Guide Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott

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Contents:
  1. BATTLEGROUND : WHY THE LIBERAL PARTY SHIRTFRONTED TONY ABBOTT
  2. Battleground
  3. Mr Harrison Miller

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Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Volume 62 , Issue 3 September Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. There was nothing especially disciplined or restrained in the disgraceful aggression with which he attacked Gillian Triggs for doing her job, all carried out with a rhetorical violence that was unreconstructed male through and through, and debased the office of prime minister.

Abbott's failure to register how this looked to voters, and especially women, speaks volumes about the quality of his judgement. Nor was there anything truly 'unconscious' about Abbott creating a cabinet with just one female member, or his willingness to reward proven mediocrity when it wore a suit and made noises of which he approved. There is a difference, too obvious to bother wasting words over although this never seemed to worry Abbott, between having independently minded women in your family, and appointing women to cabinet. But there is also a distinction to be made between a female staff member, such as Credlin, and a male minister of state.

The former acts as a symbolic extension of the self; she exercises power in the name of a male authority. A minister's authority works differently; it is not mediated in the same way. To suggest that such distinctions are, for practical purposes, unreal, is to ignore the symbolic dimensions of politics.

And one thing we do know about Abbott is that he was a man who took very seriously both formal hierarchy and the choreography of power. Remember all those flags? The knighthoods? But if in explaining these kinds of matters we need to go back to a time long before Abbott ever entered parliament: for others we need to look more squarely at his period in opposition.

BATTLEGROUND : WHY THE LIBERAL PARTY SHIRTFRONTED TONY ABBOTT

It is hard to think of a federal leader who came to the prime ministership with as little recognisable constructive policy as Abbott did. This is why I seriously doubt the authors' contention that Abbott might one day be regarded by historians as the country's 'best ever opposition leader'. Opposition leaders need to do more than drag a government down; they also need to prepare themselves for office by developing good policy that expresses a coherent and attractive vision.


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Abbott, the eternal oppositionist, with the help of a mainly co-operative media, was very effective in getting out a message that Labor was unfit to govern because of its dishonesty, incompetence, and from minority status. But such rhetoric came back to haunt him when he brazenly broke his own promises and soon appeared dishonest and incompetent himself.

And it eventually became clear that the quest that had earlier sent him in the direction of a political career, the defence of Western civilisation against an assortment of enemies that included Marxism, feminism, and homosexuality, could not easily be adapted to include Vladimir Putin, Islamic State, and Gillian Triggs.

Battleground

Still, it looks like Abbott might remain with us for some time yet. He has recently turned his attention to whether a statue of Cecil Rhodes should be allowed to remain outside Oriel College, Oxford. And it is hard to think of anyone better suited, by experience and conviction, to lead the 'no' campaign in a referendum on same-sex marriage.

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Mr Harrison Miller

Quentin Bryce with the newly sworn in Abbott Ministry, 18 September Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, via Wikimedia Commons Nor was there anything truly 'unconscious' about Abbott creating a cabinet with just one female member, or his willingness to reward proven mediocrity when it wore a suit and made noises of which he approved. Frank Bongiorno.

From the New Issue. Reviewed by John Hawke. Reviewed by Naama Grey-Smith. Reviewed by Zora Simic. Open Page.