Tag: Abbott

Abbott, the very model of the dispensable post modern prime minister.

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Tony Abbott is ‘a very good captain’ of a talented team. That was the message the PM gave ambulance chasing reporters who came sniffing around to see how badly he was bleeding after he was savagely attacked for his captain’s call in knighting Prince Philip. Abbott was also badly wounded by those who were blaming his poorly performing LNP federal government for Campbell Newman’s historic loss of Ashgrove in the Queensland LNP rout. But the final blow was self-inflicted.

Abbott’s coup de grace was self-administered at Monday’s Canberra Press Club gathering when the PM publicly hanged himself with a load of old rope. Promised a much-vaunted headland speech that would fix the drift, stop the rot and set a new direction, the assembled hacks were disappointed.  Abbott proved himself incapable of anything more than another lucky dip into his old grab bag of slogans, windy rhetoric and pusillanimous piffle. Having already alienated even his backer Rupert Murdoch, Abbott killed off any remaining pockets of support in the electorate, the media and in his own party, a party still smarting from the Queensland debacle.

Newman’s quickie State Election, a gambit the Premier had foist upon an underwhelmed electorate, was a desperate, albeit unsuccessful, move to head off an anticipated drubbing. Desperate as he may also have felt, however, Captain Abbott, nature’s contrarian, contested all suggestion that anything was wrong.  He issued an incredible denial.

Rumblings of discontent? Rebellion? No, no, no. On the contrary, what others misconstrued as over-boiling frustration and widespread dissatisfaction even within party ranks, was a tribute to his great leadership, claimed Abbott whose reliance on spin is peerless in Australian political history. In dire straits by anyone’s reckoning, ‘Sultan of Spin’, Captain Anthony Abbott once again was telling everyone they were wrong. The man could spin his own death notice. And this was what Abbott set about doing. In the process, moreover, he also revealed for all time the abyss of spin within him. His unsurpassed, unparalleled, mainspring of spin.

Abbott scotched all rumours of mutiny. He dismissed outright any suggestion of his being challenged by Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop, Mal Brough nor by any other disaffected party hack with nothing to lose and everything to gain. On the contrary, as a very good captain, however, he took full credit for having some very strong members in his team. Everyone in Team Abbott, he said, was locked in behind their PM, his style of government and its reform agenda, because there was absolutely no message for his team, no parallel whatsoever, in Newman’s losses in Queensland.

Abbott’s words contained no hint that his understanding of captaincy included such qualities as the capacity for sound judgement, effective decision-making, teamwork, communication or the capacity to inspire others to follow. Discernment and self-awareness were also lacking. The non sequitur was breath-taking. It was akin to the sophistry that enabled him to break all promises to the electorate yet claim on Monday at the Canberra Press Club he had essentially ‘kept faith with the Australian people.’

Of course, he acknowledged, he’d copped a bit of flak. Of course, some concessions were in order, but, shrewdly, only those which might flatter him by suggesting stoicism or even martyrdom. And of course, he allowed, he’d be the first to admit he’d come through a rough patch but his team were nothing but united, rock solid behind him. They were unanimously behind him and his reform agenda.

And he’d taken it all on board, the democratic right of others to tell him he had done wrong. Now his soul was purified, his mission strengthened. Abbott proclaimed himself reborn before the assembly of those few sullen cabinet heavies as were made to show up and before the nation’s scribes whose resolute, palpable disbelief engulfed him in a toxic miasma of weary, well-deserved scepticism and polite hostility. Prudently Abbott skipped such spiritual steps as he might stumble upon, steps such as confession, contrition or penitence. For he was truly sorry for nothing and could never apologise to anyone.

Yes, he’d made a few changes: he’d listened and he’d learned, he said. What he’d learned, he left unsaid but we could all expect things to be different from now on. He’d be consulting his heart out from ‘here on in.’ Why, the Abbott government would be the most consultative government the nation had ever seen. And an Abbott government committee would give out Australia Day gongs in future. Also paid parental leave was off the Abbott government table. Small businesses would be getting some tax breaks from an admiring Abbott government but these should not be seen as un-costed bribes to a toey constituency. The pocket-money was our gratitude for the selfless, dedicated altruism of the pizza shop proprietor, the milk bar owner, the panel beater, and all other small business folk throughout the land who toil long hours on behalf of others, not for a moment seeking to profit themselves but to provide services and to build community.

Abbott’s transcendence went beyond politics and embraced logic. Now that he was purified, now the hair-shirted penitent had seen and mended the error of his ways, he would re-claim the moral high ground of his mission. For, as he made it clear to the Press Club, he was never one to seek popularity. Instead, an inner voice told him popularity counted for nothing. Competence was what the people of Australia wanted from their Prime Minister. And yes, he might cop a bit in popular standing, but he was resolved to do the hard slog required to lead the nation to sustainability.

The bitter medicine of economic reform was the mind-altering agency whereby Abbott could transcend the normal rules of logic and accountability. Just because he’d made a series of rash, poorly judged decisions since coming to office that had burned most of his followers didn’t mean that he lacked in any capacity for leadership.

