Tony Abbott has defended his record as prime minister in the first interview since being toppled by Malcolm Turnbull and said governments will continue struggle to make difficult reforms under the ‘febrile’ politics which has led to party-room coups.
‘How can governments make the decisions about difficult and necessary reforms if prime ministers are subject to the kind of death by opinion poll which we have seen in recent times’ he said in an interview with the Weekend Australian.
‘Obviously I know having been a practitioner of politics in this country that the top job has never been less secure.”
Despite his promise of ‘no wrecking – no undermining and no sniping’ after losing Abbott appeared to take a little dig at his side of politics.
Tony Abbott is fading fast. Within days of his fall he’s looking like a prime minister we once had a long time ago. The drama of his execution this week was muted by the lingering disbelief that he was ever there. His government has slipped easily into the past. He is gone and barely missed.
‘The beauty of being leader is you are freer to be yourself’ he remarked five years ago after becoming leader of the opposition. But that self proved in the end not made for the politics of today.
Abbott was a brawling politician of great skill but he was also – and fatally – still in many ways the cold war kid who rode out with Bob Santamaria’s forces in the late 1970s to confront the zeitgeist and save western civilisation.
Along the way Abbott would abandon nearly every policy Santa stood for but he never lost the old man’s fear of the future and the belief that his God-given mission was to save us from enemies we don’t even realise are there.
In Abbott’s political imagination danger lurks everywhere. Whether it’s the death cult abroad or the ABC at home there is always more at stake than meets the eye.
Ruin is at hand. Combat is imperative. Hyperbole is the order of the day.
In the end that didn’t wash with Australia.
Abbott made himself particularly easy to dump. A hard-right jock with a history of embarrassing gaffes and boorish – retrograde comments about women and LGBT people, Abbott’s government was noteworthy mostly for its grim air of conservative thuggery. He reversed Labor laws taxing the powerful mining industry – ripped up pledges on climate change and outdid an already-harsh Labor policy on asylum seekers – sending Navy boats to force migrants to turn back before they reached Australia’s shores and detaining others in hellish detention centers.
(The New York Times recently called that policy ‘inhumane’ – of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.)
He also refused to call a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage -causing a split within his party.
Little of this helped Abbott’s popularity – he became the most unpopular prime minister in decades.
In his most cartoonish blunder Abbott – an ardent defender of the monarchy which still technically rules his country from London – decided to grant a knighthood to Prince Philip the queen’s husband.
The nation howled at this – turning its nose up at such a grovelling gesture.
Barely a month after indicating he would allow a free vote by Coalition MPs, paving the way for the probable legalisation of same-sex marriage – Tony Abbott appears to be on the retreat – under pressure from arch-conservatives in his own party.
After news leaked out that two Liberal MPs – Warren Entsch and Teresa Gambaro – have agreed to co-sponsor a cross-party bill – Abbott – who signalled last month that he favoured that approach – poured cold water on its prospects.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that the private member’s bill – expected to be introduced to Parliament on August 11 – would be subjected to the ‘normal processes’ meaning it was highly unlikely to be debated and voted on.
He also made it clear that same-sex marriage was not a priority – saying: ‘This Government was elected to grow jobs – to promote the stronger economy – to secure our nation against the various challenges that we face at home and abroad’.His comments – which follow a concerted push by right-wing Liberals to halt the momentum towards same-sex marriage – dismayed advocates of gay unions – who include growing numbers on both sides of politics.(cont..)