In this, Annabel Crabb finally wakes up to the idea that Abbott is not just one of those people you have to put up with, but a real live dickhead who should never ever become Prime Minister. She misses the point of what happened to Abbott on The Grill Team, however. He failed the Phwoarr test.
A bunch of guys like Matty Johns and Mark Geyer will test a man by going the Phwoarr test when that man is with his girlfriend/wife/daughters. Basically, this test involves a bunch of guys (it is never done man-to-man) approaching a man in said company, and making remarks that indicate their appreciation for the lady's/ladies' desirability. The man has three choices:
- Leap to his feet in defence of the lady's/ladies' honour, and attacking the guys' oafishness, like a figure out of Dickens or Downton Abbey;
- Go along with the guys, giggling away, destroying his credibility with the lady/ladies; or
- Gently telling the guys about his pride in an achievement of the lady/ladies, something to do with their brains/character/other positive quality not related to their appearance or sexuality, which raises the tone and leaves both the guys and the lady/ladies with more respect for one another, and for the man in question.
I can understand why Crabb might have found the encounter frightening, but the Abbott women were not the target: Abbott was. They asked the question about him saving people from a fire once, but the question of Abbott's character had been settled long before.
Crabb refers to Marr's Quarterly Essay on Abbott, which mentioned but did not examine the idea that Abbott was insulated from the consequences of his actions. He was not pursued for restitution for petty acts of vandalism, let alone penance or punishment. Minor legal actions were met with the sort of heavy-handed representation that would be more appropriate for high-stakes criminal or commercial matters. This is a man whose first step at every new stage of his career has been to do whatever it took to secure the loyalty of powerful men who, like his father, would reward his loyalty by indulging his foibles and insulating him from any consequences that might flow from them.
When the media dutifully report Abbott's sisters Christine Forster and Jane Vincent saying that Abbott is a great guy and PM material, they are speaking from the same family paradigm in which The Situation was raised: Ya Gotta Let Tony Be Tony. Not surprisingly, this is a paradigm with which Tony is more than comfortable. It was one of Howard's impositions on the Liberal Party: first Amanda Vanstone, as Education Minister, had to Let Tony Be Tony (in public service terms: LTBT), then so did the nation's Cabinet. By 2007 Liberal candidates who might have won without his help found their careers sacrificed to LTBT. In 2010 Queensland candidates capitalising on Rudd had to LTBT because the press found him captivating: disciplined and authentic at the same time, apparently.
In Crabb's article she wondered whether Abbott was somehow calculating in appealing to some vast insensitive sexist vote. Consider Abbott's challenge, from a Coalition perspective:
- More than sufficient number of people voted Coalition over the four federal elections before 2004;
- In the two federal elections since 2004, an insufficient number of people voted Coalition (we'll have none of your "so close" or "points for trying" malarkey, thank you). Therefore;
- The challenge is to encourage all (or as many as possible) of those who voted Coalition in 2010 to do so again next year, as well as encourage those who didn't (but who might have before 2004) to do so, so that the Coalition ends up with a majority of votes in a majority of electorates. Not only must many thousands of Australian voters be persuaded to vote differently to the way they voted in the past two elections, they must also be more than happy to LTBT and while doing so, have the Treasury of the Commonwealth at his disposal.
- There is a huge constituency of sexist dickheads who voted for Kevin Rudd, the apology to Aborigines, early childhood education and
who will give all that away because - finally! - we have a leader who is prepared to stick it to The Man PersonWoman; or
- No such constituency exists in any real numbers, and in the whole of the once-proud Coalition, there is nobody at all with the combination of guts and brains to confront the leader with the error of his ways.
Part of the media's tragedy, including Crabb's, is that they lack the skills and the inclination to test the above points and come up with a hypothesis to communicate to people.
For year after year, Annabel Crabb thought it was part of her job to be an LTBT enabler; that anyone coughed up by the party system into Parliament was there deservedly ("the public usually get it right") and was to be celebrated rather than examined. She appears to have taken her chances with the substance of Julia Gillard's speech against sexism and misogyny than insist on the "context" of Slipper as more sexist than Abbott. Now she's reached a point where simply making excuses for Abbott is not an option, she assumes there is a method behind the madness; Abbott's problem is that the madness is the method, and that LTBT is not some benign indulgence but a form of madness which the nation appears less likely to embrace.
Joe Hockey will vote to strip single mothers of entitlements but wants everyone to have a government-funded pram, the prices of which are already absurdly inflated. When to be indulgent, and when to be ascetic, is the arbitrary but unquestioned decision of the father. Any who question him are beset by his enablers, e.g. Credlin, one of the sisters, either Bishop, Mirabella. Those people have chosen to be LTBT enablers but are particularly bad at persuading the rest of us to be LTBT enablers too.
It's one thing for me to say that my life is richer for having been a parent than it was when I was childless. It's quite another to do what Abbott is doing, and imply that he is a better person for having been a parent than someone else is for not being one.
No parent I know looks down on those without children. You know enough people who have want to have kids but can't, and/or who have miscarried, or whose "parenthood journey" has been so rough, to know that parenthood is a matter of good luck and/or grace. It is only a source of virtue to those who romanticise it from afar. Hands-on parents regard Abbott with a gall that only he and his enablers confuse with awe.
The stupid thing is that he and Gillard made essentially the same lifestyle decision. He gave up a child he believed to be his for the sake of his career. She never had a child to give up. He largely outsourced his parenting duties but crowed about holding an empty title. Each considers themselves to be in the business of helping families, so long as we overlook Abbott's oft-professed (and indulged!) boredom as Shadow Minister for Families Families Families Baked Beans Families Families Families Families and Families in 2007-09.
Tony Abbott is appealling to a constituency that doesn't exist, and appalling to one that does. Rather than just report all those "Liberal sources" who will inevitably say "I knew Tony wouldn't make it", the time has come to find out why they are not confronting him. Howard did his own thing but when a big enough bunch of backbenchers came toward him, he sat up and took notice.
Abbott takes no notice. His silly tactic of trailing his coat to get the Prime Minister to go off at him again makes him look like the schoolboy taunting the female prac teacher. Even if he does rattle her, he won't convince anyone that he should be teaching the class; he's still just a naughty boy. There is no switch to flick to make him Prime Ministerial, it's too late.
The MSM have serious questions to consider about what falls off their schedule in pursuit of the latest pearls to drop from his lips. The idea of "balance" is not a public demand but one of the journosphere, because a "balanced" political system places them at the centre of events. Politics is out of balance, and politicians are spending all day wrapping themselves around "the media cycle" for zero impact; this simply can't go on.
I felt sorry for Michael Brissenden, who describes the storm clouds rolling toward him but ends his piece insisting that people like him need not modify their behaviour at all. Pollies are more nimble than the journosphere, and woe betide all the box-tickers in the press gallery who find one day - while out of the country or otherwise distracted perhaps - not that the bus has gone without them, but that it isn't going anywhere. Young journalists, why not sit up the front of a stopped bus and talk to Michael Brissenden? You could fetch him coffee while you listen to his cracking yarns (do some research first to find out who "Peter Costello" was).