Once, in our country town, there was a mechanic whom my father would religiously take our car to for repair. Even though I’d never seen my father once set foot in a church except for weddings, my father would say:
Saul* is a Christian. That means he’s always going to be honest with us.
And so time after time my father would take our car to Saul, and time after time it would come back with very expensive repairs, even when they’d been estimated to be straight forward and cheap. The litany of explanations were never ending:
I had to use genuine Subaru parts and you know they’re really expensive.
I didn’t see that X needed Y done as well until we’d washed the mud off.
I decided to bring forward your service to save you coming in so soon again.
When I got it onto the hoist I realised more work was needed.
You name it, for every trip to Saul there was another surprise addition to the bill, usually at minimum triple what the original estimate had been.
Yet dad kept on taking the car back to Saul because Saul was a Christian and so Saul could never cheat us.
Saul stopped being our mechanic though shortly after handing over a $2,500 bill for a failed part he’d noticed when the car was in for $200 worth of work. There’d been quite an angry argument at the time – mum was going to pick up the car and refused to pay, storming out of the garage. Dad went in the next day and apologised for the confusion and paid.
Then about a week later, on a trip to Orange, about 100KM away from our home town, the car broke down as my parents arrived in town and they had to take it to a mechanic … who promptly diagnosed it as the part that had supposedly just cost my parents over $2,000 to replace, both in parts and labour. It wasn’t a case of a newly installed part breaking down though – it was the original part from when the car had been manufactured 5 years earlier.
That $2,500 bill was refunded and (“I must have accidentally put the old part back in”) my parents left it at that. In part, I suspect, because my dad was embarrassed about having so blithely trusted a Christian to never cheat him.
Sometimes people are perceived as heroes and saviours, trustworthy and reliable for the wrong reasons. Somewhere along the line, John Howard got the nickname honest John. By all accounts it was meant to be a jest, but instead it stuck and the electorate eventually started thinking of him as honest John Howard. And so crept into the Australian political lexicon, “non-core promise”.
Over the last 3 years in particular, a similar transformation occurred for Tony Abbott. At times it seemed that nary a week went by without there being some footage of him assisting some charity or riding his bike somewhere to help people, or donning some emergency services uniform to lend assistance in the symbolic bagging of sand or swatting of a fire.
Tony was portrayed as a good, hard working person who we should all trust.
Even during the election when he was saying the most appalling things, talking about candidates in his own party as having “sex appeal”, and suggesting people should vote for him because his daughters are good looking, a plethora of people wanted to explain it away as daggy dad moments. Because, you know, dads are always good, so if it was just a daggy dad moment it must have been well intentioned at least.
Well now Tony Abbott has been sworn in as Australia’s Next Top Prime Minister … ahem, 28th Prime Minister.
He assembled his cabinet based on merit, he tells us, which is why there’s only one woman in the cabinet, despite there being good women “knocking on the door”. But don’t worry, our new prime minister is very sensitive to the needs of women, which is why he appointed himself as the minister for women.
Not the sole woman in the new government cabinet.
Not to worry, women of Australia, for he knows how to be sensitive to the needs of little ladies:
The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience. Aborting a first trimester fetus is not morally identical to deliberately killing a living human being, but it’s not just removing a wart or a cyst either.
Tony Abbott Press Release, 17 March 2004.
Tony of course has proved himself remarkably sensitive and changed since the election. When talking about marriage equality before the election, he promised that marriage equality would be something to be reconsidered by the party room after the election and by golly within 24 hours of being anointed prime minister, he instructed the new Attorney General to look at ways to block the marriage equality legislation the ACT government is currently preparing to pass. Yep, changed man.
Our Prime Minister is no doubt looking forward to his new role as minister for indigenous affairs. After all, he spoke so glowingly of indigenous Australians before the election:
In promoting indigenous affairs to one of his top priorities, Mr Abbott said there was no longer institutional racism in Australia and he believed most Australians saw Aborigines and Aboriginal culture as an “adornment” to the nation.
The Australian, Dennis Shanahan, August 10 2013, Tony Abbott’s indigenous vision takes shape
I bet all non-caucasian people in Australia are relieved to know that someone who believes there’s no longer any institutional racism in Australia is responsible for indigenous affairs.
The simple fact of the matter is that lots of Australians saw the man in his figurative cape, cloaked with good deeds and daggy dadisms, and chose to ignore the rest.
It’s going to be a wild ride ahead in Australia for the next few years. I guess I should be thankful – I’m only a gay man. Imagine if I were a woman or an indigenous Australian. If there’s one thing we can be grateful for, Tony Abbott will never be the minister for Homosexual Affairs. After all:
I probably feel a bit threatened, as so many people do. It’s a fact of life.
I wonder how many Australians are now feeling threatened by Prime Minister Tony Abbott? Don’t worry Tony, it’s just a fact of life.
* Name changed, of course.