Eric Abetz and I are not exactly friends. The Tasmanian Liberal senator, and self-styled godfather of that party, well and truly shafted me back in 2002 when he had me disendorsed as a candidate for the forthcoming state election. My crime was to speak out against the Howard government’s policies towards asylum seekers, a hanging offence in Eric’s book.

I have little or no regard for Senator Abetz’s views on just about anything you care to mention, and I particularly abhor the way in which he has strangled debate in the Tasmanian Liberal Party over the years.

But I will come to his defence today. The weekend revelations – if you could call them that – that Senator Abetz’s great uncle was a senior Nazi figure in the Second World War, and a war criminal, was grossly unfair to Senator Abetz.

It is has long been known in Tasmanian political circles that Senator Abetz had a relative who was associated with the Nazi regime. But it was never a story down there because well, so what? Senator Abetz’s great uncle died before Abetz was born and even if he had been alive when young Eric was emigrating with his family to Australia in 1961, should that make any difference to the way in which anyone views Senator Abetz himself?

We cannot choose our family as they say.

So who is behind the weekend slur on Abetz? Well it could be anyone frankly. Because Eric Abetz likes his politics rough and raw, he has a myriad of enemies who would love nothing better than to embarrass him. Abetz is abrasive, interfering and utterly ruthless when it comes to politics. He takes no prisoners, and is not, shall we say, a great believer in the values of tolerance and fair play.

I experienced this at first hand when he was throwing me out of the Liberals in 2002. His acolytes told me that even if I won the battle against disendorsement, Abetz was looking at whether or not I might be in breach of electoral laws because of the residency requirements. In other words – give up boy, because Eric will get his quarry one way or the other.

Over the years, Liberals in Tasmania – decent people most of them – have found their careers cut dead by Abetz and his hard right faction.

And the Greens – who by the way can hate with the best of them – reserve a special place in their hearts for Eric. He baits and berates them, stands up for their public enemy number one, the Tasmanian forestry industry, and likes nothing better than to kick around the man whom the Greens believe to be some sort of latter day Jesus Christ – Bob Brown.

So to answer the question, who did Eric in over the weekend, the list of suspects with motive is a mile long. Eric lives by the sword, and there are hundreds in Tasmania and elsewhere who would like nothing better than to ensure he dies by the sword.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW