Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Some final words on the Tony Abbott nightmare

Abbott’s sour farewell speech in Canberra confirmed his inappropriateness to be prime minister.
Can anyone remotely imagine Bob Menzies, Malcolm Fraser or John Howard telling the nation “We are not the Labor Party” when leaving the prime ministership?
But Abbott was still boxing shadows and the anti-Labor fantasies he acquired in his adolescence when he joined B.A. Santamaria’s Soldiers for Christ.
He also told a howling porky which had the Press Gallery choking in disbelief: “There will no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping. I’ve never leaked or backgrounded against anyone and I certainly won’t start now.”
The fact is that Abbott is a consummate wrecker and leaker. That is what he is renowned for: it’s his thing.
So why did he say it? Perhaps in his own demented way he was making a confession and seeking absolution for past crimes and promising not to do it again. But who really knows? I’m only speculating.
When I wrote months ago that Abbott was the worst prime minister since Billy McMahon I was upbraided by a reader who maintained that Abbott was much worse than McMahon.
On reflection, I tend to agree. McMahon was a hopeless dope who dithered, schemed and trivialised his prime ministership to the point of farce.
On the other hand, Abbott conscientiously went about attacking modernity, science and intellectual debate and driving the nation into an economic and cultural backwater.

The Team Abbott

The media has largely overlooked the considerable effort made by many prominent people over many years to propel Abbott into The Lodge. He couldn’t have done it without them.
They include Santamaria whom he regarded as “the greatest living Australian”. He’s now dead.
Riverview priest and high society networker Father Emmet Costello was another. Abbott said that he was second only to his father as “the most important male influence on my life”. Costello is dead too.
He was picked for a Rhodes Scholarship by Dyson Heydon, the former High Court judge now prosecuting Abbott’s war on the unions, Bill Shorten and Julia Gillard.
When he returned from Oxford University his patrons became the media moguls and political wire-pullers, Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
Along the way, he picked up the backing of right-wing broadcaster Alan Jones, Ocker public relations oaf John Singleton, rising Liberal politician John Howard and a collection of reactionary ratbags from the political, media and academic classes. They included former ABC chairman and climate change denier Maurice Newman and corporate know-all Tony Shepherd.

Post-Abbott bad blood

In the closing weeks of Abbott’s rule, Rupert Murdoch made clear that he had abandoned “The Mad Monk”. Others who withdrew their support were Sydney shock jocks Alan Jones and Ray Hadley and Murdoch columnists Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine.
They had decided Abbott should be replaced by Scott Morrison, son of a Sydney copper and a Christian fundamentalist of “stop the boats” notoriety.
Malcolm Turnbull got wind of their plot to overthrow Abbott. They intended knifing him in the days following the September 19 Canning by-election and installing Morrison.
Turnbull was forced to take pre-emptive action. He decided to challenge Abbott on Monday, September 14, five days before the by-election. His surprise, high-risk move was like an Exocet missile. It struck Abbott amidships and threw the Jones-Bolt plotters into total confusion and left them with no time to stop the Turnbull bandwagon.
Since Turnbull’s victory by 54 votes to 44, the ragbag of plotters have turned on each other. Bolt has attacked Chris Mitchell (no relation), editor-in-chief of The Australian, Hadley has attacked Scott Morrison and Liberal right-wingers are lamenting their lost opportunity to replace Abbott with Morrison.
Murdoch and his nutty associates were outmanoeuvred by the quick-footed Turnbull. They are now considering crazier options.
Could hard rightist Cory Bernardi, an Abbott protégé, lead a Tea Party-style faction within the Liberal Party? It would be a replica of the Tea Party operation within the US Republican Party which provides Murdoch’s Fox TV with a 24/7 audience of crackpots.
The proposal is being actively floated to see if it will attract any Liberal backbench support. I just hope someone is writing a gallows comedy opera of these side-splitting events.

Labour’s ermined rats

British Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a leaf out of Tony “The Mad Monk” Abbott’s play book by announcing a “captain’s pick” of new barons and baronesses for the House of Lords.
Cameron has enraged public opinion by naming 45 new peers, including large donors to the Tory Party, retired MPs and Conservative staffers.
One of the newly-appointed lords is Douglas Hogg who attained national notoriety by claiming $5,000 in MPs’ expenses to clean the moat on his country estates and employ a mole catcher. Others are Michelle Mone, founder of the Ultimo lingerie brand who is a screaming Tory and recently appointed “entrepreneurship tsar” for areas of high unemployment, and lobbyist Stuart Polak, chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel described as “beyond doubt the most well-connected and probably the best-funded of all Westminster lobbying groups”.
The Old Etonian PM has now appointed new lords at a faster rate than any prime minister since life peerages began in 1958; he’s chosen 102 Tory peers since taking office in 2010.
The Lords now has 826 members, making it the most populous parliamentary chamber in the world. The recent influx of Cameron appointees will cost the taxpayer an additional $2.2 million a year.
The net operating cost of the sheltered clubhouse in 2014/15 was $150 million with members entitled to a daily allowance of $750, or $320 on official visits away from Westminster.
Unsurprisingly, the British Labour Party – before the election of
new leader Jeremy Corbyn – has been up to its neck in these lamentable shenanigans.
Eight Blairites have accepted ermine robes in an obscene spectacle of jobs for the boys and girls. They are: Ex-Cabinet ministers David Blunkett, former MP for Sheffield Brightside, Alistair Darling, former MP for Edinburgh South, Peter Hain, former MP for Neath, Tessa Jowell, former MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Paul Murphy, former MP for Torfaen, David Watts, former MP for St Helens North, Dawn Primarolo, former MP for Bristol South, and Spencer Livermore, a former “senior strategist” for the Labour Party.
The new Labour peers share something else in common: they all supported the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Say no more.

Character reference

Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s slide in public opinion polls has been hastened by the arrival of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
One of my constant readers has emailed me to describe Shorten as “a Xaverian twerp with the shifty eyes of an upskirter”. I don’t know what it means but I like it.

Great media correction

“Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as ‘the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years’. This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian’. We apologise for the error.” (The Times, 11 August 2015).


  1. I’m still stunned by Abbott’s call for media to lift their game and not be used as “the assassin’s knife” during his farewell speech. No-one took more advantage of a biased media than Abbott’s lot. They used it on a daily basis. The one time it goes against him he whinges. Unbelievable.
    He seems to be able to delude himself. Like all those times he would look down the camera and say he hasn’t lied to the public when he so very obviously had.
    Nope, he had to go. I think history will see this as a pretty dark time in Australian politics.

  2. Oh for the pen of Shakespeare. Remember the scene when Bolingbroke finally seized the crown and divided courtiers bowed reverentially? Will Australian voters now better understand the appalling state of play they created over the last two years? Bill, no need to joust with petulant slogans. Game has lifted. A tougher gig.

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