24 March 2011

Hanson's revenge

Nobody wants to see a future Prime Minister as a rabble-rouser. Prime Ministers pass by rabbles with a quiet dignity buttressed by tight security; they may be allowed a witty quip, but nothing more. They do not engage with rabbles. They certainly do not try any mealy-mouthed accommodation with them, let alone attempt to win them over.

If that rally represents the opposition to the carbon tax, then all of a sudden the carbon tax doesn't look so bad.

Greg Combet has taken up the snarl against Abbott directly, not bothering with the hollowed-out husk of his shadow Greg Hunt. Combet lacks the cruel wit or flamboyance of Keating, but he also seems to have a self-awareness that prevents him spending too long on the high horse. Only Alan Jones gets away with being a judgmental harpy.

Much is made of the plight of Andrew Demetriou and David Gallop, two men running billion-dollar businesses which are randomly plunged into ignominy by individuals behaving irresponsibly, even criminally. The same plight affects those who organise mass rallies to Canberra:

  • Ian McLachlan was President of the National Farmers' Federation in the late 1980s. He organised a rally to Canberra to protest something or other that the Hawke government did. 80,000 people turned up and their behaviour was impeccable, while forceful: Bob Hawke had no option but to front them. McLachlan was made as a conservative leader from that point on (even though he was past his best by the time he made it to Howard's cabinet in the late '90s).

  • As President of the ACTU, Jenny George tried the same trick. One union organiser smashed up some glass on the Parliamentary precinct and got into a scuffle with police, which became The Story; whatever the rally was meant to be about fell away. George did make it into Parliament but neither Keating, Rudd nor Gillard made her a minister.

  • Old stagers like Andrew Peacock and John Howard knew not only how to work a crowd, but how to read one too. By contrast, in 1993 John Hewson got carried away with the rabble-rousing thing and was energised by screeching leftist protesters (without the quiver of droll quips that Menzies used to drop interjectors where they stood). Graham Richardson said that those appearances lost Hewson the election, but he would say that: bugger was right though.

  • The Your Rights At Work rallies in 2007 were ferociously disciplined. Unionists did not respond to provocation: provocateurs looked silly in their attempts. The rallies reflected well on Labor in the face of a crumbling government and reinforced them in that year's election.

  • The rallies of Aboriginal and pro-Aboriginal groups on the lawns outside Parliament the following year to hear then-PM Kevin Rudd apologise to the Stolen Generations were peaceful and celebratory. The whole public sentiment behind the event would have evaporated had even one participant initiated or responded to provocation.

Abbott might not have organised that rally, but having sown a "people's revolt" this straggly, weedy crop is what you reap. The people who did organise that rally were shock-jocks: the same people who gave us the Cronulla riots of 2005, and the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull in 2009. With friends like them, etc.

One sign of too many journalists chasing too little news is that they lit upon the presence of Angry Anderson at the rally. They all seemed to miss the irony that if a song like Bad Boy For Love were released today, people like Mirabella, Bishop, Abbott and the shock-jocks would vilify it and him for glorifying violent crime.

In reading this piece by Philip Coorey I came perilously close to feeling sorry for Abbott:
Abbott was walking on eggshells when he arrived. His rock star reception dulled a little when he declared: "I don't think this is about climate change. Climate change happens, mankind does make a contribution," he said.

He then recovered the mob by hooking into Gillard and her broken promise.

Back in the building, watching on TV, some Liberals were mortified while Labor people were delighted. Framed behind Abbott's head were some placards. One conflated a carbon tax with UN global domination and genocide, another said, "JuLIAR, Bob Brown's Bitch" ... What went down well with the crowds may not have looked so good to the broader audience at home.

He can't help it. He just loses control. Put him before a mob like that, or even the Beaufort Crows, and he just loses it. The urge to please the crowd takes over and he's away.
I'm just the pieces of the man I used to be
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me
I'm far away from home
And I've been facing this alone
For much too long
Oh, I feel like no-one ever told the truth to me
About growing up and what a struggle it would be
In my tangled state of mind
I've been looking back to find
Where I went wrong

Too much love will kill you
If you can't make up your mind
Torn between the lover
And the love you leave behind
You're headed for disaster
'Cos you never read the signs
Too much love will kill you - every time

I'm just the shadow of the man I used to be
And it seems like there's no way out of this for me
I used to bring you sunshine
Now all I ever do is bring you down
Ooh, how would it be if you were standing in my shoes
Can't you see that it's impossible to choose
No there's no making sense of it
Every way I go I'm bound to lose
Oh yes,

Too much love will kill you
Just as sure as none at all
It'll drain the power that's in you
Make you plead and scream and crawl
And the pain will make you crazy
You're the victim of your crime
Too much love will kill you - every time

Yes, too much love will kill you
It'll make your life a lie
Yes, too much love will kill you
And you won't understand why
You'd give your life, you'd sell your soul
But here it comes again
Too much love will kill you
In the end
In the end

- Roger Taylor Too much love will kill you

It may seem like a bit of a stretch to compare a promiscuous bisexual rockstar who died from an AIDS-related illness to the Leader of the Liberal Party in Opposition, but there you go.

Pauline Hanson was never able to pose a direct threat to the Liberal Party in the way that Labor does. The chief threat she posed to it was to drag the Liberal Party down to her level, and that's what happened yesterday. The Liberals will try and dissociate their man, getting him to wring out one of his quasi-apologies and call for unity. It's too late for that. It's too late for this conga-line of Liberal MPs who can't tell the difference between ordinary Australians and wackos. Liberals are going to speak out more and more, and any attempt by Tony Abbott to pull them into line will be ignored.

