Category Archives: Tony Abbott

Some of Tony Abbott’s best friends are women

I completely understand why women related to Tony Abbott are defending him from accusations that he has a problem with women. I have no doubt that he is a supportive and caring parent, husband, brother and son. (And, of course, they’re not just calling media conferences and speaking to the Daily Telegraph‘s Gemma Jones because they want the public to know the Real Tony. It is politics after all.)

This from Margie Abbott:

“I say to the people who claim that Tony Abbott doesn’t ‘get’ women: You get this. Tony Abbott is surrounded by strong women. In fact, not only strong but capable women.

“He grew up in a household with three sisters. He has encouraged me and supported me in whatever I have chosen to do.”

Just because you’re “surrounded” by women in your family, doesn’t mean you “get” women. It just means you care about your family. It certainly doesn’t make you a feminist. It’s how Tony Abbott acts towards women he’s not related to that reveals that he does indeed have a problem with women. After all, Todd Akin has a wife and I’m sure he respects and trusts her. But in his breath-takingly ignorant and offensive comment that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape“, it shows that he thinks that other women – millions of American women – are probably liars and can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies.

Tony Abbott also believes women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies and their reproductive health. What is it with conservative men and women’s vaginas? In his own words, he shames women who terminate a pregnancy:

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience…. Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year.

He’s right, though – I am troubled by that statistic. Because it’s a lie. He’s wrong by about 20,000. And since he was Health Minister when he wrote it, he’d know it was a lie. He’d also know that most terminations are the result of contraception failure.

But check out the language he uses: 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year. That’s a fuckload of shaming right there. If Abbott really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, he’d be pushing for better contraception, rather than shaming women with words like “destroy”. (Check out Leslie Cannold’s great talk on shaming: I had an abortion… or maybe I didn’t.)

Tony Abbott even believes 14-year-old girls should be made to have babies, to punish them for having sex (no mention of the boys they had sex with, though. Funny that):

To a pregnant 14-year-old struggling to grasp what’s happening, for example, a senior student with a whole life mapped out or a mother already failing to cope under difficult circumstances, abortion is the easy way out… Our society has rightly terrified primary school children about the horrors of smoking, but seems to take it for granted that adolescents will have sex despite the grim social consequences of teenage single parenthood.

That’s right, if you’re a mother who is “failing to cope under difficult circumstances” – like an abusive partner, or illness, or that there just isn’t enough money – you should be forced to have another baby.

Those quotes are from a speech he made in 2004. In 2006, members of Parliament stripped Tony Abbott of the power to make decisions about women’s reproductive health. He had demonstrated that his personal beliefs were more important than the rights of Australian women. That Abbott believes that women terminate pregnancies “almost [as] a badge of liberation from old oppressions” demonstrates how little he understands, well, pretty much everything to do with women. Most of his own side voted against him.

He told women that the carbon tax would make ironing more expensive – then dismissed women who got annoyed by his comment as “hypersensitive”.

Then he made a rape joke.

The quotes from this video date from 1979 to 2010 (and yes, we were talking about this a few weeks ago, but that post was about the bigger picture rather than Abbott in particular, because it’s evidence that his ideas haven’t really changed):

Tony Abbott’s biggest problem with women is that we refuse to put up with his shit.

Where are we going with this thing we’re doing?

I’m uncomfortable about this thing we’re doing at the moment, where we dig up something from decades ago and hold it up in front of everyone, crying, ‘See? See? This is what they are really like!’. Because while it does give me joy to see Tony Abbott in the shit, this, and the Slater and Gordon stuff the MSM hounded Julia Gillard with, makes me nervous about what it means to be a public figure, and about what kind of politicians we’re going to have in the future. I don’t know about you, but when I was in my teens and early 20s, I did and said some pretty dumb shit and I’d hate for someone to use it to illustrate what I am like now, as an adult.

