(Image: EPA/Szilard Koszticsak)

Tony Abbott has come out of hiding. The former prime minister was uncharacteristically quiet in the first few months since losing his seat at the federal election, as rumours of a plum ambassadorial posting swirled. Now, liberated from the shackles of the backbench, Abbott has found his increasingly reactionary voice again. He’s currently in the middle of a whistle-stop European tour, launching tirades against immigration and in defence of Brexit.

Ever the Anglophile, Abbott’s tour kicked off in London last month, with a “serious speech about Brexit” at Policy Exchange, Britain’s foremost right-wing think tank. As the October 31 Brexit deadline approaches, and with the United Kingdom reeling from three years of political self-immolation, Abbott told those worried about a no deal option not to fear — Australia doesn’t have a deal with the European Union, and we get on just fine. He also quoted the Bible while criticising the “remainers plot to sabotage Brexit”.

Next stop, Hungary, where in the increasingly authoritarian, far-right, immigrant-hating, Central European strongman Viktor Orbán, Abbott found a kindred spirit. Speaking at the Danube Institute, he was full of praise for the country’s muscular anti-refugee stance. At a population summit in Budapest, Abbott went further, praising Orbán, and warning of “angry military-age males swarming” into Europe. Orbán, meanwhile, appeared to reference the “great replacement” theory beloved by far-right terrorists.

This week, Abbott was back in the UK to address the Conservative Party conference, where he railed against the country’s “contemptible parliament” for stalling Brexit. Getting out of the EU, Abbott reassured the party faithful, would be “no big deal”. 

Such speaking tours aren’t entirely new for Abbott. Since being knifed by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015, Europe’s conservative think tanks have played host to some of his more bizarre remarks — not least the 2017 claim that action on climate change was like primitive people killing goats to “appease the volcano gods”.

Then again, Abbott sharing his interesting ideas with the European right is probably the lesser of two evils — he could’ve been in Washington DC, wrangling with Trump right now.

Peter Fray

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