Hi, I’m Tony Abbott.*
Being a Prime Minister looks difficult, but it’s actually easy — if you know how! I did the job for two years and I think everyone accepts that I took a lot of tough but necessary decisions without breaking any promises. I wasn’t perfect, of course, but who is?! So here are some great tips for leading the country — good government can start today with these 10 weird tricks that commentators don’t want you to know.
1. Spend whatever you like.
I dramatically increased spending and kept blowing out the budget deficit, over and over. But I’m a Liberal — racking up big spending and big debt is OK when we do it. It’s bad when Labor does it, of course — and that’s when you need the Liberals to arrive and put the fiscal bushfire out. OK, well, some Liberals. If your internal opponent is spending a lot of money, even if it’s less than you, that’s particularly bad and needs to be called out. That’s the time for calling for big spending cuts — when someone else has to do them.
2. If you do need to cut spending, call it an efficiency dividend.
This particularly effective in disguising spending cuts, and no one will spot it. I successfully imposed an efficiency dividend on the ABC and no one noticed.
3. Look, a man’s word is his bond and all that stuff, but not with a foreigner.
Sure, tell the world you’re agreeing to something, like a climate agreement, with targets you yourself devised, not anyone else. Even say things like “unlike some other countries which make these pledges and don’t deliver, Australia does deliver when we make a pledge”. But it’s fine to ignore them, and declare them “aspirational”, if and when convenient — not convenient for the nation, convenient for you. Ditto on a treaty with Australia’s biggest trading partner. I told the President of China I was gung-ho to ratify an extradition treaty while secretly planning not to. In fact, later I came out and attacked it.
4. Reading documents? Nope, nope, nope.
This might be a controversial opinion, but I don’t bother reading stuff about policy. Full of useless detail and dodgy numbers. I don’t think there’s even any point in getting briefed on documents. Actually, I recommend you show up to briefings being offered to colleagues just to interrupt and criticise. And don’t make the effort to check what’s in a report before bagging it. Just go with the vibe, and get stuck in. Certainty is better than knowledge.
5. If your right-wing mates take a dislike to a program you approved and funded …
… pretend that you never had anything to do with it, and join in. Go like stink!
6. Introduce lots of new taxes, but then complain when anyone else lifts taxes.
Taxes are bad, after all, except when I do them. Also, call taxes “levies” because then they’re not really taxes. This also fools people and is quite clever.
7. If your enemies come for you …
… throw your own Treasurer under a bus and offer his job to keep someone on your side. It doesn’t look at all desperate, and will never be refused.
8. Take proposals that aren’t actually legal to your favourite News Corp hacks first, before discussing them with Cabinet.
This will go down well with colleagues and certainly won’t leak out. It’s great way to develop policy and shows real respect for your colleagues.
9. If asked a question about a subject area you’re not really across, like economics, revert to campaign slogans, even if they’re unrelated to the question.
Constantly workshop slogans and what sound like clever lines. This should be a priority. After my first leadership spill as Prime Minister, I said “good government starts today”. It was widely appreciated within my party, began a resurgence in my Prime Ministership and threw Labor on the defensive.
10. If you do lose the Prime Ministership (as happens to quite a few Prime Ministers, I wasn’t the only one, OK) …
… don’t leave with good grace and find something else worthwhile to do, like that wretched Gillard woman. Hang around like a bad smell, constantly trying to draw attention to yourself and undermining your successor. I didn’t agree with Kevin Rudd on much but I always liked the way he relentlessly undermined his successor. That’s why Rudd is one of the most popular people both within his own party and in Australia today, as I am in mine.
*as told to Bernard Keane