When I was a journalist I turned down some stories that seemed to be about getting back at someone – which goes some way towards explaining why I wasn’t a very good journalist. I’d like to think that other journalists would see negative comments from a long-past boyfriend/colleague for what they are, rather than saying ‘wa-hey News with Nipples was a dickhead when she was 21, we got us some NEWS’, but it seems increasingly unlikely. With the Slater and Gordon story, if the journos had put in a call to the law firm before publishing, they would have realised that they were being used maliciously, with a story that turned out to be a load of rubbish. The first story was published without comment from Slater and Gordon – making it gossip masquerading as political journalism – and the second story was ‘we’re not falling for Pickering’s grubbiness but here, read all of this grubbiness’. Again, without comment from Slater and Gordon. How embarrassing for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s revolting that Tony Abbott punched the wall on either side of a woman’s head to intimidate her. Violence – which includes making someone think you’d hit them – is very serious, and around one in three women will be physically or sexually assaulted by a man at some point in their lives. Some estimates put it at one in two. Hell, if you still don’t think it’s a problem we can talk about money: violence against women costs the economy $13.6 billion a year (2008-2009 figure). That’s the same amount of money the resources industry contributed to the WA economy in 1999-2000, and it’s the same amount the Federal Government will give to universities this year. In other words, it’s a fuckload of money.

That he hid from the media for a week is evidence – more evidence – that Tony Abbott is not a leader.

It’s also evidence that Tony Abbott thinks women should be controlled – mainly by him – but there’s already an awful lot of evidence for that. Just because his wife and daughters are women, and he works with women, doesn’t mean that he’s Mr Equality.

And that Abbott referred to SRC president Barbara Ramjan as “chairthing” because she asked to be called “chairperson” and not “chairman” is evidence that, at 19 or 20 years old, he had a petty little mind. But I think his response is fair enough:

“It was silly, childish, embarrassing. It shouldn’t have happened but this is 35 years ago, a lot of silly things happen in student politics.”

I think almost all of us said some pretty dumb shit when we were that age. Of course, that doesn’t excuse being physically aggressive. (Lindsay Foyle has more about Abbott being a tough guy when he’s got a gang to back him up.)

But I can’t help feeling a bit icky about all of this. Every time the MSM publishes old dirt on someone – particularly dirt that’s unrelated to their ability to do their job, like going to a strip club in their own time – it makes me wonder, who the hell would get into politics? The answer: people who haven’t done anything silly/dodgy/illegal/fun/kinky/wrong in their entire lives. People whose youth can withstand the MSM. And how representative is that going to be?

I’m not saying that the MSM shouldn’t have published the story about Tony Abbott punching the wall beside Barbara Ramjan’s head in order to make her scared of him. At uni, he was a beefed-up boxer and rugby player with a reputation for aggression and it’s hard to imagine someone not being scared by the wall-punching. I’m just looking at the story in the wider context of what passes for political reporting these days. And no, I’m not saying it’s the MSM’s job to report on politics in a way that makes people want to be politicians. But it is their job to report accurately and fairly, and I don’t see a lot of that going on. Besides, I’d much prefer journalists to be asking Tony Abbott questions about what he says and does now, rather than about what he said and did in the 70s.

Meanwhile, over breakfast in the News Nips household

Me: Pah! The people did vote. Just because you don’t like the outcome doesn’t mean we should have another election. We had to put up with Howard for ten years.
ManFriend: Yeah, suck it up, princesses.

Convoy of No Confidence

Indignant dude in the Convoy of No Confidence. Picture: Stefan Postles/SMH

Signs like this one crack me up. We did vote. And we’re not going to do it again just because you don’t like the winner.

Years ago, an ant bit me on the bum while I was in bed. ManFriend laughed so hard and said the look of indignation on my face was fantastic. That’s what this “Convoy of No Confidence” stuff is like. Being bitten on the bum by an ant. You’ll get over it, but it feels better if you throw a little tanty.

Yes, they should rally. If they want to spend their money to protest over having to spend a little more money to make our environment cleaner, then go for it. (Although I have to laugh at Nick and Fluff Weckert who spent $3000 on fuel driving from Port Lincoln to Canberra to protest over the rising cost of living.)

