December 2013 - January 2014

The Nation Reviewed

How I learnt to love Tony Abbott

By Greg Sheridan
A bromance for the ages

BESTIES

Abbott was my best friend … We talked over everything. The meaning of life, the purpose of politics, who’d win the rugby league grand final, what girls we planned to ask out, petty squabbles we might have had with our parents. [12 September 2012]

Like Abbott, I spent some time at a Catholic seminary intending to become a priest. [22 August 2009]

In 1977, Abbott and I drove down from Sydney to Melbourne to attend an AUS [Australian Union of Students] conference at Monash University. The AUS conference was extremely hostile for two modestly conservative boys like Abbott and me. The stench of marijuana lay heavy in the air, and every communist and Trotskyist sub-group had assembled, it seemed, its entire national membership. We found the atmosphere of the conference so uncongenial, and so threatening, that we went across the road and asked the Catholic college if we could stay there for the duration of the conference. [12 September 2012]

 

FIRST CRUSH

Abbott and I were lying on the sand at a surf beach some distance out of Melbourne. The surf was way too rough for either of us to go in. Suddenly a woman came up to us screaming. Her son had been pulled out by a rip and was in bad trouble … Abbott was a strong swimmer and pretty much without hesitation jumped in, swam out to the kid, took hold of him, dragged him down the coastline a bit to get past the rip, and brought him safely to shore. He was not a bit interested in the mother’s thanks. [17 August 2013]

He loves to run, and swim and bicycle, and he loves to volunteer, in the bushfire brigade, in the surf life-savers, in Aboriginal communities. [17 August 2013]

Abbott is brave as a lion. [22 July 2010]

 

COURTSHIP

I suggested we dine at Lygon Street, one of Melbourne’s glories and a street whose Italian cafes I love … We parked a couple of blocks away and strolled round to find an eatery. I’ve dined with Abbott in Lygon Street before and people are always happy to see a celebrity … [This time] a group of six to 10 demonstrators burst into the restaurant, surrounded our table, and started screaming something along the lines of “Tony Abbott, you don’t dig it, you’re a bigot” or some such drooling nonsense … The manager … asked us to go upstairs, where we finished our dinner. [19 April 2012]

The speeches he works on most show the beneficial effect of an Oxford education. [21 July 2012]

To say the Syrian conflict involves “baddies versus baddies” is almost technical in the precision of its accuracy. [3 September 2013]

Abbott’s cast of mind … is an excellent cast of mind. [19 September 2013]

 

TIFFS AND JEALOUSIES

Dining with Abbott implies no particular partisanship on my part. [19 April 2012]

With his Speedos and love of swimming and the beach, Abbott … is an easy sell to tradies. Potentially, he also has the personality and style to connect with them. [24 August 2013]

Chris [Koch], whom I rank as Australia’s greatest novelist, had admired Abbott for years. He saw him as an intellectual and a man of action, a conservative who would stand against the dislocations of the time, with the wisdom to accommodate social change and moderate its hard edges. Chris and Abbott had met … a couple of times at my place … Abbott read his great novel of Indonesia, The Year of Living Dangerously. He found it riveting and thought it a great romance, a great “bromance”. [9 November 2013]

 

BETROTHAL

As a young man, indeed as a young minister, Abbott had a certain impatience with process. Not any more. [12 September 2013]

There is no scenario under which Indonesia could plausibly object to Tony Abbott’s boats turn-around policy. [8 July 2013]

Abbott [is] a soldierly kind of guy. [15 March 2012]

Abbott occasionally visited my father in his last hospitalisation a few years ago. By chance, Abbott was at his bedside when my father died. He was there to weep with my mother, to provide strength and comfort. [17 August 2013]

 

CONSUMMATION

Inclusive, consultative and cautious … this is a surprise. [18 September 2013]

Yes we can! … yes … Yes. [8 November 2012]

Reagan was calm, measured, engaging and presidential – much like Abbott last night. [12 August 2013]

 

HONEYMOON

Tony Abbott has had an extraordinarily successful first trip to Indonesia as Prime Minister. [3 October 2013]

Abbott not only maintained his message discipline in Jakarta. He showed a deftness of touch, a warmth of personality. [5 October 2013]

Abbott has had a brilliant trip in Asia. His efforts with Malaysia are important in every way. [10 October 2013]

Shortly after he was elected, our beloved Prime Minister remarked that “happy is the nation that finds itself more interested in sport than politics”. [12 October 2013]

 

AFTERTHOUGHT

Since Abbott went into politics I’ve always been happy to criticise him. [24 September 2012]

* As “cut & pasted” from the Australian by Russell Marks and the Monthly. Greg Sheridan is the Australian’s foreign editor.

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