There’s been plenty of speculation about Tony Abbott’s next book. Already he is in talks with his publisher, and he has even jokingly suggested the title of “Battlescars”. Pundits are asking questions like:
- Why is he writing this now?
- Is he making another tilt for the leadership?
- Is he seeking academic employment at Trump University?
Tony Abbott’s last book, Battlelines, was a terrific read. Even if you despise his politics (and I can say I’ve been pretty harsh on his policies in recent times), you can’t doubt the man knows how to write. The manifesto Abbott set out in his book was far more progressive and mainstream than he is known for, and certainly more inclusive than many policies he pursued during his short term as PM. And far more attractively presented. Plus he won’t have Bronwyn Bishop hampering his keyboard.
Apart from being so well written that even the late Bob Ellis praised it. “Tony Abbott, can write really well, with lucidity, mischief, moral persuasiveness and a kind of jovial dignity like his fellow Oxonian blow-in Bill Clinton … He writes really well; yet I wish he had told us more”. That’s some really hefty praise coming from someone Abbott’s lawyers virtually crushed in a defamation action.
According to his publisher, Abbott’s next book will set out his views on what it means to be a conservative in Australia in the 21st century. If he is hoping to provide some coherent support to Donald Trump’s white/economic nationalist gibberish, I expect his book to fill many a shelf at Basement Books, The Book Grocer and other remaindered book stores where cheapskate PhD students, like me, hang out.
So I would like to give Abbott a few tips on what kind of conservative policy Australians (including wogs like me) would happily stomach and might actually vote for.
Firstly, drop the “Team Australia” bullshit unless you really mean it and are prepared to implement it. You can’t invite people to join your team while taking away their liberties. Truly Liberal prime ministers don’t play games like that.
Secondly, the status quo is there for a reason. It has stood the test of time and should not be tampered with. Don’t let ideology push you to push away things that have worked: anti-discrimination laws, multicultural policies (even if you, like me, aren’t overly fond of the “M” word).
Thirdly, come to terms with gay marriage. It can be a difficult pill to swallow for believers. But if a believing-but-not-practising Muslim like me can do it, a solid Catholic like you should be able to. After all, your views on marriage were hardly a reflection of Canon Law. As you wrote in Battlelines:
“It’s not realistic to expect most young adults in this hyper-sexualised age to live chastely for many years outside marriage. People have not so much abandoned traditional mores as found that the old standards don’t so readily fit the circumstances of their lives.”
Fourthly, try to avoid defending the indefensible blunders of the Howard era. Especially in foreign policy and the disastrous Iraq War that gave birth to ISIS.
Finally, remember what you said in your last book: conservatism is “a pragmatic, eclectic creed”. There is nothing pragmatic about going to war with the electorate or relying on some of its lesser angels.
Good luck with writing it, Mr Abbott. I certainly won’t be waiting for a remaindered copy.