Tony Abbott, Freud, the death metaphor, and nannies

31 Mar

Bereft of anything resembling policy and driven by a singular obsession to become Prime Minister, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has to find a way to keep himself in the public eye. How better than to make offensive statements, sit back and wait for the outrage, then apologise publicly for your error in judgement? He’s on record as admitting a “slight tendency to draw attention to myself,” and BTW, I recommend this link: it will take you to an excellent blog on Abbott and women, a topic I cannot bring myself to address right now.

This is not a technique for the faint-hearted, but it can be carried off by someone whose sense of entitlement is so overweening, he believes he’ll be forgiven anything. Do it often enough and people can become inured to it. “Oh, that’s just Abbott, he’s always saying outrageous things and then apologising.” This can have the effect of minimising the offensive nature of his remarks, as one follows another with such rapidity the observer can barely keep track. I hope somebody is keeping a list.

Cynic I may be, but I see this as a deliberate strategy. I don’t think Tony Abbott is always making gaffes, though I admit he does that as well. In any case, it hardly matters – the gaffes also reveal a great deal about the man’s beliefs and mindset. A gaffe can be interpreted as a Freudian slip in its original sense:  the numerous little slips and mistakes which people make — symptomatic actions, as they are called […] I have pointed out that these phenomena are not accidental, that they require more than physiological explanations, that they have a meaning and can be interpreted, and that one is justified in inferring from them the presence of restrained or repressed intentions  [Freud, An Autobiographical Study (1925)] 

Yes. That. Especially the restrained and repressed intentions.

For example, I don’t believe for a moment that Abbott had forgotten the Sarah Palin crosshairs rhetoric and the attempted assassination of US Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords when he warned in Parliament that Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her colleagues had “targets on their foreheads.” What Abbott revealed in making this threat (and it is a threat) is that he shares the Palin mindset, the “lock and load” vision of politics that inspires the metaphor of killing your opponents, rather than just winning an electoral contest. In the case of Giffords, the metaphor became reality. The degree to which Palin’s campaign influenced Giffords’ attacker is likely impossible to ascertain. However, if leaders use violent and murderous language against their opposition,they  set a violent and murderous tone for  political discourse that makes the possibility of violent and murderous action a little more thinkable. No amount of apologising from Abbott can undo the revelation that he thinks in these terms. This is not one of those sporting metaphors so beloved by some politicians. It is a metaphor of death.

Although here I must confess that I’ve argued against the viability of death as a metaphor as follows:

Initially the death metaphor appears to be a viable until one looks more deeply into the associations it claims to make. Unlike any other metaphorical associations, those made with death are entirely incapable of substantiation: we have no idea at all of death’s composition and qualities. Death denotes radical absence, both of the sentient being and of knowledge: it signifies radical ignorance, and the utter impossibility of knowing. There is nothing in life, it can be argued, for which death can be asked metaphorically to stand.

But that’s another story and I only refer to it in case somebody who knows pulls me up for using a figure of speech I’ve claimed at some length is unusable. This is known metaphorically as covering my arse.

And so to nannies. Let me say right off I have no quarrel with people employing nannies. Had I been able to I would have, because working full time and looking after little kids is no joke. For a brief period when I lived overseas I had an au pair and it was heaven. However, it never occurred to us that anyone else would help us pay for  it. Tony Abbott seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to extend the child care rebate to include families who employ live-in nannies. He proposes that this would be paid for “within the existing funding envelope,” necessitating big cuts in the rebates currently given to families who use day care centres and Family Day Care.

Given that a certain standard of housing and living is required to employ a live-in nanny or au pair (who receive wages plus room and board) this is not a viable option for families without spare rooms, and on a budget that cannot accommodate feeding and housing another adult. If everyone’s rebates are to be cut to service those families with the means to accommodate live-in nannies, this makes it even less likely that lower income parents would be able afford to employ live-in help. It will also put an unacceptable strain on those who are just making ends meet with the child care rebate to which they are currently entitled. All in all, it sounds like a plan to take from the less well off to give to the affluent. Why am I not surprised at yet another Coalition expression of universal entitlement.

Of course, this is quite likely another of Abbott’s attention-getting scams. And it has succeeded. The Opposition Leader is apparently in a place where even negative attention is better than none. Any nanny worth her salt would by now have sent him to the naughty corner to think about his behaviour.  For which she would likely receive this look:

55 Responses to “Tony Abbott, Freud, the death metaphor, and nannies”

  1. Ray (Novelactivist) March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    It’s going to be interesting as it gets closer to the election and Abbott as PM becomes a real possibility. With his popularity so low will he survive?


