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The consequences of fear, hate and nastiness

June 11, 2013

By Barry Tucker

All things being equal, the federal Parliamentary Liberal National Party Opposition, led by Tony Abbott, should have a price to pay for the kind of political campaign it has run since the last federal election. It has been nasty. The price should be nasty.

If you type “the consequences of hatred” into a Google search you will get some 14,300,000 results. It’s not as if the consequences have not been thought about, written about and published. There is no excuse for being unaware of them.

In Abbott’s case, the Catholic Church he is so fond of has a well-known set of instructions on how he should conduct himself. Why has he chosen to ignore some of these commandments? The fact is, Abbott can pick up or put aside his Catholicism when it suits him.

Abbott and four members of his front bench

Abbott and four members of his front bench

Abbott said he did not see the signs behind him on that stage. Given the available evidence, his self-respect must suffer. There has to be consequences.

Politics is not a nice game. I can’t think of a country where it is conducted with politeness, good manners and respect.

There are rules and regulations to control the behaviour of politicians in the debating chambers. Outside of the parliament, there are civil laws of libel, defamation and racial vilification. So far, Abbott has escaped judgment inside and outside the House of Parliament. But there must be consequences eventually.

Children and teenagers, up to the age of 18 and sometimes later, can act without regard for the consequences, or without being aware that there may be consequences. It is a sign of maturity, of acknowledging the real world around them, when they stop behaving in that way and consider any consequences of their actions before saying or doing anything.

When adults speak in public and carry out certain actions in public in a way that seems to be without any regard for the consequences it becomes a matter for concern. When they lie or cheat they are either prepared to pay the price of consequences, or they have a plan to avoid the consequences, or they just don’t care.

I think it’s fair to say that many people believe politicians dissemble, obfuscate, deflect, avoid the issue or handle the truth in a careless manner (it’s unparliamentary to say someone lied, but it’s okay to say they have been mendacious, which means exactly the same thing).

One consequence of nasty tactics in the Parliament’s debating chambers is that the nasty ones get away with it, probably (but not necessarily), to the detriment of the other side. The nasties get away with it because they know the other side won’t play the same game with them when the parties swap sides. There is a reason for this and it has to do with consequences. When nasty tactics are used to excess and constantly, the House degenerates into an uncontrollable rabble and the public soon notices and begins complaining – loudly.

I cannot say what the consequences of the LNP Opposition’s campaign of destruction (involving lies, fear mongering and unproven allegations to smear government members and supporters) will be. I haven’t detailed the instances of nastiness here (apart from the infamous posters incident above) because they are well known, in social media and the Fifth Estate, at least. It has been written, frequently, that Abbott has been a most successful Opposition Leader. By that, it is meant that his opposition to almost everything and his unproven smear campaigns have held the government back in the opinion polls.

In my opinion, Abbott does not deserve the opinion poll rating he has been given. I would have enormous respect for an Opposition Leader who played a clean game, who challenged a government’s policies and pointed out their flaws, who provided alternative policies that won broad support. Abbott has not played that kind of game, and yet he has a higher score in the polls. Something is out of shape here, and there must be consequences.

Some of the blame lies with the government, of course. It has had some embarrassing policy failures. A lot of the blame lies with the manner in which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, came to power. I don’t know if the overthrow of the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, by one of the union factions he tried to control  can be justified. But now, three months from her second election, the Prime Minister finds herself in the same low position in the polls that set the wolves against Kevin Rudd. Again, consequences.

The other factor has been the behaviour of the mainstream news media (MSM), which has spilled over into news commentary, shock jock fodder and even comedy shows. Regardless of the outcome of the 14 September election, I will be watching the performance of the MSM closely. I am sure there will be consequences in that area too. Did the media get it right, or wrong?

When Ms Gillard accused Abbott of misogyny, Abbott, his minders and an accommodating news media, especially the magazines and morning TV shows, went out of their way to disprove the claim. The consequences of Ms Gillard’s accusation were that Abbott had to shift gear in an effort to prove it was not true. Ms Gillard suffered some of the consequences and had to weather a storm of protest and criticism. The consequence of pointing and blaming is that you might take a few hits in the counter attack.

When Ms Gillard took the brave, or foolhardy, step of announcing the election date months instead of weeks in advance, there were consequences. She copped a lot of criticism for the unprecedented decision, designed to end Abbott’s nay saying, obstructionism and negativity and get him to produce some policies and some details to go with them. The negativity stopped, for a while, and a blue brochure appeared. Some who’ve read it say it’s little more than policy outlines.

There’s another consequence, one to which the MSM pays little attention. Nasty, negative, nay saying Abbot has become the blue brochure clutching nice Abbott in the dark blue suit, white shirt, blue tie, preaching the blue brochure gospel of what the Liberal Party says it will do in government, if it wins.  For the voters, the ones who didn’t switch off many months ago, this should be a WTF? moment. There should be consequences for this switcheroo by the man I’ve begun to call Tony Two Face the IPA Hit Man. Can this chameleon be trusted?

To summarise: For almost three years Abbott has used a wrecking ball strategy designed to bring down the government as quickly as possible. It has been a campaign not very different to the tactics he used to dominate and destroy the student union at Sydney University, supposedly riddled with Communists. He has failed – the government is still there, damaged but still afloat. Abbott is rewarded with a higher position in the opinion polls than the Prime Minister, who has soldiered on, introducing some world first legislation and social reforms.

In my mind, something is wrong with this picture painted by the polls. It’s a work that reminds me of some of Picasso’s efforts, strangely disjointed and all over the place, hard to follow but fascinating. The consequences will become clear after 14 September, and there will be consequences to follow that – especially for the creators of these poll results, the MSM.

Picasso 1

PS: In the above I have used Abbott’s surname only and not accorded him the honorific of Mr. I’m happy with that. He has not earned my respect and probably never will — and that’s a consequence too.

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