Writing under the heading Tony Abbott, Australia's Most Powerful Sycophant (paywall) Rundle confesses that up until last year's election the PM presented as a complex character, that he was "a man with, it seemed, a sense of vocation coming from the Catholic Right of politics, with an idea of how politics fitted into the wider question of civilisation and of personal character."
Rundle goes through a list of latest gaffes - the effusive praise for Murdoch, the Scotland statements, the "unsettled" remark, latching onto the US in Iraq (and even asking to be asked to help) - to support his proposition that "he’s a sycophant by nature who seeks out opportunities to please those more powerful than he by being more ardent in pursuit of their interests than they ever asked him to be in the first place."
This is a better - and more complete analysis - than I'd thus far been able to achieve myself.
All I could see was that PM Abbott was very similar to SRC President Abbott; having won the job he had no idea what he wanted to do with it. He had a list of things he was against (as PM the carbon tax and boats, as SRC Pres compulsory student unionism and funding for gays and feminists). In both cases he didn't understand that winning the election was only a step on the journey - you needed a plan after it, and some skills in managing.
The question then emerges of what motivates Tony Abbott. It is not like the position of Kevin Rudd, who also lost his way in Government. Rudd has been described as a former Minister as a "psychopath", and it fits. He was only motivated by the power of the job. This isn't the current PM.
Tony Abbott's modus operandi, according to Rundle, is "pleasing the nearest big power or audience." This explains his University behaviour in relation to Santamaria, his support of the monarchy and his relationship with John Howard.
I don't buy into Rundle's theories about the origins of this behaviour; and ultimately it is not the cause but the behaviour that affects us. It is Rundle's conclusion about political action that matters:
What matters, for those of us who would like to see the Abbott government rendered a one-term proposition, is whether it helps to predict a behaviour that Abbott himself would have less than complete control over -- and thus to create opportunities to demonstrate to the Australian people that Tony Abbott is more interested in serving higher powers, whether it be God, Crown or Mammon, than he is in simply and effectively representing the best interests of all Australians.
UPDATE: The original Rundle story reminded me of one of Tony Abbott's earlier comments (pre-election) on Syria (thanks to Simon Banks for digging it out for me). The SMH story began (emphasis added):
Would-be prime minister Tony Abbott has signalled that if he wins Saturday's poll, Australia will take a cautious approach to international affairs, saying that as a middle power Australia should not "be getting ideas above our station" in considering involvement with a possible US strike on Syria.
Appearing on ABC's 7.30, Mr Abbott said "we have to be very careful, because if we break something, we own it".
"I don't think we should be getting ideas above our station, " he said.
AdvertisementWhile "Australia has some heft in the world", and Australian governments of both sides had historically supported the US in military endeavours, Mr Abbott said "I just think we need to be very careful in a situation like this cause we can easily make a bad situation worse by acting precipitously. I would be very cautious about this."
"I don't think we should be getting above ourselves here. We are a significant middle power but no more."
It is not now that he thinks we are any greater a power or should be less servile, just that he thinks being more robust on the situation is what is called for. After all, despite crowing about what Australia did on the Security Council, he still thinks we shouldn't be there.