  2. silkworm March 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    Let’s look at Abbott’s statement: “Virginity is a gift that women should not give away lightly.” Where is the man in this equation? Firstly, the statement applies to women and not to men. In other words, a man’s virginity is of no concern to him. This puts men and women on different moral levels concerning sex – namely, that when sex takes place, it is the woman debasing herself, and not the man, that casual sex is acceptable for the male but not the female, and this is born out in Abbott’s case, when he willingly admits to possibly having fathered a child out of wedlock.

    Secondly, when virginity is “lost,” it is the man who has taken it, yet strangely again, no moral lapse is accorded to the man who takes it. It sounds as though this is an apologetic for Abbott himself, who took the virginity of the woman who had his child, but that Abbott was unwilling to shoulder any of the blame for taking her virginity. It’s all the woman’s fault, never the man’s, and especially not Abbott’s.

    By this statement, Tony Abbott has shown that he believes that women, and their virginity, are the natural property of men, and this is borne out by the terms of endearment that he gives to his wife and daughters, namely “princess” and “angel.”


    • Jennifer Wilson April 1, 2012 at 6:42 am #

      Well summed up, Silkworm. The man’s totally unreconstructed. That Karen Brook’s piece is interesting, eh?


  3. Hypocritophobe March 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Costello’s gig is to come up with Labor QLD stuffing the QLD economy,and then the spin will be,that Gillard will ruin our federal economy as well, if voted back in.
    WA rejected Alan Carpenter who was installed when Geoff Gallop resigned due to depression.
    Along with Carps arrogance the voters were turned by the media to install a reluctant Barnett.

    The common thread is a big pile of voters felt like ‘they’ did not install the leader.
    I think there are now enough ‘false’ reasons why apathetic voters would give Abbott a chance and enough stupid voters to ensure he gets an even bigger chance.
    Then there is the growing greed sector(aspirational middle class/cashed up bogans) and rabid anti green and AGW deniers.
    I hope I am wrong,but I cannot see the Libs being stupid enough to dump Abbott as Labor has done,They are too devious,and Abbott will just do as he is programmed to do/say.
    We have good reason to worry.
    NZ is looking good.


    • Trevor Melksham April 6, 2012 at 7:19 am #

      NZ is not only looking good, but it’s quite cheap at the moment (except petrol).

      We make jokes about the Mad Monk, but the nightmare of him getting elected reminds me of my adage “the problem with political jokes is that sometimes the get elected”.


  4. hudsongodfrey March 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    I hate to be a pessimist but… well here’s the thing. Talk to anyone in the Southern States and what you’ll get is a sense of a view about the way Australia should be headed that is broadly speaking rather more open to the progressive agenda many imagine the Labor Party might like to follow if they weren’t caught in the jaws of minority government.

    To see how the other half live one really has to suffer Queensland or Western Australia to realise what deluded self interest can achieve for your political fortunes. They’ve clearly bought into a vested interest in Coal and Mining respectively to the tune of absolutely hating Gillard’s two greatest achievements the Carbon Tax and the Mining Tax. So all Mr Rabbit has to do is to be 5% further to the right in order to present himself as the lesser of two evils so his [precious golem golem precious] election hopes can be realised.

    Unless something changes I can’t see that Labour can win without clawing back at least some seats in QLD or WA.

    Julia might try getting married and then pregnant in quick succession but failing that I can’t see where the game changer she needs is meant to come from. My hope would rather be for a Liberal implosion of catastrophic dimensions.

    Rumour has it that people in NSW are training sharks to attack red budgie smugglers as we speak!


  5. Doug Quixote March 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Abbott is truly a strange piece of work. Bernard Lagan writing in The Global Mail, quotes Lindsay Foyle on Abbott :

    “He was clearly the sort of person that people noticed. He was loud. He was very much out with his views, which were very conservative. He was pretty much a political warrior and he didn’t mind telling anybody what his political views were and how their views were wrong.

    He was against homosexuals, he was against sex before marriage and was basically against anything that the Catholic Church frowned upon. But he also had a bit of fun about him. And he would either laugh at himself or pretend to laugh at himself. He was certainly well noticed in the office.”

    Or pretend to laugh at himself. And that about sums the man up : the man who quoted his own daughter’s description of himself as a “lame gay churchy loser” – not to laugh at himself, but to pretend to laugh at himself, for he actually believes he is none of those things.

    Is he also misogynist? Probably. Is he psychopathic? Perhaps. Not as far along the spectrum as Rudd, possibly, but still . . .


