Aug 11, 2014

So much for ‘real Tony’, the pragmatist

Attempts to portray the government as newly "pragmatic" are more interesting for the light they shed on political communication than telling us anything about politicians.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

In case you failed to read a lot of the political coverage of last week, the important message was “pragmatism”. The government had decided, apparently, to stop being so rigidly ideological and embrace political realism. Central to this interpretation was the dumping of the proposed amendments to s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Even as the Right railed against the decision, Coalition loyalists were lauding the move. Dennis Shanahan hailed it as a Howardesque “cleaning of the barnacles” that would help portray Abbott as a moderate centrist — attacked by Labor and the Greens for even thinking about changing the RDA, and attacked by the Right for not doing it.

While the interpretation that the whole 18C business would turn out somehow to redound to Abbott’s credit was a classic Shanahanigan from the soon-to-retire veteran commentator; the broader idea was more that a new, more realistic government was emerging. Let’s call it “the real Tony”. The launch of “the real Tony” didn’t quite go according to plan: not merely did both Abbott himself and his Attorney-General comprehensively bugger up the initial selling of their draconian national security changes, but Eric Abetz, the government’s Senate leader, managed to wreck the whole theme with his episode of “Dr Eric’s Casebook”.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

13 thoughts on “So much for ‘real Tony’, the pragmatist

  1. Terry Goulden

    I may be old fashioned but since pragmatism involves horse trading to achieve an acceptable result iI would regard it as a principle but never as a value

  2. JohnB

    @Terry G:
    I’m not so old fashioned, depite being of pensionable years. No pragmatism = no value.

  3. David Hand

    Your choice of the term “The real Tony” is a fairly useless attempt to malign Tony Abbott with that truly damaging PR disaster that the ALP inflicted on itself in 2010.

    The Abbott camp has its own spin doctors of course who deliver communications strategy with varying levels of ineptitude, mostly inept. But last week saw the ditching of reforms to 18C, something I regret but something Abbott chose to do in the face of entrenched opposition from just about every minority group in the country.

    This was about calming people down and stepping back from a risky policy intervention, not a Gillard style public relations disaster.

    Of course there were PR disasters last week but nothing the Coalition won’t survive, unlike the “real” Julia.

  4. leon knight

    Amazing optimism David, good luck with it.

  5. paddy

    One of your finer rants Bernard.
    I particularly enjoyed “Dr Eric’s casebook”.

  6. prodigy

    Regardless, no-one believes a word he says.

  7. bruce friend

    Abbot’s specialty is trying to say the right thing to the audience he’s facing at the time. That’s not pragmatism, that’s popularism, and consistantly shows Abbott to be a liar.

  8. mikehilliard

    To “portray Abbott as a moderate centrist” will need more than a dose of pragmatism.

    The Abbott governments ploy seems to be go as far to the right as possible so that nobody can remember what the centre right was anyway.

  9. Andrew Dolt

    Not so fast, prodigy. You’re overlooking David Hand. And you are quite right to do so.

  10. susan rattray

    Have come to the conclusion that Abbott & team are idealogical disasters sent to us from hell. I thank goodness now for my ‘mute’ button channel change…always wondered why I needed them ’til now.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details