|Issue No 87||10 March 2001|
The Mad Monk Makes It
We've been holding off all summer, but the honeymoon is over. Congenital Loud-Mouth Tony Abbott has claimed the Tool Shed as his own with a blistering boot into his own oral cavity.
The new workplace relations minister has been circling the Tool Shed since he assumed the portfolio, with a string of gaffes which showed a level of confidence way beyond his level of competence. The fact that these were humorous - and largely harmless - has kept him outside, to date.
First there was the assertion that work was more like "a family" than an employment relationship. And I suppose for women who have to care for the children, while juggling a career, before rushing home to prepare the evening meal, might have some sympathy for this analysis. But for a man with the Monk's strict moral values, if the workplace is a family, one would wonder why he was approving of so many casual relationships.
When challenged in a recent interview with Workers Online about what happens to the dysfunctional families, Abbott asserted that the families that don't work can always head to the Family Court. Given that the figure for broken marriages is currently about 40 per cent, perhaps his clumsy analogy is actually a strong defence of the need for an independent AIRC!
Speaking of independence, it wasn't long before he was raising eyebrows in the Commission itself, playing politics at a recent swearing in of four IRC members from employer backgrounds. Abbott brazenly shrugged off the criticism of favouritism by claiming the Labor Government had stacked the commission with union officials in its days in powers. The statistics, of course say otherwise, with a broad mix of appointments from unions, government and the employer ranks. Facts? They get in the way of a decent argument.
Then came the bizarre attack on ambit claims, with the Mad Monk asserting that they were "a kind of perversity" that must be wiped out. Forget the fact that these have been the legal trigger required by the Constitution for conciliation and arbitration for 100 years. To Abbott they are just another sign of the evil that is trade unionism.
And in keeping with this week's International Women's Day theme, it's worth recalling some of the Monk's earlier work. While editor of the 1975 student rag, 'Democrat' Abbott reproduced an anti-abortion tract which described the abortion movement as a "turning away from the light of our civilization in favour of the darkness of total barbarianism".
But the Mad Monk scraped his own depths this week, by accusing the ACTU of doctoring a survey that showed how concerned working Australians are with the direction the Howard Government is taking. Abbott asserted in parliament that the ACTU had played with their statistics. What really happened is that Abbott, or a staffer, had read two different parts of the survey. Now, misreading a stat is human, but running aggressively without double-checking your facts is bull-headed.
On the very same day he was running this smokescreen, the Melboure Age reported that Abbott actually rehearses his presentations from the dispatch box by making public servants pretend to be the opposition firing questions at him. So what looks like boof-headed improvisation on the floor of Parliament is actually carefully choreographed. This information is plain scary.
The picture that emerges is that of an individual dismissive of the other and uncomprehending of his privileged position in the world. It was interesting sitting down to interview Abbott a few weeks ago. He comes across as not altogether unaffable, willing to engage, yet supremely confident of his own world view. It's not so much that he's hostile to the labour movement, it's that he just can't conceive how anyone could disagree with him.
Abbott takes great pride in talking about his days on the shop floor, as both a working journo and a down-to-earth manager at Pioneer Concrete. But at every turn, his anecdotes are fueled by a bombastic, self-righteousness that borders on the self-delusional. Here is a man who shoots from the hip, and usually gets his own foot. Here is the Peter Principle in practice, a politician who has risen above his level of incompetence. Here is living proof of the old adage that you can take the Tory off the tools, but you can't the tool out of the Tory.
Interview: Working Woman
Cheryl Kernot on women in the workplace, Labor's male culture and where Meg went wrong.
Activists: Honouring Our Heroes
Anna Stewart changed the lives of Australian working families by helping women achieve balance between the competing demands of work and family.
Women: The Future is Female
Julia Gillard outlines the campaign to increase female representation within the Australian Labor Party.
Unions: Sweatshops – Beyond 2001
FairWear convenor Debbie Carstens looks over a unique partnership between churches and unions to end exploitation in the textile industry.
Politics: The Battle for Bennelong
Many trade unionists are working to kick John Howard out of office. But only one woman has a chance of kicking him out of his own seat. Meet Nicole Campbell.
International: Border Skirmishes
Alana Kerr travelled to Thailand to observe first hand the battle to organise Burmese women workers in exile.
History: Inside the Ladies Lounge
The McDonald sisters run Trades Hall, and have for over half a century. The building can’t speak about what has gone on in that time, but Lorna and Elaine probably know it all.
Satire: Taliban to Put One Nation Last
The Parliamentary fate of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party was further obscured today as key fellow right-wing extremists moved to distance themselves from the controversial Queensland politician and the group she founded and leads.
Review: Seven Steps to Slavation
Jenny Macklin details the seven barriers that stand between women and a better working life.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005