Buyer beware! The Washington Speakers Bureau and Tony Abbott's $40,000 mind

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In an email to the Washington Speakers Bureau, P. Miles enquires about engaging one of their "World's Greatest Minds" and what to expect for the $40,000+ price tag.

I recently read that the Washington Speakers Bureau had engaged Tony Abbott — Australia's most recent former prime minister.

While considering whether to hire Mr Abbott for an engagement, which I understand might set me back US$40,000 plus costs, I ask whether safeguards protecting the hirer are built into the deal.


What happens if Mr Abbott turns up late or does not turn up at all? Are there partial or full reimbursements of the hiring fee?

Mr Abbott has "form" in lateness.

For example, on 12 February 2009, Mr Abbott failed to turn up for a vital $42 billion stimulus package vote in parliament. 

The Treasurer Wayne Swan later told the House:

"The Leader of the Opposition slept right through the critical vote. He was drunk and didn't come into the House. He slept right through that vote."

What would happen to my US$40,000 if Mr Abbott slept through his scheduled speaking arrangement?

Another example. Two years earlier, on 31 October 2007, Mr Abbott was 30 minutes late for a scheduled live television debate at the prestigious National Press Club.

When the Health Minister Ms Roxon expressed concern about his tardiness and rudeness, Mr Abbott spat

"That's bullshit. You're being deliberately unpleasant."


Will there be mandatory breath tests of the former prime minister before his scheduled speaking appearances?

On 9 July 2014, Mr Abbott appeared on a live morning television show, Today, after which newspapers reported that he appeared 

'.. visibly hungover after a big drink the night before.' 

The host, Karl Stefanovic, chided Mr Abbott:

"You look a little worse for wear if you don't mind me saying so, PM. You didn't get on the sakes with the Jap PM?" 

Another incident. In December 2014, appearing on the live Sunrise morning programme, Mr Abbott called the well-known host David Koch by the wrong name.

Koch later told viewers that Mr Abbott had confided off-air that

"he was a bit hungover because he had his staff Xmas party the night before."

More recently, on 14 September 2015, Mr Abbott hosted a wild party in the Prime Minister's suite immediately after he was voted out as leader by his colleagues. Drinking from a publicly-funded cellar, Mr Abbott danced shirtless on an expensive coffee table, which was eventually smashed in the revelry.

One of the party-goers, the Honourable Jamie Briggs, ended up in a wheelchair with an injured leg. Mr Abbott subsequently showed up late for work the next day, delaying the nationally televised parliamentary question time by 30 minutes and, for reasons never explained, he faxed his resignation to the Governor-General rather than obeying the time-honoured tradition of serving it in person.

Further, last week in the Australian Senate, invoices were tabled revealing that Tony Abbott's office had purchased $7,340 worth of alcohol on the public purse "to supply his personal functions" in Sydney and Canberra between 9 February and early April 2015.

Therefore, what guarantees will you give that Mr Abbott won't show up for speaking engagements hungover or drunk?


Mr Abbott has a documented alleged history of inappropriate behaviour.

In the late 1970s, after policemen observed Mr Abbott destroying a street sign late at night, he was charged with "malicious damage". A magistrate found the charge proven, but no conviction was recorded.

Police also charged a 20-year-old Mr Abbott in October 1977 with "indecent assault".

Helen Wilson, 29, testified in court:

"I had just commenced speaking when I felt a hand between my legs on my lower buttocks. I jumped back, turned around, and saw Tony Abbott laughing about two feet away." 

According to Ms Wilson, Mr Abbott said to her immediately before the alleged assault:

"Why don't you smile, honey?" 

The magistrate dismissed the charge after Mr Abbott and his friends denied that it happened.

Another university student, Barbara Ramjan, went public on problems she experienced with Mr Abbott. After she beat him in a student election in 1978, she alleged that Mr Abbott "shirtfronted" her by punching the wall on either side of her head.

Ms Ramjan sued News Limited when her version of the event was questioned. Later, in the Supreme Court, a barrister for News Limited read out:

"The Australian apologises to Ms Ramjan for any suggestion that she lied about those events..." 

The writ was settled with Ms Ramjan receiving a confidential damages payment.

So, will security guards be on hand at speaking engagements to protect the audience?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

P. Miles

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