‘Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission’, Tony Abbott’s Jesuitical squirm when he first announced, without consulting his party, that pregnant millionairesses’ fecundity bonus which became his albatross, has prefigured, lately, other tactical stumbles and pratfalls.
He did not let his party know he was planning to soak the middle class with a great big new tax. He did not warn them of the twenty-four billion he would squander, in some safe Labor seats, on a fighter jet currently useless in any conceivable war, or when he would shout its imminence. He did not consult them before he opted, when sprung, to keep thieving money from dead soldiers’ orphans.
He has a painful need for secrets which only his confessor, Pell, is privy to. ‘Unless I put it in writing,’ he said once, ‘don’t believe me.’ Or words to that effect. He kept, for a while from his knocked-up girlfiend the secret that he was not going to marry her, and called off the wedding a week before.
This is in character. So is his connection with the secret fund that persecuted Hanson, Ettridge, Kernot, Thomson, Gillard, Slipper, and his adjacent conspirator Oldfield into prison, ruin and political inconvenience. He thrives on secrecy, and will perish in its ever-tightening coils.
The figure he most resembles in literature is Billy Liar. Engaged to three girls, and in love with a fourth, and racing between them, and embellishing nightly a secret fantasy of his own goose-steppng dictatorship like Groucho’s in Duck Soup, he is endangering hourly his job in the funeral parlour and cannot be caught, held down, admonished and sedated. Tom Courtenay’s personality in the film resembles his closely. It is why we all think we have seen him before.
Can this farce go on? A leader whose party thinks he has ‘gone rogue’ cannot be sin-binned, gagged or threatened, and is behaving so unpredictably that Bolt, Murray, Shanahan, Hartcher, Van Onselen and Albrechtsen are agape and baying for his lethal injection.
When O’Farrell went rogue, philosophically, he was warned, then stalked, then framed, then pole-axed. When Buswell, repeatedly forgiven, goofed one more time he was encouraged into hari-kiri. This latter will happen to Abbott, soon. The stifled Newspoll will have shown the Coalition on 40, two party preferred, and Abbott as Prime Minister trailing Palmer. It is catastrophe for every party member not possessed of a North Shore seat, and something must be done.
It is likely Abbott will be encouraged into a depleting disease, tragically nameless and fast-moving, and retirement from parliament by August, and Hockey Prime Minister, smiling at grief, by June.
And we will see what we shall see.