The rise and implosion of Tony Abbot
Tony Abbott is a common man in many respects. Run of the mill, regular Joe. Born in 1957, in London, to an Australian mother and English father, he emigrated to Australia in the 60’s – similar to my own mother. An every-man.
What Abbott was afforded was all of the luxuries of a mid-century middle class white man in a world structurally built around him – for people like him, by people like him. These luxuries extended to include access to world-class education. These are some of the the tints in the glasses with which Tony Abbott views the world.
Tony’s hard line, right-wing, “back in my day,” anti-“political correctness” stance is a product of the society we live in. As much as we’d like to deny it and call Abbott a lone wolf, “a bad apple” – Abbott’s mindset is in correlation with the white Christian middle to upper class society that has come to dominate this centuries culture. The one we still live in (to a lesser degree).
I’ve picked some of Abbott’s most prolific years for inanities, highlighting some of his fairly common views of the world. I know – I questioned my sanity when I first began researching this idea. A kind of dark exercise, to chronologically unpack the rise and fall of the 28th Prime Minister of Australia, but I’d agree with George Santayana here:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
On Women, sex and LGBTQI+ community
Abbott’s outspoken views of the role of women started early. In 1979: “…it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” In 2002 Tony tells us”…most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm”. A bad man is simply something to put up with.
According to Mr Abbott, virginity “is the greatest gift you can give someone.” But be careful; “[a]bortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.” So, women, the ball is in your court. Now, lean in close, let Tony mansplain the exchange of goods and services, as he did in 2010; “[w]hat the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.” Abbott has an incredible grasp of the female psyche – he even appointed himself the Minister for Women in 2014.
It may come as no surprise that of course Tony is at the forefront of the No campaign throughout the postal vote on Marriage Equality. He holds on so tightly to his fragile masculinity, saying look, homosexuals? Make him feel “a bit threatened.” (2014).
Abbott has a low tolerance for his opponents, especially if they’re female. Apparently, Gillard wouldn’t “lie down and die” (2012). His campaign over this period went from strength to strength, in 2013 Abbott told voters to “vote for the guy with the not-bad-looking daughters”. Sure, he’s a blokes bloke. The toxic ‘boys will be boys’ mindset was on full display in 2014, when Abbott was caught on film winking mid-interview to an ABC radio host when a phone sex hotline worker called in with her comments on the Budget.
On Race, Culture and Australia’s Indigenous people
Unfortunately Tony Abbott has a poor grasp on what racism really is and the fact that it is still very much the status quo – systematically, culturally and structurally. It’s more pervasive and nuanced than segregated washrooms and slavery, and I’d venture to say Abbott is playing dumb. Ignorance is bliss, and Tony shows his ignorance to modern racism in 2004 when he said “[r]acism used to be offered as the complete explanation for Aboriginal poverty, alienation and early death. Racism hasn’t disappeared. Still, if racism caused poverty, why hasn’t poverty declined as racism diminished?” Perpetually threatened by things that don’t benefit him, he tells us “…I have said it before and let me say it again, I find the burqa a particularly confronting form of attire… I would very much wish that fewer Australians would choose it”.
In 2010 reflected; “Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.” However, Tony is very proud of the people that came to Australia in 1788, also letting us know in 2010 that “Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that.” According to Tony “…back in 1788 it was nothing but bush” but here we are, thanks to “a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land.” As for the Indigenous Australians? Well in the same year, Tony let us know: “[t]here may not be a great job for [Aboriginal people] but whatever there is, they just have to do it… And if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done.”
Who knows, this might be due to the fact that Tony believes “… only substantial people become leaders of substantial nations.”
Gently ignorant though his views on intersectionality are, Abbott seems to have a slight fascination with Nazism, too. In 2015 he said: “I mean, the Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it…” and accusing Labor of causing a “holocaust of job” losses.
Abbott is a proud Catholic. However, he seems to forget about roots of his Roman Catholic identity in 2015 when he claimed “[c]ultures are not all equal. We should be ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God.” I mean, there was the Crusades, and the Inquisition – and a few other small events throughout history. Be careful not to use Godliness as a shield for historical and ongoing sexual abuse of minors.
Obviously, Abbott holds some archaic views that are often based in ignorance and fear. His beliefs tend to not reflect the progression of culture but instead hold, white-knuckle, to the traditional status quo. However, he’s a product of his specific generation and upbringing – a start not unlike many Australians, especially in that age bracket. We’ve built and uphold a society that systematically pushes white, middle-to-upper class, cis, heteronormative men to the top, whilst extending far less support to minorities.
Let’s forget Tony Abbott, though. He is a product of a broken system. This is the society we live in, and it’s our responsibility to alter the status quo. To keep pushing culture and society forward in the interests of equality, humanity and compassion. Those who have benefitted from the unjust system we have in place are obviously resistant to change and see little wrong with things that don’t impact them. It’s our job to communicate and advocate for a better Australia for everyone.