Just because he had spent 500 days of his Prime Ministership convincing three quarters of the electorate that he was not up to the job didn’t mean that he couldn’t start again. He would reboot. He would listen. In his 58th year he would be transformed as a person and as a politician. He would consult others. Credlin would be banished henceforth from the cabinet room. Why she hadn’t even been given a ticket to his command performance today.

In the real world, as Abbott knew, but would never admit, that the disastrous showing of the Newman LNP government at the polls in Queensland was effectively a vote on austerity economics and reform. Reform is a weasel word that has come to represent unpopular cutbacks or changes which enable neoliberal governments to do less and less for the people but charge us more.

It was also a vote on himself. The Queensland election result reflected anger with the former Premier’s style of government, his perceived untrustworthiness, promise-breaking, lack of consultation and unfairness in government – qualities all intrinsic to the Abbott government’s style. Time, then he came out and made clear his strengths as a very good captain.

A very good captain? Abbott’s latest desperate claim about his captaincy has pundits scratching their heads. Even party faithful wonder how any sane person could see his 500 days of poor leadership as ‘very good captaincy’. No-one, surely, in his or her right mind could take the claim seriously. Unless, of course, we are prepared to look at Captain Abbott in a fresh, new light.

In a post-modern world, Abbott is a type of anti-hero, an anti-captain, an alienated, inarticulate, existential statesman born of a rapidly changing Australian political narrative, a narrative which in modern times has shifted inexorably from epic to ironic.

The setting for this story is an Australia which has allowed itself to be transformed from a post-colonial nation of making and doing to one in which service industries now dwarf all the rest and enterprise amounts to little more than shifting the populace’s money into fewer, bigger pockets. Talking it up is all that is left for the neo-liberal captain to call.

Seen in this light, Abbott’s view of himself as a very good captain must be read ironically. His words here, as in his Press Club road to Damascus speech, underscore his role as an expendable mouthpiece for capital, a neo-liberal pocket ideologue, an utterly disposable post-modern Prime Minister. Abbott, the captain of spin, is a politician spun from spin. He is a new man for a new age; a new bit player on the political stage in an age of reckless, endless embellishment.

Abbott may act as clown but he is prepared to wear his ineptitude and incompetence on his sleeve as an emblem of inevitable unpopularity. As his motely performance before the Canberra Press Club shows he can rationalise criticism as part of the privation only he is equipped to endure to follow a higher calling. Yet he is no fool.

Make no mistake: Abbott is, in his own dissembling way, a shrewd if not astute and ruthless pragmatist; a shameless opportunist. Call him mendacious, manipulative, meretricious, if you like, but above all he is ‘a conviction politician’ in Murdoch’s own, ironic words, an ideologue of the far right who believes he has the perfect plan and all that remains is to ‘fine-tune’ or better ‘get the message out.’ Anything else is sacrilege.

Abbott is Murdoch’s own antipodean pocket ideologue, in the end, a potentially useful but completely expendable sycophant. He is an eagerly obliging vassal of his liege-lord the press baron, the miner, the multinational corporation and the tycoon and all others whose interests are served in a radical transformation of the fabric of society from nurturing ties of community to the cash nexus, a meaner, spiritually impoverished, society which blames the unproductive as unworthy and discriminates against the poor while favouring the rich whilst above all worshipping the infallible, insatiable, jealous market god of the neo-conservative right.

Now his backer has cast him adrift. Sharks circle him in a cruel sea sensing the very same inner frailties and naivetés, that missing inner compass which originally commended Abbott to his backers. Out of his depth in a role that requires creative problem-solving; that requires him to pledge himself afresh, a deliverable self and not just make empty promises of more of the same and in a job that still demands some leadership substance beyond the self-spun, Tony Abbott will be as jetsam on the tide of international capital as the next wave of hopefuls flood the political market place that is Canberra. Made for reality TV by the makers of reality TV, the next episode will feature a quest for the next ‘conviction politician’ whose expedient expendability will set her above and below the rest.


Carry on, cartoonists, urges Tony Abbott after Charlie Hebdo attack.

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Australia’s PM with his supportive media.


Australia’s army of parodists, satirists and professional piss-takers, the nation’s cartoonists, have been told to carry on. Terrified and shocked by events overseas, on the point of drawing the line at any more funny business and laying down their pencils, en masse, the nation’s lampooning doodlers have bucked up to hear words of encouragement from the top. And in such a good cause or two: our way of life is at stake. We are as nothing without corrective irony, parody or self-ridicule. Freedom of speech, moreover, is something we hold dear; central to the way we carry on. Or so we are told, from most unexpected quarter, or cartouche.

Oddly, the satirists’ rallying cry is being made by Australia’s PM, Tony, Abbott, a caricaturist’s dream, a political figure easily mistaken for a parody of a PM, or a parody of himself, or both. Not renowned for enjoying or appreciating criticism and fronting a LNP government which is at best economical with freedom of expression and truth, to say nothing of justice, tolerance and compassion, qualities informing every satirist’s bite, the PM has leapt into the fray.

Yesterday, the PM, a talented contortionist and ever-obliging target himself, the butt of a thousand gibes was urging us to give ’em hell with bells on. Loony Toons Abbott morphed into the mouse that roared: a mouse exhorting all the neighbourhood cats to sharpen their claws.

