Bob Ellis: Requiem for a loaded dog

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Disaster prone Tony Abbott has moved on from being the "mad monk" to become the "loaded dog" of Australian politics, writes Bob Ellis.

It’s happening, thus far, very slowly, and for once the dull phrase "slow motion train wreck" seems to apply.

Abbott is going and Turnbull is coming, but we don’t know yet, we don’t quite know, what this means. Are we going to war in Iraq? Is the co-payment cancelled? Are we in a "debt and deficit disaster", or a "good news Budget", or what? Must we "shrink our way to prosperity", as Hockey recommends? Will Hockey be treasurer after Tuesday? Is the Abe-Abbott handshake still valid? Will our submarines come from Japan? Or can Sweden make an offer now? Will the CSIRO still lose one third of its funding? Do we believe, again, in climate change? What is happening here? How long will the slowly flying bits of the train continue to ascend into the sky? When will the long, sweet agony end?

A requiem for Abbott seems in order; or an autopsy; or something. His many false starts – a non-shotgun marriage; the non-priesthood; managing a cement factory; journalism; monarchist campaigner; minister for industrial relations; joyful father of a long lost son; opponent of the ‘morning after’ pill; co-author of WorkChoices; accuser of Slipper, Thomson, Hanson, Ellis, Ettridge — show a man wedded lifelong to coitus interruptus, getting off at Redfern, and always, always unwilling to follow things through. Every promise is a promise also to break it. NDIS. Gonski. Broadband. The ABC. He sent out the invitations to the wedding of the pregnant girl, then cancelled it. This is what he does. He always, always, always lets you down.

It’s a kind of hectic neurosis. Uncoupled from the truth, he needs to tweak every last thing he said, or embrace its opposite. No promises were broken. No cuts were made. Health funding is going up, not down. No university student will be worse off. It goes back, maybe, to his abandoned, pregnant bride. Or his first years as a DLP head-kicker in student politics. Seven acres and a mule, get it right, you dumbfucks.

And what we have here is a sneaky operator, whose word can’t ever be trusted.

He was planning, always planning, to let you down.

And he had a sort of instantaneousness about him. With me in Gleebooks, quoting Brideshead, he seemed an admirer of Catholic homosexuals. Later, in the party room, he banned a conscience vote on gay marriage. He said WorkChoices was "dead, buried and cremated" and planned to bring it back. He voted, with Howard, for an emissions trading scheme and then called Global Warming "crap".

It’s a good deal like Attention Deficit Disorder. What town is this? What do they believe here? I’d better make obeisance to the local gods. Then I’ll be in another town.

It stays in Vegas and we don’t talk about it. It stays in Nauru and if Triggs wants to talk about it, she has to go.

Most remarkable was his attack on Barack Obama for admiring the Barrier Reef. The Barrier Reef was none of his business. It was our affair and he was "impertinent" to think it a wonder of the world and to want to protect it.

The general disgust with him took a while to accumulate, but it sped up after September. The cuts to the ABC. The attempted sneaking-in, over Christmas, of a $20 dollar fine for going to the doctor. The knighthood of a Greek duke on Australia Day. The proposal to go to war, alone, with Russia, which won World War 2, and with Daesh, a mob of crucifying fanatics now occupying an area as big as Great Britain, and a capital city as difficult to take as Berlin in 1945, without a million U.S. troops at our back.

I did in my blog a regular piece called ‘The Thirty Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday’ and it was hard after 208 days to keep them down to thirty. 

There has been no government like it. And no prime minister, in world history.

It is not yet played out and some things are not known. What Hockey, backbencher, will do. And Robb, backbencher. And Bronwyn Bishop, backbencher. She, I think, will get a regular spot on Sky News. Joe, I think, will leave politics and live off his wife’s millions, and rue the loss of ninety percent of his stomach, and yield up his seat to an Independent.

And Abbott…it’s hard to say. A rancorous half-retirement like Latham’s is likely, and a regular column, and he does write well, as he watches the Liberal Party disintegrate, and blame him daily for its crumbling. It’s likely, though not certain, Foley will win in New South Wales and some inquiry come after Abbott’s connection with John Nestor, the child abuser. Or they may leave him alone.

It was an interesting episode anyway, like, yes, Billy MacMahon’s. Nothing was more accurate than his initial nickname, "the Mad Monk". He got worse thereafter, and earned the eventual nickname, "the Loaded Dog".

And so it went.

The John Graham cartoon at the top of this piece is available from the IA store.

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