THE Opposition’s latest attack on Labor’s Craig Thomson took parliamentary practice to a new low and represents the fierceness of the divisive, acrimonious, oppositional politics that Tony Abbott has introduced to the parliament.
It fits into a pattern where no quarter is given irrespective of the long-term consequences.
Welcome to “Abbottworld”, a space that can only be effectively understood when seen through the same lens as the Leader of the Opposition views the world.
In the Thomson example, for the first time in the Australian parliament, one medical certificate was not good enough to allow sick leave. Chief Opposition whip Warren Entsch claimed it was “very vague” and wanted more information. The threat was to deny an Opposition “pair”. A pair allows an MP to be matched with an opposing counterpart, allowing them to be absent by agreement without affecting parliamentary votes. The balance of the parliament has been so tight since the election that no opportunity is lost to put the Government on the skids, no matter what the long-term costs.
At the end of May, 1994, Tony Abbott presented his credentials to the Australian parliament in his first speech. It provides an understanding of how he sees life and what was to come. It shows what is still to come if the Leader of the Opposition becomes Prime Minister.
In his inaugural speech, Abbott said: “Loss of faith is a social problem extending far beyond politics and far beyond Australia” and the “challenge is to answer uncertainty with conviction and to refute doubt with faith”.
On matters of his faith and his beliefs, Abbott has demonstrated a propensity to interfere with issues of women’s rights and even the rights of duly elected governments to allow people their own choice regarding voluntary active euthanasia. And yet he demands governments “stop playing the busybody in every nook and cranny of society”. In “Abbottworld” he can have it both ways; it’s a world defined by Tony Abbott in that first speech, in which he said: “When authority first came to the Warringah district, the inhabitants showed what they thought of government policies by spearing Governor Phillip in the shoulder. I hope I can be a similar goad to government”.
His concerns in 1994 were about the discordant debates over the flag and the constitution which he saw as “the absolute opposite of nation building, because it is guaranteed to tear Australians apart rather than bring us together”. And later he warned: “Governments which live in fear of tomorrow’s headline are incapable of any change – even change which gives the overwhelming majority of Australians exactly what they want”.
A prediction perhaps, but it is a tactic that he now applies on almost a daily basis – ensuring there is a headline that the Government will fear!
In practice, Abbottworld mirrors the American “Tea Party”. The approach helped cheat Australian taxpayers of their share of the profits from the mining boom, ensured that poker machine laws were off the agenda, sewed doubts about the impact of climate change and took the industry sponsored fossil fuel view of carbon pricing,
Bob Brown has suggested that the intensity of the attacks on Julia Gillard has to do with her being a woman. I think it is about Abbottworld politics. Knock it down! Knock it all down to be rebuilt following a change of government. In the interim, Malcolm Turnbull waits, John Howard style, in the shadows.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001).