If they want to demand a new election, then go for that too. But it doesn’t mean we should have one. Particularly when the 2010 election cost us $161 million. And particularly when their argument is “the politician is a liar so let’s have another election”. If we had to have another election every time a politician said one thing and then said another – or broke a core or non-core promise and thankyouverymuch John Howard for that slimy contribution to political discourse – then we’d be at the polls every fucking weekend. It would bankrupt us.

Sure, Labor went to the last election saying there’d be no action on climate change, which is why I didn’t vote for them. But minority governments change the game. It’s called compromise. You know, that thing you arrive at after negotiating with the people you have to form government with. The people who were voted in by lots of other people. Deal with it. Besides, it’s no different to the “never ever” GST. Many politicians will say anything to get into power and I can’t believe people are whining “oh, but they liiiiiiieeeeedddddd”. I don’t recall any pro-Abbott fans protesting over his constant changes of mind. His political opportunism is embarrassing and makes me think his supporters must be stupid. Or selfish. Probably both.

But I do have to laugh at the sign above: “Let’s take our country back”. That’s exactly how I felt in the lead up to the 2007 election when it became clear that we’d finally be able to take our country back from the Coalition and their mean-spirited policies.

Proudly not a real Australian

I go away for 10 days and the Coalition falls apart and suddenly Cate Blanchett isn’t a “real” Australian because she’s rich, or an actor, or modified her house to use less energy, or something. If the second part wasn’t so pathetic, I’d say I should go away more often.

By now there’s simply no doubt that Tony Abbott thinks we’re all idiots. And the everyday Australians that he always speaks about, he thinks they’re the biggest idiots of all. That’s why he happily admitted that people shouldn’t believe what he says unless it’s scripted. He believes that no one will remember and/or care that he’s a big liar. That’s not the most flattering view of the electorate, is it?

Abbott seems to think that, despite the large number of Australians who didn’t vote for him, we all agree with everything he says and want him as our leader. Talk about being delusional (in the colloquial sense, not the DSM-IV sense). Dude, we know you’ve had your dickstickers in a knot for the last nine or so months, but you didn’t win so let it go.

I arrived back in Sydney to this utter nonsense about Tony Abbott/Barnaby Joyce/Australian Family Association* saying Cate Blanchett – whose environmentalism is well known, installing Australia’s second largest roof-top solar system at The Wharf – isn’t a “real” Australian because she’s in an ad for a carbon tax. Of course they’re attacking her – can you imagine them trying to say Michael Caton isn’t a “real” Australian? Actually, I’d love to see them try, that would be hilarious.

Blanchett isn’t a “real” Australian simply because she disagrees with them. It’s the Howard-era “unAustralian” bullshit all over again, where instead of acting like an adult when people hold views that are different to your own, you act like a petulant child and attack them personally. Can someone please call the waaaaambulance for Tony Abbott? For a great post about the attacks on Blanchett, see The Conscience Vote.

Abbott said “People who live in an eco-mansion have a right to be heard … But their voice should not be heard ahead of the people of Australia”. I call bullshit. By “the people of Australia” he means those who attended that awful anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra where he stood in front of the sign calling the Prime Minister “Bob Brown’s bitch”. So actually, Blanchett’s voice is being heard after the voice of “the people of Australia”. But Tony Abbott has never been big on the truth. Or making sense. Or being consistent.

And so Labor continues to let the Coalition control this discussion (it would be a lie to call it a debate). What the hell is wrong with them? Before the last election, Labor should have been selling the country’s economic health thanks to the BER and stimulus packages, but instead they couldn’t sell beer to a pissed rugby league fan.

The pathetic state of public discourse in this country makes me cringe.

So, having had my first post-holiday whinge, I am proud to declare that I am also not a “real” Australian. Not because I’m a rich actor with an energy-efficient home, but because I want the carbon tax. And if doing something for the environment costs me a little bit of money, then that’s ok because I’m not a selfish arsehole who thinks my cost of living in a rich country with a good welfare safety net is more important than everyone else on this planet.

*The Australian Family Association was founded by the National Civic Council, a conservative Christian organisation that believes a woman’s role is to have babies and that her “self-identity and self-esteem may be found and grown through giving themselves to and loving their husband and family”. They also want “extensive” censorship of film and tv. Funnily enough, I think they’re rubbish.

