An open letter to Tony Abbott

An open letter to the Hon Mr Tony Abbott MP

Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (they are still loyal, aren’t they?)

24th March, 2011

Dear Mr Abbott

When the Prime Minister announced her government’s plans to tax carbon pollution as a means of addressing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, you called for a people’s revolt to oppose this great big new tax. Yesterday’s shameful debacle outside Parliament House showed just what sort of people are revolting.

It started on breakfast radio with the commercial station shock-jocks happily spreading misinformation and lies. Yes, Lies. I heard one, a visiting Sydney right-wing jock, confidently announce that this (the carbon tax) will be the biggest financial restructure we’ve ever seen in this country. Wrong. His colleague then scoffed at the idea of taxing carbon by announcing that every time we breathe out we create carbon dioxide and the government will tax us for it. Not only wrong but ludicrous. The talkback callers simply echoed what the paid monkeys were telling them. ‘Cheryl’ called the station to say that she had never attended a protest rally but she was going to this one because Julia Gillard lied about the carbon dioxide tax. And so on.

The paid monkeys in the studio have also never heard of irony, with one saying that “we have busloads of people coming into Canberra today from all over New South Wales and the ACT”, but when asked about the left-leaning group, Get Up!, he dismissed it as “made up of unionists and students – it’s just dial-a-crowd”.

Mr Abbott, this is the calibre of debate your rantings in parliament have sparked: irrational, inconsistent and based on lies and misinformation. Oh, but it got worse.

Having whipped the listeners into a lather of anti-government bile, the action moved to the front lawns of Parliament House, where the crowd swelled to around 1500-3000, depending on which newspaper you’re reading this morning. A quick scan of the crowd looked as though your people’s revolt had hijacked a day trip bus from a senior citizens’ club. There were a few younger people on the fringes, but they were mostly political staffers and curious public servants on their lunchbreak and clearly not part of the protest.

A protest on its own, Mr Abbott, is fine. I have participated in many over the years, against all measure of government actions from Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s ban on street marching in the 70s to John Howard’s commitment of Australian troops to Iraq in 2003. In each of these cases the protest focused on a specific issue: they were expressions of opposition to government, not personal attacks against the leader.

The placards on display at yesterday’s protest showed that this was not about the carbon tax – this was a frenzy of hatred against the Prime Minister. And you, sir, through your deliberately misleading statements via the right-wing commercial radio monkeys, had sparked it. Few of the sentiments expressed had anything to do with carbon tax – there were banners there expressing racism: “No multiculturalism”, said one, held by an elderly white man seated comfortably in a folding chair; “Illegals stay, Aussies pay”, screamed another. The presence of Pauline Hanson did nothing to improve this perception, with cries of “Goodonya Pauline”, when she addressed her adoring public.

Given the offensive nature of the slogans, and hearing some of the more outrageous and illogical statements, I thought that you would not dignify the gathering with your presence. I was half right. You did not dignify it. You allowed it to drag you down to its level. Standing in front of some of the more offensive posters on display, you called this mob of uninformed and hate-driven people ‘fine Australians’ and in so doing, you endorsed the posters that read “Ditch the Bitch”. Flanked by Bronwyn Bishop – who increasingly resembles the senile, toothless Rottweiler that wags its tail at axe-murderers and snaps at small children, and Sophie Mirabella, whose credibility falls every time she opens her mouth, you once again gave Australians good reason to question your judgment.

You might reflect, sir, that politics is not the Catholic Church. You cannot sin, then confess and be absolved. Politics is more like the internet’s popular LOLcat saying: “what has been seen cannot be unseen”.

You might also note, sir, as did most of Australia, that your deputy, Julie Bishop, and two potential contenders for your job, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, were nowhere to be seen. Ms Bishop and Mssrs Turnbull and Hockey are capable of showing judgment and, for all their opposition to the government’s policies, they respect the Office of Prime Minister. Something you clearly do not.

Sir, you are not fit for leadership. Your endorsement of yesterday’s hate-rally was offensive, degrading and shameful. Your glib apology this morning suggesting that ‘some people’ may have ‘gone over the top’, does nothing to redress the sight of you, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, in front of some of the more offensive slogans, endorsing them with your presence.

Mr Abbott, you may think that climate change is crap and you may have managed to convince a bunch of rowdy senior citizens of that, but what if, just if, the 98% of world scientists are right and global warming is real and is human-induced? What if, within a couple of generations Australia’s agriculture collapses because of extreme climatic variability and weather events? What if the availability of potable water is no longer sufficient for the population? You, and your well-superannuated supporters in Canberra yesterday will have grandchildren and great-grandchildren bearing the burden of cost for your opposition to government action on climate change. How will you – and they – explain to the grandchildren that when you had the chance to support decisive action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, you chose instead to whip up a frenzy of hatred against a Prime Minister?

Yours sincerely

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About Coffee with Ruby

Ruby is a writer, lecturer and thinker who blogs mostly on politics, environment and social philosophy. She has been at the coalface of the political process, but is now strictly an observer. Join Ruby for coffee and musings over whatever is going on at the time ...
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