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:
- Abbott’s nanny plan isn’t supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (thepunch.com.au)
- Targets On Foreheads and Bullets – is this how the LNP thinks it will take Government? (turnleft2013.wordpress.com)
- Help For Working Mothers: Over Abbott’s Dead Body (turnleft2013.wordpress.com)