Provoking Politics

12 March 2014
You'd think right wingers would be happy with the state of things in Australia right now. Their guys are in government, their chief protector owns all the newspapers, what's not to like? But it seems they just can't let go of their fetishistic hatred of the left. They're particularly incensed right now at the continuing spread of Greens Senator from WA Scott Ludlam's Welcome to WA, Prime Minister speech to the Senate, which is getting a lot of screen time from them given they claim its audience is the irrelevant Twitter users of the left. Miranda Devine lets loose in News Ltd today, in a column which begins with a claim that the left has "lost its marbles", then goes on to prove hers were never in existence. There's accusations of hate speech, dog whistling, sneakiness and bigotry, finishing up by calling Senator Ludlam a loser.

All that's to be expected, but it's when Devine turns her adoring eye on Abbott that the fun really starts. In reporting Abbott's speech to the annual dinner of the Australian Forest Products Association, in which he described loggers as "the ultimate conservationists", Devine writes, "Abbott’s words fell on the room of foresters like a chorus of angels signifying the dawning of the light."

I'm not making that up. I couldn't. My sides. Ms Devine has made much over the years of her Catholic faith. Where, then, does she stand on idolatry?

Anyway, whilst such masturbatory fawning proves Devine's irrelevance to the national debate (and has already been the target of much mirth), it's not really the problem with that column. There's a deeper issue here, one that points to the sickness at the heart of the Abbott administration. Referring to Abbott's speech as a "giant finger to the green movement", Ms Devine writes that Abbott's "deliberate provocations are unhinging" the left. The problem here isn't that Ms Devine is wrong. She's right - about the deliberate provocations part. The problem is this is exactly what Abbott is doing, and that anyone thinks it's even vaguely okay.

For better or for worse (well okay, it's worse), Tony Abbott has been elected Prime Minister. That means, if my Year 9 civics teacher was right, he was elected to lead a team of other elected members to govern the nation. It's a role he's clearly out of his depth in. He was a tremendously successful opposition leader; he opposed everything beautifully. But now in government it's clear opposition was the place for him. He still acts like the opposition leader in many ways, spending an inordinate amount of energy opposing  and attacking Labor instead of presenting his plans to run the country. That's a huge problem in and of itself. But in pointing out Abbott's deliberate provocation, Devine shows how Abbott is doing more than merely oppose. He's using his role as Prime Minister not to govern with dignity for the good of the nation but to carry out personal vendettas, throw his weight around and generally act like the bully  boy of student politics he is so often accused of being. The idea that it's in any way appropriate for the Prime Minister to make statements or enact policies just to piss people off - well, that I find astonishing. It doesn't matter what side of politics you're on. John Howard didn't carry on like this. Gillard and Rudd didn't think "how can we annoy conservatives this week?" (Although Gillard was not above insulting the Greens to score points).

But Abbott is doing it. Instead of elevating the office of Prime Minister, he's using it to carry out a spiteful vendetta against enemies real and perceived - and the right, dizzy with love of Abbott and loathing of the left, is cheering him on. Well, Tony Abbott, you do not deserve the office you know occupy. You're a disgrace to Australia. And on Sunday we're going to all turn up and show you.


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