29 January, 2013

Get out of the bloody way!

Barely a day goes by without Tony Abbott pulling some kind of stunt at a photo opportunity.  So instead of constructive policy announcements, a tame media receives a steady stream of vision of Tony Abbott pulling on a hi-vis jacket, hard hat or hair net and proceeding to make a goose of himself trying to drive a forklift, use a nail gun, gut a fish or whatever they happen to do at the latest workplace that has allowed him to darken their doorstep.

If the businesses he visits are prepared to wear the loss of productivity involved in hosting Abbott’s media circus, then that’s their own lookout.  It becomes something else entirely when the scene of Abbott’s posing is a disaster area.

Photo: The Courier-Mail

The most recent and talked-about of Abbott’s publicity stunts have involved Abbott fighting bushfires and yesterday, filling sandbags for the Queensland floods.  I am even prepared to give Abbott a pass on the fire fighting.  He is, after all, a volunteer RFS fire fighter so for once, he would actually have had some training in what he was being filmed doing.  There have been accusations that Abbott left as soon as they were finished filming but I won’t comment on that until it’s been debunked or confirmed.  What I will say is that if you’re going to volunteer to help out in an emergency, that’s wonderful.  If you bring a camera crew with you, then I begin to question your motives.  When Abbott’s cronies start talking about what a top bloke he is for fighting bushfires while Julia Gillard was off… I don’t know, being the prime minister or something, I would take that as confirmation of my initial suspicions.

The sandbagging though has to rank as the worst of Abbott’s stunts.  As with all his other photo ops, he didn’t just show up on his own.  There was his entourage and the ever-present camera crews.  Getting Abbott and all his photographers in there would have meant getting in the way of several other people who were actually there to do a job.  That is indefensible when there are rapidly rising flood waters and time is clearly of the essence.  He was also wearing a business shirt and dress shoes which doesn’t imply he was there for a hard day’s work.

Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can do is keep out of the way while people do their job.  There were dozens of people there doing some pretty urgent work.  The last thing they needed was to have a politician getting underfoot saying, “Ooh! Ooh! Let me have a go!”  It makes me despair that there will actually be people who think this was Abbott chipping in when he was clearly more hindrance than help.  By pushing in and holding things up, Tony Abbott showed that he cares more about his own political vanity than he does about helping in a time of crisis.

The next time you want to help out, Tony, get out of the bloody way and let people get on with their work.


  1. That is why I think PM Gillard was doing the correct thing by going to disasters in the aftermath rather than during disasters. PM was talking to people who had gone through their trauma and would have time now to discuss what happened to them during the disaster. Much more sympathetic.

    1. It's always a very fine line between when a leader should visit a disaster area for reasons of morale and solidarity and when they should keep out of the way and let people get on with it.

      Gillard's visit was about as low-impact as it could be. Abbott's was utterly careless.

  2. It's a clever move on his behalf, because for some reason the MSM laps it up! Talk about free publicity. Acting like a 'man of the people' is a strategy that for sure has been thought out. He loves to act this way. No different to the occasions where both Bush and Howard would roll their sleeves up when talking to workers and act 'all down to earth'. It's absolute crap, but the press give him a free kick. Always.

    Maybe I've got a short memory, but never has an opposition leader been given so much oxygen by the press. He's constantly asked his opinion on things when usually it's irrelevant, as he isn't in power!

    1. I know what you mean. Maybe I have an overly rosy memory of journalism past, but I don't remember it quite this focussed on stunts, gossip and non issues.

      Andrew Elder wrote an excellent piece here Hiding and seeking the real Tony which compares and contrasts Abbott and Latham as opposition leaders and notes that the press are not going to turn on Abbott while he keeps feeding them these pictures. He's playing them for mugs.

  3. I would be much more convinced of Abbott's genuineness if he had on a pair of old overalls and some gum boots and was telling the cameramen to piss off or grab a shovel.

  4. Say what you will about George Bush, he stayed far out of the way after Katrina.