01 June 2015
by Bob Ellis
Abbott’s ‘Caligula Moment’
Thirty-seven backbenchers are openly in favour of Abbott revoking the citizenship of anyone he or Dutton declares is a friend of terrorists, and about four Ministers: Dutton, Abbott, Morrison, Cormann. The total, forty-one, argues fifty-three or fifty-five, a majority of the caucus, want Abbott gone. This figure is likely to expand.
Revoking someone’s citizenship, without a trial, a jury, a lawyer, a day in court, is like the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld process of ‘rendition’, sending problem citizens overseas and letting foreigners treat them as badly as they choose to, out of sight, out of mind, in Guantanamo, or Syria, or Kazakhstan. It is the exact opposite of what Julie Bishop did for Peter Greste, and for Chan and Sukumaran: try to rescue them from trouble overseas. Instead of rescuing them from trouble overseas, this policy pitches them directly into it. Anyone who is a ‘friend of terrorists’ can be treated in this way. In the past it could have been a supporter of Gerry Adams, or of Nelson Mandela, or Menachem Begin, or Brendan Behan. Applied retrospectively, it still could be.
Julie Bishop hates all this, and it was she, surely, that leaked to her good friend Hartcher the confidential dialogue in Cabinet that she hopes will undermine her leader and allow her soon to replace him.
It is not hard to see why she has done this. Her surprise when he, without warning, without consulting her, his deputy, abruptly announced an indefensible fascist policy on the anniversary – pretty much – of Magna Carta, exposing her to shame and mockery and revulsion wherever she henceforth travelled, was too great and contemptuous an insult of her personally for her as Minister and Deputy to abide. It was exactly like the Myanmar colonels depriving the Rohingyas of any civil rights or the Karzai brothers dispossessing and disfranchising the Hazaras; or – yes– the American South the Negroes, who could not vote in that region till 1965.
Worse than that, Abbott was, is, planning to do it to children also. Enraged by five tiny Nettletons wanting to come home, he said, ‘It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you break the law, you take the consequences. A crime is a crime is a crime.’ Or words to that effect.
It is worth noting how cruel he has been, thus far, to children. He has let them be molested on Nauru, saying it’s a ‘local responsibility’ which local police should investigate, it’s none of his business what happens over there. He has let them starve in boats off Malaysia, saying it would be ‘encouraging people smugglers’ to rescue them. He has sentenced some of them, the ‘liberated’ ones, to ninety or ninety-five years on Nauru with no hope of a good school or a good job or a good marriage, a mile or so from the unarrested men who raped them, or offered them drugs and hot showers in return for blow-jobs. He has told hundreds of them they will ‘never, ever’ live in Australia. He has encouraged their mothers to abort their siblings, and some of them have.
In his own life, Abbott banished what he believed was his only begotten son to Western Australia, desolating the baby’s mother, Kathy Donnelly. He has tried to deprive young mothers of six months of the dole. He has refused to pay new babies’ grandmothers to look after them, while their mothers go out at night to work.
He defended a choirboy-fiddling priest, John Nestor, and is friends with his confessor Pell, the august tormentor of the bereaved parents of molested children who suicided. When it comes to hurting children, Abbott has form.
How much longer he will be allowed to behave as madly as this is an open question. His ‘Nope, nope, nope’ to letting repentant teenagers come home, and tiny Nettletons come home, from Syria and Iraq, and his threat to imprison the mother, and foster out the children to ‘caring Catholics’ may have been the moment when he seemed too mad to be put up with any longer.
Or it may have been the moment when he tried to sneak through a provision, as Menzies did in our McCarthyist era, that a single Cabinet Minister can ‘declare’ a person to be a friend of terrorists (or in Menzies’ time a Communist) and deprive him of his liberty, his property, his passport, his native identity, his homeland, without a call to his lawyer, without a day in court, without a jury, without evidence, without a verdict. That may have been the moment.
It was his ‘Caligula moment’, in my view, and the assassins are gathering. And Julie Bishop is one of them.
And we will see what we shall see.