Monday, February 2, 2015
Abbott and elitism
There have been various justifications made for why Tony Abbott knighting Prince Phillip on Australia Day has been so universally condemned by everyone except David Flint and Kevin Andrews. It's a broken promise, it's a bad look, it's tone deaf, and it's poor process. However, many other such decisions by the Abbott government have been made without the instant cacophony of vitriol from every quarter. The underlying problem, to me, goes back to the old saw I have been banging on about for a while now: elitism.
The monarchy is the ultimate elite in Westminster democracies: unelected, unaccountable except in the most ethereal of manners, and unapproachable except in carefully controlled glimpses. Buckingham Palace is the apotheosis of the gated community for the rich. Giving the consort of the monarch Australia's highest honour makes Abbott look like the Queen's suckhole. Worse, the only people whom he consulted were Angus Houston, whom he also gave a knighthood, and the Governor-General who is bound not to give harsh advice in pretty much any matter to the Prime Minister.
Abbott's one-man conga line has been contrasted with a similar bauble handed out by Bob Hawke in the 1980s, but that was the 1980s. These days, leaders have to be careful not to seem as if they are only concerned with elites, and this is perhaps the most elitist thing that a PM of a Commonwealth nation could do.
There have been points made about Richie Benaud, who like the Prince is elderly and infirm, asking why Abbott didn't extend his honours to the legendary and much beloved sportsman. This point is valid, and perhaps even more important is that Abbott only gave out two knighthoods, thus reinforcing how exclusive is the club that he and the knights belong to. That's the basic message out of this mess: Abbott is part of an elite, and you're not invited, and he doesn't care what you think about it. In a democracy, this is the worst kind of message to send.
Can Abbott last until April to make it a hat trick of Liberal premier scalps in the last six months? Scott Morrison is still my favourite to take over at some point, and he's making all the right noises about unity and moves in support of Abbott today to ensure he can't be accused of disloyalty. Things are going to get a lot more ragged in the next two months. It will be rough.... Mal Brough. Should be another interesting day today, for example, with Abbott standing up in front of the Press Club. Can he even make it through the day? Popcorn time.