Bob Ellis: Tony Abbott is finished

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For about eight days now, Tony Abbott has been in worsening trouble, and he has no hope any more of being Prime Minister, writes Bob Ellis.

FOR ABOUT eight days now, Tony Abbott has been in worsening trouble, and he has no hope any more of being Prime Minister.

Not all of it is his fault, some of it was coincidence, but the overall effect has been a perfect storm whose hail and lightning is beating him senseless and consuming him.

Some of it, unexpectedly, is the issue of gay marriage and the momentum it has gained across the world. Some of it is things happening in America.

A week ago, it was revealed Mitt Romney said he disdained that 47 percent of Americans who did not pay income tax. These, apparently, included war veterans, the old, the disabled and single supporting mothers. Most may not have paid income tax, but paid, each week, various forms of salary tax, and, in some states, taxes like the GST. The secret video of this utterance not only ended Romney for good, it smashed the Tea Party, who will not now retain enough seats to hold up financial reforms, including more taxes on the rich.

When Wayne Swan attacked the Tea Party as economic vandals, it would have been wise for Abbott’s Liberals to stay silent. But they did not, execrating Swanny for commenting on a foreign election and not concentrating on his own patch, and on the economy here.

This aligned them with the Tea Party Republicans, an already discredited bunch of loons, and with Romney, a loser, and, by any measure, a stupid man. Abbott should have repudiated his ’47 percent’ nonsense, but he did not.

And, when Cory Bernardi, fumbling, seemed to compare gay marriage with wedlock of humans and farmyard animals, he should not have merely sacked him, he should have allowed the Liberals a conscience vote on one or other (he need only have picked one) of the gay marriage bills coming up in parliament last week.

None would have passed, but he would have shown himself to be a reasonable man to have allowed a conscience vote, in the wake of Bernardi’s idiocy. His own sister after all was lesbian, and bound for a billion years of hellfire if she does not repent, and his best friend Christopher Pearson was for many years promiscuous and gay before he became celibate and Catholic lately, and in that condition helped Abbott write Battlelines, his memoir-manifesto.

Though a reasonable person could sort out these contradictions in his moral history, an ordinary voter will see them as the qualities of an angry, flummoxed buffoon. My sister is going to hell, and no vote I have control of will hallow her perversions and save her from her sulphurous, burning fate, I have decided, you wait and see.

On top of this came Newman’s decisions to sack bushfire fighters and nurses, and O’Farrell’s decision to sack TAFE teachers. Abbott had to promise to find money when he becomes Prime Minister in a year or so to restore and salvage these good people, and he did not. He didn’t have to criticise his colleagues, he could have blamed Gillard for the economic desperation they are in, but he had to intervene. And he did not.

And having not done that, he proposed to find swags of money for the families of the victims of the Bali Bombing, to mark the tenth anniversary. And this, perhaps, was his most idiotic thought-bubble in years.

Money for the families of the dead in Bali, and those who were injured and survived, in 2002, he now proposed. Although for five years after the bombing, when he was in cabinet, he did not think of it, or argue it then and help enact it.

Even if he got to it later (which he did), it raised the question of why we should foot the bill and not, say, the Indonesian government or Jemiah Islamia. And, if the Bali Bombing victims deserve this much, how about the parents of children forcibly adopted? How about the children themselves? How, indeed, about the Stolen Children? How about the families bereaved by the Granville train wreck? How about the children born mutant because of Agent Orange and a war we had no right to be in?

It showed in him a distance from logical connection that was actually frightening, and bespoke, perhaps, of brain damage from his years as an amateur boxer. He seemed like a babbling, opportunistic, fool.

And all this on top of David Marr’s ‘revelation’ that he had, as a student, once bashed a wall (as telling as my confession, which I here submit, that I smashed a cup in 1966 while arguing with my wife and am therefore unfit for elective office now and hereinafter), and the upsurge of boat arrivals after the announcement of Nauru which Abbott claimed would end them, and Joe Hockey’s many, grinning, head-shaking attempts to cut eighty billion dollars from government extravagance without sacking anybody, put him deeper in trouble than any Australian leader since Peacock proved to have got his health figures wrong and called a press conference to say so, two weeks before an election.

I know Abbott, and for time I liked him, and I urged him to get some sleep, and get his bones fixed by a chiropractor. But he would not.

And this shambles of a leader is the result. And this, plus a good deal of bad luck last week, will bring him down.

And make Turnbull, perhaps, Prime Minister.

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