The Daily Telegraph
September 28 2015
NOW Tony Abbott is gone I can finally tell the truth about him. Folks, you made a big mistake with this bloke.
No, no. The mistake wasn’t that you voted for him.
In fact, you got one of the finest human beings to be Prime Minister.
In many ways he seemed too moral for the job, yet he achieved more in two years than the last two Labor prime ministers achieved in six.
Compare. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard left us with record deficits after blowing billions on trash — on overpriced school halls, “free” insulation that killed people, green schemes that collapsed, “stimulus” checks to the dead.
They meanwhile opened our borders to 50,000 illegal immigrants and drowned 1200. They hyped the global warming scare and forced us to pay a job-killing carbon tax just to pretend they were saving us.
But Abbott? I won’t go through the whole list: how he stopped the boats, curbed spending, scrapped the useless carbon and mining taxes, led the world’s defiance of deadly Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and made us safer from terrorism.
He even signed three free trade deals to secure jobs for our kids — including one with China that the last three governments couldn’t clinch.
And he did all this in the face of astonishing heckling and even vilification from our media class, and despite often feral opposition in the Senate.
But your mistake was not to care about all that. Deeds didn’t count with you. Image was all.
And so you told the pollsters you didn’t like Abbott. You believed the vicious crap written about him, until his MPs finally panicked and dumped him.
Your mistake was that you couldn’t look behind the flim flam — the way Abbott looked, the way he spoke, the way he walked, the way he ate an onion — to see what he’d actually done for you and for your country.
You even laughed at some of his finest qualities and emblems of his public service. Journalists ridiculed his work as a lifesaver by mocking his costume and body hair. They dismissed his fire fighting service as just a photo-op. Wrote off his patriotism as bigotry.
When he defended women, he was called insincere. When he warned that our finances were in strife or that terrorism menaced us, they called him a scaremonger.
And you believed them. You let people treat like absolute dirt a man who had a record of volunteerism no prime minister has equalled — working in Aboriginal communities, lifesaving, firefighting, helping people in natural disasters, and raising money for women’s shelters and a hospice for dying children.
And none of it was done just to puff his CV for an election pamphlet.
The only reason I know Abbott helped people secure their homes after one Sydney storm is that my wife’s uncle asked the head of the team getting the tree off his house if that really was Abbott over there, helping to cut it away.
Shush, said the captain. He doesn’t like people knowing.
Now, I must declare straight up — I call Tony Abbott a friend.
So you’ll call me biased. You’ll laugh that I can write this massive praise of him when almost everyone else is horse-laughing. And you’ll say that’s why I see more qualities in Abbott than are actually there.
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But you’ll just be making another mistake.
See, I don’t think Abbott is a great man because he’s my friend. He’s my friend because he’s a great man. Greater than the people who tore him down.
He’s my friend especially because he’s not those things that so many journalists wrote — including some who must have known what they wrote were lies.
Truth is that Abbott is not a thug, bully, racist, fool, liar, woman-hater, homophobe or bigot. He’s not cruel or lacking compassion.
If he were any of those things he would not be my friend. Those are deal breakers for me. Those I love best are people of honour, warmth and kindness.
Tony Abbott is one such man, and that he has been betrayed and deposed doesn’t just break my heart. It makes me fear for this country. I can only hope that Australians will one day wake up to what they’ve tossed away.
Sorry to sound so melodramatic, but here are some glimpses of the man I know — ones that put the lie to the trash that even big-name correspondents peddled about him.
A woman hater? Ask his daughters or female chief of staff. Ask the many women on his staff, so loyal that he had one of the lowest turnovers of modern prime ministers.
A crash-through insensitive bully with no people skills? Ask my children how gentle he was when he called around. Ask one of my 2GB listeners, Pat, who rang in to say how moved he was that Abbott, on the way to a crucial Question Time on the day the carbon tax was repealed, still had the time to ring Pat’s dying brother.
Or consider this: just minutes after Malcolm Turnbull told Abbott he was challenging for his job, Abbott still honoured a promise to meet girl guides, rather than hit the phones to save himself.
Too loyal? Well, true, yet when I once asked why he wouldn’t buy off his critics by sacking Joe Hockey as Treasurer, Abbott told me he knew Hockey actually had the talent to be great, and would be if given another chance.
A homophobe? Abbott actually had a deep friendship with one of my friends, too, the out-and-proud gay commentator Christopher Pearson, and even helped carry the coffin of this much-missed man.
In fact, when one Fairfax writer this year accused Abbott — on entirely fictitious evidence — of having had a “possibly homophobic” moment, a gay adviser on Abbott’s staff texted me in rage: “If PM was so homophobic he wouldn’t be sharing the C1 car with me.”
Every Prime Minister thinks they don’t get the press they deserve. But I bet Abbott’s friends would agree that none could have been so different in the flesh from what you read in the papers — and so much better. Shame on the journalists responsible for this great slander.
Yes, I know Abbott made mistakes, and I was hard on the worst. I know he was too stubborn. And I know he was clumsy in selling himself.
I admit I even quarrelled with him privately when he too-nobly refused to whack Labor leader Bill Shorten over some detail of national security.
No, the country before politics, he declared. I could have shaken the silly bugger, who played politics like it was cricket when everyone else was cage fighting.
God, he wouldn’t even do the populist thing and just promise to build our next submarines in Adelaide, and to hell with the cost or national interest.
But that was Abbott, and for me character always counts in the end.
That’s why I say: this country has despised and rejected a great servant. It is a time of sorrow.