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Bob Ellis: Abbott's tipping point

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(By @JohnGrahamArt)

Yesterday was a "tipping point moment" in Tony Abbott’s career, and in Joe Hockey’s also, compounded by a Newspoll prefiguring a loss of forty or forty-two seats next year, and this month, probably, New South Wales.

Joe is suing Fairfax for noting the obvious: that property developers paying $22,000 to eat with him want something back from him he probably, one way or another, will consider – only consider – giving to them.

Tony is an area of craziness all his own.

He is asking that the United Nations praise him for "stopping the boats" and not go on, the way they do, and did yesterday, about it being wrong to torment, imprison, or ‘torture’ children.

It is worth looking into the logic behind this argument, which is being tirelessly repeated by his awed assistant ministers on Sky News and commercial radio today.

He – and they – are saying that by torturing some children we save other children from drowning. We traumatise toddlers with confinement, and eight-year-olds with anal rape, in order that other children, whom they will never meet – and we will never meet – be deterred from taking the voyage they have survived, and drowning on it.

What he, and they, have failed to note is what the "saved" children are going back to. In Sri Lanka, some may be killed; others may have a life of limited opportunity, or whoredom, or drug dealing, ending in early death. Some may become Test cricketers — or suicide bombers. The Tamil Tigers invented suicide bombing; it is for them a proud tradition.

But it is a life in their "home country" that many would gladly risk drowning to avoid.

Abbott has further, it appears, refused to investigate the murders, beatings, trade in sexual favours, years of delay and buggery of children the UN hints at in its report. Reza Barati’s twelve murderers are still free. Some may be still employed, and menacing witnesses of his murder. The three young men cyber-bullied by Morrison into burning themselves to death, one unsuccessfully, will achieve no "closure" either.

Nor will the 90 years the children "freed from detention" will hereafter spend on Nauru be investigated for its justice as a punishment for getting on the wrong boat in the wrong year. Is being "no longer in detention" freedom if it is spent, exclusively, on Nauru? Is this "freedom"? Is this 90 year sentence a child saved from torture? Really?

Four Corners last night showed what battle trauma does to a human soul. Fear and confinement has a similar effect on children, and a ship sinking, and seeing one’s father attempting to hang himself in a grimy dwelling in a strange country.

Yet Abbott says we Australians are "sick and tired" of hearing about these things, and want the UN, the world body, to pull its head in.

He is increasingly, as the saying has it, "in a world of his own". He seems crazier and crazier, and enjoying, by the look of him yesterday, some form of medication.

There is actually no precedent for this "tipping point" in our history. Our leader seems more and more like a South American dictator, wanting to hear only good news, and garrotting his critics and those bureaucrats who speak to him uncivilly. Tiberius in his last years behaved similarly. So did Herbert Vere Evatt, who had early Alzheimers.

In other nations, what happened yesterday could presage an army coup. It is hard to imagine what will happen here, where that is less likely.

A Foley victory in New South Wales, probably, and then a federal spill, and Morrison or Bishop or Turnbull elected by acclamation after Abbott agrees to "spend more time with his family"; or go, perhaps, to the House of Lords.

That, at any rate, is the least frightening option.

What else he and Credlin have in store for us is, at the moment, beyond imagining.

The original John Graham feature image used in this piece – and many others – may be purchased through the IA online store.

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