Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Vale, Tony Abbott

The Tony Abbott anti-One Nation fighting fund* scandal is rapidly snowballing right now. Indeed, the pace at which this is happening makes the (long-ish) entry I was going to write this morning already obsolete . . . well, that’s my excuse for now. (Like Ken Parish, I possess an unhealthy academic interest in champerty and other medieval torts, but I’ve decided to wait for things to unravel/clarify a bit more, before I go on a three day champerty-research bender.)

Anyway, it seems clear to me that this exchange today is when a controversy became a scandal proper – if you imagine the media coverage as a hump, the crest has just been reached, and everything from now on will be strictly downhill, as far as Tony Abbott’s future is concerned.

I am quite confident about making such a prediction because (i) as shown by last-night’s last-minute press-release timing, Tony Abbott is on the run and desperate**, and (ii) when faced today with Terry Sharples’s recollection of Abbott’s saying “You wouldn't believe the number of favours, Terry, we had to give away to get [the Clough donation] money", the only rational response for a politician – one who thinks he’s going to survive, that is – to make is “I’ve referred those comments to my lawyers (and I’ve got nothing else to say)”, rather than to lamely parry, as Abbott actually did.

So we’ll see what happens. If, on the outside chance, Abbott does survive this, then my consolation prize awaits – yes, my long bottled-up medieval torts research bender, for which I’ll allocate a full week.

Finally, I couple of “more reading” plugs for those following this story closely – this is a quasi-transcript of the crucial 10 August 1998 “Four Corners” ep (there is no official transcript online, as far as I’m aware). Also, I heartily endorse (as they say) Jack Strocchi’s comment here.

Update 28 August 2003

So which way is it to be, PM John Howard? Yesterday morning, you were advising cold showers all around. This morning, however, you admitted that Tony Abbott may have been just a bit too upfront – meaning – to continue your shower analogy – that it was indeed Abbott’s waving his thang in front of us that caused all the excitement. So don’t you tell me to take a shower, JWH – please just tell your Minister to put some clothes on.

Also check out Robert Corr’s excellent blow-by-blow account of Abbott’s woeful performance on last night’s “7.30 Report”. I must admit that I had previously all but written-off the show, and host Kerry O'Brien, for being forever in insipid pursuit of the inconsequential, but to see a grown man reduced to a stuttering schoolboy when under inquisition by his school principal – priceless!


* “Slush fund” makes it sound like the collection's ultimate purpose was to meet hotel mini-bar accounts, and other such emergencies – clearly it wasn’t. Also, the Right have a long use, going back at least until the mid-80s, of financing anti-worker litigation through trusts termed "fighting funds", with the National Farmers Federation usually playing the political intermediary, or cordon sanitaire role.

** While I assume that it was more due to the SMH’s slackness, than a Fairfax piece of deliberate, cynical ante-upping, the SMH’s failure to run Tony Abbott’s late-night “apology” story this morning (running this bit of relative fluff instead), when both The Age and the Oz caught it, would have had tongues in Sydney wagging this morning – and when tongues in Sydney wag, they WAG.

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