuses the budgie-smuggler’s brazen deceit.
Seizing a chance to discredit all those in favour of reforming his saintly mentor’s law, he proceeds to verbal his attacker.
Abbott claims Labe says ‘You deserve it because of all the things you’ve said.’
Oddly, Abbott’s companion at the time, a member of his office, cannot recall Labe saying anything about marriage but the time this fact appears, a false impression has been expertly achieved. And exploited for all it is worth.
The nation, North Hobart included, has never seen anything like it – back to back the Two Musketeers, Abbott and his loyal batman Abetz valiantly do battle with the dark forces of marriage equality, an evil which threatens to extinguish religious and all other freedoms in an insidious assault on western civilisation as only Dr Tony Abbott knows it.
In January, Abbott, the elder international statesman called for Australia’s $40 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority to be cut and suggested the Australian embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem. Out of the blue, he received his honorary PhD from the University of Tel Aviv six months later, making him Australia’s first honorary Zionist Dr No.
Toxic Tony’s doctoral citation, unaccountably, however, skips his major achievement, his help in creating a mindless hyper-partisanship or opposition for its own sake while adding to a noxious “aggressive political environment” which Paula Matthewson suggests helped create the very climate which makes it more likely that a young Astro Labe would think it legitimate to physically attack a distinguished former Prime Minister. Or a climate where climate-denial is OK.
It’s not all political, some, at least, derives from Abbott’s own short fuse. Certainly his career suggests anger management issues. David Marr reports Barbara Ramjan’s testimony that in 1977, after she beat Mr Abbott for the presidency of the Sydney University SRC, he put his face close to hers and punched the wall either side of her head.
Similarly, Abbott’s threat to shirt-front Vladimir Putin defines his leadership. Whilst it was just tough talk, the former PM’s taunt suggests a temperament more in keeping with amateur boxing or the brain-stem reflex of his North Hobart head-butt than with the more cerebral reaches of international diplomacy or, indeed, any other form of statecraft.
Abbott’s biggest legacy is his rule of fear. Best exemplified in his hysterical, xenophobic, public theatre of cruelty and inhumanity of stopping the boats, it has many spin-offs. Credit for our current energy crisis, for example, is due in large part to coal-lobby poster-boy Tony Abbott. His carbon tax fear campaign, with its great big lie that none of us could curb carbon emissions without paying a fortune for our electricity, lives on in Turnbull’s fear of even a CET.
Not to be discounted, however, is the issue of his character. As an AIMN writer put it in 2014
‘… because we are looking at a litany of instances of lying, deception and bad behaviour over a long period of time, he [Abbott] simply doesn’t have the essence of character which is one of the main ingredients in the recipe of leadership.’
Abbott is still lying and deceiving. On Sydney radio this week, in a major new offensive in his war on Turnbull he offers listeners the bogus choice between reliable, affordable energy under the Coalition and unreliable, expensive energy under Labor. It’s nonsense but all he has to do, he reasons, is wedge his PM to get a crack at the leadership.
He would vote against the government; cross the floor, he boasts, if Turnbull dares bring in a Clean Energy Target.
Paul Bongiorno sees Abbott’s play as a reprise of 2009 when Turnbull tried to trick the Liberal Party Room into accepting Labor’s carbon price, its carbon pollution reduction scheme. All it took was for the party’s climate change denialists to revolt and for one Liberal to muff his vote (an informal NO) and Abbott became Accidental Prime Minister by one vote.
In The Australian, Abbott throws the gauntlet down,
“As for the Finkel-recommended clean energy target, it simply must be dropped. It would be unconscionable for a government that was elected promising to scrap the carbon tax and to end Labor’s climate change obsessions to go down this path.”
Scrapping the so-called carbon tax has helped boost emissions by 3.4% – as coal fired power has ramped up, although some renewable generation increased under the RET, according to the Australian Conservation Foundation citing data based on the National Greenhouse and Reporting Scheme.
Despite promises of a carbon tax repeal rebate, its abolition has also contributed to soaring electricity prices – another Abbott gift to the nation. His government, followed John Howard’s in colluding with power companies to gold-plate poles and wires in order to benefit from generous federal subsidies and infrastructure investment guarantees.
In Sydney, for example, household use by volume is down 22% over the last six years. Yet customers are faced with a 127% increase in the cost per unit of electricity. It’s due to a regulatory system which guarantees network owners a return on capital investment for the next 100-200 years – a type of federal incentive to price-gouge consumers.
It’s one of the greatest rorts in our nation’s history. Yet the best that Turnbull can do is to get power companies to mail us with details of minor discounts on their massively inflated prices. The gas companies, we are told repeatedly are going to do something to help sometime soon.
And Abbott is helping to block the road to any progress towards a transition to renewables that is an extension of another of his signature policies, his war on renewable energy investment to the nation’s great cost.
John Hewson estimates Abbott’s attempt to close down the renewables industry saw investment fall by about 80 to 90 per cent and 15,000 jobs lost. Around 40,000 jobs were lost due to Abbott and Hockey’s Ideological opposition to retaining our auto industry even though government subsidies were small compared with what is lavished on defence.
Implacable opposition is the key to Tony’s recent Tassie trip. He’s not in the marriage equality stakes for any other reason than to stir up trouble for Turnbull. And he does this by cranking up the fear with his great big new agenda.
“There is a big agenda here for many of the people behind same-sex marriage. This is the thin end of the wedge, that’s why we should think long and hard before we vote and I certainly think the only safe course is to vote ‘No’.’’
Granted, Abbott may well be personally invested in keeping Howard’s 2004 Marriage Amendment; he claims to feel “threatened by homosexuality” but his motivation is to do his best for the NO campaign as possible is inspired by the damage a NO could do to Turnbull.
Bernard Keane’s peek at the psychology behind Abbott’s conservatism Inside the Terrifying Mind of Tony Abbott traces the former PM’s oppositional defiance1 to a fear of change undermining a hierarchy which gives him dominance.
The fear of losing dominant status is shared by many of Abbott’s Parliamentary Monkeypod Room companions a phobia which may explain a range of maladaptive political postures including climate change denial.
One upshot of the condition is that Abbott and his cohort are good at exploiting the politics of fear – because they know fear so well. Fear, of course, is just a genteel word for terror. Certainly in terms of his rise to power and his campaign against his Prime Minister this week, it is Tony’s Terrorism from within not any mythic radical Islamic threat which represent the real threat to Turnbull’s government. A strong leader would not tolerate such open insurrection.
His Tassie tour de force this week illuminates the deposed former leader’s fanatical devotion to his cause as much as it reveals Turnbull’s impotence; his unctuous desire to appease his insatiable aggressor. It can only end badly for the PM.
If his wildest dreams come true and Abbott, aka Dr No, helps engineer the postal survey’s failure to recommend marriage equality, Turnbull’s political career may well be over, as Paul Bongiorno suggests.
Yet the PM is in serious trouble already as his capture by his party’s right wing rump, coupled with his own inherent incapacity for judgement erodes what remains of his fading legitimacy and authority as leader, a process nowhere better seen than in the party’s fatal division over energy.
While a NO result would defy current opinion polling, it is not impossible. Whatever the outcome, what is certain is that the week marks a peak in Tony Abbott’s pathological war on renewable energy and on his Prime Minister while in a pincer-like movement, his subversion of the case against marriage equality has him leading Turnbull by the NOES.
- Oppositional defiance is my phrase not Keane’s.
For readers who would like see further comments, This post also appears in The AIMN