Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tony Abbott's Lacklustre Legacy

I am always hesitant to discuss Australian politics in this blog because most readers within Australia care only the tiniest fraction more about Australian politics than readers outside Australia. But am I completely deluding myself in believing that on Monday night, when Tony Abbott was dumped as PM, there was a spontaneous sigh of relief across the nation? And did I not, perhaps, hear an echo of that sigh from some of our nearest neighbours?

While I should have been working I have been trawling the internet in search of anything positive that might have been written about Abbott’s legacy. I came up with nothing, zippo, nada. Admittedly, I have not tuned in to any Andrew Bolts or Alan Joneses, Abbott’s rightwing media worshippers. Are they still trying to argue, I wonder, that Tone was a good PM? One rightwing conservative commentator on the TV show Q&A (ABC Australia) on Monday night tried to do so, to an outbreak of derisive laughter. In contrast, when the news of Abbott’s demise was announced on that same show there was a spontaneous outbreak of applause that lasted quite some time. Thirty-nine percent of the audience were supporters of the conservative coalition government led by Abbott.

Those desperate to demonstrate what a good PM he was will no doubt continue to trumpet his three negative achievements: preventing boatloads of asylum seekers from reaching Australian shores, abolishing a tax on carbon and abolishing a tax on large mining corporations. That’s it, the litany we heard on Abbott’s lips from the first few months of his prime ministership to its last days. Only about a week ago Abbott was asked on another ABC current affairs show what he had done for the economy. ‘Well, Lee,’ he replied, ‘we stopped the boats ...’

Abbott’s legacy is laughable. It’s difficult to see how history can ever be re-written on this one.

I do not know how the new PM, Malcolm Turnbull, will turn out in the long run. There is a slight euphoria in the air at the moment. Perhaps it’s no more than the sense of relief you get when you stop hitting your head against the wall. However short-lived, I’ll enjoy it for the moment. Of course, there are some who have unkindly pointed out that a turnip would have made a better PM than Tony Abbott ever did. Tony Abbot was so bad that anyone after him must look good—for a while anyway.

There are many who say of Tony Abbott that he is a ‘nice man’ or a ‘good bloke’. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t say one way or the other. Maybe Robert Mugabe and Vladimir Putin—or a host of other dubious leaders—are also good blokes. Bashar al Assad might be a riot around the BBQ. Hitler loved his dog, Blondi. And before you trample me under foot I am not comparing Abbott to these people. I am merely pointing out that even the worst among us is not devoid of some redeeming qualities. In the end, being a good bloke is simply not good enough: what we need is a good leader. Whether our new PM turns out to be that leader only time will tell. As someone who does not support the conservative side of politics (surprised?) I sincerely hope so.


  1. Yes indeed Philip. Relief. Even people who voted for his Royal Tory/ness couldn't quite believe how our International reputation went down the gurgler.
    Funny how the pollsters reckon Turnbull is popular with Laborites. I thought it was my own little secret!

  2. Thanks for you comment, Julie. Had a quick look at your Blog. I have never been a member of the Labor Party, although I have always harboured leftist pretentions. I confess to having joined the Australian Democrats in South Australia many years ago, when they still stood for something. Cheers, Philip.

  3. Hi Philip. I do like your site! Co-incidentally just yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with an Australian guy who ran David Cameron's campaign during the last UK elections (he also stood as a Labour candidate in Australia some years ago too I think). He made some interesting points about why and how people vote: basically it's to do with how much the candidate seems to understand their lives and resonate with the issues that matter to them and their families (how David Cameron got in on that one I can't imagine but that's just personal opinion). Another interesting fact he informed us of was that voting is compulsory in Australia and I wondered how citizens feel about that? I can see arguments for and against and not sure how it would work here in Northern Ireland (another conundrum all of it's own!).

  4. Hi Roberta. It's always good to hear comments from outside Australia. We often wonder what the rest of the world thinks of us. It has to be said that Tony Abbott was an exceptionally bad PM. There are few - outside a tiny core of fervent supporters - who are sad to see him go. He simply had NONE of the qualities that we might expect in a good leader. I hesitate to speak for the entire Australian population, but my feeling is that we take compulsory voting for granted. Of course, there is always some moaning and whingeing when an election comes along, but overall I think we see compulsory voting as a good thing. I certainly do. I think it is an excellent antidote to what would otherwise be widespread apathy.