Tony Abbott is said to be likeable. I believe it, though I’ve only met him once. Introduced by a Crikey! journalist in Parliament House Canberra, where I had gone to advocate against Abbott’s continued ministerial control over the fertility control drug RU486, the Health Minister refused to shake my hand.
It was an honest move from an un-stage-managed man, and I didn’t have a problem with it. He didn’t like me and he let it show. It was as straight and simple as that.
The Opposition leader’s recent attacks on the Prime Minister’s character are designed to highlight this virtue. By accusing Kevin Rudd of waffle-speak, standing for nothing and “gutless[ing] out,” Abbott invites us to brand him in contrasting terms: as a straight-talking leader with strong views and values, and a willingness to defend them.
All fine and good, though it does beg the question-what does Abbott believe in? As Prime Minister, what policies would we expect him to design, and to fight to implement?
Abbott’s background, employment history and associations offer some clues. Born in 1957, he was schooled at (Jesuit) St Ignatius College before studying for the Priesthood. He subsequently worked as a journalist and political press secretary before leading the successful campaign against an Australian republic. He is associated with groups that favour censorship but are opposed to legal abortion, dying with dignity, stem-cell research and gay rights. These include the National Civic Council, the Lyons Forum, the Endeavour Forum and the Australian Christian Lobby.
Abbott recently described Aboriginal welcome to country ceremonies as a “genuflection to political correctness” and “out-of-place tokenism.” However, he believes Federal Parliament should continue to start the day with the Lord’s Prayer.
Abbott believes the “argument [on climate change] is absolute crap”. So far, he has rejected all proven and economically orthodox means of pricing carbon.
Abbott told 60 Minutes in what he later described as a “spontaneous answer” that homosexuality makes him feel “a bit threatened.”
Health Minister Abbott’s statements and policies on abortion renewed national debate about the issue. He described “the fact that 100,000 [Australian] women choose to end their pregnancies” as a “national tragedy” that left a “legacy of unutterable shame.” He said there was “a bizarre double standard…where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder but a woman who aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice.” The figure of 100,000 turned out to be wrong.
Abbott voted against legislation allowing Australian scientists to do research using embryonic stem cells.
Abbott wants to return to at fault-divorce, supporting legislation that would require spouses to prove offences like adultery, habitual drunkenness or cruelty before they can separate.
At the launch of a collection of B.A. Santamaria’s letters, Abbott lauded his mentor for the view that “it [is] impossible to be a passive Christian.” Abbott argued that the Howard government’s decisions to “overturn the Northern Territory’s euthanasia law, ban gay marriage, stop the ACT heroin trial, provide additional financial support for one-income families, and try to reduce abortion numbers through pregnancy support counseling” showed that the “eight Catholics…in the…Cabinet” had turned the “tide of secular humanism.”
Despite this, he recently implied on ABC’s Q&A that public and media interest in his Catholic beliefs was unfair.
This is who Tony Abbott is and what he believes. It’s up to us to decide whether we want this sort of man, fighting for this sort of Australia, to be the next PM.
Abbott's contrasting role revealed in black and white The Sun-Herald