Without realising, I must have been put on the wrong mailing list, because a month (or so) ago I received a ‘personal’ invitation from Anthony Pratt (yes, the rich one) to attend a special address from Tony Abbott, hosted by the Pratt Foundation. Wow, that was a long and ugly sentence.
I decided to attend, for a number of reasons. First of all, a good friend said that there’s nothing wrong with hearing both sides (politically). Secondly, another good friend said it would be an opportunity to network. Thirdly, someone else said that it would just be hilarious. Also, the special address centres on ‘creating communities’ and forms the last of Mr Abbott’s key policy platform speeches in the run up to the 2013 election campaign – and I’m someone who likes to be in the know.
So, I rsvp’d saying ‘yes’, albeit late – exclaiming in my email that I was sorry for RSVPing after the due date and that I would understand if I had ‘missed the boat’. The person receiving my email probably missed my hilarious joke however, I happily learned that they were (still) delighted to have me attend.
In the lead up to the event I confessed to myself that no matter what Tony would say, I wouldn’t be able to help but disagree with it. I know I’m fairly subtle and diplomatic in my prose, but I’m sure you dear readers know by now that I am not a fan of Tony Abbott. And my reason for not being a supporter of the leading Australian Budgie Smuggler is not personal (while it may sound like it), it has everything to do with me disagreeing with his politics. And seeing as he is a politician, I think that’s fair enough. I don’t think he’d like me either, politically speaking. But I did appreciate the invitation, even if I suspect it was a cynically motivated move to ensnare the ‘women’s vote’. Which, in hindsight was very wise because, of course, I represent ALL women.
But I digress. I always knew I wouldn’t agree with what he said, so I decided to attend in the spirit of academic inquiry – to listen to what TA was saying, not from an emotional point of view (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I probably would have a nervous breakdown halfway through), but with the intent to appreciate the logic behind the proposed policy without getting myself into a hysterical mess. So, as crazy as it sounds, I attended Tony Abbott’s special address in the search of logic.
Well dear readers, you may be surprised to learn that I found some, I found some logic in TA’s special address. Stunned as I was to find it, I cannot deny its existence. If his address were made of 100 jigsaw pieces, about 35 of them fitted together in a logical pattern. The remaining 65, however, were completely bonkers.
The special address covered a lot of territory and to stop this post from getting too long I will list the points Tony Abbott made for- and against- logic.
- ‘It’s important for people to be able to participate in the things they love’ – TA talking about creating stronger communities. I agree, but I doubt he intended for that to include people who love things like gay marriage, the environment and women’s control over their reproductive and sexual health. Ok, that was a low blow, there will be no more emotional outbursts… for a while.
- Key policy pillar: to renew reconciliation to find creative ways to include Indigenous Australians in the workforce. The policy is based on the Twiggy Forrest model of finding job vacancies and then training Indigenous people to fill those roles, rather than only drawing from qualified Indigenous candidates. Seems logical enough, my comments will end there as I really don’t know much more about it but I am glad it’s on the agenda.
- Key policy pillar: use the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to streamline law enforcement across Australia. Seems highly logical to have the same speeding laws in effect all over this golden land.
- Key policy pillar (I think): strengthen community engagement to improve the running of public schools and hospitals. The concept is a logical one. For example, TA proposed having members of the community sitting on the board of their public hospital – already happens in Victoria and seems to work well. Also mentioned that community members could be engaged as volunteers in their local schools to take on administrative tasks and reduce the burden of non-teaching tasks on teachers. Again, seems logical, even if I personally think there are some massive holes that need filling to make that a successful endeavour. And don’t get me started on its impact on the professionalisation of public schools.
- Childcare is an important part of early childhood education (logical), we need to accomodate modern working hours (logical)
- The Gillard Government inept and untrustworthy – not commenting on the logic so much as the hypocrisy
- Lamented the partisan nature of politics – saying that the Coalition is pursuing an ‘anti-partisan’ track – again, not commenting on the logic so much as the hypocrisy
- Claimed that politics is not just the pursuit of power, but to serve a higher purpose – I repeat, not commenting on the logic so much as the hypocrisy.
- Politics is not a boxing match – but Tony, I thought that’s what you did at Oxford?
- The birth rate is higher for people on welfare because they have more time to spend with their family (and he may have also insinuated that their financial stability also played a role). I WILL NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO UNTIE THE ILLOGICAL MESS OF THAT STATEMENT. OH. MY. GOD.
- View on modern women – ‘modern women expect to work when they finish school. Modern women also expect to work when they become mothers. We need to find a way to combine serious work, with involved parenting’. Do I need to provide comment about how this is illogical? Well ok. a) modern women are so far ahead of that set of criteria – they now want co-parenting, better superannuation and equal pay.. the list could go on, and change regularly because ‘modern women’ is not one monolithic group. b) involved parenting IS SERIOUS WORK. c) not all women want to become mothers or can! d) there is this rare breed of a different kind of parent, it’s called a father, and they do have opinions on career and family as well – despite what you may think.
And the rest was just right-wing fluff that made me yawn. So, while the logic in the serious policy stuff (Reconcilliation and COAG) seems ok, it was the complete lack of knowledge which lead him to talk about birth rates and ‘modern women’ which filled me with fear. This guy is so out of touch from the diverse range of communities that exist in Australia. He does not seem to be able to interrogate some simple but flawed assumptions – i.e. that families on welfare maintain their dependency on state finances simply to have a successful family life – which will end up having a huge effect on how a Coalition Government would set social policy. Frankly, I found it frightening. For all that you might say about J Gill, I believe she would have a much better idea of and be more open-minded towards a variety of community makeups and experiences. I’d prefer her to be directing social policy rather than Tony Abbott for simply that fact (although we all know there are more).
So all in all, I went, I listened, I felt slimy, I grabbed a brownie on the way out and I was convinced never to vote for Tony Abbott. Do you think I’ll get invited to anything else?