Only right-wingers can even discern what Prince Phillip's service to Australia has been.
When he married the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947 the State of Queensland presented 500 cans of pineapple to the happy couple. They must have assumed they were like other war-battered Poms, in need of food aid but reluctant to fork out £10 to come over and work for it. The medallions of the different levels in the Order of Australia look a bit like thin cross-sections of pineapple.
She has earned her pineapple, or at least been gracious about it - but has he? To ask such a question is to demand accountability, and since when has Tony Abbott been about accountability (oh, you thought because he asked all those questions in opposition ...)?
The award was designed to get lefties upset, as Adam Brereton notes, and only when lefties are upset do people like Tony Abbott know who they are and what they're about.
Abbott's natural base consists of reactionaries, people who define themselves by what they're against. They have no ability to distinguish between a passing fad and a substantial shift. They will hunt for evidence to support clean coal or wind turbine syndrome, but ignore that supporting climate change or vaccinations.
This is why Abbott is rubbish at the normal daily tasks of being Prime Minister, announcing this and opening that in the name of slow and steady progress. It's as though all these things happen in the normal course of government without intervention from people like him, taunting lefties and rewarding supporters.
Insofar as the Abbott government even does policy development, here's how it works:
- Should we lock up asylum-seekers? There are plenty of conservative reasons not to do so, but does locking them up upset lefties? Therefore, asylum-seekers get locked up.
- Should we protest Australian citizens being executed, or locked up without charge, under foreign judicial systems? There are plenty of conservative reasons to go through the correct channels of registering a protest (and maybe even securing a reprieve), but does this upset lefties? Therefore, Australian citizens get executed or detained without charge.
- Should we increase taxes on those who benefit most from government decisions, in the same way that political parties extract donations from companies who benefit from those decisions? Again, what upsets lefties - placing the burden on working people, cutting penalty rates and pensions - so that's what happens.
- Should we treat disabled Australians as full citizens, as envisaged under the NDIS? There are plenty of conservative reasons to do so (standing on one's own two feet, as it were, not to mention cost savings) - but I ask you, does abolishing support for disabled people upset lefties? Senator Fifield's assurances that the government is committed to the NDIS should be seen in that light.
- Some people think Senator Eric Abetz is politically suicidal by seeking to alter the workplace relations system - but he sure is sticking it up those lefties!
On the night before the 2013 election, he defined his program for government by negating his accusers, saying whatever needed to be said; the Lance Armstrong of Australian politics.
It happened before then, too. He didn't understand why Gillard could negotiate her way into government in 2010 and get legislation through a hung parliament. He couldn't, and still can't understand why Senators outside the major parties will neither bend to his will nor be won over by his smarm.
When Barack Obama made his historic speech to Parliament about the US pivot to Asia, Abbott did not rise to the occasion as a putative Prime Minister; but he did go the niggle on lying and carbon tax. Nobody had any right to expect better from him - nobody inside the Liberal Party, nobody in the press gallery, no swinging voter, nobody at all. The insiders all knew what he was like. They just underestimated their ability to cover up for them.
Experience should count for something. Mark Kenny is an experienced and senior political reporter. Yet, once again Mark Kenny shows himself to be a gibbering dupe with this:
It is telling that Tony Abbott believes the strongest argument for his continued leadership of the Liberal Party, the Coalition, and the country, is the dysfunction of his enemies, to wit, Labor's self-inflicted Rudd/Gillard debacle from 2010.It's the same mark, Mark.
It is a further mark of Abbott's personal problem however, that even before the political contest has been fully joined for the year, he is having to field questions on his own longevity in the job, his grip on power.
Knighting Prince Phillip doesn't raise "fresh doubts". It shows that Abbott's detractors were right, and that his supporters - and those who believed them - were fools.
Abbott could only ever be defined against his enemies: more right-wing than Turnbull, more cocky and jocky than Rudd, more steady and traditional-family-oriented than Gillard. He could never be defined in any other, positive way. Attempts to project Prime Ministerial qualities on him were always doomed, saying more about those doing the projecting than about Abbott himself.
Abbott hasn't shrunk, he's being rightsized. Ignore those who think Abbott has time to get his act in order, like this or that, covering their embarrassment at talking him up in the first place.
Instead, go look up at the night sky and see the twinkle of a star that died years ago. Pull a fish out of water, and watch it try to push the reset button. Now compare those activities to the behaviour of the Abbott government, and pity those who are overly impressed by powerless raging against the dying of the light.
People like Abbott have been reactionaries since their university days: simply spitting the descriptor at them makes no difference. Instead, understand how:
- weak reactionary behaviour is as a motivator; and
- little can be done when such people occupy office; and
- they fight tooth and nail to stay in a position where they dispose regardless of what might be proposed. To be in a position where they neither propose nor dispose underlines their irrelevance.
The press gallery should evaluate how we are governed, and alternatives to how we might be governed. Members of the press gallery have a privileged role, like the members of parliament on whom they report. With privilege comes responsibility: to their loyalty is to their audience above maintaining their contacts or sucking up to their employers. Journalists like to point out how few primary votes Senator Muir received, but more people voted for him than voted in any member of the press gallery.
As an exercise in determining whether or not Tony Abbott and his Coalition team were a suitable government for this country, we can see that Kenny and all of his press gallery colleagues failed to do their jobs. This diminishes them and will, ultimately, diminish their privileged role inside parliament.
How much of a privilege is it to simply note this empty gesture or that? Is it even valuable work? Is all that busy-busy really important or does it distract you from what's really important - and if so, how would you know? I often give the rough end of the pineapple to the press gallery, but if you gave them anything more juicy or productive it would be a waste.