  6. jfreos March 31, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    good to have found your site


    • Jennifer Wilson April 1, 2012 at 6:39 am #

      Welcome and enjoy 🙂


    • Doug Quixote April 1, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      I like the gravatar, jfreos. I recognise Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, but the other two look so familiar, without at present being able to put a name to them . . .


  7. 730reportland March 31, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Couldn`t agree more. Mr Rabbit knows he only has to do a stunt a fortnight to keep the embedded media busy screeching nonsense. The noise-polls keep them screeching nonsense the alternate fortnights. All the while the Embedded Media don`t ask Mr Rabbit about HIS policy on anything. So WordPress, Who is looking forward to voting in the 2013 poll?


  8. paul walter March 31, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Cheerful stuff. Good to see others have worked out what the Smirk ploy is about, also.
    Does Abbott ever have an idea not at first dreamed up in a think tank in the USA or Britain, then clumsily applied here?
    The “Crosshairs” stuff is Tea Party stuff involving Obama, real “Missippi Burning” intimidation applied last year when the hard right was at its worst. So how does it apply to Australia, but that some staffer has dragged it holus bolus and dislocated of its context, to local politics?
    Mary Poppins has been enthusiastically lifted by Adelaide’s original eastern suburbs gel, Annabel Crabb.
    Once again, in Britain the Sloan Rangers have their Nannies, in the US, rich people have Latina or Filapina maids, who operate under near feudal conditions for the predilection of Madam and her caprices, at absurdly cheap wages… “Alf a sixpence”.
    So the local botox brigade demand this also. It really is too much, off to Melbourne for champagne breakfast, David Jones parades and the races, when one doesn’t have one’s nanny to bully, or Flipinamaid to bitch-slap, on the way out.

    Doug doesn’t think Abbott is as much a psychopath as Rudd was?
    Well,all I can say is I’d rather a hundred Rudds than then even the terrifying thought of brown shirt Abbott: no way!


    • Doug Quixote April 1, 2012 at 1:13 am #

      I didn’t say I’d rather have Abbott than Rudd, just that AA may be be marginally less psychopathic.

      But it’s not just Abbott, but all those deadbeat rag-tag of would-be ministers : Pyne, Abetz,, Joyce, Mirabella, the two Bishops, Truss. And others.

      Hockey, Turnbull and even Morrison may be acceptable once Abbott is canned; a Liberal mate thinks Morrison is a better man than would seem so far – Bruce Baird is his mentor.

      But on the whole, the opposition ‘talent’ look to have a good chance of making Labor’s ministry look like world beaters, within six months of getting their trotters into the trough.

      Let us hope the Australian electorate are never so benighted as to elect them.


  9. Hypocritophobe March 31, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I’d also like to add that (at the risk of being label a ‘railer’ against all things ABC-Political reporting, and all things Catholic-Political), that Abbott is not unlike the majority of men with his CV.
    That CV being:
    RC, politically active and ruthlessly ambitious.
    In a position of power (not JUST high profile)
    (Narcissism ?)

    (Abbott, Pell,Uhlmann and (locally) Snigg to name 4 within coo-ee of this comment.

    Which man is FOR women?
    Which man is for refugees?
    Which man is NOT homophobic?
    Which man is for equality without sexism?
    Which man believes in AGW?
    Which man has (publicly shows) respect for our PM?)
    Which man is NOT ‘just’ a sum total of his religious convictions DESPITE their position?
    Where is their temperance and tolerance?

    There are many ‘seemingly’ worthy RC men in the public arena doing good things, but power they don’t have, and lines they do toe.

    If there is an independent analysis out there proving me wrong,pls post the links.
    (Line toe-ers need not apply)

    JW is spot on here.
    Abbott damages wilfully,calculatedly,strategically.
    He then feigns apology.It’s pattern long past co-incidence.Wilfully malicious comes close.

    OR, as an observant poster at the Drum said, in the last couple of days.
    “Without religion, there is NO evil”, comes close to summarising the Abbott phenomenon.

    Not sure how the likes of Turnbull and coalition women can sleep at night.
    How shallow and bereft of principles has the coalition become?
    This new political addiction to wedge politics has created an army of ‘hate junkies’ who threaten everything we once stood for, for a seat on tax-payers leather.
    To think, people actually fought and died in wars so we could arrive at this destination.
    A doubly unpalatable waste of life,opportunity and sacrifice.


  10. Macabre April 1, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    I wouldn’t worry about the nannies proposal – just another thought bubble from Mr Rabbit, that he will back away from as he always does.

    He can’t lie straight in bed.


