Who on earth writes Tony Abbott’s speeches? Whoever it is, says Anne Byam, they provide us with some gems of wisdom.
Relaxing at 5 pm, with a nice red wine and my current book, before
preparing dinner. An hour is not long and suddenly it’s 6 pm and the
TV absolutely MUST be turned on . . .
It’s News Time.
The one hour that I dread above all others, especially these days.
Headlines are broadcast, and then it starts . . . a murder or two,
traffic accidents, what someone said outside a court room, flooding in
the city, and occasionally a delightful story (only one a night mind you
– can’t have too much of a good thing ) . . . about animal antics . . .
zoo cuties, the latest baby elephant capers, dog bravery etc. Always a
welcome diversion from the misery that is ‘news’.
And somewhere in the middle of all this it happens. The Abbott appears.
Displaying the oft-used ‘ready for a punch-up’ position, hands
already outstretched, and fingers pointing in all the wrong directions
(someone is really going to punch him in the beak one day for giving
them the victory sign backwards) he is ready. The first word is
sometimes OK – followed by the inevitable ahs and ums, which is maybe a
nervous trait, or else he’s waiting for his next cue.
I look away, use the microwave which is noisy, and hope I don’t actually hear anything.
But I do. Heaven help me, I do. Because I am inextricably drawn to
watch whatever gaffe he might deliver next. And I am rarely, if ever,
disappointed. It can become a bit of an addiction, this ‘Abbott
Hope springs eternal, that the bloke might say something that is
somewhere near the mark of sense, compassion . . . and a smidgin of
understanding – not only of Australia and Australians, but any other
subject he’s speaking on or chest beating about.
I’m still waiting.
Oh – I beg your pardon. There was a genuine comment or two about the tragedy that was MH17 being shot down on 17th
July . . . and the grief it had caused all Australians – and their
families. He began contacting families of the deceased, on July 21st.
A few days later (July 24th) he announces to the
Australian public that the ‘bodies must be retrieved very quickly, as
they are now at the mercy of the heat, the weather and animals’ (not
verbatim. but very very close).
Just how great is that for a statement? How delightful. Even if the
close families of the victims did not see the telecast, I’m willing to
bet the extended family and friends did. If it made me feel ill, what
on earth did it do to those who knew the victims?
And so it rolls on . . . the gaffes galore grubber . . . staggering
his way through speeches in a monotonous drone while enjoying every
moment of his time in front of the cameras, centre stage – yet again!
I keep thinking – “well that’s the worst he could possibly come up
with” – or words to that effect, after I have considered the cost it
might incur if I actually did throw a hefty vase at the TV screen. I am
usually by this time, purple with rage. And my language is very, very
Now he’s outdone himself – yet again. Claiming that the day Captain
Arthur Phillip arrived and set foot on Australian soil, was the defining
moment in the history of our land.
Apparently, the reference to ‘white’ settlement was mentioned by
Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister; someone who perhaps has been
listening too long to the way Tony Abbott uses the English language. The
word ‘white’ need never have been uttered . . . not because of
political correctness or lack thereof, but simply because it’s wrong on
most accounts. The land was simply land – new land – on which there were
a number of odd, never before seen animals, and some naked people with
skin that appeared to be black. It also probably didn’t look too
hopeful for agriculture at the time either.
On August 21st Tony Abbott proudly unveiled a bust of
Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, at the
Museum of Sydney. It was reported that Dame Marie Bashir – who has
collected all of Phillips journals, mentioned that he (Phillip) had an
“underlying ambition to treat aborigines and convicts with respect.” Got
to wonder about that one! Over 50% of the First Fleet passengers were
convicts sent. The first ship of the first fleet arrived in January
1788. (read here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-30/pm-comment-on-defining-moment-angers-indigenous-groups/5707926).
If one were to be totally pedantic about the whole thing, Van Diemen
would have to get at least half a guernsey – just for sending a
navigator under his command – Abel Tasman, to chart the island of Van
Diemen’s Land in 1642. It was renamed Tasmania, obviously after Abel
As for Captain Cook, he was commissioned to search the South Pacific
to look for the rich southern continent of Terra Australis. He charted
the north eastern coastline then shot through to New Zealand, which he
charted in its entirety. So surely his arrival date at Terra Australis
should rate a mention. He also managed to get into “Stingray Bay“ and
re-named Botany Bay . . . after the unique specimens retrieved by
botanists on board the “Endeavour”. It was also at Botany Bay that James
Cook made first contact with the Indigenous Gweagal people.
The real Australia! The true Australia! All because of a few white,
bewigged and powdered fops that arrived on boats along with convicts,
animals and bags of seeds among other things!
Now there is something to be proud of!
There actually were people here; human beings, homo sapiens already
here, and they had a vast knowledge of the land that the likes of Abbott
(and Truss) couldn’t even begin to fathom, even if they began reading
about it all now, because it’s London to a Brick they’ve never read
anything about it before. They could not possibly refer to the
‘beginnings’ of Australia in such a fashion, if they had read and
The First Fleet arrived with bags of seeds for sowing and growing
vegetables, flowers, farm implements, sheep, cattle, horses, pigs for
breeding and slaughter to feed the few, and many other goodies that
befit a form of nobility, to begin with, and included dogs, cats and
plenty of rats. Plus a whole lot of people who were rejects by the
British establishment of the time, because they’d run out of room in
their own jails.