In yet another unexpected twist to his contorted career, the PM burst on to Channel 9 to the amazement of jaded, hung-over morning television viewers and cracked up the nation with a message straight to camera. Cartoonists carry on! The terrorists will win if you stop. And there was more. With the injunction came insight; he knew, he confided, all too well, what it is like to be a member of a persecuted minority, the object of satire: people are always making fun of Catholics in Australia.

Abbott’s babblings were prompted by the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical Paris newspaper in which two gunmen brutally executed ten staff members and injured eleven others, some of them critically on Thursday morning in apparent retaliation for the paper’s pungently satirical comments on Islam. Curiously, they echoed David Cameron’s despite their religious differences, differences on climate change and other matters. Doubtless, similar sentiments could be traced in the addresses of a group of national leaders whose talking points are lovingly hand-prepared in Washington.

Whatever his intention, or the true origin of his inspiration, Tony Abbott captured every satirist’s imagination with his latest hypocritical posturing, beginning with his TV appearance itself.

Others in his cabinet may wait weeks, or even longer, to talk to the media but the PM gets his head on the box any time he feels like it. One of his first initiatives in government and, yes, the word is to be used cautiously, was to control communications. His own ministers and hapless members of his government have to line up like the scene in Oliver to get permission to exercise any freedom of expression that might involve talking to the people. All media requests must be approved by a member of the Prime Minister’s staff, aka Peta Credlin.

Yet the same PM can air his thought bubbles and spray his talking points at us with barely a moment’s notice, as he did on national television yesterday. Indeed, he is able to over-share, as his wont; the reason he needs a minder on every occasion and doubtless the reason the party dominatrix Peta Credlin must accompany him everywhere.

Other ironies abound. Whilst the office of the prime minister has divided the media into friends and enemies and whilst Abbott himself is openly critical of criticism of the government by the ABC, an outfit he would love to privatise, he rushed to pose as a defender of free speech stating:

‘…it’s important there be no self-censorship by Australian media in the wake of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Paris.’ No doubt this thought vastly relieved Australian cartoonists who are by nature an unctuous and dependent breed, constantly seeking approval and instruction from the top. Whom did the PM think he was trying to kid?  He may be able to tie himself in knots but cartoonists, satirists are not about to follow.

Losing no time either in gleefully cranking up popular fear and anxiety, Abbott warned that ‘the world should be braced for more terrorist attacks.’

Just what form this bracing should take was not specified, although the term is used frequently in press releases and talking points constructed by his office. Nor would the PM elaborate on the reasons for our national bracing and whether he meant he expected more terrorist attacks in Australia. Yet even as the lion of truth he was forthcoming in constructing falsehood. He proceeded to link Paris and Martin Place:

The attack in Paris was relatively sophisticated. The attacks in Australia have been relatively unsophisticated. But whether these are, if you like, grass roots terrorism or whether they’re organisational terrorism, the fact is it is still a terrorist attack on us, on our way of life.

The PM began to sound like a veteran commentator and we, his people, veterans of terrorist attacks who would all the more clearly see that our way of life was threatened, conveniently feeding the pernicious myth of conformity and clouding our sense of our rich and vital diversity. This is a consistent line of Abbott’s which, it seems, he shares with other western leaders who, television ‘world news’ clearly showed, subscribed to the same script service and were taking similar liberties with their own peoples amounts to a dangerous myth-making which helps to divide our society and to promote the ignorance, the intolerance, hysteria and fear which enable terrorism in the first place.  It is also, of course, a most useful proposition in the construction of Abbott as our public defender and a generic nostrum for conservative leaders the world over. It times of crisis, moreover, it is hoped we will unite behind the strong leader.

Of course, the intolerance and ignorance is just a fact of modern life, according to the PM but with a twist. There may well be a contortionist’s prize for holding a view in which we are seen to welcome all sorts of minorities and the roots of our current immigration policy, for example. Or the cognitive dissonance in the hardened certainty of the phrase ‘absolutely hate’ and the cosy inner self-deluded glow of undifferentiated multicultural acceptance; our pluralism.

And the sad truth of the modern era is that there are people who hate us, not because of anything that we’ve done but because of who we are and the way we live. They hate our tolerance, our pluralism, the welcome that we provide to all sorts of minorities. It’s an essential part of Western civilisation and it’s the thing about us that these people absolutely hate.

Interrupting if not arresting the PM’s drift towards a hard-edged soft focused generality, a servile Channel 9 interviewer offered his neck, begging correction, asking the already contorted Abbott how much freedom the press should give up to make us all safer:

TIM MCMILLAN: how far should Australian media outlets go when satirising religions or minority groups?

Abbott invoked his own experiences as a member of a persecuted minority, perhaps knowing of the value of bogus identification in propaganda:

Australian media organisations don’t normally hold back when for argument’s sake they’re criticising Christianity. Catholicism comes in for a particular dose of scorn.

We will take that as encouragement that we are not to hold back. Wittering scorn, however, was invited on this occasion, if not earned by his concluding paradoxical homily:

It’s very important, two things here: first of all that we don’t engage in self-censorship as a result of this kind of attack. Second and even more important, we should not stop being ourselves because of this kind of attack.

