Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott
David Marr, Black Inc.
Mmmm. Tony Abbott. Before I begin, I must “fess up”. My only brush with our Opposition Leader was at a university debate back in the ’90s after which I walked away with the distinct impression of him as a “bully boy”.
I am also a regular viewer of the Facebook page Keep Calm Tony Abbott is not PM. And it seems that I’m not the only one. Although not huge, this Facebook page has been “Liked” by over 16,000 people to date.
As journalist, author and social commentator David Marr points out in this edition of Quarterly Essay, Australia doesn’t want Tony Abbott and we never have. Even one of his colleagues in the party room was heard to say on his election as Opposition Leader, “My God, what have we done?” So what is it that has brought Tony Abbott to this point — widely unliked, but one of the most successful Opposition Leaders in recent memory?
Marr paints a picture of Tony Abbot as a man of contrasts. Encouraged towards political greatness by his family from a very early age, brimming with overtly masculine, self-righteous virtue, deeply religious (although we might be concerned about his interpretation of the scriptures), socially conservative and yet ultimately politically pragmatic. The Abbott Marr describes has oodles of charm and values that support the average Australian working person; but he’s a vicious head-kicker in his political life. Indeed this could be described as his modus operandi.
Abbott’s great mentors, including B. A. Santamaria (a name that will make many shudder), Jesuit priest Paul Mankowski, radio host and shock jock Alan Jones (more shuddering) and former PM John Howard, have affirmed his conservative values and nurtured his political drive.
It probably should not surprise us to hear Abbott echoing Jones, or vice versa, as we have recently.
One suspects that Political Animal won’t change anyone’s mind about Tony Abbott.
Those who already agree with Marr will have their concerns about the man and possible future PM multiplied. Those who disagree will dismiss it as leftist propaganda.
However, the last word must remain with Marr. “What makes people so uneasy about Abbott is the sense that he is biding his time, that there is a very hard operator somewhere behind the mask, waiting for power.”
A compelling, if disturbing, read.