It seems peculiar with Russian President Vladmir Putin attempting to redefine his country’s relations with the West, with more than 400 asylum seekers arriving since the federal election and with the US Federal Reserve maintaining its stimulus program, that Tony Abbott’s chief focus this week would be doors.
The freshly legitimised Prime Minster first made sure the doors of the Lodge were securely fastened. Not to keep potential intruders or Malcolm Turnbull out, but to keep his daughters in.
When quizzed by a begrudged Kevin Rudd at the handover of the Lodge as to whether his daughters will be residing in the Canberra institution, Abbott responded: “The short answer, is yes, mate, because they don't want to leave until such time as they get married.”
“I know that feeling,” chortled Rudd.
There may have been no love lost between the two political foes during the election, but all that animosity had clearly subsided by the time of the exchange, with the two men bonding over the imposition of patriarchal values on modern women in the name of religion. Ah, the high ground.
(Little did Tony know it was Kevin that let loose all of those possums that will see him sleeping in dorm-style accommodation temporarily.)
Meanwhile, in more pressing news, Abbott all but slammed the door on almost every woman in the coalition.
In announcing the government’s new cabinet, which will henceforth be known as “Abb Cab”, Abbott revealed that Julie Bishop would be the only woman to serve in the inner ministry.
In a back-dated slap to the face of Julia Gillard, who was lambasted by the Coalition for “playing the gender card,” Abbott attempted to pre-emptively nullify a similar situation by neglecting to give Coalition women cards at all.
“There are lots of good women knocking on the door of the outer ministry and lots of women knocking on the door of Cabinet,” he said, in an attempt to placate what he must have foreseen would be nothing short of a debacle.
One of those “women knocking on the door” is Kelly O’Dwyer, Liberal Member for Higgins in Melbourne since a byelection in 2009, and one of the party’s most-reliable public spruikers.
In an address in O’Dwyer’s electorate on April 14 this year, Abbott said: “I have a very, very good shadow cabinet but I am very lucky that I have capable people like Kelly O’Dwyer knocking hard on the door of that shadow cabinet.”
Just keep knocking, Kelly. At some point your racket will overpower the pissing contest inside the cabinet walls. They can’t pee forever; it’s just biology. Oh wait, there’s no science allowed inside the cabinet either. Awkward.
Credit where it’s due: Julie Bishop is an incredibly capable politician and she is the first woman to be given the important Foreign Affairs portfolio. It’s a crucial job and one that will see her away from Canberra more than any other Abbott minister. Wait a minute…
The deficiencies if “Abb Cab” were not lost on the electorate, drawing fire from all quarters of society. Outgoing Liberal Senator Sussan Ley said her party had a “systemic problem” with its lack of women, while on the other side of politics, interim Labor leader Chris Bowen was positively gleeful while pointing out “the cabinet of Afghanistan now has more women than the cabinet of Australia”. Thankfully, Labor knows how to treat its senior female politicians.
The Greens were also quick to lash Abbott’s penchant for Y chromosomes in cabinet through spokesperson Richard Di Natale: “It’s hard to believe that a new government could show such contempt for science, gender equality and the law of the land in a few short days.”
The instantaneous and furious backlash will serve as a baptism of fire for Abbott, and could very well be a watershed moment for the new PM as he grapples with the realisation he is no longer tasked with holding to account others, but is being held to account himself.
“Look, look at Labor over there, they’ve got three leaders, the circus rolls on,” you can see him informing an impatient media pack – but to no avail.
“They” are no longer the main ingredient in this fry pan. That would be you, Tony.
The barrenness of “Abb Cab” was in some part precipitated by Sophie Mirabella’s failure to reclaim her seat of Indi. While several Coalition “sources” welcomed the defeat, it was another blow for Abbott, who knows all too well the value of having a senior cabinet member who is both more disliked – and unbelievably, more conservative – than he is. At least Warren Truss is still around. And Cory Bernardi.
Speaking of Bernardi, it was he – the minister for upholding moral decency and social regression – whom Abbott deferred to when asked about quotas for females in the Liberal Party. Senator Bernardi rightly pointed out instituting quotas for females would lead to similar measures for polygamists, those who engage in bestiality and, worse still, homosexuals.
Well said, Senator.
“Abb Cab” sent a clear message to the nation that voted it into existence: this is an adult government. We’ve got no need for fancy fonts, extravagant titles or these silly fads like gender diversity or science.
Just when we thought Clive Palmer had the market cornered on Miley Cyrus references in Canberra, along comes 'old' Tony: accused misogynist, climate change sceptic and social conservative.
All together now: He’s just being Tony.
Tweet of the week
“This cabinet is more notable for what it lacks than what it has.”
Like no Labor MPs. Where are all the Labor MPs? Interim opposition leader Chris Bowen is still adjusting to his party’s transition from power.
“It would be wrong of me to seek to be a continued voice in these debates and I will not be one.”
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard gracefully declines to comment publicly on Labor’s rebuilding process. Except for this one 5,000 word essay. And an upcoming book. And two sold-out forums with Anne Summers.
“The military shouldn’t be involved in democracy, we’ve see what’s happened in Egypt for example.”
Blow me down if Clive Palmer is not the gift that just keeps giving. The likely MP's comparison of perceived AEC misbehaviour with one of the most critical attempts at democratisation in modern history really does make one thankful he will be nowhere near a cabinet of any political persuasion. Except of course the PUP cabinet, in which he holds all of the positions.
“The economy is in the cardiac arrest ward and needs to be kick-started.”
Premier Retail CEO Mark McInness is determined to prove politicians don’t have a monopoly on economic hyperbole. Makes Joe Hockey’s “budget emergency” look like a tea party, doesn’t it?
The Last Gasp
Almost unbelievably, Kevin Rudd has been the quietest of Labor’s former elite this week. Julia Gillard and Craig Emerson were just two of the party’s former heavyweights to make known their vision for the future of Labor.
Gillard put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, to deliver an almost 5,000 word tome on what Labor needs to do next.
“Being a party of purpose is not just about being a party of values and policy choices that demonstrate those values in action. It is also about being a party that has a culture which internally rewards actions and conduct that speak of purpose, not self-interest,” she wrote in The Guardian.
Gillard also rightfully pointed out Labor needs to identify what of its legacy it will stand by and continue to champion, but the party — or rather, the still-elected members of the party — need to be the ones to steer the ship.
For his part, Emerson has been championing Anthony Albanese as the next Labor leader as “Albo” continue his “civil war” with Bill Shorten.
With little splitting the two, except for their factional lineage, a nice point of differentiation might be which can ensure Labor’s forward direction is being forged by those still within it and not its former upper echelons.