Not long ago I started a conversation thread on Twitter. My hope was that some of my more than 5000 followers would engage in some informed speculation about what life would be like for working-class people, Aborigines, gays, working parents and women of reproductive age if Tony Abbott became prime minister.

Having begun the conversation by relaying the news that the Opposition Leader was refusing to guarantee Labor MP Craig Thomson a pair to attend the birth of his child, I kicked off with: ‘’#WonderifPMAbbott would get rid of paternity leave? Don’t dads just need to bring home the bacon?‘’

Several more tweets followed: ‘’#WonderifPMAbbott would support the Gardasil vaccine?‘’, ‘’#WonderifPMAbbott would let gay mums take maternity leave?‘’, ‘’#WonderifPMAbbott will stop women using RU486?‘’

My attempt at provocation fell flat. Many seemed to think I was truly wondering about the answers to these questions (which they answered as yes, no, no and yes, for the record). Abbott is a well-known quantity. He’s jogged the halls of Parliament for 17 years, some of these exercising power and judgment in key portfolios such as industrial relations and health. He holds strong religious views that – and this is the problem – he has always sought to enshrine in laws that govern us all.

Leopards don’t change their spots. However low-profile Abbott has sought to keep his conservative views, they will be nailed proudly to the mast of any ship he captains once the Liberals take the helm.

Who can forget his description of Aboriginal welcome to country ceremonies as a ‘'genuflection to political correctness’‘. His relentless use of Parliament to demonise the one-third of Australian women who have abortions. ’‘Every abortion is a tragedy and up to 100,000 abortions a year is this generation’s legacy of unutterable shame,’‘ he told us as he fought tooth and nail to maintain the ban on RU486.

Remember Abbott’s boast 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 counselling,’‘ showed that the ’‘eight Catholics … in the … cabinet’‘ had turned the ’‘tide of secular humanism’‘.

How about his claim that the ‘'greatest gift’‘ a woman could give a man was not her intelligence, loyalty or soul but her virginity? Who can forget when he called homelessness a lifestyle choice?

Who can forget? The answer, it seems, is most of us, suggesting that however much we abhor spin, we’re grossly affected by it. The Libs hired a ‘'SheMarketing’‘ firm to improve Abbott’s ’‘relationship’‘ with women and he appears to have followed what must have been the advice: to tone down the aggression, stop wearing his religious zeal on his sleeve and give deputy Julie Bishop a chance to shine. In the wake of this makeover, we’ve obligingly suffered deep amnesia about who he is and what he’s likely to do in government.

We should seriously think again. Voting for Tony Abbott will deliver a man whose Catholic orthodoxy extends to a belief that this orthodoxy is reasonable and objectively correct and can fairly be imposed on the rest.

Publication history

Don't be fooled - it's still zealot Tony underneath  Moral Dilemma, Sun-Herald Sydney
2011-10-09
http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/dont-be-fooled--its-still-zealot-tony-underneath-20111007-1ld5h.html