Abbott in Iraq

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Tony Abbott in Baghdad (right). What is this, Bush week?

Prime Minister Tony Abbott found himself more welcome in Baghdad than the Adelaide Hills on the weekend, writes Bob Ellis.

ABBOTT FOUND HIMSELF more welcome in Baghdad than the Adelaide Hills last weekend, and nervously promised them money he was taking away from soldiers’ orphans, the disabled and the old in his adopted country, Australia — a stupid thing to do.

Is there a pattern to his incompetence, or is he merely splashing around in a whirlpool of 2010 hyperbole that is slowly sucking him down?

‘Trawling for corpses’ is one of his themes. In the Indian Ocean, in the Ukraine, in the waters off Tasmania, he is spending a billion dollars in quests for the dead that might have been spent on the living, much like the relics of the saints his Church paid big money for in the Middle Ages — sacred objects in body-bags, coming home, coming home.

‘Punishing the sick’ is another. His refusal to send in willing doctors to battle Ebola in Africa; his redefinition of ‘disabled’; his insistence on old women paying seven, or 21, dollars a week to see a doctor their taxes funded for the last 30 years; his lifting of the pension age, and his cuts to hospital funding in tens of billions, indicate a healthy, muscular, sadistic male, who jogs every morning and rides most days, does push-ups, works barbells, disdaining those with less healthy lifestyles and putting the boot into them.

‘Last Post politics’ seems to be another. If there’s a war on anywhere, he wants to be in it. If there’s an anniversary of some tragedy, he wants to speak at it. If there’s a Cathedral sermon for crash victims, he wants to be its compere. Walking behind coffins, proclaiming that death brings us together and God knows what he’s doing, and it all has a purpose, suits his mindset, formed as it was in a crucifictive death cult, Christianity, whose slaughtered Messiah brings comfort, somehow, to the relatives of the recently dead; he no longer alleges they will see them again, but merely that we will remember them.

He has stubbed his toe, however, on a recent opportunity, in the Lindt Cafe, to save some lives. The ‘terrorist’ asked to speak to him on the telephone and he would not take the call, and two people died subsequently. The survivors’ dismay has been stifled by police requests, but the story will come out, sooner or later, of how aggravated they were that he made no attempt to save them, or let Mamdouh Habib save them either, lest a Muslim that day be a hero.

Luke Foley is Opposition leader in New South Wales today, and Jay Weatherill a calming hero of a terrible fire-season in another state, and it is clear as never before that Labor can win in both New South Wales and Queensland, and Hockey is a dud, and Morrison a monster, and Andrews a joke, and Pyne a spent skyrocket, and Abbott ... a very puzzling figure, very like the classic ‘loser’ in classic American films, Fast Eddie, a man with talent but no character.

He is facing the new year now, and he will not, I think, survive it as Prime Minister.

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