The Shirtfront Chronicles

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It is worth noting how big a fool Abbott has made of himself with his ‘shirtfront’ threats and the harm he has done to his country.

He has accused a world leader of complicity in a mass murder and asked him for money in recompense for it. Though it is unlikely Putin knew of the incident before it happened, he has asked him to take responsibility for it, and, in effect, pay a fine – if he is a good fellow – though he has not spoken of any consequences if he does not.

This was after he threatened to ‘shirtfront him’; then, backing off a bit, ‘have a robust conversation with him’, and then sat beside him for an hour avoiding his eyes and not saying a word to him, showing palpable fear of one who is, after all, the most powerful man in the world.

If the ‘compensation’ he has asked for each dead Australian, or Australian resident, was, say, $450,000 the money that Putin would be then said to owe the 298 victims’ families is $134,100,000. This is greatly in excess of the $800 Australia pays for a wrongly killed child in Afghanistan, but let us imagine this is the total owed.

But is it Putin that owes it?

He supplied weapons to an insurgent force, as America did to the Contras in Nicaragua, who killed, inadvertently, some innocent people in the path of their advance, just as they supplied weapons to the secret force that killed Che Guevara, but they have not yet paid a fine for this wrongdoing to anybody

And Abbott wants not only money but an apology.

He asks no apology from the Malaysian airline official, and the EU official, who guided the plane into a war zone, but he wants an apology from Putin, who had nothing to do with the accident that followed.

And if he doesn’t get the apology, he will do ... nothing.

‘Laughing stock’ does not come near the way he is thought of by the wide, wide world this morning. He has accused a powerful man of being an accomplice in mass murder and asked $17,100,000 for it, and an apology, and threatened him, if he does not comply, with … nothing.

This, after showing palpable cowardice in his presence.

It is likely, though not certain, that Putin will have a press conference, or issue a statement. He will say he has evidence the Ukrainians did it. He may cut off trade with Australia. He may forbid Qantas to fly over Russia. He may ask Abbott to apologise for so accusing him. It certain he will not ask him to pay a fine.

How serious a blunder is this?

Well, it has shown that, after the acclaimed majestic tact of Bob Carr, our foreign policy has been executed by boofheads. Bishop railed, on camera, at the Chinese. Morrison dumped refugees on Indonesia, invading their territory. Abbott said the Scots were unworthy of the freedom Australians have. Dutton refused qualified doctors, who wanted to go there, to the Ebola stricken countries of Africa.

And now this. It gets worse, of course.

Putin, next week, will be in Brisbane, imperfectly protected and journalists will come after him. And he will, at some point, say something. He will accuse Abbott, humorously perhaps, of being ‘not the full quid’.

And the wide, wide world will agree.

And so it will go.

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