Cauliflower ears: the mad monk as a mad boxer, Oxford University circa 1970s. Source: Herald Sun
By Tom Maddocks
“The loudmouth bigot of his university days, the homophobe, the blinkered Vatican warrior, the rugger-bugger, the white Australian and the junkyard dog of parliament are all, he would have us believe, consigned to the past.” Marr in Political Animal.
Journalist David Marr’s recent Quarterly Essay – Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott – is as ruthless as the label placed on the man in question. Yet why has the majority of the response to Marr’s unrestrained piece focused on “the punch”, or punches rather?
The alleged conflict in 1977 between student politicians – Barabara Ramjan and Tony Abbott – was the only bit of the interview that Abbott allowed to be placed “on the record”.
The focus in the wake of Marr’s article should surround how Abbott’s religious allegiance, homophobia, bigotry and rampant ignorance will impact his (in)ability to lead this country.
Whether Ramjam was confronted by Abbott or not, why does it matter?
Even Marr admits, “it’s in his past”, but what matters, Marr says, is that Abbott was once a wild-child but is now a man of self-control and of contained energy.
I want to ask this question, however: Why are journalists and the public alike so morbidly fascinated with incidents of politician’s past? This reminds me of the time Rudd hit up Scores “gentlemen’s club” in 2003 – a favourite of UN diplomats and journalists.
Marr’s latest recounting of the making of power-hungry liberal leaders (see Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd) clearly panders to the left, but what is Marr actually doing here?
I’m not sure that he is achieving much here other than reaffirming what we already knew about Abbott and an exercise in thorough research and dirt-digging.
On political dirt-digging, Andrew Bolt questioned why Marr fails to recall Gillard’s then boyfriends “slush fund”.
Satirists Clarke and Dawe aptly sum up Abbott’s incompetent fact-checking and dodging of the past here.
Watch David Marr talk about the animal that is Abbott on The Monthly’s SlowTV here.