Just when we need it the most

I read the Sydney Morning Herald every morning, listen to ABC radio during the day (two of the benefits of doing a PhD full time), and watch SBS news every night, and all I know about Tony Abbott’s carbon plan is that it’s better than the Government’s unmade one because he said so. Oh, and he’ll “stop the tax”.

This is a really important issue and he said, she said journalism is just not good enough. In that link, Jonathan Holmes quotes one of my brain heroes, Jay Rosen, who defines he said, she said journalism as:

* There’s a public dispute.
* The dispute makes news.
* No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
* The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
* The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.

Familiar, huh? It’s what we get every day. Holmes writes:

Consumers of news are largely left to fog it out for themselves. Of course, those who have the time and inclination can do so. But as the news story develops, the assumption is made by daily journalists that everyone knows what happened yesterday, and a week ago. It’s far harder than it should be to find the background analysis.

I wrote yesterday that I think it’s going to be a good year, and that doesn’t just apply to women. The gutter politics we’re seeing – in particular, from Cory Bernardi and Scott Morrison – can’t last, because the backlash has already started. Joe Hockey is positioning himself as the not-Abbott, which will leave Abbott’s attack dogs without a supportive master. And the independents keep showing that they are above the petty bullshit that passes for “political debate” these days.

This from Tony Windsor on the carbon tax:

He says people in his electorate are telling him that they want a productive debate, rather than one dominated by politics.

“They want it a little bit more advanced than the word ‘lie’ and the word ‘tax’,” he said.

“I think they want to find out what could happen, what sort of contribution we should be making, what are the advantages in regional Australia for instance in terms of renewable energy?”

He says he would like the same, and says he needs plenty more information about the implicit price of carbon and how Australia’s efforts sit globally before the Government can win his vote.

But this is all we get from Tony Abbott:

“I’m running a truth campaign against the carbon tax, because the truth campaign appears to be having an impact,” he said.

“I imagine that [Labor] will run an ad campaign, because the one thing that these guys specialise in is ad campaigns using taxpayer’s money.

“In this case it would be a dishonest ad campaign – this is a tax based on a lie and it shouldn’t happen.”

This would be a really good time for journalists to do the most basic of basic Google searches and point out that the Howard Government spent $2 billion on advertising:

According to Melbourne University academic Sally Young, the author of Government Communication in Australia, the Howard Government’s spending on advertising is among the highest per head in the world.

“It’s up there with only a few other countries,” she said.

Seriously, it’s not that hard to inform your readers. You know, that thing news is supposed to do? Otherwise we’re not being journalists, we’re being state stenographers (hat tip to John Pilger for that term).

It is precisely when an issue can be reduced to slogans – “we’ll stop the tax” – that we need better reporting than just he said, she said.

And, in honour of the title of this post, this:

I was looking for the Dolly Parton version, but this video is gold! And Randy VanWarmer is my new favourite name.

Update March 10: I stand (a little) corrected. One article today on the Coalition’s Direct Action plan: Direct yes, but not a lot of action:

Over the past week some journalists have made Coalition MPs squirm by asking: can you name an economist who backs your direct action climate policy?

The Coalition is banking heavily on being able to massively boost the amount of carbon dioxide stored in soil, estimating it could deliver 60 per cent of Australia’s 2020 emissions target. It remains a bold call…. Soil carbon is not recognised under international carbon accounting rules

But, it’s an opinion piece from The Age‘s environment reporter Adam Morton, so it’s not on the SMH homepage, nor is this information in any story in the paper. Why is a journalist giving readers the information we need to judge the Direct Action Plan considered an opinion?

Will ‘shit happens’ put Tony in the shit?

Probably not. People Skills has morphed into Teflon Tony. Even saying on national television that we shouldn’t believe what he says unless someone else has written it down for him didn’t stick.

I didn’t see the story last night but when I read about it this morning in the SMH I thought, well, unkind things that breach this blog’s no-name-calling policy.

This isn’t a post about yet another dumb and/or insensitive thing Tony Abbott has said. It’s a post about how you need to go looking to find out the basic information you need to make up your mind during the hysterical reporting of “gaffes”, and how that’s not good enough.

