It’s been reported that among the items on the IPA’s “to-do” list, handed to Head Boy Abbott on his first day at Big School, was an exhortation to emulate the bold, uncompromising vision of Gough Whitlam, the PM who did more in his single term to create the nation we know today than any other, before or since, and who more or less weaponised bloody-minded determination.
I would humbly suggest that the fundamental differences between the two are too stark to be reconciled and that the IPA must surely have been huffing nitrous to think Tony could walk that particular walk, or even do a passable impression of the talk.
Gough had a vision, based in humanism and social justice, which he followed through and largely realised, conservative obstructionism be damned. He had a litany of simple but radical ideas; their single unifying concept was to improve the lives of all Australians. He pursued it with an enviable vigour that sustained him through his cooked-up dismissal and well into his later years.
Abbott, however, had a shopping list from self-interested arch-capitalist science-denialists, little more than half of which he’s filled. Many of his wins have been to simply de-fund or destroy social or scientific programs or initiatives that conflict with his masters’ dogmatic ideologies (many victims of the LNP razor gang had their roots in the Whitlam era); all he’s actually built off his own bat is a less fair, more frightened society while destroying what little trust we had left in our representatives after Labor’s obsessive factionalists handed him the election.
No, Abbott’s no Whitlam-style radical pursuing a bold reform agenda, caution being thrown to the wind. He’s a toadying throwback – an errand boy for anyone with a large enough bank account to get a seat at the table. His vision – or what passes for it – is prescribed to him by others; it is to enable greater profiteering, less accountability and greater access to to government for the billionaires who already dictate conservative policy.
Abbott’s legacy will not be one of a bold vision for the future, but of a shortsighted smash & grab: a ram-raid where Abbott broke down the door and his overseers filled their pockets and strolled away.