Convicts were no longer accepted by the United States. Among the
convicts who were in fact mainly British, there were people of other
nationalities – including African, American and French on board. These
nationalities were sent here, most likely because of pre-history with
the British, and were no doubt eagerly chucked aboard the ships for
deportment to the Antipodes. African? Perhaps because they were black.
American? Because they had routed the British in the War of
Independence proclaiming their independence in July 1776. French?
Probably because of all the previous wars in history . . . the English
didn’t like ‘em much.
It was tough getting started. The farm implements were not up to
scratch – too lightweight for the heavy heat hardened soil of Australia.
But what a bonus it all was. o be able to send men, women and
children convicts to the furthest and remotest place on earth (at the
time) to slave – yes, slave – on farms in order to earn a pardon of one
degree or another. There were 3 tiers to pardons, and each had to be
worked through diligently and with exemplary behaviour. The convicts
used on farms and (later) buildings of a grander scale – rather similar
to the US South, were ‘fed and watered’ by their colonial masters. They
worked from morning to night, without pay. They were in fact used as
slaves. Finally, if good enough, they were granted free pardon to make
of their lives what they could. Many succeeded, many failed and fell
back into lives of crime, partly to survive, and partly to rail against
Here endeth the history lesson.
And what a wonderfully defining ‘moment’ it all was.
“The arrival of the First Fleet was the defining moment
in the history of this continent. Let me repeat that, (a la
Parliamentary mode) it was the defining moment in the history of this
“It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world.”
Pardon? Digest that one very slowly, paying particularly attention to ‘moment’ and ‘modern’.
“Tony Abbott names white settlement as Australia’s ‘defining moment’, remark draws Indigenous ire”.
White settlement, huh?
Abbott also said:
“I hope that the defining moments of 1964, for instance,
might include the launch of the Australian newspaper as well as the
publication of The Lucky Country.”
The Australian newspaper! Well there’s no surprise … it’s owned and
run by his master and he just had to single it out – maybe he’d read
some of the distinctly coolish comments the Australian had published
recently about this Government, so he did a little sucking up.
And I doubt he’s ever read “The Lucky Country” written by Donald
Horne. If he had, he might never have added that pearl of wisdom to his
speech. Then again – who knows what to expect from this bloke?
The Lucky Country became a catch phrase to describe Australia. But
that was not the writers’ intention. His intention was more an
The title of Horne’s The Lucky Country comes from the opening words of the book’s last chapter:
Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.
Horne’s statement was an indictment of 1960s Australia. His intent was to comment that, while other industrialized nations created wealth using “clever” means such as technology and other innovations, Australia did not. Rather, Australia’s economic prosperity was largely derived from its rich natural resources. Horne observed that Australia “showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.”
In his 1976 follow-up book, Death of the Lucky Country, Horne clarified what he had meant when he first coined the term:
When I invented the phrase in 1964 to describe Australia, I said:
‘Australia is a lucky country run by second rate people who share its
luck.’ I didn’t mean that it had a lot of material resources … I had in
mind the idea of Australia as a [British] derived society whose
prosperity in the great age of manufacturing came from the luck of its
historical origins … In the lucky style we have never ‘earned’ our
democracy. We simply went along with some British habits.
In the decades following his book’s publication, Horne became
critical of the “lucky country” phrase being used as a term of
endearment for Australia. He commented, “I have had to sit through the
most appalling rubbish as successive generations misapplied this
phrase.” (From Wikipedia).
Underscored to some degree, without the full detail, is the
Australian Government’s own website which gives similar, but not all
comments, but does include the ‘second rate people’ comment:
http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/lucky-country. This link is actually interesting – for many reasons, and a chuckle or two.
It also quotes this utter diamond of a comment:
“Professor Ian Lowe, an eminent social commentator, says in his paper The Clever Country? that
Australia has two options. Either ‘we could continue our current
economic strategies; this could be called the ‘steady as she sinks’
approach’, or, he says, ‘we could try seriously to become ‘the clever
country’ by investing in our own future”.
Maybe Abbott did read about it – on Wikipedia: “a [ British ] derived
society “ . . . “We simply went along with some British habits“ . . .
“second rate people “ (our illustrious Prime Minister sees many of us
this way ) . . . “luck of its historical origins“ (nope – not that one,
not if taken from the real truth of its origins, unknown to us, even to
Before jumping all over the writer . . . I am NOT anti-British, in
fact I love the old country very dearly. I do not necessarily agree with
Donald Horne’s thoughts, but what I most certainly am against is
racism. And Abbott is full of racist innuendo. His latest gem being his
worst effort – in that category. I am not going to list categories of
insult and foolhardy comments he has made over the past 12 months. Way
But . . . listening to Abbott speak his mind, and make appeals to the
public is becoming like something from a Bela Lugosi movie made into a
I do think he’d best cast about for a better speech writer. Of
course he may well write his own speeches, which might explain a lot.
I don’t particularly desire to see him make such a smash hit of his
speeches that we fall for the spiel again – just employ someone whose
writing won’t insult or confront most of us here, and half the rest of
And maybe I’d best just cast about for the remote and switch off the TV.