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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Tony works through the five stages of grief

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Mungo MacCallum

The one certain thing about Tony Abbott’s first budget is that it has produced a lot of unhappiness, and not only among his political opponents; many of his supporters have been weeping quietly in their electorate offices, and among the public at large there has been general wailing and lamentation.

So it is entirely appropriate that Abbott is taking a methodical approach to dealing with the outbreak of grief; he is apparently working his way through its five stages, as identified by the Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Fortunately for our prime minister, the first of these is a response at which he is both practised and accomplished: denial.

Having summarily dismissed the science of climate change as ‘crap’, he had no trouble in declaring that his own unequivocal and well-documented election promises were equally irrelevant: what mattered was his commitment to tackle Labor’s debt and deficit crisis and bring the budget back to surplus.

When it was pointed out that there was no immediate crisis, and even if there had been, Joe Hockey’s manifesto did nothing urgent about it, Abbott continued to reject reality. But of course this did not work – as Kubler-Ross has shown, it never does. So on to stage two: anger. Face down the outrage of the electorate with outrage (confected or real, it doesn’t matter) of his own.

Abbott waxed indignant: the media, the public, the AMA, the AIG, and even members of his own party were obviously too thick to appreciate the underlying wonder and beauty of his concoction. They wanted to wake up and confront reality: sure, there may be some short-term pain, but when the smoke haze lifted and the rubble was cleared away, a glorious future awaited: a medical research fund, more roads, and above all tax cuts. And if people didn’t embrace that new and glittering promise, then that was their own damn fault. They could take the nasty medicine, or after the next election he would dish up a real shit sandwich. No more Mr Nice Guy.

But once again there was less than universal rejoicing (except, inevitably, in the columns of the Murdoch press). And worse, emboldened by the opinion polls which showed the budget to be about as popular as cholera and Abbott rather less so, the political opposition hardened its stance. The recalcitrance of Labor and the Greens was both expected and, to an extent, even welcomed: if a scapegoat was needed, they were the obvious choices for the role.

But the crossbenchers were another proposition entirely. Abbott had hoped that the incoming ragbag of senators would be, on the whole, sympathetic; after all, apart from the ever enigmatic Nick Xenophon, they all claimed to represent parties stationed on the right of politics, some very close to the lunatic fringes – soulmates, in fact. And since they seemed ready, and in most cases eager, to embrace the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes, the recycling of the inquisition into the building industry and the restructuring of Fair Work Australia so that it is more work and less fair, Abbott figured that they would come to the party on the rest of his merciless agenda. But it has proved not to be so: his furious demands left them unimpressed and unmoved. So, somewhat reluctantly, Abbott has moved on to stage three: bargaining. Last week he met – or at least planned to meet – three of the new boys who will take their seats next month: Bob Day from Family First, John Madigan of the DLP and David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats. The best that can be said of the duologues was that there were no reports of physical violence, but there was not a lot of mutual hugging either. Day and Madigan are both on record as being concerned about the impact of budget measures on families; Leyonhjelm wants to abolish welfare altogether and replace it with tax cuts.

But the real problem is that even if Abbott can lure all three on side, and rope in Xenophon as well, he still needs at least two more votes. And the only place to procure these is from the well guarded compound of Clive Palmer. Abbott made his first, and obvious, move: try and wedge off what looked like the weakest link, Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

Shortly after being elected as senator with a primary vote of just 0.51 per cent, Muir formed an alliance with the Palmer United Party, although it has never been entirely clear just how tight this alliance is. Abbott obviously thought it was flexible and invited Muir to a meeting. Muir, a Gippsland sawmiller, declined: he was busy trying to feed his family, he said, and would come to Canberra when he was paid to do so and not before. Madigan suggested Abbott should go to Gippsland to talk to him, but the mountain remained unmoved.

