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…an utterly authentic PM-in-waiting

Abbott pictureGreg Sheridan has been friends with both Rudd and Abbott for decades. His honest appraisal of their relative authenticity is worth a full read HERE. I am confident that, once Mr Abbott is standing on the high ground of PM, clear of the smog of lies emitted by Labor and its media lackeys, people will get to know him for the authentic and outstanding character he is.

Tony Abbott will become one of our best-loved and most respected PMs, a genuine Australian bloke but with a depth of thought and heart that will astonish those who do not know him.

EXCERPTS (and yes, it is worth getting an Australian online subscription…)

…Abbott believes in the importance of politics – it is his professional vocation. He has grown and developed over the years. But he doesn’t infuse normal policy arguments with the moral transcendence of religious conviction. He is a tough political warrior, but routinely acknowledges the basic human goodwill of opponents such as Rudd and Gillard.

He loves to run, and swim and bicycle, and he loves to volunteer, in the bushfire brigade, in the surf life-savers, in Aboriginal communities, in raising money for charity. He has been doing all this for 20 or 30 years. There are things people dislike about Abbot, but he is always the same man. In a decade as a minister and four years as opposition leader, there are no stories of mistreating staff, no stewardesses in tears.

There is one episode in Abbott’s life I witnessed but don’t often recount because my own role was so utterly unheroic. In 1977, Abbott and I were lying on the sand at a surf beach some distance out of Melbourne. The surf was way too rough for either of us to go in. Suddenly a woman came up to us screaming. Her son had been pulled out by a rip and was in bad trouble.

I was a weak swimmer and had I dived in someone would very soon have had to rescue me. Abbott was a strong swimmer and pretty much without hesitation jumped in, swam out to the kid, took hold of him, dragged him down the coastline a bit to get past the rip, and brought him safely to shore. He was not a bit interested in the mother’s thanks, rather a bit disgusted the kid had gone out in such treacherous surf.

That was 36 years ago. I’ve got no doubt if the incident happened today Abbott’s response would be the same.

Publicly and privately, he’s the same bloke. His personality may be unreconstructed, but also, it’s not a construct.

Contrast with the impression of Mr Rudd:

…Nowhere did Rudd make more extravagant moral claims than for his asylum-seeker policy. In his famous 2006 essay in The Monthly magazine on his Christian faith he cited the parable of the good Samaritan to damn Howard government policy. He said John Howard’s effort to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone should be denounced by Christian churches. And then he made the biggest rhetorical moral play possible – he cited the lessons from the Holocaust as a guide to policy.

Now Labor has itself excised the Australian mainland from the migration zone and, in the PNG Solution, which involves permanently resettling genuine refugees in Port Moresby, has come up with something, notionally at least, tougher than Howard ever envisaged.

In policy terms, this might all be understandable, but what does it say of the story Rudd has told us of himself? How can a policy be so wicked that Christian churches should denounce it, so wicked that it should be opposed with direct reference to the Holocaust, yet a few years later be embraced? The policy environment has changed. But in 2006 Rudd wasn’t making policy claims; he was making moral judgments, based on his own core values. Where are those core values?

Even the way Rudd uses his undoubtedly genuine Christianity is very strange. I have never seen Abbott do a press conference in front of a church. If the media wants to doorstop him on a Sunday, he is quite happy to do it outside his home or at a city office. The idea that the media might follow you to church is a meaningless excuse if you don’t want to use the church as a prop.

Several politicians who attend church or synagogue regularly have told me they find it objectionable that Rudd uses a church as a press conference prop most Sundays. Rudd’s decision to make his churchgoing Christianity a big part of his public persona was deliberate, strategic and discussed as a matter of political tactics in advance. And it certainly helped Rudd win evangelical Christian votes in Queensland in 2007.

Now, a minute before he challenged Gillard for the prime ministership, and five minutes before an election, he has switched from his long-running opposition to gay marriage and now supports it. In the essay announcing this strategic move, Rudd wrote: “For the record, I will not be taking any leadership role on this issue nationally.”

Now Rudd promises that if re-elected he will bring forth a bill to legalise gay marriage within the new parliament’s first 100 days. You can almost see the political calculations – damage with the evangelicals, new enthusiasm among the young, something for the inner cities to balance their repugnance at the PNG solution.

Yet in May, when Rudd wrote his essay, he was already thinking of coming back as PM. Why, apart from political calculation, declare then he would take no leadership position on the issue? Rudd’s deepest commitments seem too often to have a shelf life of about three weeks.

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