If we do engage in self-censorship, if we do change the way we live and the way we think, that gives terrorists a victory and the last thing that we should do is give these evil fanatics any kind of victory.

Abbott has once again used the news to inflict his own agenda upon us. He peddles his own bigoted post-modern mythos of Manichean struggle between good and evil. He would have us in a straitjacket of fear and beholden to the leader as protector, yielding freely up our metadata, our privacy, our right to know the truth and other democratic rights, yet carrying on as normal as his far right government strengthens the role of the state in a desperate attempt to shore up its shaky foundations. Endless conflicted and compromised, he cranks the hurdy-gurdy of the rhetoric of freedom and freedom of speech while his government systematically goes about undermining its very foundations.

Monstrous, mean and sneaky Abbott government delivers on message for Christmas.

It was the beginning of the festive season in Canberra and a small balding man with jug ears and bandy legs who walked uneasily as if he were carrying a pig under each arm strode towards the steps of parliament while appearing to address a claque of journalists who tottered after him, a tangle of cameras, blazing lights, some waving microphones disguised as woolly bed-socks, other offering phones with recording apps; phones so intelligent they outsmarted their owners.

‘Solid achievement …,’ the Prime Minister, intoned, squinting as he feigned a reflective pose whilst wincing inwardly and avoiding catching David ‘Paddler’ Johnston’s eye as he lurched in late, ‘a year of solid achievement…’

Abbott was multi-tasking, as he liked to call it: talking to reporters on the fly whilst readying himself and his government for photographers on the steps of parliament on the last sitting day of the year. In reality he was rashly attempting two tasks either of which would have been better delegated to someone else yet there was no-one else he could trust not to stuff it up either.

“The carbon tax is gone,” he said. “The mining tax is gone. The boats are stopping. The roads are building. The budget is coming into better shape. The three free trade agreements that have been successfully negotiated will set our country up for the long term … I know that appearances do count and I concede that the appearance last week was a bit ragged but, in the end, nothing matters more than performance and this is a government which has a very solid year of performance under its belt.

His government, that false and faithless bosom of buried scorn, flanked him like a whelp of hungry mongrel pups performing nods, eyebrow stretches and other intended expressions of solidarity for the camera, most of which were completely lost in translation and which ended up instead making some of them look like a cat with a fur ball, or a dog when you put its medicine on its tongue. Most, however, just looked like exhausted and clapped-out character actors after a long season on the boards before hostile provincial audiences, hamming it up for the camera con brio lest unemployment come before they had paid the gas bill.

Bruce (small business) Billson should really give up the garlic, he thought, if he can’t stop sticking his face in other people’s businesses. And give up all the hearty hail fellow well met stuff. Such an unctuous toad. Besides, that’s my routine. Bet Frankston’s happy when he’s in Canberra, oleaginous, grasping, self-propelling bag of fart gas.

The unemployment rate has hit 6.3% the highest since Abbott was Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in 2002. Business and consumer confidence are at an all-time low. Other financial measures suggest that Australia may well be headed for an economic recession.

‘…Achievement,’ he continued, giving himself thinking space to work out where he was, what day it was and where his weekday Malvern star was parked. Trust Johnston to stand upwind and near him. You could fuel a small gas bar-fridge on the alcohol on his breath. Glad that he’s so close to Ian MacDonald, the double-crossing, back-stabbing, pompous misogynist. How dare he accuse me of over promoting Peta Credlin?  If only he knew how much I owe, how much we all owe to Peta. She even does the Cabinet footy-tipping. Ungrateful bastard!

Stopped the boats; scrapped the carbon tax;

Abbott has delivered on his campaign to roll back action on global warming and has effectively thrown the off switch on the booming renewable energy industry …direction action, the so-called centrepiece of his government’s climate change policy is a hoax.

‘Solid achievement’ chorused the Treasurer, the Foreign Minister, the Trade Minister and all the other overlooked Ministers for whom the Christmas photo is as close as they will ever get to their PM. They packed closely in around their hapless leader like pin-striped blowflies on a country dunny, in a parody of solidarity whilst nudging one another aside for a bigger share of the lens. It was the last parliamentary steps photo-opportunity of the year. Some reckless pundits were musing that it could be Abbott’s last ever.

Health, Education and Community services have all been cut savagely…while the Abbott government has shown the interests of big business and mining interests will always come before the needs of communities and the environment.

Features contorted into toothy grins, manic rapture, bucolic reverie, mindless ecstasy and other grotesquely insincere affectations of guileless bonhomie and esprit de corps for the camera.  Christopher ‘Glad hands’ Pyre pumped Peter Dutton’s hand on the pretext of endorsing the Health Minister’s latest Medicare fiasco whilst hoping against hope to forge some covert alliance of desperate mediocrity which might be traded upon in the future. Greg Hunt shook his own hand, there being no-one more worthy or suitable nearby or in the entire government, come to think of it.

Inwardly all members of government were filled with various forms of bickering and dissension, each herniated with self-pity and gall at their misfortune, each cursing their luck to have such a dud leader, each bitter and miserable about their PM, Peta Credlin’s high-handed control over every detail of their lives and their government’s record-breaking low performance in the polls and each fearing unemployment next election.