The other three PUP senators have also refused to meet: Palmer says they won’t talk until Abbott grants them more staff. And even then the outcome might be, well, problematic. The two who have submitted themselves to an interview with the ABC 7.30’s Sarah Ferguson, Jackie Lambie from Tasmania and Dio Wang from Western Australia, seem at best unpredictable; the third, Queensland’s Glenn Lazarus, The Brick with Eyes, has opted to let his bulk answer the questions, as it did on the rugby league grounds.

Any progress appears unlikely unless and until Abbott overcomes his obvious dislike of the flamboyant billionaire supremo and opens up serious negotiations.

If and when he does so, it may or may not be a circuit breaker; it will certainly be a show stopper.

In the meantime, Abbott has little option but to move on to stage four: depression.

If the business and consumer confidence surveys offer any guidance, this appears a possible outcome for the economy.

And if that doesn’t bring the voters to their senses, there is always the final stage: acceptance. But just who will be accepting what, and who will be doing the grieving, we probably won’t know until the next election in 2016.

 


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Once again, Mungo’s obvious solution is…wait for it..bring back Labor. Bring in the Union bullies, bring back Kevin ’07, Julia, and the whole Labor circus, kit and kaboodle. And, or course, fire up that deficit, before it gets cold.
    Any budget that cuts the fat is going to upset special interest groups. Labor just avoided that by spending more.
    Join the rest of the world, Australia .Don’t be a nanny state. Australia can’t afford it.
    Taking advice from a political mouthplece living in one of the most overpriced and unproductive areas in one of the most overvalued countries in the world isn’t isn’t a terribly wise move.
    It’s not too late too save the joint.

  2. The problem, Steven, is that you seem to parrot the old party lines; you seem to believe that all people are blinkered enough to see only the LibLab divide.
    Both parties are under the corporate jackboot and the only solution I can see is to vote:
    Independent: please can all Windsors, Oakshotts, Xenophons & McGowans step forward now so that we can identify you before next Fed election;
    Green: The only party left that is not afraid to be ethical and not under corporate influence
    Lab: well, it’s better than the alternative (LNP/Tea Party)

  3. Steve Franks, I’m with you. There is so much government debt and if it’s not tidied up it is going to cost Australia well into the future financially, it’s and likely governments paid positions will be forced to go if they don’t fit into a budget. A lot of political media commentators seem to ignore this massive debt and the interest payments that go with it. The Labour party promised surplus on more than one occasion, their spending is the reason we are up against it now. Yeah I’ve heard how they saved us from recession ( on paper ! Regionally were in recession have been for some time. ) The massive financial waste was a crime in, scheme’s without an entry plan or an exit plan. Dump and run was the labours solution, but it doesn’t matter which party did it. Governments should have plans in place for crisis, financial and otherwise. Australian Government should be planning it’s future and ours and aiming high not simply for a short term political bribe as it was for labour. Minimising Australia’s debit is very important, we need to be prepared for some short term pain to go forward. It’s time to get things in order. If your not happy with the now government and it’s leader we can all thank labour for getting the Liberals and Tony Abbott elected. If Labour had delivered on all they had promised they would still be in government. Leadership takes discipline.

  4. Intersting as usual Mungo. My take on it is that it will soon be unwise of Abbott Hockey and the large Belgian gentleman to talk about fixing Labour’s budget mess.because although we were constantly reminded by the LNP that the deficit was large and getting large we didn’t notice, social collapse. starvation or even class war under Labour and our international credit rating remained at AAA, so the world money men didn’t notice a crisis either Now the budget proposed by the 3 right wing scrooges to right the wrong will make the poor poorer,. medical care unaffordable for low paid families and the chronically ill, and brand out of work youngsters unable to find a job as pariahs unworthy of any assistance for 6 months. Let us keep the deficit a bit longer and sensibly reduce it without burdening those that can least afford it. Happines and a healthy environment are beneath consideration for Tony et al. On with the hair shirts everyone except the high flyers of course.

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