Culture

Tony Abbott Kinda Crashed And Burned During His National Press Club Speech In Canberra Today

Well that didn't go so well.

Tony Abbott addressed the National Press Club for the first time of his Prime Ministership in Canberra earlier today, hoping to quash rumours that his leadership is toast and he’s on the verge of being the shortest-lived non-caretaker Prime Minister since 1914. It did not go so well.

Before the speech began, the office of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten — who must be running around Parliament House giggling like a little Christmas elf these days — sneakily distributed copies of ‘Tony Abbott National Press Club bingo’ to assembled journalists to tick off the cliches Abbott was sure to deliver. Considering the first fifteen minutes of the twenty-three minute address was literally the same “carbon-tax-stop-the-boats-Labor-bad” speech he’s been giving for the last three years, it looked like it was going to be a pretty friggin’ quick game of bingo, but going by the strictest bingo rules no row or column was filled, and the meat tray went sadly unclaimed.

The second half of Abbott’s speech, where he started talking about slightly different stuff, went from zero to completely bananas in about half a second when he got onto the topic of Islamist extremism and suddenly started sounding like a cross between Dick Cheney and Dolores Umbridge.

“People are sick of Australian citizens, including people born and bred in this country, making excuses for Islamist fanatics in the Middle East and their imitators here in Australia,” Abbott said, seemingly under the assumption that someone is making the case for ISIS on morning television somewhere (here’s looking at you, Kochie).

He also spruiked the government’s planned data retention scheme as the solution to the homegrown terrorist threat we so desperately need, apparently. “If cracking down on Hizb-ut-Tahrir and others who nurture extremism in our suburbs means further legislation, we will bring it on. The police and the security agencies have told me that they need access to telecommunications data to deal with a range of crime from child abuse to terrorism and as far as I am concerned they should always have the laws, the money and the support to keep our country and our people safe,” he continued.

Incidentally, the Senate Committee inquiry into said data retention scheme also happened in Parliament today, with everyone from the journalist’s union to civil liberties associations to the Law Council of Australia lining up to list the reasons why it’s a terrible idea, but the nation’s most prominent journalists were listening to Abbott’s “surveillance-equals-freedom” shtick instead, so there you go. 

Abbott also dismissed the Liberal Party’s defeats in Queensland and Victoria as “a fit of absentmindedness” that means sometimes “people elect a Labor government,” thus winning the charm offensive for the nation’s swing voters once and for all, and deflected journo questions about his leadership. “It’s the people that hire, and frankly, it’s the people that should fire,” he said, before reiterating that he “trusts” his party room colleagues in a steadily rising tone of voice reminiscent of a Seymour Skinner Vietnam flashback.

He called Australia’s debt level an “intergenerational theft,” which prompted approximately one billion people pointing out the existence of climate change on Twitter, and claimed that we “lacked the intestinal fortitude” to address debt back in 2007. The nation had been “self-indulgent” during the Labor years, Abbott said, which will come as a surprise to the tens of thousands of single mums who had their benefits cut by the Gillard government.

Other highlights included Abbott discovering the word “journey” for the first time in his life, and cramming it into his replies so often he sounded like a HSC English question circa 2008. “We’re on a journey. We are on a journey, the journey to build a better Australia. It’s the only journey worth coming on! And we have to succeed, we just have to succeed for our country’s sake,” Abbott said, sounding less like a sitting Prime Minister and more like a guy who ate some mushrooms he found in the dirt at Woodford. “Every one of us are on a journey.” Right on, Tone.

But the highlight of the day was this Lincolnian rhetorical flourish: “As I said so many times before the last election, we will end the waste, stop the boats, scrap the unnecessary new taxes and build the roads of the 21st Century. And the results? Waste down. Boats stopped. Carbon tax gone. And roads well and truly underway.” We did it. We broke him. He’s actually broken now.

Either that, or he’s risen to new heights of oratory. Never has so much been conveyed in so few words, save perhaps by one other.

You can watch the speech in full here if you want to (you don’t want to), and follow the #npc hashtag if you enjoy watching animals feasting on helpless weak creatures and you don’t get the Discovery Channel.