So, briefly, when Tony Abbott was in Afghanistan and told that no single factor caused the death of soldier Jared MacKinney, he said “sometimes, shit happens, doesn’t it?”. When Channel Seven journo Mark Riley approached Abbott about it yesterday, Abbott borrowed Julie Bishop’s death stare and turned it into Tony Abbott’s Death Stare of Rage with Added Speechless Nodding.

Check it out:

I read the SMH story over breakfast. It wasn’t until 2.30pm that I got on the internet and watched the video. And discovered that I was wrong – about Seven, the SMH and Abbott.

The SMH reported that Abbott said his comment was taken out of context, yet there was no sentence saying, “When pressed, he would not say what context his comment was delivered in”. So I assumed that he wasn’t asked to explain, which would be Seven’s journalism fail. Saying your comment has been taken out of context is meaningless if you don’t explain the context in which something offensive isn’t actually offensive, and it’s a journalist’s responsibility to ask that question. That would be like saying, “We’ll stop the boats” and not being asked how. Oh, wait.

But he was asked to explain the context, which makes it an SMH journalism fail. That Abbott wouldn’t answer the question is an important part of this story, because it shows us how he reacts under pressure.

It’s no secret that I’m not Tony Abbott’s Number One Fan. I’m horrified by the thought of him becoming Prime Minister. Horrified and despairified. But that the head of the Defence Association isn’t pissed off suggests that the story is more nuanced than we’re led to believe. Pirra and kimsonof can help me out here, but I imagine that when your job involves trying to kill people while not getting killed yourself, you need coping mechanisms, and maybe “sometimes shit just happens” is one of them. And “sometimes, shit just happens” is very different to “well, shit happens”. I’m thinking about ambos who crack jokes to deal with the shit they see. And about the faces of the soldiers around Abbott when he said it. Their expressions didn’t change.

Now, here’s where I call bullshit on Tony Abbott. He says he was ambushed by Riley, yet Riley and Channel Seven had apparently been trying for three months to get the Defence video through Freedom of Information laws. Abbott would have known about that. He’s had three months to figure out how to answer the context question and he came up with nothing.

The real story is not that he said “shit happens”, but that when asked a tricky question, he couldn’t answer. Couldn’t do anything but a bobblehead impression. That’s not a good look for someone who wants to be in charge of a country, is it?

When you’re losing, just call her a bitch

Because no one likes a woman who is mean and nasty.

So, we’re into week two of this nonsense. First Tony Abbott said he rejected Julia Gillard’s offer of a joint trip to Afghanistan because he didn’t want jetlag (Phillip Coorey has a good piece in the SMH today about what a pain in the arse these trips are). Then, embarrassed that people might think he is weak, Abbott went to Afghanistan to pose with guns, drag his knuckles on the ground, and accuse the PM of “low bastardry” because he used the “wrong words”. What a joke.

Last week, we didn’t learn a thing about the overseas trips taken by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. They were pretty important trips, but all we got here was news about how much sleep Gillard got, and that she ate some fries in Brussels while not wearing make up. Not a word in the mainstream media about what Gillard said to world leaders at the Asia-Europe Meeting, or about what Abbott said to the British Conservative Party conference. Those things are important. That the PM and Opposition Leader disagree is not.

And now Christopher Pyne has accused Gillard of “back alley bitchiness”, which is fucking disgraceful. A back alley bitch is a woman who gets off on sucking random dicks in dirty lanes. Pyne should get his arse kicked for this, but he won’t.

And of course, Abbott is doing his usual trick of saying something offensive and then, once it’s been reported and therefore in the minds of the public, he backs away from it and says ‘let’s all play nicely’.

This whole thing is being driven by the Coalition to deflect attention from the fact that they lied their arses off about their election costings. And the media has fallen for it, hook, line and sinker, because yet again, the MSM is failing to ask the hard questions. Or any real questions because they’re too caught up in thinking that this shit is important.

Update: When asked if she was involved in back alley bitchiness, Gillard said no. Yet the SMH has given it this headline – I am not being bitchy: Gillard – and made it the most important story on the website: