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Blood and power

By Brenton Luxton - posted Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A good government... is one that governs for all Australians. Including those who haven't voted for it.

Hmmm, where have I heard this one before? The year was 2007, and Kevin Rudd was addressing the Australian public to declare election victory. Prime Minister-elect Rudd jubilantly declared, "I will be a Prime Minister for all Australians". John Howard also said something to this effect in his victory speech in 2004, and likely his predecessors also. But what does it mean? Are our leaders saying they'll govern in the interests of all Australians, individual and collective? In Abbott's case, I'm saying neither.

The feelings of unsolicited buggery are high. Anti-Abbott Facebook pages have sprung up overnight to deplore his Prime Ministership before his Prime Ministerial feet even hit the ground. Unfair? Perhaps, but many don't need to wait to find out, and his claim to govern for all Australians is the reason why.


The level of vitriol and intentionally polarised debate in parliament over the last 6 years is enough to make even the most logical of persons believe in bad juju, or possibly just that it was so incredibly shameful that we ought to destroy the joint and start over. Tony Abbott led his party to the fringe on just about everything, be it action on climate change, to the rights of the refugee. So how can Abbott say with a straight face that he will govern for all Australians? Perhaps he just means that despite the existence of a substantial chunk of Australia despise him, he is our leader, and we will be governed whether we like it or not.

Certainly those in the gay community would be perplexed as to how exactly Tony Abbott would govern for them. Would Abbott finally recognise gay people as human beings? That they, like heterosexual couples, deserve the right to marriage and the benefits that comes with it? No, strike one Prime Minister. I could go on to say he isn't governing in the interests of public servants who are set to lose their jobs, nor citizens who want a true National Broadband Network, citizens who want a compassionate and internationally respected refugee policy, citizens that want the continuance of prudent action on climate change and citizens who want the super profits made off Australia's natural resources shared more equitably. But elaborating on these points are in a way futile, given the evidently true nature of Abbott's governance. Abbott will simply say his actions are for the greater good of Australia, Abbott's version of the greater good. In Abbott's world, he is the king, and he knows what is best for his subjects.

The question now raised (more necessary than ever) is, who is Tony Abbott? What drives him? What kind of political creature is our iron man leader? Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was particularly damning in his assessment of Abbott, saying, "I think Tony Abbott would do...what he felt he needed to do, to gain the power or have power... I would like to see somebody with a deep conviction about where Australia will go and who will have some constant in terms of important policy, and that has not been demonstrated by the current Liberal party." This analysis of Abbott's character and leadership seems quite accurate. In 2009, Abbott saw an opportunity to gain power power by driving a knife into the back of Malcolm Turnbull, and at the same time trash a strenuously negotiated and cooperative bipartisan emissions trading scheme. By doing so Abbott was able to take a position that would be adversarial, a position absent of negotiation, absent of the perils of collaboration, something to differentiate Liberal from Labor, something to fight over. And Tony Abbott is a fighter all right, a primitive one. Abbott's elevation gave the Liberal party renewed purpose, that purpose was gaining power, whatever the cost.

With his bloodied and bruised fists, what will Tony Abbott do now? Even after reading his manifesto Battlelines (a title that humorously reflects his adversarial and primitive nature) it is hard to come to any real conclusions on what he hopes to achieve. Abbott talks about the battle of the big ideas and how they define who you are and what you stand for, yet the big ideas are something that Abbott has continually flopped, back-flipped and faltered on. All we know is that in Abbott's world Abbott believes what Abbott believes, a dogmatic obsession with ideologue with no clear distinction as to what it actually entails. His ideology is power, and in the great words of Franklin D. Roosevelt (not Stan Lee), "great power involves great responsibility", and the responsibility is something Tony Abbott has proven himself incapable of handling.

So no Mr Abbott, you do not govern for me, you only temporarily push me around. And I think you're going to have a bad time trying to do either.

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About the Author

Brenton Luxton is a University of Queensland graduate, having completed a Bachelors of International Studies. His study fields were International Relations and Japanese language, with a specific focus on international governance and cosmopolitan ethics.

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