No leader since Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has provided newsrooms around the globe with as much fodder for derision and dismay as Tony Abbott. So how have they reacted to his demise?
The headline yesterday in Germany’s Der Spiegel was “Machtwechsel in Australien: Das Aus fur den verrueckten Monch” — “Regime change in Australia: the end of the mad monk”.
The report recalled many embarrassing gaffes — peinliche Fehltritte — including Nazi insults in Parliament, skolling a pint of beer in six seconds, eating a raw onion skin and all, plus the more serious broken promises, student fee increases, tax imposts on the poor, favours to the rich and inhumane detention centres. The report includes the video of Abbott eating that onion in Tasmania.
Other subjects of worldwide mockery over the last two years include the knighthood to Prince Philip, his bizarre speeches abroad, the boats tow-back policy, payments to people smugglers, closing Aboriginal communities and the pup-roar over Johnny Depp’s dogs.
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“Disowned by his own party, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is sacked” was the headline in France 24, one of many outlets reporting Abbott’s failure to satisfy colleagues, let alone voters.
France’s Le Monde led with “In Australia, the prime minister ousted in a vote by his own party”. The article offered a critical review — un bilan critique — listing as failures the deficits, rising unemployment, slowing growth rate, the value of the Aussie dollar and declining trade.
Some seem not so much surprised at Abbott going as that he ever arrived. According to Germany’s Taz, Abbott achieved “a perfect blend of racism and fear of an invasion by asylum seekers to maintain the population in permanent panic”.
The Mail in the UK did not ask readers to read its story, just the headline: “The reasons Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott: Lack of economic credibility, leadership that insults people’s intelligence — and 30 bad opinion polls in a row”.
La Croix in France linked its coup story with an earlier analysis of Abbott’s refugee policy. The headline was “Australian Prime Minister says ‘enough’ on ‘lessons’ from the UN on refugees”. That piece condemned Abbott’s refugee policy for violating “its obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment”.
The speed and success of the palace coup was a recurring focus.
“From talking loyalty to rolling Tony Abbott — Malcolm Turnbull’s sensational rise to the top” was TVNZ’s headline in New Zealand.
The Jakarta Globe titled its story, “Malcolm Turnbull Ousts Tony Abbott in Dramatic Party Coup”. It continued, “Turnbull’s victory culminated an extraordinary day, which saw him launch his challenge with a scathing public assault on Abbott’s failures, followed by bitter counter-attacks from ministers backing Abbott as he fought a desperate rearguard action.”
For Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, the move was too swift: “Australia’s Political Upset Raises Alarm Over Instability”. Gosh.
Several stories contrasted the two leaders.
Le Monde said Turnbull “defends the carbon tax and supports gay marriage, while Mr Abbott himself is a monarchist and a devout Catholic, strongly opposed to gay marriage and always ready to praise the value of coal” — vanter les merites du charbon.
A thoughtful opinion piece in The Jakarta Globe titled “New Australian PM Must Mend Fences and the Economy” observed: “Turnbull comes without the two obsessions that dogged Abbott’s leadership: his preoccupation with the previous Labor government and his stake in the culture wars. With Abbott gone, Australia may finally have moved beyond the period of the Rudd/Gillard governments.”
The New York Times focused on differences in foreign affairs, quoting the Lowy Institute’s Michael Fullilove: “When it comes to foreign policy issues, he [Turnbull] is less Manichaean, in the sense of being black and white, less prone to seeing the world through a security prism.”
Stuff.co.nz across the Tasman leapt on the references to New Zealand in Turnbull’s acceptance speech: “We’ve got some great leaders in Australia at state level but let me just point to one internationally … John Key has been able to achieve very significant economic reforms in New Zealand …”
Several reports, including Spain’s Euronews, highlighted the frequency of prime ministerial replacements.
France’s Le Point said:
“Australian politics is no stranger to coups, back stabbing and sudden changes of allegiance. Malcolm Turnbull himself was defeated by Tony Abbott in 2009 after leading the Liberal Party in opposition. During their six years in power before the arrival of the conservative government, Labor had been torn by fratricidal conflicts leading to changes of prime minister.”
In the UK, The Telegraph’s political obituary was headed: “Malcolm Turnbull sworn in as outgoing PM Tony Abbott lashes out in emotional farewell speech.” It quoted Abbott’s attack on the “febrile media culture” that published claims by unnamed sources and commentary that is “mostly sour, bitter, character assassination.”
Perhaps. But febrile or not, the media abroad will miss him.