This is reposted from a very clear comment made by an Australian mate – Laurie Fraser. I am not the only one to approve of the way Laurie has nailed this. I listened to the National Press Club Luncheon address that Abbott made on Tuesday. Cringe-worthy is far too mild a term to express what I felt. And this is how Laurie reports it.
From Laurie’s Facebook page:
A highly anticipated speech, such as yesterday’s by Tony Abbott, is an opportunity for the speaker to advance his vision for his society; to bind the people in common purpose; to allow the audience a glimpse of the nature of the speaker; and to move the discussion of nationhood and commonwealth forward.
Great speeches exhibit all of these qualities – one has to only think back to Noel Pearson’s brilliant eulogy of Gough Whitlam to see that this is true. Pearson captured the nation, partly by his eloquence, but more importantly by tying Gough’s legacy to a vision of what a future Australia might look like.
For a little while, at least, we came together as Australians to realise and recognise that the most important issues we face are not about debt and deficit, fiscal bottom-lines and taxation margins, but the broader and deeper concerns of equality, opportunity and social building. Pearson made it plain that the reality of a society lies in its attitude towards the greater ‘goods’ – the arts, community, lifestyle and health, education and enterprise – to which economics is merely the foot-servant.
Yesterday Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, failed us miserably. Not once was any vision employed; his address (which he alone wrote, by the way) was a pedestrian, carping, and pitiful apologia for his superficially-believed failings. Blame was everywhere poured on his predecessors; the speech quickly became a mantra of mendacity – yes, his first lie came nine seconds in, and tediously, repetitively, each lie tumbled upon the next.
Abbott wasted his opportunity, that is for sure. But what could we have expected?
The problem for Abbott is manifold. To begin with, he is unintelligent. And a low intelligence disallows grander sentiments; it constrains someone in that position to be, at best, a technocrat – a pusher of buttons and mover of levers – in other words, a tinkerer. Where, oh where, were Abbott’s grand designs for his society? They were missing from his speech because they are missing from his mind. ‘Vision’ appears not from nowhere – it is the result of deep thought and reflection; it comes from a complete understanding of our shared history and culture. Abbott simply doesn’t have the intellectual grasp of these things to develop a coherent idea of what the future could and should be.
And Abbott is a careerist politician whose ideology is conditioned by the milieu of hard-right Catholic political theology – which is the reason he surrounds himself with like-minded old boys from that peculiar strain of reactionary world-view that began with the Split, the DLP and A.B. Santamaria. It is a recipe for political torpor.
Thirdly, there is no sense of Liberalism – the only saving grace of the Liberal Party of Australia – left in Abbott’s re-imagining of our country. Pluralism is gone; in Abbott’s febrile ‘vision’, it’s his way or no way at all. It is possible, indeed probable, that he has never understood Liberalism at all – and for a leader of the Conservative side of politics in Australia, that is one black hole down which any notions of egalitarianism, equity, multi-culture and freedom will fast disappear.
What Abbott revealed yesterday was the unmistakeable stench of neo-fascism. If any vision of our society was forthcoming, it was a vision of meanness and constriction, of the morals of hard times and know-your-place. Bleak House, anyone?