Circling the Drain

At the risk of beating the same old drum, this current Government seems to be heading steadily down the ethical and moral drain, ever since the unexpected election win. So much of the country’s malaise, however, can be traced back to the ascension of one Tony Abbott, firstly as Opposition Leader, and then, unbelievably, as Prime Minister.

He was a surprise, because no-one believed he would ever be elected to lead anything. He was universally derided for his open and unashamed Catholicism, and his awkwardness with language, and his seeming inability to move into the 21st century. He was the polar opposite of progressive, and seen as something of a likeable dinosaur.

He had an unexpected skill, however. This special skill lay in his ability to focus on a single, simplistic theme, and then to carry the fight on, daily, against both his own moderate fellow-Liberals, and also against Julia Gillard, until the death. This ‘theme’ was the carbon price, still the best and only successful mechanism so far tried in Australia, to combat climate change. So it became his mania, and we still suffer from his short-term-ism, his willingness to throw Australia under a bus, in pursuit of his own political advancement.

He came to embody opposition; he lived the dictum of the (British) Whig Mr Tierney, “the duty of an Opposition was very simple—it was to oppose everything and propose nothing.” He was in the right place at the right time – Kevin Rudd and Abbott destroyed Gillard’s Government, and allowed the election of Abbott, as Prime Minister.

He set about dismantling Australia’s pact with its citizens, from day 1. Perhaps his most unpopular act was to break an election promise NOT to cut the funding to the ABC. Of course he did, because he had warned us, back in his Opposition Leader days, that he was somewhat flexible with the truth.

Now if there is one thing Australians hold dear – it is the ABC. If you want a simple test as to whether someone despises the people of Australia, see who wants to dismantle, or hobble, or sell, or just remove funding from, the ABC.

The reason is that we all value information, and we expect it to be delivered without bias, and we don’t want Rupert Murdoch or Kerry Stokes to have had a say in what form, or how, it is delivered. It is profoundly undemocratic to stifle the voice of the public broadcaster, and cutting its funding is just another way to bell the cat, to keep us in ignorance. And it removes oversight; it allows the political class to escape scrutiny.

The list of assassins is long, and it includes people like Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Simon Birmingham, Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Mitch Fifield, Bridget McKenzie, James Patterson and Anne Ruston, to name a few. Oddly the names are eerily similar to the lists of middle aged people, who are angry with Greta Thunberg, who think schools are for learning, but not about thinking, and who disapprove of same-sex marriage. One can only wonder at the double standards shown by the Nationals on the list, because they know full well how much regional Australians value their ABC.

Of course we all rued the days of Abbott, and we were all desperate to escape him; we were all hugely relieved when seemingly someone adult took over. But he never could, really. Abbott held Turnbull as a prisoner, and he led his posse of wreckers on a kamikaze mission to destroy Turnbull, all the while trying to dismantle the renewable energy industry, and to hamstring Australia’s efforts to deal with climate change. This was not necessarily because he did not believe, (although it is still impossible to know where he stands on the issue), but purely for reasons of personal vindication. So much for service to the community.

His successor fought the good fight, for as long as he could, but a combination of political ineptitude, and his opponents’ bloody-mindedness, finally did him in. It appeared to be a coup, by Abbott’s supporters, at the expense of the Australian people. How depressing to discover that we had a choice between the devil, and the deep blue sea: Peter Dutton, or Scott Morrison.

Abbott had the gall to then state that he was finally satisfied, because Turnbull was no longer PM. He behaved as if removing Turnbull was a noteworthy achievement. Remember that Abbott had promised, “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”

If there is an individual who bears responsibility for our ‘fall from grace’ it is Abbott. He is the most shameless politician I have ever seen, seemingly unable to reflect on his legacy of malice, perfidy and personal aggrandisement. I struggle to find a single achievement to honour him for. He said last week that he remains ready to serve. Please God, no.

And of course we have him to thank, for the miracle that is Scott Morrison.

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