Tony Abbott will remain prime minister until after the NSW election on March 28, Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli Cove on April 25 and his second federal Budget in May. Then all bets are off.
His survival is directly linked to this week’s poll which tested public opinion on federal Liberal leadership.
Malcolm Turnbull easily topped the poll as preferred prime minister with 39% (up 4% in a month), followed by Julie Bishop on 24% and Abbott 19% (less than half Turnbull’s rating).
Now do the maths. In a leadership spill Abbott would be knocked out of contention in the first ballot with all his votes then going to Bishop. None to Turnbull.
Therefore, in the second ballot, Bishop would win the leadership by 43 votes to Turnbull’s 39. This explains Turnbull’s decision to park his leadership ambitions in the fridge – but only temporarily. Last Tuesday night he gave an interview to Leigh Sales on ABC TV’s 7.30 programme expressing his devout loyalty to Abbott and praising him as “a very intelligent, courageous, brave man, a very thoughtful guy.”
A pity this year’s Oscars have already been awarded because Turnbull’s performance oozed insincerity and tactical brilliance.
Abbott cannot afford to make any further embarrassing mistakes and pratfalls in the coming weeks. On all previous evidence, this seems highly unlikely.
Abbott is a child of B A Santamaria and the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). As I’ve observed before, he will drag the Liberal Party of Australia into division and derision rather than vacate the prime ministership. His ultimate loyalty isn’t to the Liberal Party at all but to his own naked ambition.
Ambition is a noble characteristic in all those who wish to contribute to building a better world. It becomes a destructive virus when it is swamped by vanity, selfishness and arrogance.
Eugene O’Neill revisited
American playwright Eugene O’Neill who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936 and won Pulitzers for drama in 1920, 1922, 1928 and 1957, was the subject of political persecution by the FBI and successive US governments.
One of his finest works, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, has recently been rescued from obscurity and restaged on Broadway.
But missing from the tributes was any reference to the vile harassment he faced during his lifetime. The nightmarish mental terror drove him into melancholia, isolation and alcoholism.
Fresh research proves that the FBI investigated him for treason after he told reporters he was a “philosophic anarchist” who deplored the way the US establishment was dominated by philistinism and a money-grubbing culture.
The US was losing its soul as it sought to dominate the world, he said. That was in 1924 before US hegemony and globalisation became common currency in public debate.
At the same time, the New York Police Department attempted to ban his play, The Hairy Ape, as “obscene, indecent and impure”.
There was also an unbelievably ignorant attack on his work, God’s Chillun Got Wings, in which a white woman kissed the hands of an African American, first played by singer Paul Robeson, describing the scene as “miscegenation propaganda” and the production provoked death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. (See Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts by Robert M Dowling, Yale University Press 2015).
In recent years, O’Neill has been deconstructed and found guilty of sexism, resulting in his virtual banishment from stage production.
Michael Billington, the legendary London Guardian critic, dealt with the banal vulgarity of this form of censorship a few years ago when he wrote:
“In younger, rasher days I sometimes advocated theatrical vetoes. One of the silliest things I ever wrote was a suggestion that The Taming of the Shrew should be dropped from repertory because of its sexual brutality.
“Since then I’ve seen countless productions that, without whitewashing the play, have placed it in its proper historical and emotional context.
“And this gets to the root of the matter. We may not like or approve of everything we see on stage. But it seems to me an act of vanity – not to mention vandalism – to demand that every play from the past chimes with modern tastes and sensibilities.” (The Guardian, 29 May 2007).
Bye bye, Fred
The cheers from the University of NSW campus have been deafening as Fred Hilmer left his job as vice chancellor after eight years.
If anything, the celebrations were bigger than those which followed Hilmer’s departure from Fairfax, a Brezhnev-like era which dragged the media company into the depths of abject mediocrity.
Throughout his Fairfax and UNSW careers, Hilmer earned salaries of record size while retaining his splendidly paid position on the board of Frank Lowy’s Westfield Group. The words “conflict of interest” were never mentioned and never arose.
His successor at UNSW, Professor Ian Jacobs, is an English-born medical researcher with a very impressive career in women’s health, cancer, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Jacobs seems to be genuinely interested in the university’s academic and administrative staff, students and in lifting the campus’s intellectual life and its community engagement.
What a change from Hilmer’s obsession with “processes”, “outcomes”, “performance measurement”, “market forces” and “deregulation”. And the bonus? The university has been saved from being renamed Westfield.
Army shame contd.
A group of Coalition MPs recently showed the true meaning of bipartisanship on policy supporting Aboriginal Australians.
During a speech by Opposition leader Bill Shorten to Federal Parliament on the annual Closing the Gap report, a selection of racist scum from the Coalition walked out of the chamber.
They were later named as: Andrew Nikolic, Russell Broadbent, Angus Taylor, John Cobb, Ken O’Dowd and Melissa Price.
A couple of weeks later after his “near-death experience” in the party room, Tony Abbott sacked Chief Whip Phillip Ruddock and promoted Nikolic, a former army brigadier who represents the Tasmanian seat of Bass, to the position of government whip.
By promoting the Mad Brigadier, the Mad Monk has locked in another hard right supporter who will now act as his enforcer.
Look out for him on television. He’s always at Abbott’s side: he’s the one with the dead hamster on his head.
Quote of the month
“I couldn’t bat, I couldn’t bowl, I couldn’t field, but I could sledge, and I think I held my place in the team on this basis and I promise there’ll be none of that today.”
– Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a reception to open the ICC Cricket World Cup speaking about his cricketing days at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.