The Abbott government has increased secrecy and cruelty towards vulnerable people seeking asylum. Domestically, it has undermined attempts to address discrimination in society regarding sexuality and race.

All present, of course, were singing from the same song sheet, namely Peta ‘chokehold’ Credlin’s daily song sheet of talking points, a type of scripted autopilot-autocue provided daily or more often as required for the mentally challenged, enfeebled, bone idle, brain dead and any other members of the Abbott government. It was a stunning display of solidarity, unanimity and state of the art micromanagement.

Fittingly, capping a busy, busy, busy and richly productive year, in which its myriad achievements appear daily ever more solid and uplifting, and in David Johnston’s Defence, also very much more liquid, not forgetting so much offered that was simply rarefied and gaseous, the Abbott government then reached deep into its chest cavity to furnish its long-awaited, hand-crafted, homespun, heartfelt, Christmas message to the people of Australia.

Its mug filled to overflowing, with the business, the small business-and-lifeblood-of-our-nation-amen business, of dispensing (with) largesse, the (dried) fruits of prosperity and stale beer-nuts of good cheer, the Abbott government with typically reckless generosity bestowed its spirit of mean and sneaky upon every household in the land. The photographer, a wag from way back, cleverly by-passed ‘say cheese’ in favour of something much more suited:

‘Say: Mean and Sneaky,’ he instructed, test camera aloft.

‘Mean and Sneaky, they chorused, bubbling with festive spirit and goodwill to all men and one woman in the cabinet.

‘Monstrous, mean and sneaky, thought the man with the automatic weapon on terror alert as he surveyed the lot of them, his gaze coming to rest on Scott Morrison’s features, which were ablaze with such crazed, rampaging zealotry that he would have immediately called for reinforcements had he not been sure that he was one of the most popular and widely respected members of the Abbott cabinet. They are all a worry, he thought, his forefinger on the trigger of his assault rifle, and especially when the best of them, in their own eyes, in their own esteem, is a raving psychopath.

G20 Jaws of Disaster for Abbott and his government yet Obama rises magnificently to the occasion.

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Snatching victory from the jaws of disaster, whilst providing an instructive and much-needed illustration of the type of leadership a real politician can provide, US President and orator Barak Obama gave his inspiring, highly acclaimed climate change ‘off-G20’ address at Queensland University, a change of venue and strategy necessitated by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a self-professed climate change sceptic who, Canute-style, had issued an edict to bemused world leaders that climate change was off the ‘major’ G20 agenda. Obama’s speech pointedly personalised climate change with references to drought, increasing university fees, the decline of the Great Barrier Reef, the case for same sex marriage amongst other Abbott government pressure points.

Abbott’s backup artist, cuddly muddle-headed wombat Joe Hockey, another political Walter Mitty, and erstwhile personable, blokey, breakfast television boofhead, made a further futile attempt to rescue his leader from his own stupidity by kicking yet another own goal the following morning on national TV.

In a disturbing attempt to contextualise his perspective for TV audiences, ‘we are doing the best we can, Barry’, Hockey explained straight-faced he had not ‘caught’ Obama’s speech because of his own ‘hard work on the treadmill’. Virtuous, hard graft, it seems, prohibited any decadent indulgent frippery such as “the vision thing’. Viewers were also meant to swallow the whopper that Obama’s complete upstaging of Abbott’s show could ever conceivably have passed him by. Treadmill or no treadmill. Or his staff. Or that there would be not a transcript available. In advance.

Reprieved from talking about anything significant, Hockey then proceeded to claim that climate change was no impediment to world growth. ‘Look at China’. Indeed. Viewers were instead transfixed because Joe appeared to have gone the full Menzies eyebrow makeover in his latest personal grooming session, giving the impression of two sceptical crows disturbed by the ruckus below and about to take wing, completely upstaging the otherwise sound work the Treasurer was putting into supportive facial expressions. No impediment? One only hopes he notifies Greg Hunt. Save billions on direct action.

A shoo-in already for nomination in the highly contested Darwin award for his performance yesterday, Abbott will clearly go down in history as some type of pioneer. In future, supposing the G20 survives his concerted attack on its already shaky foundations, ‘off G20’ will become the real G20. Anything of interest, substance or anything remotely worthwhile, will take place off-G20 where real people who are also political leaders will genuinely engage with real issues before appreciative audiences. Obama’s words will live on. Abbott will be remembered, if at all, for other reasons.

‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…’, Abbott, succeeded only in snatching disaster from every conceivable opportunity and even further afield, by hi-jacking his own G20 show and the attention of the world, for domestic purposes, clumsily framing his ‘leaders retreat’ as a type of DIY therapeutic AA style confessional.

Leaders were mystified, angry and embarrassed rather than edified by the PM’s descent into that most private of personal hells – his own sinkhole of self-pity. Abbott’s contribution to leadership was to initiate a tacky process of over-sharing by airing a revealing story of his own, consisting of some badly edited selected highlights chosen from the vast wealth of his own political ineptitude. If I could kick off, he began, deploying a venture into Ozzie colloquialism which, like his talk would be lost in translation.

