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'Dobber King' Tony Abbott doesn't care for being dobbed upon

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Tony Abbott was fined $500 for breaching COVID-19 mask rules (Screenshot via YouTube)

Former PM Tony Abbott has criticised people for dobbing him in for not wearing a mask in public, which is hypocritical considering his past, writes Andrew P Street.

TONY ABBOTT was very annoyed that someone anonymously reported him for not wearing a mask on the weekend.

“I just want to say two things,” he opined to the media when some happy snapper caught the former PM chatting maskless in Manly, in defiance of the current health edicts around COVID-19 in pandemic-wracked NSW:

“First, I believe that I was well within the law, reasonably interpreted, but I am not going to challenge the fine because I am not going to waste police time. Second, I never thought dobbing and snitching was part of the Australian character. I think as soon as we can leave this health police state mindset behind us, the better for everyone.”

The first bit was entirely in character. After all, “I don’t consider what I did to be technically wrong” could pretty much be the slogan for the modern Liberal Party in 2021, as the Prime Minister himself keeps emphasising that things like nipping back and forth between locked down jurisdictions for some family time denied to thousands of Sydneysiders is still somehow “within the rules”.

But it’s that second point about dobbing that should have made anyone with a functional memory laugh with delight at the sheer hypocritical gall of Tony Abbott, Australia’s Dobber King.

Aside from continuing the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ anti-terrorism line he inherited from John Howard and which has largely been a chance for people to complain about Middle Eastern people wilfully existing in public, Abbott was the PM who launched a hotline literally called Dob in a Dealer in 2015 as his signature success against the ice trade.

(Incidentally, this was such a roaring success that the final report of the Evaluation of the National Ice Action Strategy earlier this year concluded that outside of anecdotal reports, the dob line was ‘unable to be evaluated’.)

But that’s not all our most pro-dob PM did for Australia’s dobbing arts. He also memorably pressured Indonesia to set up a “dob in a people smuggler” line shortly after taking government in 2013, which the Indonesian Government gently declined to deploy.

And, of course, Abbott brought in an internal system through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to allow-slash-oblige public servants to dob in colleagues who criticised the Government even if they did so anonymously and when it was made public immediately declared that the edict was an internal PM&C document and therefore secret.

So it’s fair to say that for Abbott, dobbing is a term with many nuances and shades of grey.

And look, it’s wonderfully inspiring to see a (checks notes) former Health Minister railing against the heavy hand of public health edicts during a global pandemic, but also: maybe his argument that he was about to masklessly exercise with a refreshing surf would have been somewhat more plausible if he wasn’t wearing jeans and a jumper at the time.

And on the one hand, this is a silly little story in which a man legendary for his sense of entitlement acts in a way that’s comedically entitled. But in another more important way, this is the man who started us on the road to where we are now.

After all, doesn’t his insistence that he was technically acting within the rules sound like Minister Bridget McKenzie’s repeated insistence, echoed by her colleagues, that the sports rorts allocations were within the regulations regardless of how transparent they were? Doesn’t Abbott’s how-very-dare-you spirit evoke the similar responses of our government ministers to criticism, from the PM down?

Doesn’t the shock at being held accountable by the law, of all things, bring to mind the anger of MPs Andrew Laming and Christian Porter at the very suggestion that they might have cases to answer? 

Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy isn’t a surprise, not when it’s the modus operandi of the Government he spawned.

Anyway, he’s begrudgingly paying the fine and that’s the end of the matter. After all, I’m sure he’d be the absolute first to accept that we Australians shouldn’t have to subsidise his, ahem, lifestyle choices.

Andrew P Street is an Adelaide-based, Sydney-built journalist, author, editor and broadcaster and an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewPStreet.

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