Abbott – a national disgrace

Just when you thought it was safe to open a newspaper again, Tony Abbott is back in the news. This time he is in the UK, where the Brits have appointed him a ‘trade envoy’.

He will be advising them on matters of trade. This is something of a risk, as Abbott is known for many things, but commercial deal making is not one of them. More of a head kicker, really.

It has been said that Boris Johnson just wants him ‘on board’ because he is a strong supporter of a no-deal Brexit. He is a supporter now, but as is the way with Abbott, he was a ‘remainer’ before he was a ‘leaver’.

The British are keen to get any sort of deal they can, as they are about to crash out of the EU without a deal. In trying to secure a trade deal for the British, Abbott will be competing against us (Australia) for the same types of deal. So is he loyal? And to whom? He was born in the UK but he gets his pension from us. Decisions, decisions.

One must question whether Australia should permit such behaviour, in a citizen, as it appears he has been privy to uniquely privileged information. He would be in a position to use that information against Australia’s national interests. That does not sound in any way morally sustainable, let alone from a national security perspective. Should Peter Dutton be ‘on the job’ protecting us from potentially conflicted ex-prime ministers?

How did Abbott get to the UK?

He got a special exemption. Although many families have been unable to obtain an exemption, mainly for compassionate or family reasons, to leave the country, Abbott was able to obtain one. Abbott said his exemption from the ban on Australians travelling was obtained “in the normal way”.

He wanted to go for a job interview, it seems, and also to attend a golf tournament. He was also travelling on a diplomatic passport, which needs to be explained. What was wrong with his Australian passport? He also knew the minister, which appears to be as unfair as it sounds.

And if you thought having him out of Australia at all was a bit of a win for us, think again. He is coming back. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, because so many Australians are stranded overseas, unable to return. But Abbott can come back whenever he wants to. We do not know whether he is flying on Australia’s tab, but if he can get something for free, he will.

Is he travelling by a commercial flight, or will we send a VIP jet? The ramifications and costs of this jaunt are endless. Not to mention the trashing of Australia’s reputation. He is seen as a distinguished representative of our country, at the same time that the British opposition has called him out as, among other things: offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone, homophobic, misogynistic, climate denying and divisive.

Did Abbott need work?

This was also at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians were being laid off from their jobs, or having their hours cut. Abbott already receives about $300,000 a year. It is the parliamentary pension he supposedly earned, while wrecking everything he touched, during 25 years of public life. It seems there are two sets of rules. Quelle surprise, as they say in the EU.

Any other developments?

Well, he did use the opportunity of a platform, at another right-wing think tank (a natural oxymoron, but I digress), to sabotage both Britain’s future trade prospects and Australia’s fight to contain the corona virus. Attendees at the Policy Exchange, where he made the speech, lapped it up, although even they were surprised by some of what Abbott said.

He described himself as a man who got things done, and that he would essentially ignore any environmental and labour concerns when negotiating any trade deals. This of course contradicted Mr Johnson’s stated position on the environment and also labour relations. There seems to be very little upside to Britain’s plans in that speech.

On the Australian side of the ledger, he attacked the Victorian Premier, describing the state’s lockdown as a health dictatorship at its worst. He went on to extol the virtues of letting your loved ones die. Their lives do actually have a monetary value, it seems, and sometimes the cure is more costly than the disease.

That is almost the precise opposite to the argument Abbott used in 2009, when he actually spoke out against euthanasia. He even warned us about greedy and impatient relatives pulling the plug in order to get the inheritance.

The Morrison Government is now ducking and weaving around the suggestion that it is enabling Abbott or endorsing his views. Its ministers’ constant harping about throwing open our states’ borders is merely doublespeak for “put the economy first”. That is the whole Morrison Government, by the way.

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest” is a quote attributed to Henry II of England preceding the death of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury… Wikipedia. I think I know how he felt.

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Mark Buckley is a writer based in regional Victoria. He has a particular interest in politics, history and ethics in public life. He blogs at www.askbucko.com

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