This is how leaderships end, people. He's been Grech'd, and he's done it to himself. Tony Abbott came so close to becoming Prime Minister, but so did Arthur Calwell. Kevin Rudd was cut down within his first term. Better men than he have been thrashed more soundly, and now that we know him better we can see what fate awaits him should he lead his party to the next election. The next Newspoll will be a doozy and the attempts by The Australian to spin it will be fascinating.

Hanson has her revenge: after thirteen years, a fair bit of money gone and even a spell in the jug, her Javert might not go to prison but he won't be going to the Lodge either.

The Australian people are bigger than any mob. Polls don't adequately capture what they'll feel or where they are prepared to be led, so while they can't be ignored outright they can be taken with a grain of salt. The Australian people won't vote for Tony Abbott because he's easily swayed - by the weak and frightened, and by shouty fools in padded rooms.


  1. I re-watched the encounter in parliament and come to the conclusion that Mr. Abbott lost more skin than the PM.

    It was not a good show jumping up to complain when he and Mr. Hockey were heard with no interruption, except the Speaker pulling Mr. Hockey up for going too far. It was not a sight for him to be proud of, standing across the table, ranting while the PM was making her response. It was the Opposition Leader that set the tone of the debate.

    It was not a good show for the Opposition leader complaining the PM insulted him and demanding that she withdraw. The Speaker treated the request with the disdain it deserved.

    Mr. Abbott does not appear to comprehend the meaning of what he says. He does not appear to see to many, he is just being nasty by attacking the person. Mr. Abbott seems to be of the belief that if he says something, that makes it fact. He does not appreciate all he is putting forwarded is his opinion. Even to do this he cherry picks and takes words out of context. He is great for putting his own meaning on what is uttered or done. He does not appear to understand what is sexist and where women are concerned, they will not tolerate it.

    Mr. Abbott would be advise to work on that sulky smirk he gets when he believes he has done something clever. Clever but generally nasty.

    Before anyone pulls me up, this is only my opinion.

    Once again, Mr Abbott has said he is sorry some of the placards were a little overboard but as with Mr. Scott Morrison and Mr. Cory Bernardi, it was a false apology as he goes on to say, he knows why they do it. According to his reasoning. All bad behaviour is the fault of the PM. What he is really saying is that anything goes, as long as it gets him closer to his obsession of taking up his rightful role as PM.

    The PM is capable of looking after herself and is capable of giving back what she receives. This is why I believe she replaced Mr. Rudd. I believe we seen our PM as close to anger that she will ever allow herself to be. The PM was a long way from being out of control.
    Next time, and there will be a repeat of what occurred today, that the Government calls the Opposition’s bluff and allow the censure motion to succeed. I would imagine that the Opposition would soon run out stream, allowing the Government to reply to the accusations in a methodical manner. This would be better than allowing the Opposition to proceed with matter of public importance which is just another platform to trash the Government.

  2. Mr. Abbott just does not get it. It is not just a few nasty slogans. Few including the PM would not worry if that was not all they were. There is plenty of evidence that the PM has a great sense of humour and can laugh at a joke made against herself. What the complaints are about is the sexist nature of many of the placards. Sensible woman have zero tolerance for sexist remarks, they are not jokes or nasty slogans.
    “Mr Abbott has told the ABC's 7.30 program Ms Gillard did not raise the issue of an apology with him.
    "There's no doubt that the Prime Minister's ministers are trying to make a big song and dance about a few nasty slogans," Mr Abbott said.
    "I really think people should stop being too precious about this.
    "And the Prime Minister, I think, is a tough enough politician who dishes it out to understand that sometimes you've got to take it back."

    Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/abbott-says-he-did-not-apologise-to-pm/story-e6frfku0-1226027664751#ixzz1HWEFtZWB”

  3. Abbott's appalling performance in front of a mob of crazies was only a warm up for his rabid performance on Wednesday during a censure motion.
    He was heard in silence by Labor but could not remain seated during the reply. Tony, you can't handle the truth
    Truly cringe worthy

  4. Of course he would be a goner if the media treated him in the same manner they do any other party leader.

    Because he enjoys a dream run from them I therefore predict this will not be the end of his career, but merely a blimp.

  5. Anon3, a few bad polls and they'll turn - look what happened to Hawke. Notus is right, the rot has set in and eventually the journos will pick up the scent.

  6. I dunno, Andrew. Mark Latham went down for a handshake. Kim Beazley was doomed after he got the name "Rove" confused. Alexander Downer for a gaffe about things that batter.

    Abbott has gaffed, seriously gaffed - again and again, and got away with it. He survived the 82-second death stare at Mark Riley, an act that would surely have been terminal to the career of any other party leader. He stalks out of press conferences abruptly if he doesn't like the tone of questioning - and the press say not a word of criticism.

    Anyone who can skate through those acts unscathed will be allowed by the media to get away with practically anything.

    It's only because of the help/boosting of the media that The Unelectable almost got into the Lodge at the last election.


  7. Latham didn't go down immediately after the handshake, Beazley didn't go down immediately after the Rove thing, Downer survived for some time after TTTM. When the polls showed they were turkeys, the press turned. In NSW the press allowed themselves to be manipulated by a sloppy government for over a decade, then when the polls went south they turned.

    You're right about Abbott as a repeat offender. When the press turns no amount of schmoozing will turn it around.