In his first in-depth interview since he lost his seat in May’s federal election, Abbott reflects on his political career, and sets out to cast himself as “the accidental leader” who only set out to serve because “Malcolm was politically crazy”. In one of several swipes at his former foe, Abbott says that Turnbull “always thought it was his destiny to be prime minister and I happened to be the obstacle to that”. The former member for Warringah tells Troy Bramston that he’d “be more than happy to consider” returning to parliament if his party were to call on him, and that at 61, “Abbott says he is fitter than he was 25 years ago”.
After his latest trip to Europe to whip up fervour for a no-deal Brexit as well as for inhumane immigration policy, he is ready to return to the local political fray. While Abbott still appears to be carrying wounds about his election defeat (and a defeat to somebody fitter than him, no less), we can look beyond the self-serving jabs to see a clear outline of the role he intends on taking in public life, no matter his job title.
“There are three broad strands of the Liberal Party’s political position,” he tells Bramston. “There’s the liberal strand, there’s the conservative strand and, above all else, there’s the patriotic strand. I mean, yes, we are the freedom party, yes we are the tradition party but above all else we are the patriotic party.”
Last month, he touted patriotism across borders in Europe. In an opinion piece for the Spectator Australia, he praised far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban for being “the first European leader to cry ‘stop’ to the peaceful invasion of 2015”, referring to the refugee crisis. While promoting Brexit, which he opposed only a few years ago, Abbott said that Britain is “a permanent colony of an EU that despises it.”
It is clear that Abbott intends to be the self-appointed standard-bearer for a bolder, nastier form of populism in Australia, of the type that has brought his mates Orban, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to power. Only he wants to ensure it is contained within our conventional conservative institutions, such as the Liberal Party and the pages of The Australian.
As Jason Wilson recently pointed out in Guardian Australia, there has been no breakout of right-wing populists in Australia, because the government already accommodates them within its current structure and beliefs.
“Australia’s conservatives already offer enough of what the most reactionary social currents might want,” Wilson wrote. “Their policies tick all the right boxes – on race, gender and the environment – to an extent that leads mainstream Australian politicians, and their policies, to be praised by extremists around the world.”
Abbott will be back tomorrow, touting his achievements and regrets in the third part of the interview. While the first instalments haven’t produced any great revelations, by choosing to speak now, the former prime minister is telling us the one thing that we ought to know. Namely, that Tony Abbott isn’t going anywhere. Whether within parliament or beyond it, he intends to be the figurehead of the transition from Howard-era conservatism to an increasingly nationalist, combative and anti-progressive right-wing movement.
In spite of his humiliating election loss, Abbott looks set to remain one of the most powerful forces in Australian politics.
Scott Nash, a barrister practising in local government and property planning law, says that transparency measures are key, as it is revealed that some of Australia’s biggest corporations have hidden political donations from planning authorities.
“Law reform is not for the meek. Theorising is for the meek. Change requires breaking bread across the political divide. With our theoretically unassailable institutions of liberal democratic governance straining as the public loses faith in the capacity of politicians to deliver change, it is not a divide that is easy to bridge. To make this change, we will need the Australian people to understand who we are as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and why a constitutionally entrenched ‘voice to parliament’ is desirable, because half of our parliamentary representatives do not.”
“Becoming involved in Trump’s demented conspiracy theories is not only stupid and inappropriate; at a time when the beleaguered and barely rational Trump is fighting personal vendettas against largely imagined enemies, it is seriously bad policy and endangers rather than enhances the national interest.”
“Many experts now accept that much of the Howard-era national security legislation was arguably necessary to catch Australia up to other democracies. ‘We had no laws dealing with counterterrorism in 2001, compared with Britain, which had a long history,’ says Professor George Williams, the dean of law at the University of New South Wales and a leading expert in constitutional law. ‘But we’re well past that now.’”
In his first in-depth interview since he lost his seat in May’s federal election, Abbott reflects on his political career, and sets out to cast himself as “the accidental leader” who only set out to serve because “Malcolm was politically crazy”. In one of several swipes at his former foe, Abbott says that Turnbull “always thought it was his destiny to be prime minister and I happened to be the obstacle to that”. The former member for Warringah tells Troy Bramston that he’d “be more than happy to consider” returning to parliament if his party were to call on him, and that at 61, “Abbott...