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22 August 2014

by Bob Ellis

Captain Abbott's Epic Team Failure

Though the competition is large, Abbott's 'Team Australia' is probably the most idiotic thing he’s said in a fortnight, writes Bob Ellis.

What Abbott has been attempting lately is what might be called a daily scramble to change the subject.

Operation Bringing Them Home. Threatening Putin. Denouncing an independent Scotland. Praising the cross-benchers. Denouncing Clive Palmer. Declaring there is no Budget emergency after all.

His latest wheeze is Team Australia; and how, as George W. Bush might have put it, you’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.

It’s probable, though the competition is large, that this is the most idiotic thing he’s said in a fortnight.
It came a day before Melbourne was named the world’s most liveable city. It’s the world’s most liveable city because it’s — probably — the world’s most successful multiculture.

Melbourne people think of themselves as Macedonian Australians, Greek Australians, Italian Australians, Croatian Australians, Sudanese Australians, Chinese Australians, Korean Australians, Japanese Australians, Pakistani Australians, Tongan Australians, Filipino Australians, Arabic Australians — and so on. Scottish Australians. Irish Australians.

And none of them think of themselves as Team Australia. It’s an insult to their nation of origin, or their parents’. He’s saying take off your kilt, take off your hijab, you’re Australian now. Put on this nose cream. This bikini.

It’s an American concept, of course. Team America! is an American rallying cry. It applies to a nation more divided, more sundered, more split, more troubled, more war-like along ethnic lines than any in history. Various mafias crowd American history, and American miniseries. Roots. Boardwalk Empire. The Sopranos. The Kennedys. The Molly Maguires. Miami Vice. Hawaii Five Oh. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. The Godfather. Chinatown.

But Australian history is not much like that. There are few gang wars that are ethnic in their borders. We’re not like that.

And Abbott, as usual, has mistaken the country he’s in.
He’s a man who believes Muslims will fry in Hell and he’s inviting them into his team. And they, quite rightly, see this as a threatening gesture. Abandon your culture, your national tendencies, adopt mine. Ride bikes. Confess to Pell. Try in the priesthood, then shuck it off.

He truly doesn’t know how strange he is, how repellent some of his beliefs. No raped woman should abort the result. No woman, not even his sister, should marry a woman. When the vote is 70 percent against him, he is not for turning. When it’s 90 percent against him, he is not a team player. He’s just a little crazy.

Most migrant groups see him this way — all atheists, all agnostics and, oh yes, all Muslims. Every one of them.
And he’s inviting them into his team.

‘The Mad Monk’, he used to be called. A disaster in the making.
And, one year in we see − and see every day − how true that is.