Search for the meaning of ‘buffoon’ and you will find a collection of unflattering terms: a clown, a fool, a jester, a ludicrous or bumbling person, a boor, a jackass, a world class fool, one who acts in a silly or ridiculous fashion, a person given to coarse or undignified joking. Synonyms include: idiot, moron, stupid, loser, dolt, and silly. Remind you of anyone?
Is ‘buffoon’ an unfair tag to attach to our prime minister? This piece argues that it is not; rather that it fits Tony Abbott like a glove.
It does not take much searching to find examples of buffoonery.
Last week, under parliamentary privilege, we heard Abbott calling Bill Shorten the “Dr Goebbels of economic policy”, leaving no doubt that he considered him to be as big a liar as the notorious Nazi propaganda minister. The week before he referred to a ‘holocaust of jobs’: “Under members opposite, defence jobs in this country declined by 10 per cent. There was a holocaust of jobs in defence industries.” Both references outraged his opponents, the Jewish members of parliament, and many beyond.
Only a fool would enrage an important section of the community with such undisciplined language, such undignified jocularity. If it was not a ‘slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment’, a defence Abbott likes to use, but instead a deliberate ploy, it makes his behaviour not just stupid, but reprehensible.
It was only last week that he classified indigenous people in remote communities as having made ‘a lifestyle choice’ to live in these far flung places and therefore not deserving to be supported with schooling and employment at taxpayers’ expense. With that comment he supported the WA State government’s decision to close up to 150 such communities.
This from the self-proclaimed ‘Prime Minister for indigenous people’ who professes to be their greatest supporter!
His comment brought forth condemnatory remarks from many Aboriginal leaders. Noel Pearson, one of Abbott’s senior advisers, said: "I think it's a very disappointing and hopeless statement by the Prime Minister, quite frankly. I just think it's very disrespectful to cast fear into these communities through a kind of policy thought bubble rather than a considered position. He has got no plan for the future of these communities in the event that they close down… And I'm just bitterly disappointed to hear this deranged debate go on in the substandard manner in which it's being conducted."
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said he was ‘baffled’ by the comments. "I think they're poorly thought out…I think they will cause offence in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."
Ben Wyatt, cousin of federal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, and Aboriginal affairs spokesman for the West Australian opposition, said Abbott’s comments were juvenile and “displayed and extraordinary ill-informed view” and “devalue and demean the one asset that Aboriginal people still own on their own terms, their heritage and culture…Abbott has sought to portray the ancient cultural practices of Aboriginal Australians as nothing more than a ‘sea change’ move, the equivalent of painting landscapes on one’s veranda.”
Another key Abbott adviser, Warren Mundine, Chair of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council said it was not as ‘simple’ as the Prime Minister had described. "These people are actually living on their homelands and it affects a lot of things, it affects their cultural activities, it affects their native title, it affects a number of areas…It’s not as simple as if someone from Sydney decides to have a tree change and go and live in the bush. It's about their life, it's about their very essence, it's about their very culture."
One would expect that Abbott, who blatantly peddles his understanding of indigenous culture, would understand the connection to land of Aboriginal people, would understand why they wish to live close to their land no matter how remote. But no, he sees their decision as a ‘lifestyle choice’, a term we associate with retired people choosing a sea change or a tree-change to get away from it all!
Only a fool would chose his words so carelessly and thereby insult the very people he purports to support so strongly. Only a buffoon would venture into that area of discourse, and only an insensitive, bumbling politician would then refuse to retract his insult, to decline to offer even a semblance of an apology. But some cynics believe Abbott’s insult was a calculated attempt to shore up his support among the hard right of his party, who presumably are not lovers of Australia’s original inhabitants. If that were true, his behaviour is worse even than careless stupidity.
Has Abbott made a lifestyle choice to live at Kirribilli, arguably the most prestigious address in the Southern Hemisphere, fully serviced, at taxpayers’ expense? And what about white farmers on remote stations? Do they have access to education and health services? Yes they do, at taxpayers’ expense.
It wasn’t long ago that Abbott managed to insult the highly respected Gillian Triggs, Human Rights Commissioner, for daring to write a damning report about the state of children in detention centres, one he did not like. And hot on the heels of that boorish and wholly unfair behaviour, he extended his insults to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Juan Mendez, who has raised serious concerns about the living conditions for asylum seekers being held at the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. Abbott’s rebellious rejoinder was: “Australians are sick of being lectured by the United Nations”.
It was only last Friday that Abbott gave us another ‘stuff happens’ riposte when questioned about the government-commissioned review by the former integrity commissioner Philip Moss of specific allegations of rape of two women at the Nauru centre. “Occasionally, I daresay, things happen, because in any institution you get things that occasionally aren’t perfect…But, look, the most compassionate thing we can do is stop the boats. That’s what we’ve done and those centres on Nauru and Manus are an important part of that.”
Then there was no expression of outrage that such distressing events had happened in a Australian-managed detention centre, not even regret, or just human concern. Only ‘things happen’, so suck it up! Now, after stinging criticism of his indifference, he deems the 'things' to be 'disturbing'.
Reporting in The Guardian, Daniel Hurst reminds us that Abbott has form: “In 2013, during a visit to Sri Lanka he said that while the Australian government deplored any use of torture it accepted “that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen”. And who will forget his ‘shit happens’ retort to generals in Afghanistan referring to the death of Australian soldiers?