Unabated, Abbott then went off the cuff over carbon tax, illegal boats, roads, (his government apparently has discovered them) and getting the budget under control (a lie about another lie) before talking about how hard it was to get people to pay for a doctor or pay through the nose for a degree. It was a clumsy attempt to secure a global endorsement for Joe Hockey’s second bite at the budget cherry. Other power-hungry mediocrities, narcissists and Adlerian psychopaths assembled in the room, yawned, snatched a power nap or looked away in sheer disbelief, disinterest and disgust.

‘Bury me when I need publicly to tell other leaders my first year of failure’, Putin is believed to have muttered in contempt before resuming his jottings on calibrating the range of sea-borne tactical nuclear warheads. Abbott, however, thus ensured his own special place in history as the antipodean political bantam who fell asleep in public dreaming aloud of being a rooster. He would be forever, however, reviled by world leaders as a prime time waster and flashy narcissist, the excessively matey man in the tight shiny suit with the extreme comb-over who grabs your hand, holds you to his chest and breathes down your throat while pumping your hand into submission. Not letting go until every camera battery in the room is flattened.

Abbott did set the bar high in some respects. An ‘Abbott handshake’ is guaranteed to be top of the list of diplomatic no-nos for decades to come. Indeed, such was the flesh pressing exhibited by ‘I wanna hold your hand,’ Abbott that it has attracted the attention of clinicians world-wide and may in future be used in some form of stress test to be deployed by psychologists interested in researching human responses to the sudden invasion of personal space, physical over-sharing and violation of etiquette, decorum and other social norms.

Abbott’s bizarre behaviour on the first day of the G20 earned the censure of climate change experts world-wide including no less an authority than  Nicholas Stern who lamented the Australian Prime Minister’s need to successfully put political dogma ahead of the best interests of the rest of the world.’

It was, according to Stern and countless others, ‘outrageous.’ The nation’s women, meanwhile, were astonished to learn that whilst the talk-fest was underway, leaders’ wives had been escorted safely away from the realm of ideas, the dangers of controversy and the seat of power to a more feminine environment – photo-opportunities with furry animals. This acknowledgment of women’s roles and gracious concession to the more limited proper orbit of women’s perspectives, intelligence and attention spans, can only have been engineered by the Minister for Women himself, self-proclaimed ‘feminist’ Tony Abbott who has included one token woman head-prefect Julie ‘I did it my way’ Bishop in his cabinet and who continues unabated on his own, inimitable, lumbering run to fulfilment in his chosen role as his party’s gift to women, Tone, the tone-deaf piano tuner of Australian gender politics.

The shirt front that roared.

putin judo

When Tony Abbott threatened to ‘shirt front’ Putin, he put a lot on the line. He told journalists that he was going to shirt front the Russian president on the sidelines of G20 summit over the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner crash in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine in July.

What was he thinking? What did he hope to achieve? Who knows with Abbott? What is certain is that the gesture got him a lot of media interest. A bit of this was benign and non-intrusive. Some media types even looked up the term and explained thoughtfully on TV that it was an expression from Aussie Rules football. It was hopeful but did not really explain or excuse anything. The net effect, moreover, was to hang an albatross around Abbott’s neck.

Perhaps the shirt front was calculated to appeal to the alpha male. Perhaps it did win Abbott a flicker of attention if not admiration from macho types who believe that assertiveness equals being ready with your fists. Ironically, however, the same types would be irrevocably alienated by the lack of action. You can’t make a threat you are not prepared to carry out. Whatever modest gain in attention, the challenge is likely to have cost him further credibility. And the rest of us have probably had enough machismo to last a lifetime. Or Abbott’s political lifetime.

The shirtfront venue was first set for Brisbane at the G20 which Abbott is pretending to chair. Yet even Abbott subsequently realised that a shirt front was an unnecessary complication at a meeting which would require every ounce of his energy, just to appear to be in control. The distraction of an impending punch up out the back could be a tad distracting. Accordingly it was brought forward to APEC. (Entrepreneurs are probably hard at work as we speak creating an iPad  shirtfront booking app for that.) And there Abbott would be happy to let the matter lie. But some matters will not just lie down and die.

The shirt front is irresistible on many fronts. It conjures up an attractively incongruous image. Its inappropriateness appeals, especially given Abbott’s aspirations on the international stage. And the media would not leave it alone. Even as he stepped on to the carpet at his APEC meeting, there was a man or two chasing the PM with a microphone asking if ‘the shirt front was on’ at APEC. (APEC, by the way, is the meeting John Howard liked to talk up. APEC is the one where they all get dressed up in funny shirts for a photo opportunity. It is uncertain what else it achieves.)

In the event, there was no shirt front. Tony toned it down almost immediately. By the next day he was telling reporters that he was absolutely determined to have a very robust conversation with the Russian president.” Instead, he appears to have had a quick private whinge to Putin. No doubt he got on to the Russian leader’s complicity in the death of innocents in the shooting down of MH17. No doubt also Putin could have raised Australia’s appalling human rights record on asylum seekers and its recent indictment by the UN committee on torture.

It does not seem to have gone all that well. His promised great remonstration with the Russian leader is said to have lasted a whole fifteen minutes. He claims to have raised the issue of compensation by offering an indirect analogy. The US offered compensation when they accidentally shot down a passenger jet. Putin’s response is not known but can safely be guessed at it.

