You have to feel sorry for Tony Abbott. He has failed at almost everything he has tried in his life; priesthood, journalism, marriage, and prime ministership. Now, in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), he is pleading with the people of his electorate not to turf him out of parliament at the next federal election1. Abbott holds the seat of Warringah in Sydney’s northeast. It occupies an area from Neutral Bay, Mosman and Manly in the south to Killarney Heights, part of French’s Forest, Brookvale and Curl Curl in the north2. Recent polling commissioned by GetUp in this electorate has indicated that Abbott is likely to lose the seat fairly convincingly to conservative independent, barrister Zali Steggall3.
Abbott’s SMH plea is entitled ‘Why Warringah should send me back to Canberra’ and he begins with stating he has had ‘meet-the-member’ public meetings and that these have shown him that people are sick of overdevelopment and the traffic that entails1. He says, laughably that he is running again so the Northern Beaches tunnel finally gets built, as if the personality occupying that seat has any impact on its completion. Then he has the gall to say that “local people need the tunnel if we’re to get our lives back from spending hours in traffic gridlock”. When Abbott is being driven around in his Commonwealth Vehicle, at least he can work or snooze in the back seat, so using ‘our’ in that sentence is disingenuous, at best.
Toeing the party line, Abbott misrepresents the Labor proposal to get rid of the refunds of excess franking credits. He stated that “10,000 local retirees would lose thousands of dollars a year in franking credits”1. I suspect that Abbott either does not understand how these operate and expects that all franking credits would be lost, or he is lying by omission again, a common trait of his4. Not all franking credits would be lost, only franking credit refunds which are tax-payer funds handed out to people who can arrange their tax affairs to pay little or no tax. Excess franking credit refunds are essentially negative taxation funded by us tax-payers. These refunds overwhelmingly (95%) go to people belonging to the wealthiest half of the Australian populace5.
Abbott states that while he was in government, they stopped the boats (they didn’t), repealed the carbon tax (so now our emissions are climbing such that we will miss our Paris emission reduction targets), repealed the mining tax (which was only levied on profits over $75 million), unleashed the biggest infrastructure program in the nation’s history (they didn’t; the states did), and finalised three Free Trade Agreements (FTAs; which is true, surprisingly, although negotiations started long before, and it is the same number of FTAs completed by each of the Howard and Rudd-Gillard governments).
Abbott also uses the same lie as most of his far right Liberal and National party colleagues, that although climate change is real (an admission for him, as he once said it was ‘crap’), and because Australia is responsible for just 1.3% of global emissions, there is no point us doing anything about them as it may damage the economy if we do. Every jurisdiction on the planet is in much the same boat. Even the two largest emitters like China (27% of global emissions) and the US (15% of global emissions)6, while producing a much larger proportion of global emissions could not decrease emissions by themselves to sufficiently affect global warming, as Abbott seems to expect them to do. We are all in this together and need to act together, and we need to act now. The reason Abbott doesn’t want to act is because the Liberal and National parties receive an extraordinary proportion of their funding from fossil fuel companies, and climate change denying organisations like the Cormack Foundation, and also because a large number of Liberal members of parliament are, or were members of the climate change denying Institute of Public Affairs7. Abbott’s admission of the reality of climate change (which scientists have known for decades) is simply a fallback position: admit it occurs but don’t do anything about it.
To indicate the desperation of Abbott, he even relates his personal efforts to ‘serve the people’ of Warringah by being on beach patrol, in the volunteer fire brigade and being on fundraising bike rides. He seemingly does not realise that if he is not in parliament, he will have more time to serve the local community in this way. Still, logic has never been his strong suit.
The plea is a desperate attempt by Abbott to stave of the seemingly inevitable, but perhaps the funniest line in the whole piece is at the end where he states that “only a dyed-in-the-wool Labor voter would want to deprive the parliamentary Liberal Party of a most effective political warrior”. While many Labor voters would like to see the political end of Abbott, I suspect there are a few who would wish he’d continue as he has been one of the most effective ‘tools’ the Labor Party has had in hastening the demise of the Coalition government. It is not only some Labor voters who want to see him go, however; there are several grass-roots organisations within Warringah that are campaigning against him, as is GetUp. Even some Liberal Party members want to see the back of him; he only obtained endorsement by a two to one majority in his local branch, when the opponent was an empty chair. It is the second time he has nearly lost to an empty chair8. In the federal election, the conservative chair opposite is not empty, it is occupied by Zali Steggall.