The Australian rewrites the history of the Abbott years

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(Image via @chrismurphys)

Greg Sheridan's puff piece tribute to Tony Abbott yesterday is copping a lot of derision from the public and commentators alike. Alan Austin describes it as a world record contender for the most barefaced bunkum in a single article. 

TONY ABBOTT departed as PM this week, lying as blatantly as when arrived. And so The Australian, which has spun, distorted and lied about him before and during his disastrous tenure, is now lying about him after.

Senior writer Greg Sheridan penned a piece yesterday contending for the world record for the number of unverified assertions, hypocrisies and barefaced falsehoods in a single article.

Headed ‘Tony Abbott loyal to a fault: why Philip was knighted’, the main “revelation” is this:

Abbott gave Philip a knighthood [last January] because he learned the Queen wanted her husband to have one. The Queen’s son, Prince Charles, had a number of Australian honours but Philip had not been so richly rewarded by Australia.’

Sheridan wants us to believe a 94-year old man with so many titles, military ranks, orders, awards, insignias and medals that they take 19 pages to print is so insecure without a bauble from Tony that his wife has to fix one. Really?

Surely a fabrication. Prince Philip is Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu in PNG. And Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle in Scotland. What more could he want?

This must be regarded as a concoction unless and until Sheridan can identify his informant. He says ‘this information does not come from Abbott.’ Okay. From whom? No lives will be at risk if we are told. Until we are, it’s a fabrication.

There are others. At least 15 in total.

2. ‘Charles had a number of Australian honours but Philip had not been so richly rewarded.’

Plainly false. Charles has three Australian ranks and honours: Colonel-in-chief of the Armoured Corps, an honorary doctorate from Monash and a knighthood.

Philip, in contrast, has nine ranks and gongs from Downunder, not counting the two this year from Abbott:

Field Marshal of the  Army,

Colonel-in-chief of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers,

Colonel-in-chief of the Army Cadets,

Marshal of the Air Force,

Admiral of the Naval Fleet,

Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Science,

freedom of the city of Melbourne,

Honorary member of the Institute of Building, and

a doctorate from Monash.

3. ‘Awarding Prince Philip an Australian knighthood was the worst mistake of Tony Abbott’s tenure in office.’

Nonsense. It was stupid and embarrassing. But did not cause child sex abuse, mental illness, rape and murder as does his refugee detention policy. It did not cost the country $55 million like his inept deal to send four refugees to Cambodia.

Yes, it caused global derision. But not the universal anger and despair caused by refusing to help the Rohingya refugees in the Indian Ocean in May.

4. ‘Although in a sense a matter of no real consequence in itself, it was devastating for Abbott personally and for the Liberal Party.’

Note the contradiction: ‘the worst mistake of Abbott’s tenure’ but ‘of no real consequence’.

Why was it so “devastating”? The context Sheridan ignores is that of a seemingly endless stream of stupidities: comments on the sex appeal of a candidate, on mountains with Klaus Schwab, on Australia being “unsettled” before 1788, on housewives and ironing, on shirtfronting President Putin, on finding the MH370 black box and on his daughters being his “best assets”. Not to mention the sleazy wink, the “suppository” gaffe, the silent noddy TV interview and his excruciating speeches in New York, at Davos and at the G20.

5. ‘Some of his achievements – especially stopping the asylum-seeker boats – could probably not have been brought to book by any other prime minister.’

Sheer nonsense. Abbott chaired the cabinet that made border security decisions. Anyone present could have done that. Overseeing the implementation were ministers Morrison and Dutton. Doing the dirty deeds were the Australian military. Not Abbott.

6. ‘The crisis engulfing Europe would have engulfed Australia had Abbott not been prime minister. That is a massive, historic achievement.’

Completely false. Nine million Syrians are estimated to have been displaced during the war, with several million heading west. If that many refugees had fled south from somewhere in Asia, Abbott’s wads of U.S. dollars and orange life boats would have looked absurd.

7. ‘Abbott’s government fell mainly because of questions of image and style and tactical political management.’

Untrue. Real reasons were the constant stream of inept decisions and blatant lies lowering confidence, economic growth, trade, profits and jobs at a time of strong global recovery.

Abbott's famous catalogue of lies pre-election.

New PM Malcolm Turnbull admitted this – in pollyspeak code – before rolling Abbott:

The Prime Minister [Abbott] has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs ... We need advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.”

Turnbull confirmed after the coup,

It’s not a question of leadership style.”

8. ‘His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, in a sense, acknowledged that the substance of the Abbott government was good by essentially endorsing all the Abbott positions when he took over as Prime Minister.’

Give him time, Greg. Give him time.

9. ‘Abbott’s greatest achievement lies in stopping the boats.’

But he didn’t. The boats are still coming. Some are turned back. Others are towed away. Some are sunk after refugees are transferred to orange lifeboats. Others sail off after the Government pays people smugglers to go elsewhere.

How many boats? They are not telling.

10. ‘Generally in foreign policy, Abbott’s record is outstanding.’

Just breathtakingly false. A series of articles here at Independent Australia, at Crikey and elsewhere have shown both Abbott and Australia are now the laughing stock of the world having botched virtually every foreign affairs challenge faced.

11. ‘On economic policy, Abbott also racked up significant achievements.’

The opposite is true. There is not one success. In Opposition, Abbott identified 22 areas of economic performance he vowed to improve. All 22 have deteriorated.

12. ‘Despite routine Senate obstructionism, Abbott also improved the budget position compared with what it would have been under Labor.’

Completely false. Budget progress can be measured by the extra debt incurred. This is the debt performance according to figures from the Australian Office of Financial Management:



Amount of

debt added

A$ billion

Total debt at

30 June

A$ billion





























As shown clearly recently, Labor’s trajectory had the debt paid back by 2019. On the current trajectory, the earliest will be 2027.

13. ‘He can rightly claim that the new media environment made this exceptionally difficult. Abbott this week talked of the avalanche of sour, bitter commentary which much modern media comprises.’

This is the most contemptible hypocrisy coming from an employee of News Corp which has done more than any organisation anywhere in the world to destroy the craft of journalism.

14. ‘Abbott was an astonishingly successful opposition leader.’

No, he wasn’t. He was an effective wrecker. A good opposition leader also nurtures a team, develops policy, moulds bipartisanship and communicates his party’s vision. Abbott did none of these.

15. ‘Because his Catholicism was so relentlessly and unreasonably attacked, he learnt to shut down about the personal side of his identity.’

No, his Catholicism was not attacked, just his reactionary,1950s social conservatism masquerading as faith. Keating’s Catholicism influenced his leadership. Howard’s and Rudd’s Protestantism influenced theirs. Genuine faith is not an issue.

The nation appears already to be feeling a lot better about itself now Abbott has gone. Imagine how much better things would be if The Australian went with him.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanTheAmazing.

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