Ты меня достал! (You piss me off.)

The shirt front was more than an embarrassing gaffe. It will haunt Abbott for some time to come. It has got him the sort of attention that he would rather have done without. Naff. Limited. Testosteronic. Not flattering. Not useful. But enduring. And it even attracted the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. You know you are in trouble when Julie Bishop goes into bat for you.

Putting, as usual, an impossible spin on it, Bishop claimed this week that the term has now entered the diplomatic vernacular. It’s not a gaffe but a nifty new term for a diplomatic confrontation. Abbott did not lose control after all. On the contrary we should all be grateful for his talent as a wordsmith. Quite the Shakespeare of the world stage.

If you swallow that you are in deep trouble. Next you will be believing that Tony Abbott is capable of leading the G20 through the next meeting. Or that he has prepared for the task. Or that he has the capacity to follow the discussion, let alone make a useful contribution.

What is more likely is that this lapse will prove a defining moment. When the world leaders look up at him at the podium on 16 November in Brisbane, it is likely to be through the lens of the shirtfront. They will wonder how a man who has trouble being in charge of his lip could ever be in charge of anything bigger, even if the chairmanship of the G20 will last only a year. They will not be happy with his almost complete lack of preparation; his ideological bent towards letting the market sort things out for itself when many of them have put in the hard yards intervening to prevent financial meltdown. They will see a man with anger management issues, a man who has trouble keeping his temper. They will see a parochial primitive predisposed towards a reductive approach to conflict resolution, a sort of spaghetti western hero who will invite adversaries out the back where we can settle this with our bare fists, man to man. And they will be antagonised, if not downright angry. Who knows, one of them might offer to take him out the back and sort out his attitude for him.

Wimpy Bill goes to war.

In the latest of a series of disturbing and disappointing career moves including winning Labor Party leadership, second musketeer Bill, ’war for one and war for all’, Shorten has further diminished Labor’s electoral standing and dashed the hopes of decent working men and women throughout Australia. Yet, surely, it is at times such as these ordinary Australians need a voice and deserve a representative who will stand up for them. Instead Australians have been betrayed by lickspittle Bill eagerly stepping up for his own turn on the war drum, acting as Tony’s roadshow toady. It’s an alarming and dangerous turn of events: another out of step drummer is frankly not in the national interest. An effective Labor Leader of the Opposition is.

For those who must serve in uniform, short-shrift Shorten has helped to cruel their futures, cancelling some of them and aborting yet others. Rather than protect his followers, he has helped make things dangerous at home and deadly abroad. Shorten has aided and abetted PM Tony Abbott’s fetish for militarism by backing him in sending us to an undeclared war, a war which Abbott’s spin doctors insult the nation’s intelligence in calling a mission. Accidentally, the word ‘mission’ may be heading in the right direction if only because our over-eager acquiescence in the US military adventure is not unlike assuming the missionary position.

Whatever form of words you choose, however, this latest military adventure is a dangerous war game. We have no strategy, no end game and there is no prospect of anything but a long, protracted engagement in an alien environment against forces which are difficult to identify. Many will suffer. Death, serious injury or a lifetime of traumatic psychological disorder await the unwary, to say nothing of the suffering such military service will bring to the combatants’ families and the nation. Mission improbable will morph into a mission impossible which will rapidly outwear our current hysteria, our quickly whipped up appetite for vengeance against the evil anti-western death cult desert dwelling barbarians, a hate-inspiring phantasm, the constructed enemy of the moment, created by tabloid media assisted by the PM’s strategic communications media. the outcome of such an engagement is impossible to predict. The only certainty is that it will be protracted, expensive and ordinary people will suffer. Those who survive ISIS can look forward to a civilian life of alcoholism, ostracism, family breakdown, a rat shit pension and PTSD. Ordinary men and women are the ones who get sent to their deaths in war, Bill, not the scions of the elite. Surely you would have learned that at University.

Why is Labor’s leader tamely agreeing with Abbott on the need to go to war? Abbott’s not making sense. Never has. No compelling case for war has been articulated by our gung ho,trigger happy leader. And we know that the little Aussie scrapper has a history of anger management issues, an unhealthy interest in fights and physicality matched only by his unbecoming attraction to grandstanding, his predilection for posturing and his ruthless expediency, his capacity to do anything else that he thinks will win votes. Why indulge him? It’s irresponsible. It’s like shouting another drink to an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon. Perhaps Wimpy Bill has caught something. Perhaps he’s been careless with his prophylactics again. Is obsequious fawning an infectious disease? There’s been a fair bit of it about lately. Clearly the man’s not acting right. What compels him to join Labor to this latest conga line of suck-holes? What makes him think it is OK to go along with Tony’s going along with the USA and commit Australian troops to Iraq and Syria? We all know Abbott may be lacking in many things but the last thing the PM needs is help boosting his war lust or wimpy Bill cheering him on. Shorten has morphed into an embarrassing fan who claps the beat, whistles and throws his underwear on stage – or the moral equivalent of his underwear . Indecent is his haste: the curtain is barely up on the First Act.