  11. paul walter April 1, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Yep, I get Hypocritophobe. What creates a creature like Abbott?
    Dougie, Must confess have had HUGE problems coping with Erica Betz, the mere thought of Erica creates deep and instantaneous anger management problems for Paul
    No. No way.
    After the dog whistle “unhygienic asylum seeker” slur the scales fell away, just another noisy, utterly callous fundy braggart, after Abbott himself.
    Beware the “Missionary Man”.


    • Doug Quixote April 1, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      With some reason, Paul. Abetz is a champion fuck-up waiting to happen. He is the reason three Australian soldiers were very nearly indicted by the International Criminal Court, with his absurd attempt to rewrite the system of military justice – the unconstitutional Australian Military Court.

      The conservatives are fond of saying they want to get the adults back in charge – well the adults had to clean up that little mess in 2009/10 and very few noticed; the media found it too difficult to understand. Not a three word slogan.


  12. Marilyn April 1, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    Why don’t people ever notice that nannies are often working mums? Do we want to go down the road of Hong Kong or the US deep south?


    • Jennifer Wilson April 1, 2012 at 6:45 am #

      That’s true, women who have family look after their kids so they can earn a living looking after wealthier people’s kids.


  13. Doug Quixote April 1, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Jennifer, I turned up this amusing gem :


    Have you ever noticed that there is no such thing as honest and rational disagreement? Your own opinions are grounded in reason and truth, of course, but people who hold different opinions are stupid, dishonest, paranoid, or otherwise irrational. Their motives are evil, too. (The people who agree with you are generally a decent, sensible lot. No need to delve into their motives.)

    Take me, for example. Having recently published a book on the Shakespeare authorship question, I’m discovering how crazy I am and how dark my motives are. As some of my readers may recall, believe the real author of the Shakespeare works was the wayward 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

    But the orthodox reviewers — those who believe that “Shakespeare is Shakespeare” — insist that there’s simply no room for honest doubt. So, rather than discussing the evidence on its merits, they feel compelled to explain why I, and others of my ilk, won’t admit a truth that is so radiantly clear to them. (Notice that nice people don’t have ilks. The moment someone refers to your “ilk,” you know you’re in trouble.)

    One academic reviewer calls my views “multiculturalist” and “Marxist” (and these terms aren’t meant as compliments!). He adds that the anti-Stratfordians — those who question Shakespeare’s authorship — usually have “an ax to grind,” adding that “English upper-class snobbery fuels the questioning of Shakespeare’s authorship.” I didn’t realize I belonged to the English upper class. In the future, I’d appreciate it if you knaves out there would address me as “my lord” or, better, “your lordship.”

    A Texan professor offers another psychological explanation: “Part of the anti-Stratfordians’ appeal is the anti-establishment cachet that goes with belonging to an exclusive group. As such, their purpose is not so much to expose the truth as it is to propagate an unpopular, often irrational, belief, rather like those who believe that behind every political assassination lies a conspiracy or that the Holocaust is a lie.” He calls the anti-Stratfordian position “a product of paranoia and our rampant culture of conspiracy.”

    Oh, man! I’d better dial 911 and get a psychiatrist here, pronto! I’m a self-deluded, paranoid snob, the equivalent of a Holocaust denier, with no real interest in exposing the truth!

    I knew I was a sinner, but until I questioned Shakespeare’s authorship I had no inkling of the true depths of my depravity. That goes for the rest of my ilk too. A bad lot!”

    . . .

    “Never mind who wrote Shakespeare’s works. The interesting thing here is that the orthodox reviewers can’t make their case with rational, impersonal argument. They feel compelled to adopt a tone of haughty scorn, making irrelevant ad hominem charges against large numbers of people they have never even met. . . .

    I’ve always met the same tactics in political debate. The defenders of an exhausted establishment can be relied on to attack their critics, accusing them en masse of evil motives, rather than to refute their arguments. So when people you disagree with have to smear you, take heart: It probably means you’re winning the debate. ”

    (end quotes)

    (Joseph Sobran, 2006) see :

    What he has to say about these matters of debate rings so true.

    (disclaimer : I don’t agree with Sobran’s politics, religion or alleged anti-Semitism; just his views on Shakespeare and debate.)


    • Jennifer Wilson April 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      That’s marvellous – “The interesting thing here is that the orthodox reviewers can’t make their case with rational, impersonal argument. They feel compelled to adopt a tone of haughty scorn, making irrelevant ad hominem charges against large numbers of people they have never even met. . . .” Yes!!! Especially the “haughty scorn”


      • Doug Quixote April 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

        I must admit I like turning the ” , , ,and people of that ilk” cannon upon my opponents.

