Andrew Bolt’s agony over Tony Abbott’s demise has come up again, with Australia’s “most-read columnist” accusing the Prime Minister of being “driven crazy by Abbott phobia”.
Bolt says Turnbull has an obsession with Abbott, and that Turnbull’s “media cheer squad must stop hyperventilating about the former prime minister”. But it seems the only person hyperventilating about Abbott is Bolt himself.
We decided to do a cross-reference analysis of Bolt’s columns and blog versus Turnbull’s speeches and doorstops over the last month.
Who turns out to be obsessed with Abbott? You guessed it: Bolt.
Bolt name-checks Tony Abbott on his blog most days; in fact, a simple “CTRL + F” search came up 357 results for the month of November. Bolt’s column in the Herald Sun was relatively tame in comparison, with only three (out of eight) columns referencing Abbott, with 15 specific mentions of the ex-PM, overall.
Here are some excerpts from Bolt’s blog and column:
- “Julie Bishop claimed she was a loyal deputy to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.”
- “More about Tony Abbott’s loyal deputy whose chief of staff was at the final plotters’ meeting to depose Tony Abbott:”
- “After his team tried to publicly humiliate Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull tries diplomacy:”
- “Yet at the same time, this irrelevant Abbott is scaring the (pro-Turnbull) press gallery, overshadowing his colleagues and distracting the rattled Prime Minister so much that he must quit politics forthwith.”
- “Dennis Shanahan warns Malcolm Turnbull against giving in to his paranoia and anger over Tony Abbott:”
And as for Bolt’s columns proper:
- “Former prime minister Tony Abbott suggested sending at least special forces soldiers — an idea backed by last week by former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton now running for the Democratic nomination for president.”
- “Fear of Tony Abbott is corrupting the Turnbull Government’s judgement in fighting the Islamic State.”
(This piece contains another 10 mentions of Abbott)
- “But just because bouncy Turnbull won’t talk about our financial strife doesn’t mean it vanished with grim Tony Abbott.”
- “Worse, Malcolm Turnbull, then a disloyal Abbott minister …”
In comparison, Turnbull is remarkably adept at avoiding even saying Abbott’s name. Hansard records and transcripts of his own speeches came up with nothing of note. Four references to Abbott by Turnbull came up in a Hansard search for November, all of which are equally dry.
“Mr Turnbull: As the honourable member is aware, I was sworn in as Prime Minister on 15 September 2015. As the honourable member’s question relates to matters before that date, I am advised by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
“(a) The official dinner hosted by the former Prime Minister and Mrs Abbott on 18 March …”
In his two 7.30 interviews with Leigh Sales, Turnbull was asked four questions on the failed PM. In only one of those responses did he actually talk about the man.
Transcript from his interview on November 26:
Is Tony Abbott leading an insurgency against you?
Of course not, of course not.
And have you spoken to Tony Abbott beyond an exchange of text messages to which one of you referred a few weeks back?
Yes I have had a good chat with Tony, yes. Look, Tony and I obviously have had some differences at different times, but we have known each other for a very long time and we have been, and always will be, able to have a very cordial discussion.
In question time, Turnbull has had to answer for the former PM on a number of issues. But he does his best to pretend Abbott doesn’t exist. We searched his recent speeches — no mention of Tony Abbott. And some transcripts of doorstops, where, of course, some questions pop up about “he who must not be named”.
This from a doorstop on December 1:
Daniel Sutton from Channel Ten. What feedback have you had from other world leaders and those you’ve been meeting here about your presence here compared to how it may have been if Tony Abbott had been Prime Minister when this summit was on?
I can assure you that the discussions I’ve had with other leaders here have been focused very much on the business at hand and here in Paris at the COP and also in a number of cases we’ve had some very intense discussions about our mutual efforts and committed efforts to battle the terrorism of Daesh.
Bolt claims he’s not calling for Abbott’s return, but that the “phobia” taking Turnbull is disabling him from properly discussing security “for fear of making [Abbott] seem good”.
Despite Bolt’s claims, Turnbull, “the victor who should be a healer”, is in fact doing his best to ignore Tony Abbott and get on with business.
Although the Prime Minsiter did reference his predecessor in Parliament this week.