“Hungary is our Israel”: Tony Abbott and Orbán’s Danube Institute

Jun 3, 2024
Sydney, Australia. 8th November 2021. Governor of NSW The Hon Margaret Beazley AC, QC, Councillor Christine Forster on behalf of the Sydney Lord Mayor, former Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott AC and renowned contemporary Australian artist, David Griggs attend a ceremony to unveil the 47th and final lion of the Tusk Lion Trail on the steps of Sydney Town Hall. As part of the Tusk Lion Trail, Sydney will become host to the 47th and final Lion in the globally recognised art installation, currently running to raise awareness and funds for the vanishing species. Image: Alamy/Richard Milnes/Alamy Live

It was announced in late in 2023 that Tony Abbott was to be a “visiting fellow” for Viktor Orbán’s Danube Institute, a hub of ultra reactionary thought that gathers anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQIA+ speakers who celebrate the Christian Nationalist project. Or, as Abbott describes it, “a point of light to Conservatives around the world.”

It particularly attracts aggrieved “conservatives” who long for the old days when White men ruled and women knew their place, submissively breeding in the home. Confusion of races, sexuality and genders was not a factor in these mythic days of Western Civilisation’s greatness. All metaphoric borders were strictly policed. Furthermore the colonised were silent about their suffering. Good times for those who controlled the narrative and luxuriated in the spoils.

The Institute serves the purpose for Orbán of laundering his reputation, as seen in Abbott’s 3 May interview with the Hungarian Conservative where he commended Orbán for building a fence in 2015 and stopping what Abbott characterised as “a peaceful invasion” of Europe. Abbott denies the empirical evidence of Orbán’s “electoral autocracy,” asserting that it remains a true democracy.

Rod Dreher is one of the Americans who has been drawn to Viktor Orbán’s Budapest. He moved beyond his conversion to Catholicism, which even in its Rad Trad form proved too lax for him, to Orthodox Christianity. In 2023, Dreher wrote an account of the inaugural conference of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) for The European Conservative journal where he described the concurrent multicultural coalition of Brits protesting for peace in Israel, misleadingly, as an “apocalyptic unveiling of vast numbers of pro-terror, antisemitic Muslims.”

Celebrating the milling crowds of ARC’s lobby as the most interesting part of the conference, Dreher recorded fellow attendees mulling over establishing isolationist “intentional Catholic communities” in the countryside, modelled on Dreher’s own The Benedict Option. Others he reported as debating emigrating to join him in Budapest. One apparently declared, “Hungary is our Israel.”

Around the same time as Abbott’s Danube Institute role was announced, he was also exposed as a member of ARC’s Advisory Board. ARC is both anti-climate science and theocratic in its goals.

April 2024 has been a busy month for Tony Abbott in his role with Orbán’s circle. On April the 8th, The Danube Institute and Quadrant Journal co-hosted an event at the Fullerton Hotel in Sydney. Quadrant hosted its first Orbán circle event in Australia as early as 2016.

Abbott’s speech at the Fullerton was focussed on contrasting the left and right populist movements, calling for a better political option. He evinced disgust for the “climate zealots” and “identity-obsessives” of left populism. Of course “identity” here is intended to dismiss the experience of anyone who does not experience life as a White, heterosexual, Christian man. Abbott also disdained the Trumpist Right.

He set out a series of global enemies beginning with “apocalyptic, death-to-the-infidels Islam” currently manifested in Iran, and which threat he suggested launched its “opening gambit” on the West in the 7th October attack on Israel. “Communist China” is another. Orbán, as his effective co-host, will not have been delighted that Abbott included friend Putin as “a revisionist nuclear power, as-yet unpurged of its militarism, set on restoring the Russia of Peter the Great.”

Abbott is also on the board of the climate-denialist junktank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Based in London and funded by fossil-fuel money, the body has been fighting climate action since 2009. It is thus hardly surprising that Abbott’s speech pillories the “climate cult” and positions policy to deal with the climate catastrophe as the threat rather than the catastrophe’s disasters.

Aside from the predictable attack on people who don’t accept his limited view of acceptable gender and sexuality, Abbott also expressed his condescension for the First Peoples of Australia whom, he claims, lived in a country that represented “a Hobbesian state of nature” before Western conquest.

Not long after, Abbott delivered two speeches in Budapest. The first was for the Danube Institute, where he pontificated on the defeat of the Voice to Parliament referendum: he depicted it as a conquest over “identity politics.”

Unsurprisingly, he continued to parrot inflammatory misinformation about the power of the proposed advisory body. He also depicted it as separating First Peoples in Australia from the rest of the population. While Abbott admits there is continued suffering amongst Indigenous people, he posits that those living in cities and towns are “reasonably well integrated into the general community.”

Abbott argues that the “considerably worse educational, employment, incarceration, health and housing outcomes” are a result of outback living. The point of the Voice was to allow First Peoples to exercise self-determination about the solutions for the determined problems. It would build a new structure intended to allow collaboration with affected communities to shape the best policies to address needs. Instead Abbott argues that secondary students from First Peoples communities should be systematically sent to boarding schools to assimilate into his definition of Australia.

In a new, hopefully less abusive (or murderous), version of the old boarding school establishments, First Peoples’ youth are to be stripped once again of their culture to become “tradies and professionals” who might return to Country as workers, or only rarely on holiday or in retirement. Abbott’s paternalism is breathtaking.

Fittingly for someone nostalgic for Thatcher and Reagan, Abbott’s only solution for structural problems lies in aiding the individual.

Abbott spoke at CPAC Hungary on the 25th April, spruiking Australia’s success to the religio-ethnonationalist audience as the “only country in the world that’s successfully stopped a wave of illegal immigration by boat.”

He celebrated Orbán’s Budapest: “This conservative fusion of freedom, family and nation, this understanding that ‘politics is downstream of culture, and culture is downstream of religion’ is still contentious in the Anglosphere, but not here in Hungary. Hence the colony of English-speaking public intellectuals, that’s sprung up in Budapest, keen to devise a modern formula that can ‘unite the right’ and end the civil war inside established centre-right parties between their conservative and their progressive wings.” It’s worth noting that “Unite the Right” was the US neofascist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Rather than blaming the toxic neoliberalism that has increasingly driven political economies since the Reagan and Thatcher era (and resistance to its cruelty), Abbott blames “green-left governments” for “crumbling services, declining productivity, stagnant wages, growing street crime, disruptive and intimidatory protests that are becoming routine, propaganda masquerading as education, emasculated police and armed forces, and an uncertain response to dictators-on-the-march.” Apparently only a true “conservative” politics can solve those problems.

The network of organisations that interweave through these events ought to be remarked. They are all loosely part of the National Conservative (NatCon) movement that aims to prevent climate action because it is fossil-fuel funded. And they aim to prevent change through populist nativist nationalism.

We must watch Abbott and his friends at their elusive gatherings because they watch us. They are demonising us as “cultural marxists” and believe it is only by enforcing our compliance with their values that they can “conserve” their mythical narrative of the past.

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