Why is he doing it? If he knows he is not telling and his silence fuels unhealthy speculation that he is in it for self-interest, in the hope that the gravitas conferred by joining cause with the war effort will boost his credibility as a leader. Wet lettuce Willie Shorten has passed up on the need to offer any explanation or clearly articulated alternative position, preferring instead to whimper that Labor is bipartisan when Australia’s security is at stake. Bipartisan may be OK in key areas of public policy but here it is an unconvincing cop out. Our national security is not at stake, Mr Shorten, despite the government’s hysterical war propaganda, but it soon will be if you continue to support ‘Wall-Banger’ Abbott in committing troops to a cause rather than a conflicted military zone, a cause that will that will serve to put us fairly and squarely on the ISIS terror target map. As for your own or your party’s future, if you lie down with a dog of war, you wake up with fleas.

Committing our troops to serve in the Middle East will create more enemies than Rat f**k Rudd having a bad hair day. For despite Abbott’s spin, and the rhetoric of the coalition of the concerned, it is not a mission or a cause. It is not our freedoms that ISIS hates, Bill, it is US air strikes. ISIS does have a problem with being bombed and shot at or having a missile shower skewer their fundamentalism. It’s not an unreasonable reaction. Public decapitation in the name of Islam, however, is a means to an end for ISIS, a guaranteed way to get our attention which must be seen in historical context. Whilst Mr Abbott seizes on this with his pure evil death cult slogan and confects a cause from moral outrage it is vital to not confuse the causes with one barbaric symptom. Let us not ignore the long history and theological underpinnings of decapitation in the name of Islam and pretend that the task is an aberrant atrocity and let us not assume that our confected moral outrage is a just cause for  war. Challenge the government’s scare tactics by asking for empirical evidence of threats to our security and for evidence of  our attempts to deal with it before new laws make this even harder.

Enough of that dangerous ‘bipartisan’ drivel, Bill. Challenge Abbott to drop the demonising rhetoric of rampant evil and instead stick to the facts. Or do your own analysis and apply your own thinking. Now, Mr Shorten, it seems as if you are not really listening or understanding, so let us put it as simply as we can. An Opposition is meant to keep the government in check not lie down and let it walk all over you. You are leader of the opposition, not Tony’s double or cheer squad. People look to you to for leadership and they expect you to be independent from the vested interests of the machinery of war. Ordinary people expect you to stand for something and they need you to represent them. They look to you to ask the hard questions and they have a right to expect you to act in their best interests; the interests of ordinary Australians. They do not expect you to throw your hat in the ring with Abbot’s: into the dirty whirlpool of the war monger who deals in death; who denies our common humanity; whose evil business may destroy us all.

Terror Alert

Australia’s least popular and most incompetent Prime Minister of all time, ‘Mad Monk’ Tony Abbott has once again alarmed the entire nation today with a bizarre outburst of rabid ranting and incoherent, irrational paranoid drivel. Indeed, so lacking in reason, decorum and any other apparent foundation, was his behaviour that many took his appearance to be an early Liberal Party sponsored election advertisement. Others believed they detected the effects of too much time in the company of attack dog Morrison given the Minister’s propensity for speaking in tongues and his notorious random outbursts of mindless fury. Fox and other purveyors of overpriced cable and satellite TV were swamped with calls from new subscribers determined to switch off their free to air TV for good. I don’t care if it’s the Discovery Channel 24/7 one woman explained, as long as I never have to look at that lunatic again.

Interrupting daytime television news broadcasts, Abbott’s grotesquely distorted face and hysterical gibbering terrified women and children forced to stay at home alone clustered together for protection in front of their plasma or LCD TV whilst their menfolk suddenly headed for local parks to commence Tai Chi, origami, Feng Shui and other martial arts training.

The Prime Minister’s broadcast is reported to have also caused dole bludgers in Balmain and other home grown radical Islamists to rush chemists, supermarkets and convenience stores to buy heavy duty shaving gear and exfoliation equipment and to burn their brothers’ passports lest they be apprehended trying to leave the country.

Looking grave with a capital G and no Abu, Abbott babbled insanely and volubly warning as behoves his new role as Napoleon Cockatoo. We must share with everyone of you today, the high, huge, and extreme risk facing every Australian citizen from evil, sinful Jihadist terrorists abroad whose wanton depravity knows no boundaries. They hate our way of life he added, twitching. Our values. They love falafel.

Looking ever more like Dicky Knee, Dick the dentist’s son, Tony was supported on camera by retiring ASIO Chief, David Irvine who looked to be playing Daryl Somers judging by the hand up Abbott’s back. Irvine, aka Colonel Codswallop, who was played by Barry Humphries with a bad hangover slowly mumbled the same paranoid fantasies that got him the ASIO job in the first place and waved an elderly service revolver off camera for rhetorical emphasis. Codswallop who looks as if he could smother a tactical nuclear device simply by covering it with his vast, rumpled doughy face was holding Abbott’s hand and other parts of his anatomy as they came into his camera shot.

Regrettably the broadcast was abruptly terminated when an explosion off screen appeared to deprive the studio of electricity. A clearly terrified Abbott was witnessed leaping across the studio into Irvine’s arms and calling for his mother. Both men appeared to be in a state of mutual terror or on the verge of a complete breakdown.