My mother told me

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate

Posted Thursday, 16 July 2015

My mother told me, when I was growing up in Gympie, that if I could not say anything nice then I shouldn’t say anything at all. She also told me I should always tell the truth. This presents me with a dilemma because I was intending to describe Tony Abbott’s record in government since he became prime minister.

During the time of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments he was a ruthless opposition leader. I had the sense that there was nothing he wouldn’t do or say if he thought it would advance his chance of becoming prime minister. He mastered the art of pretending that good social and economic policy making required only three-word sloganeering: “Axe the Tax”, “Stop the Boats”, “Ditch the Witch” and so forth.

Just prior to the election Abbott promised there would be no cuts to education, health or pensions, no cuts to the ABC or SBS and no cuts to superannuation. He claimed to be in lock step with Labor in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski Educational reforms. Abbott’s first budget following his elevation to leader of the government revealed he made substantive cuts to both the ABC and SBS, he wanted to cut pensioners’ income and wanted to impose a co-charge on visits to the doctor and he wanted cuts to school and university funding. In addition he slashed $500 million from Indigenous funding whilst at the same time declaring he wanted to be the prime minister for Aborigines. He foreshadowed cuts to state governments of $80 million in the areas of health and education in the forward years.

Treasurer Hockey was running around like a chook with his head cut off proclaiming the end of “The age of entitlement”. The government managed to pass legislation that will end a Labor Party initiative, which provided $500 per year supplementation to the superannuation accounts of people earning less than $37,000 per annum. They also have managed to get through the parliament legislation that will cancel the school kids’ bonus that helped with educational costs. Both these schemes will go just after the next election if the Coalition remains in office. For further details see Mike Seccombe’s “The $14.2 billion election fantasy” in The Saturday Paper, July 11-17, pages 1 & 10-11.

Abbott has managed to cut pension payments to some wealthy part-pensioners but is refusing to interfere with the overly generous superannuation tax concessions that the government’s financial inquiry found provided 60 per cent of the tax breaks to the top 20 per cent of wealth earners and 37 per cent going to the top 10 per cent. It would appear that the end of “The Age of Entitlement” is nothing the big end of town should worry about.

Recently the government said it will not honour an agreement signed by Gillard and South Australian governments in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme whereby the Federal government would meet unforeseen cost overruns. It has only guaranteed funding for the Gonski Educational reforms for a couple of years.

Abbott is squarely in the pocket of fossil fuel extractors; he has abolished a price on carbon, proclaimed that “Coal is good for humanity”, slashed the renewable energy target and even included in the renewable energy target the burning of forest residue. He has instructed the government agency set up by Labor to promote renewable energy not to fund wind turbines or roof top solar. Abbott claims to not longer to be a climate change denier but when he stopped beating this drum is not entirely clear. His Minister for the Environment recently gave the Federal go ahead to the 35 square kilometre open cut Shenhua Coal Mine “in the hill country” of the Liverpool Plains, one of the richest farming areas in Australia.

The world is rushing headlong towards an increase of 2 degrees, the acidification of the oceans, the intensification of adverse weather event leading to increasingly dangerous storm activity and more frequent droughts in semi-arid areas, significant rises in sea levels which will inundate vast food producing areas displacing millions of the poorest people. The world already has over 50 million displaced people more than at any time since the Second World War. The last thing that is needed is ever more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

For a while it looked like he may have allowed a conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality and that he’d just try to put off the vote for as long as he could but it now appears that on this issue, like so many others, he will do and say anything which assists him to have his own way. The way Abbott operates has all the hallmarks of a psychopathic personality. There have been several unfortunate “captain picks”: the knighting of Prince Phillip perhaps the most damaging for this egomaniac.

Abbott has made many decisions in relation to asylum seekers arriving by boat none of which could be described as generous. Many of the decisions are in breach of international conventions and agreements Australia has signed and ratified. He, Morrison and Dutton have demonstrated that they are incapable of providing protection from physical, mental and sexual violence inflicted on children, women and men held in offshore detention centres. They are slowly driving these asylum seekers insane. This is a crime against humanity. Abbott, Morrison and Dutton should be dragged before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. They make most of the sociopaths who are brought before this court look like half decent people.

Abbott and Co claim they have stopped the boats. But who really knows what is happening in the waters to our North or in the concentration camps run on Manus and Nauru. The parliament has passed laws that prevent those who know what is happening speaking about what they know. But we do know that children and their parents are being driven mad. It is fairly certain that some Australian officials paid the crew of at least one boat and probably more to return to Indonesia. They have desperately tried to shut up the Gillian Trigg the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. What they are doing is putting our service personnel in situations where many will develop post-traumatic stress as a result of being ordered to carry out unconscionable actions against unarmed asylum seekers.

Abbott the wannabe prime minister for Aborigines is only interested in promotion of the assimilation of Aborigines. He doesn’t want them to be able to maintain their culture and links to homelands. He is forcing them to move into overcrowded larger centres. One would have thought that after 227 of white fellows thinking they know what is best for Aborigines that it would behove a wannabe prime minister for Aborigines to at least listen to what Aboriginal people themselves are saying about how they want to create their future. That would require some humility – a trait in which this prime minister is sorely lacking.

Now that I have nearly reached the end of this lets look at the present prime minister of this country I realise that I have only accomplished half of my mother’s injunctions. I have attempted to tell the truth as I see it but have failed to say anything nice about the man. Why is that?

If I look at his predecessors over the last 30 years all of whom I have criticised for one thing or another it might help explain the absence of praise for this man Abbott.

Hawke was able to build a consensus and bring people along with him. Keating was an excellent parliamentary performer and he left us the Redfern speech “we took the children… we brought the grog”. Howard bought back many guns after the Port Arthur massacre and got Indonesia out of East Timor. Rudd saw Howard and his “work choices” off at a time when no one else had a chance in hell of doing so and he did say “sorry” to the stolen generations. Gillard was able to operate in a hung parliament and still get important legislation through.

Abbott the cultural warrior, a budgie smuggling exhibitionist, with all the subtlety of a bare fisted pugilist, a flag waving pseudo nationalist nutter who would not look out of place with the pro-Russian Ukraine separatists, a debater not an orator, in order to make a point he often resorts to dumbed down repetition. One only has look at the footage of him in his Borderforce leather jacket to understand that here is a egotist looking for a fight. His need for exercise-induced endorphins to keep himself under control leaves me with the sense that the man is stark raving mad.