TONY ABBOTT AND THE AUSTRALIAN WAY OF SILENCE.

abbottsilentfinalFans of The China Syndrome starring Jane Fonda, one of the world’s most sexy and wrong women, will recall that the syndrome itself involves a meltdown through the Earth’s core. It struck me after posting yesterday’s Slog effort that there is a very clear parallel between the syndrome and neoliberalism as practised by your average sociopath. That is to to say, you think you’ve got to the bottom of the barrel, but the Evil Force goes straight through the bottom, past the centre of the Earth, and heads south towards Australia.

When it gets out the other side, it emerges in human form as Tony Abbott, who is now – astonishingly – the Prime Minister of Australia. What puts Mr Abbott an entire Earth radius below the bottom of the barrel is that he surpasses even Jeremy Hunt in his ability to present evidence of his guilt as a wicked slander against his obvious saintliness. For whereas Jeremy merely listens to the recitation of his lies, and then says, “I have done nothing wrong”, the Aussie PM simply doesn’t answer the questions he’s asked at all. He eyeballs the questionner, but remains silent. Even before all this nonsense, Abbott was known as the Mad Monk. Now he seems determined to become the Mad Trappist Monk.

This is a profoundly spooky tactic to watch.The interviewer puts a devastating question, and Abbott just stares the newshound out. It’s a bit like watching Candid Camera, where those not in on the joke don’t know where to look. Then, just when everyone seems 99% certain that Abbott is off his head, he says, “I’m giving that question the answer it deserves”.

During the election that brought him to power, Mr Abbott said: “Now, can I say that absolutely no Medicare Local will close? I’m not going to say that.” It didn’t play well, so a week later he said categorically that he would not close Medicare Locals – the organisations set up by Labor to deliver services such as after-hours GPs, immunisation and mental-health support. While was doing this, however, several in his Party were saying oh yes they would be reviewed and, if necessary closed.

Tony has form on health safety nets and broken promises, from when he was Health Minister in 2005. He was asked point blank about broken promises, and told his interviewer that “in the heat of the moment it is possibly to get carried away”…a long-winded way of saying “lie”. That didn’t play well either, so now it seems TA is adopting the 5th Amendment defence. To be fair, he started doing it in 2011 – there’s a terrific Youtube compilation of his technique  of repetition followed by walking off – but in the PM’s now perfected dumbness, some of the longer silences are excruciating to watch.

“He’s a dick,” my younger daughter (who’s over from Oz for the Seasonal break) told me this evening. Watching the action (or lack of it) it’s hard to disagree. But maybe we are watching a man at the cutting edge of cold, hardfaced millowner tactics here: maybe Tony Abbott is the advance guard of those who will one day get asked an awkward question, and simply say “Keell Heem”.

Don’t be surprised if it happens. The world is going quietly, but rather rapidly, mad.