Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fifty-six going on fourteen: the Australian Prime Minister

Hello, world. I know the rest of you out there probably don’t care much about Australia and Australian politics. No, not Austria, Australia. Many of you probably don’t know where Australia is (take a peek down there at the bottom right of most world maps). Most of you probably think Melbourne or Sydney is the capital city. I’m sure many of you think ‘Alf’ from Home and Away is our prime minister. Or Crocodile Dundee. Or Dame Edna Everage. Okay, many of you probably don’t know who any of those people are. Although more of you might have heard of them than of our actual Prime Minster, a certain Tony Abbott. Yes, I get it: when I talk about Australian politics and politicians, most of the world doesn’t even bother stifling its yawn.

But think of us down here. Please think of us and the burden we bear. Tony Abbott is almost fifty-seven years old (in November), a few months younger than me. So, a mature adult with lots of experience, right? Unfortunately we have a national leader who has a vastly inflated sense of his own importance on the world stage and of his place in history. We have a leader who prides himself on reducing very serious national and world issues to two and three word slogans. You can read the delight on his face when he comes up with his latest slogan which he will say once, then again... and yes, again, within the space of a few breaths. He has it! He has his headline grabbing slogan! I can picture him running home to his wife (or perhaps his mummy [mommy for US readers—I’m not referring to dead Egyptians wrapped up in bandages]): ‘Look at me! Look at me! I’m on the front page again!’

This is the man who reduces important issues to the level of the school sports day: We are all called to be part of Team Australia [read: Team Abbott]. He is so happy when he sees us jumping up and down in place: ‘Ooooh, pick me, Tony! Pick me!’ Thanks to our illustrious Prime Minister, we can now be assured that it’s okay to go back into Iraq, for the third time, because ISIL (or whatever it is today) is a ‘death cult’. Never mind hundreds and even thousands of years of history in that region, of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and centuries of interference from the West. It can all be nicely summed up in a two word label: death cult. It’s all safely and neatly packaged away.

This is the man who threatened to ‘shirt front’ Vladimir Putin when he comes to Australia for the G20 meeting in November. For those of you who have no idea what ‘shirt front’ means, pop over to You Tube where I’m sure you will find plenty of examples—it is a term from Australia’s home grown brand of football. Yep, that’s really mature and constructive, Tony. Tony really knows how to calm down a volatile situation with carefully considered words. In the meantime, Putin swats the mosquito buzzing in his ear.

Whenever I see Tony Abbott, whenever I hear him speak, what comes to mind is the school yard, during those first two or three terrifying years in high school. To a thirteen or fourteen year old boy, everything’s pretty straightforward. No need to think, really, testosterone does that for us. The school bully or, even worse, that dreaded high school prefect: that’s our Tony. It’s all about getting to the top of the pile and imposing our will upon those below us. An argument reaches the dizzying heights of:

‘Yes I can!’

‘No you can’t!’

‘Yes I can!’

‘No you...’

So if any of you out there in the world of grownups are thinking of visiting Australia, be very careful. Tony Abbott might just want to shove your head down the toilet bowl and flush.

Raise your glasses. Here’s to our illustrious Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, fifty-six going on fourteen.

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