MUNGO MACCALLUM. Abbott waits for next ride on gravy train.

With his political death, Tony Abbott achieved something he had never managed or even attempted in his political life: bipartisanship.

Only at the fringes was there wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the extreme right, their Captain Catholic will forever be their martyred saint, treacherously brought down by the Turnbull turncoats and their allies – their once and future king. And the extreme left would wish he was still in parliament to continue his long career of undermining and disruption on the government backbench.

But for the vast majority of both Liberal and Labor supporters, there is only relief. Abbott’s demise marks the end of the revolving door prime ministers. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull are long gone; and now Abbott, the last and most active of the barbershop quartet, will join them. Finally the feuds, vendettas and revenges can be consigned to history.

This does not mean that all will be sweetness and light, that parliament can live happily ever after. The great rifts between both sides of politics – conservatives and moderates on the right, traditionalists and progressives on the left – will not be healed with the departure of the most prominent actors..

Ideology is not just about personalities. But at least some of the bitterness and acrimony that has tarnished the last ten years can be ameliorated. Abbott’s greatest legacy will be his defeat on May 18.

Of course that is not the way he will see it – one of the reasons he gave for hanging on was to secure his legacy, his record as a leader. So perhaps it is the right time to take a hard look at just what that was. Don’t worry, it will not take long.

The first and most salient point is that Anthony John Abbott was a lousy prime minister. He was a devastatingly effective attack dog, savaging his enemies wherever he caught a glimpse of them, whether on the opposition benches or among his rivals..

He sent off two Labor leaders and one of his own, and at least one potential leader in Julie Bishop. He ceaselessly claimed to have stopped the boats and ended the carbon tax – both dubious assertions but more importantly negatives. And when he gained office, the habit persisted. He was always keener to destroy than to build.

In his truncated term as Prime Minister his major positive proposal was an attempt to bring in an inequitable and unaffordable parental leave scheme, eventually discarded. But what he will mainly be remembered for was his mistakes: the disastrous 2014 budget, the authoritarian chaos of his office under his chief of staff Peta Credlin, and on course his knighthood of Prince Phillip.

And that last was an indication of what finally caused his downfall; he was simply past his use by date. The electors of Warringah knew that the science of climate change was not crap, as he once called it, and his lame and belated  efforts to backtrack on his denialism were unconvincing.  He streuously backed coal.

He snubbed their overwhelming vote to approve same sex marriage. And his performance as the local member just did not cut it. He was a energetic participant  as a cyclist, lifesaver and firefighter – although sometimes he appeared more interested in the cameras than the job at hand — but they would have preferred something more concrete.

When this became clear, Abbott, as he always did, fought: when he finally conceded he said defiantly that he would rather be a loser than a quitter. He died on his feet, although he will almost certainly be awarded a lavish government post to console him – one mooted is the embassy at the Vatican, appropriate for the man they called the Mad Monk.

He will never lack for a comfortable and well-paid job. But he can never regain the one for which he really lusted. Sic transit gloria Tony.


Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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14 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Abbott waits for next ride on gravy train.

  1. Imogen Boas says:

    Forgot to mention his contribution as Minister for Women – let’s think about that, um, nothing!

  2. Imogen Boas says:

    You left out his ‘wonderful’ work as Health Minister – gone but not easily forgotten.

  3. Hamish McDonald says:

    Sinodinos is leaving a Senate vacancy to be filled from NSW….

  4. J.Donegan says:

    Thank you Mungo. Splendid summary.
    I would add only this:
    O quam cito transit gloria Antonii.
    From now on: in the words of Gandalf:
    “Now we are come to the time of the schemers”.

  5. Richard Ure says:

    Mungo, Mungo, Mungo. Your piece will sit for all time on the Wayback Machine How can it be let to do so without including a reference to the destruction of Labor’s heroic effort to rewire the nation with a fit for purpose fibre NBN rather than his and Malcolm’s Claytons version based on yet more copper?

  6. john tons says:

    ambassador to the Vatican? I would much prefer him to be sent to Tonga – he can then be on the spot to improve our relations with the South Pacific. Perhaps shift the embassy to a beach so he can see at first hand that climate change is crap.

  7. you have encapsulated my thoughts completely….he has been such a destructive, divisive person who has been overpaid, over-rated and over us……..and we are over him. he has proven himself to be a malingerer shining the back bench with the other backsides that have aided and abetted him to create havoc from within the party……i have observed politics for many years but no other politician has the ability to anger me with his childish, narcissistic, alcoholic behaviour….he infuriated me when he was so resistant to the wants and needs of his constituents in his refusal to stay in the parliament when the same-sex marriage bill was passed… there is many a party out west and in the never-never when the indigenous found out that he was gone….never to be returned……when he was made special indigenous minister i wrote to the pm and asked him what the indigenous had done to deserve him back in the mix…..sure he loved to go out to the beautiful spots and have time with our traditional owners…but he was never sighted out in the dusty desserts chatting… name for him has always been tony baloney…….as he is such a conceited arse.

  8. Sue Caldwell says:

    Good overall assessment but please tell me who what and where are the “far left” in Australia?
    The term “far left” is oft times used in the Murdoch “news’-papers, and sometimes in the Fairfax papers too.

  9. His only achievements were ones of destruction and wreckage. Free of imagination, ideas or insight he sought to level the playing field by bringing down the accomplishments of others. Negativism is his forté, capriciousness is his modus operandi, slander and bullying are his tools of trade. Hamstrung by religious conceits and weighed down by insecurity he sought validation from antiquated certainties – the unquestionable authority of a medieval belief system and its dogma, the hereditary supremacy of born-to-rule elites, the worship of privilege, power and wealth. He was lost in a world of ritualised voo-doo and dog-eat-dog Randesque ideology.
    He’ll be right at home at the Vatican.

  10. Jenny Forster says:

    Great work Mungo. As a Warringah voter & part of the ‘Vote Tony Out’ tribe,
    I can tell you that you have nailed it exactly.
    His biggest mistake was ignoring our 75% YES vote
    In the postal vote on
    marriage equality then abstaining from the vote in Parliament
    It brought the community together like never before. Coupled with knifing
    Malcolm produced Mosman & Balmoral full of disaffected Liberals.

  11. Graham English says:

    If Tony goes to the Vatican he will find a pope not to his liking. Francis isn’t perfect but he’s not Tony’s kind of Catholic. In his Bulletin article many years ago about local Catholicism, the first time I heard of him and knew I didn’t like him, he tried to demolish any progress in the Australian Catholic Church. That worked a treat. He can’t help himself. He destroys wherever he goes. It is his raison d’etre. I won’t miss him at all.

  12. Lorraine Osborn says:

    His Mum said he’d either be pope or prime minister. If he’s sent to Vatqican Francis better watch out.

  13. Lynne Newington says:

    That’s an interesting question……my thoughts on that has been maybe that gravy train with drop him off at the Holy See…
    He wouldn’t bee able to cause mischief there considering the status quo.

  14. Greg Rice says:

    When will we cease accepting this “right” to a “comfortable and well paid job” for ex politicians, however they reach their use by date. In Abbott’s case it will be government derived because no private enterprise would employ such damaged goods.

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