        “Haughty scorn” is good fun at times – nothing quite like it to get an argument going! Perhaps it derives from military tactics : identify the high ground, occupy it and from above, repel all comers.


  14. gerard oosterman April 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    My friend’s book club got a welcome new male member, a handsome Frenchman (the ladies are drooling)…
    When talking about Oz politics , someone asked him for his opinion on Abbot, the reply was;

    “Vulgar”, expressed with a Gallic shrug.


    • gerard oosterman April 1, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      Why does this keep happening, puts me off posting here..

      The above post is by me, Helvi


  15. helvityni April 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm #



    • Jennifer Wilson April 2, 2012 at 6:37 am #

      Are you and Gerard having trouble posting on Sheep, Helvi? If I know the problem I can usually fix it. 🙂


  16. helvityni April 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    How bloody depressing,on another blog I was called by some bastard: Gerard’s TAG.
    At least I got the Word Press sorted without him…


    • Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 12:01 am #

      Hi Helvard,

      How’s Gelvi?


    • Jennifer Wilson April 2, 2012 at 6:39 am #

      “Gerard’s TAG?” How rude. I hope you set that troll straight.


  17. gerard oosterman April 2, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    This is me and my gravitar which seems to have developed a will of its own. I am not Helvi at all but we are close. If you see anyone emerging from a wild surf or in swimmers it will definitely never be me either.
    I don’t think Abbott is in any way deliberate in making strange statements. He is lacking in the sensitivity division, a coarse oaf whose wife is forever tensely and hopefully watching and wishing against all odds he is not going to let fly of yet another inanity.
    This is me and my gravitar… hopefully.


  18. Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    The UK model (linked below) is no doubt heading our way.
    The government is currently in the throes of tweaking a few things in this legislation area first.
    ‘Because’ it will create a hue and cry,don’t be surprised if they try to back door this in, by seeding a suitable legislation first, allowing it to occur without a peep.

    Freedom of speech may soon be thing of the past.
    Big brother is coming to visit.


  19. Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    (When I write ‘the government…” above I refer to ours)

    and The Aust government also has this lined up which will make the ‘back door approach’ to using the UK model seamless, in its introduction.

    Whilst we all want a safer world, the UK model is definitely the thin edge of the wedge and open to abuse.
    Look at how trustworthy senior police (other police,too) and public servants were at NOTW in the UK phone hacking scandal.



  20. paul walter April 2, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Hypo, I take it you might have heard the latest polls figures on radio?
    I could understand them turning on Gillard Labor for a credible alternative like the 2007 Rudd, but in the light of the English and US experiences since the recession, you really begin to wonder if you have woken up in an asylum. They are either perverse, brain washed or brain dead.


  21. Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    …or all of the above?


  22. Doug Quixote April 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Paul and Hypo, I have blogged for many months that the polls will correct as the scare campaigns reach their use-by dates, such as when the carbon price is up and running and the world doesn’t end, by about August this year.

    The dripping tap of the endless negativity from the opposition (that is, the media) and also from the rag tag collection sitting opposite the government in parliament, wears away the hardest stone.

    Hopefully the truth of objective reality will turn off the tap, long before the electorate cast the only poll that matters.


  23. Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Just as an adjunct (and sledge hammer segue), this story highlights the real side of the mining boom and what damage is being done to once peaceful sea side communities.
    (Inland ones too)
    Eventually the miners will by out the locals and completely stuff the joint.
    The water will run dry very soon.
    QLD will, as I have said previously, soon be a sewer/rubbish tip/Hell hole., as the boom gets more green lights than the Northern Aurora.
    I hope you are right DQ for all our sakes, but as you can tell, I don’t share your optimism.And the media is completely anti-Gillard, anti Labor.
    Even when they run out of lies to spin,they re-spin old ones.
    And if I had to put my ‘faith’ into a group of people to save our way of life, I’m afraid gambling on the current crop of voters, would be my ‘least’ preferred option.
    As Ben Green once said,
    “pessimists are never disappointed!”


  24. Hypocritophobe April 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    The link which goes with FIFO story above.
    My cutting /pasting is ‘broken’.


  25. Marilyn April 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Why the fuck is Stirton asking about the carbon tax that the morons won’t be paying anyway?

    It’s a ridiculous load of fucking old cobblers that they are so moronic.


  26. gerard oosterman April 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    The latest is that the ABC’s Drum editor has gone to Radio. Perhaps we will see less of Mr Peter Reith and more of those with warmer hearts, mellow with compassion. By the way gerard, it is gravatar.


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