Thus far in the life of this blog I have been loathe to openly criticise either side of politics, but this week, I feel that a new low was reached. I understand that ‘new low’ is a phrase that has been trotted out with such dismaying regularity as to rob it of its real meaning (much like ‘hero’ is an utterly bastardised and devalued term today), but the Abbott switcheroo on Craig Thomson really, really stuck in my craw.
The day after Thomson appeared before the press and asked them, basically, to back off because the pressure was getting to be too much, the media discussion naturally, and surprisingly lengthily, turned to the state of Thomson’s health. More pertinently, the relative importance of all the politicking, when stood against the prospect of a man, under such intense pressure that the prospect of self-harm becomes very real.
Many fine words were written, none better than Barry Cassidy in yesterday’s Drum, about the need to weigh the value of a man’s life over the ephemeral nature of power in today’s democracy. And the vast bulk of the ink spilled was wise and to the point. A healthy, moral democracy absolutely requires a line that should not be crossed. Not in a Gillard-suddenly-deciding-that-Slipper-and-Thomson-are-expendable kind of way, but considering the very real prospect that a man’s mental well being is deeply at risk. A man with a family who no doubt are sharing his trauma.
Abbott and the coalition have every right to tear into the government for its stupidity and intransigence on matters like Thomson and Slipper. But the relentless pressure applied by the opposition towards a man charged with nothing, when Bill Heffernan stands accused of assault, and senator mary Jo Fisher was found GUILTY of assault after also being charged with shoplifting was already beyond the pale.
To the turn around in the face of this sudden national concern for Craig Thomson’s mental health and suggest that the only solution for him to leave parliament was the most sickening form of concern trolling I have seen in Australian political life. Abbott, who is far and away most responsible for making Craig Thomson a marked man, who has been harping on about the ‘stain’ on this government for a year or more now, suddenly deciding that Thomson leaving parliament is for his own good, and not in the interests of him or his party is an appalling piece of political opportunism.
Thomson remains charged with no crime, despite his fairly fanciful claims of conspiracy, and has by and large conducted himself with as much dignity one could expect from a man accused of defrauding members of a union to rent hookers.
Abbott, on the other hand, apparently has no internal moral compass, no ethical line he won’t take a running leap over in his quest to claim the Prime Ministership.
Ordinarily, at this point, it would behoove the author to suggest that it would be no different if the parties were reversed, and I have no doubt that were the Liberals in minority government and Thomson on their side, they would be behaving much the same. However, nothing in Julia Gillard’s behaviour suggests that she, as opposition leader, would be as irresponsible, unethical and disgustingly hypocritical in her pursuit of power as Tony Abbott has been in his.
Again, it raises questions about the man who would be king, and the lack of scrutiny we are applying to him before his almost inevitable ascension.