‘Things happen’ is yet another example of Abbott’s bumbling, insensitive language that is bound to enrage those concerned about what goes on in our detention centres.
In a couple of weeks he has managed to get offside the substantial number of Australians who are concerned about children in detention centres, and those incensed at the treatment of asylum seekers and sickened by the allegations of rape. He seems as if he just doesn’t care, a sign of such foolish behaviour as to warrant the tag: ‘jackass and world class fool’.
On the political front we hear this past week that Abbott has discussed with some of his ministers the possibility of a double dissolution election if the Senate does not pass his legislation. That he could consider this a serious option with the polls running so strongly against the Coalition and his unpopularity stuck in the mud, bespeaks a level of silly behaviour that leaves balanced observers open-mouthed at his foolishness. Nick Xenophon correctly called it “crazy, crazy” talk. Rumour is that Christopher Pyne too was keen on it; that tells us a lot.
This past week we have been treated to another bout of incredible behaviour. After well over a year of insisting that Australia faced a ‘financial crisis’ and a ‘budget emergency’, we are told that it’s now been fixed, despite 12 billion of dollars lost in revenue from the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes and the repeal of super tax concessions; an estimated 30 billion of savings up in the air in the Senate; steadily falling revenue from iron ore and coal sales; and declining consumer and business confidence, the result of the persistent talking down of the economy by Abbott and Hockey. Now, as Bernard Keane says so stylishly in Crikey, Abbott is saying: “Put the feet up, kick back and relax - the May budget will be a boring affair, the hard yakka has all been done already, debt at 50-60% of GDP isn't so bad”, after insisting for ages that debt of around 13% under Labor was a 'disaster'. Do Abbott and Hockey really believe the public will swallow that? Will they believe that Abbott and Co. are magicians? Like some crazy court jester, Abbott thinks he can still perform magic that will convince an unsuspecting audience, but who by now is buying it? Only case hardened Liberals with blinkers could.
The caption to this Courier Mail photo appropriately reads: Abracadabra: Tony the magician
Then there are Abbott’s multiple broken promises. We all know politicians break promises. That’s not the issue. It’s that Abbott breaks promise after promise, yet insists he hasn’t broken any at all. With his clown hat pulled over his ears, he dances from foot to foot and he tells us that we didn’t hear him properly; we didn’t understand what he was saying; we misheard!
Astonishingly, he expects the people to believe him! Only a clown, a fool, a jester, a ludicrous person, could hold such a misguided belief.
Of course Abbott has a pack of buffoons to keep him company. Christopher Pyne, who now says of himself 'I'm a Fixer', surpassed all previous levels of chutzpa this week with his own style of buffoonery. Despite optimistically re-submitting the university deregulation legislation to the Senate, in the process threatening cross-benchers that he would to sack 1700 scientists and researchers if he didn’t get his way, and then finding it twice rebuffed, Pyne declared that he’d ‘fixed it’. So ludicrous was this claim that David Spears, interviewing Pyne on Sky News, could hardly believe his ears.
Listen to Pyne’s incredible routine above where he emulated an episode of Clarke and Dawe. Pyne, who boasts: ‘you couldn’t kill me with an axe’, styles himself on the court jester; he certainly gets a laugh from his incredulous audience.
Writing in The Courier Mail, Dennis Atkins says: “While Pyne’s ability to declare black is white and any dissent from that view is not his problem, is without peer in national politics; his chutzpah this week is a perfect case study of the core problem in the way we run Australia.”
Describing Pyne’s latest antics on AIMN, John Kelly begins: “Really, there are times when I cannot believe what I am hearing from various members of our federal government. Never did I suspect that the present level of stupidity and incompetence could be so endemic within this extraordinary collection of misfits and idiots.”
Pyne has a running mate in buffoonery in Joe Hockey. He thinks he can persuade us via his highly politicized Intergenerational Report 2015 that, having falsified the figures, catastrophe lay ahead under Labor, that even with what he has accomplished in his 2014 budget, much of it still hanging around in the Senate, the situation has improved out of sight, and that if only the savings held up in the Senate were available, all would be well – we would be ‘well down the road to a sustainable surplus’. He says all this as the prospect of a surplus recedes before his very eyes, now estimated to be possibly as far away as 40 years! Try to find an economist, or any business leader who believes Hockey’s bumbling oratory and ludicrous predictions. Can you see him dancing before the electors in his clown’s gear, tousled hat waving in the breeze, hoping that like kids at a party they would applaud his antics?
Of course, hard on Hockey’s heels is the dalek Mathias Cormann, faithfully reciting his mindless mantras, as empty as they are word perfect, a twin clown who seems to believe his own rhetoric, all the time wearing the court jester's self-satisfied smile no matter how skeptical his interviewers obviously are.
It’s a great team of buffoons: Pyne, Hockey and Cormann, but no one can hold a candle to the master clown, our very own Prime Minister, who passes with flying colours every test there is for ridiculous, boorish, ludicrous behaviour, every test there is for a seasoned buffoon.
How embarrassing for us. How tragic for us all to have to endure such a 'leader' of our nation.
While it might be fun for politicians to play the fool, it’s very dangerous when they play voters for fools.
This piece is already long enough, yet the exemplars are dredged from just the last few weeks. We certainly didn't have to go back to the knighting of Prince Philip!
Is this assessment accurate? Is our PM a buffoon?