Self-belief is a powerful tool in achieving success and there is
no question that Tony Abbott has it in spades. But does he have the
substance to justify it?
At high school, Tony was in the seconds for rugby, something that did
not sit well with him or his father who both believed he should have
been in the First XV.
After average results at university and an uninspiring football
career, with the help of the Jesuit network, Tony headed off to Oxford
to take up his Rhodes Scholarship. It only took a couple of games for
him to be dropped from the rugby team with suggestions that his prowess
had been somewhat exaggerated. Tony was strong on physicality but short
on speed or finesse.
Tony’s certainty about himself led to him knocking Joe Hockey out at
training one night when Joe had had enough of Tony’s autocratic style as
captain/coach/selector for the seconds at Sydney University.
Student politics at Sydney University saw Tony, a callow youth
straight from a Catholic boys’ school, given a platform to preach loud
and long in his opposition to homosexuality and feminism. Further, he
denounced contraception, labelling it part of the “me now” mentality.
Ironically, whilst eschewing the use of contraception, Tony was an avid
partaker of “me now” activities, if not the responsibility that went
Even at the seminary, Tony was convinced that the Church was headed
in the wrong direction and that he knew better, as he wrote in articles
in the Bulletin at the time.
“Looking back, it seems that I was seeking a spiritual
and human excellence to which the Church is no longer sure she aspires.
My feeble attempts to recall her to her duty — as I saw it — betrayed a
fathomless disappointment at the collapse of a cherished ideal.”
When Tony entered his first full-time job as manager at a concrete
plant, it only took a couple of months for the plant to be black-listed
and shut down.
“I got to the plant in the morning, marched up and down
the line of trucks like a Prussian army officer, telling owner-drivers
who had been in the industry for longer than I had been alive, that that
truck was too dirty, and that truck was filthy, and that truck had a
leaking valve and had to be fixed. Naturally enough, this wasn’t very
In 1992, he was appointed director of Australians for Constitutional
Monarchy, a position he held until 1994, when he was elected to
parliament at the Warringah by-election.
Abbott was first appointed to Cabinet following the 1998 election, as
part of the Second Howard Ministry, becoming Minister for Employment,
Workplace Relations and Small Business, an interesting choice since he
had little to no experience at all in these areas.
In 2003, he became Minister for Health and Ageing. This was also an
interesting choice. When he was given the role of infirmarian at the
seminary, a job that involved supervising the medicine cabinet and
ensuring that the ill were not forgotten in their rooms, Tony objected
“My view was that I knew nothing about medicine and that
those too sick to eat in the dining room ought to be in hospital.
Anyway, I thought, most were malingering. So I encouraged “self-service”
of medicines and suggested that meals would be better fetched by the
friends of the sick. Many deeply resented this disdain for college’s
caring and communitarian ethos. And, I confess, I did not have the
courage to refuse room service to members of the seminary staff.”
Apparently he still considers sick people malingerers who should be discouraged from seeing a doctor.
Tony has displayed this absolute certainty that he is right all his
life so, when he was elected leader of the Liberal Party in return for
becoming a climate change denier, I started getting concerned. When he
became Prime Minister I felt alarmed. Twelve months in and I am
horrified. I am afraid for the present and for the future.
Tony Abbott is only one man, but this man’s unwavering belief in his
own judgement has seen him surround himself with advisers who tell him
what he wants to hear. Experts are sacked, independent advisory panels
disbanded, oversight and freedom of information curtailed, journalists
and the National Broadcaster threatened.
In the space of a year we have gone from world leaders in action on climate change to being called the “Saudi Arabia of the Pacific”.
‘In the year since they took office, Prime Minister Tony
Abbott and his Liberal-led coalition have already dismantled the
country’s key environmental policies. Now they’ve begun systematically
ransacking its natural resources. In the process, they’ve transformed
Australia from an international innovator on environmental issues into
quite possibly the dirtiest country in the developed world.’
Instead of looking forward to every home being connected to the NBN
and school funding bridging the gap of disadvantage and inequity, we
have record numbers of new coal mines to enjoy. Instead of universal
healthcare and unemployment benefits, we see people on pensions feeling
very afraid about their future. Instead of affordable tertiary
education and housing, we see places being sold to the highest bidder.
We have moved from bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, to a
war in Iraq and Syria that will inevitably lead to civilian casualties
and destruction of homes and infrastructure, a move that has seen us
specifically named for revenge attacks. The “humanitarian mission” line
has been exposed for the lie it always was.
Instead of strengthening laws against discrimination, we now see
Australian Muslim women persecuted everywhere from parliament to
shopping centres. Bronwyn Bishop has been on this tirade for years,
calling for the hijab to be banned in 2005.
“It’s not about headscarves per se, it’s about a clash of
cultures where there are extremist Muslim leaders who are calling for
the overthrow of the laws that indeed give me my freedom and my equality
as defined by the society in which I live.
Now, this morning on a debate with a Muslim lady, she said she felt
free being a Muslim, and I would simply say that in Nazi Germany, Nazis
felt free and comfortable. That is not the sort of definition of freedom
that I want for my country.”
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who formerly worked in intelligence,
has accused the federal government of exploiting fears about terrorism
to rush through new national security laws that push Australia towards a
“It is clearly overreach by the security services who
have basically been invited to write an open cheque. And the government,
which wants to beat its chest and look tough on national security,
said, ‘We’ll sign that’.”
The laws include jail terms of up to 10 years for journalists who
disclose details of ASIO “special intelligence operations” and provide
immunity from criminal prosecution for intelligence officers who commit a
crime in the course of their duties.
David Irvine, retired head of ASIO, has wanted this green light for years as this interview from 2012 shows:
“Australia’s domestic spy agency says it’s just trying to
stay up to date but critics say ASIO’s request for new laws is a
blatant power grab.
ASIO has put several proposals to the Federal Government, including allowing its officers to commit crimes and not be charged.
It also wants to hack computers of people who haven’t committed a crime.
And most controversially, it wants telcos to store our phone and
internet data for up to two years so it can be searched without a
ASIO director-general of Security David Irvine bristles at the suggestion that he is empire building.”
That was well before the rise of ISIS.
Last year I read an essay about the responsibilities of government.
“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people.
It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical
sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences
that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust
wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global
warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”
Tony has great power but no sense of responsibility. He has
confidence but no conscience. He has determination but no commitment.
He is willing but lacks the skills. He attacks and blames but resents
oversight and has never accepted accountability, and this is what scares
The consequences of being wrong could/will be catastrophic and I
don’t share Tony’s confidence that he, Maurice Newman and Cardinal Pell
have all the answers.
“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
― Thomas Paine