Tony Abbott’s Battlelines is being touted as some combination of Lenin’s What Is To Be Done and Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, so it comes as a surprise to find that it’s a bit of autobiography, a few musings, a lot of sentiment and some policy bits. There are some delights though. Take Abbott’s description of young love:

On our honeymoon, we’d spent three days sailing near Stradbroke Island in Queensland. Every morning, we had to work the boat off the sandbanks on which I’d stranded it as the tide went out overnight. As the yacht finally gyrated down the Broadwater under a stiff nor’easter and a badly managed ‘goosewing’ rig , her hands bleeding from pulling on unfamiliar ropes, Margie asked whether I always did things the hard way!
(Battelines, p.4)

Say what now, Tony? God almighty I mean what the hell? Is this some sort of reverse-engineered alibi after worried locals called the cops (‘once again it’s very simple officer. I am dehydrated because I kept ramming the banks, and the blood on my wife’s hands is her own, from the ropes. (pause) Have I not yet mentioned the ropes?’) or a ’70s feminist art project (‘Yachting is Frotting, 1979 — Andrea Dworkin and Judy Chicago used America’s Cup imagery to explore the inherently invasive nature of heterosexuality, as a form of patriachal steerage through internal waters, a mode of possessing that which cannot otherwise be owned’). God may move in mysterious ways, but when your honeymoon snaps involve ‘gyrating down the Broadwater’ it’s time to get in the jazz police. In the spirit of St Oscar on the death of Little Nell, you have to have a really dirty mind to think this is about boats.

But what sort of copy-jockey let this stuff through?

“…the book has been edited by Christopher Pearson, who invariably reads and advises on what I propose to print.”
(Battlelines, p xiv).”


Peter Fray

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