Weekly Standard: Tea Baggers Should Look Down Under

By Eli Clifton

This morning Adam Brickley posted on the Weekly Standard’s blog that, “Tea Partiers and Palinistas here in the States would do well to watch conservative Aussie leader Tony Abbott very closely.” Brickley is correct that Abbott has engineered a coup of sorts in Australia’s Liberal Party—taking over the leadership after their ex-leader, Malcolm Turnbull, announced he would support cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions responsible for the kind of climate change that has literally burned up parts of his country in recent years.

Brickley has become a bit of an expert on “Tea Partiers and Palinistas” since 2007 when he started the “Draft Sarah Palin For Vice President Blog” which has been credited with giving the initial momentum and exposure to the otherwise unknown first-term governor of Alaska.

But Brickley’s suggestion that U.S. “Tea Partiers” look to Australia for inspiration seems to overlook some of the other, more controversial stances taken by Abbott.

On climate change Abbott has been an outspoken skeptic, and his rhetoric has been highly inflammatory. In a December 7th interview, for example, Abbott compared the ongoing Copenhagen conference on climate change to the infamous 1938 Munich agreement—the accord in which the major powers of Europe appeased Hitler by permitting Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia.

When asked about the comparison, he backed down a bit, suggesting it was just a “throwaway line.”

“Well I think that what we’re getting from a certain side of this argument is the view that the whole fate of the planet forever depends upon one meeting,” Abbott said.

“Now I’m not denying that this is an important meeting, of course it’s an important meeting Tony, but there will be other meetings, there will be other decisions.

“What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t pretend that the only important meeting that will ever take place on climate change is this one.

“It was a throwaway line in which you would be wrong to invest too much significance.”

Abbott’s response would suggest he either thinks that what followed the Munich agreement (the annexation of Czechoslovakia, World War II and the Holocaust, to name just a few) wasn’t very significant or he simply considers citing the Munich agreement–and everything that followed from it–a, “throwaway line.’’ Either way, it doesn’t say much for the man’s political — let alone, ethical, instincts. Even Munich-obsessed neo-cons, like those who run the Weekly Standard, might be offended

But the lessons Tea-Baggers can take from Abbott’s rise to the top of his party don’t end with his fear-mongering and ill-considered comparison of the Copenhagen conference to Munich.

As Health Minister in 2006, Abbott took the novel step of calling for a, “new paternalism,’’ in dealing with the high rates of violence, and dismal state of public health and infrastructure in Australia’s Aboriginal communities.

In August, 2006, The Christian Science Monitor reported that:

“…Health Minister Tony Abbott wrote recently that self-determination was unworkable and that “someone has to be in charge.” He proposed an administrator with wide-ranging powers instead of the current local councils chosen with community input. Mr. Abbot wrote that self-determination had only encouraged officials to voice concern without backing it with responsible action.”

While I don’t pretend to be an expert on Aboriginal affairs I’m pretty sure that “Palinistas” and Tea-Baggers should probably think twice before using words like “new paternalism,” to describe public policy towards any group. This would seem especially true in the case of Aborigines, who from 1869 to 1969 were systematically separated from their children in what is commonly referred to as the “stolen generations.”

The “stolen generations” resulted in at least 100,000 Aboriginal children being separated from their parents and raised in orphanages, missions and foster homes. In February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for those policies, an apology that Abbott initially opposed before grudgingly endorsing it.

“I still think there are higher priorities (in indigenous affairs), but the fact is this apology is going to happen, I think there is some potential for this apology to be a significant milestone towards more complete reconciliation,” Abbott told Sky News.

“But we’ll be getting behind it in a way which acknowledges our true history, that’s to say the good things that happened as well as unfortunate things that happened.

“Yes some kids were stolen and this is shameful but many were helped and some were rescued, and I think we need to be honest about that.”

It might seem politically backward for the notoriously neoconservative Weekly Standard—which takes any minimizing of the Holocaust very seriously—to be publishing this type of endorsement, but Brickley is a trendsetter who played a pivotal role in bringing Sarah Palin onto the McCain ticket and in securing endorsements for Palin from the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes.

Despite Brickley’s uncanny sense for spotting a star before it rises (or falls) he might not have thought out all the political intricacies of embracing someone who considers references to the Munich agreement a, “throwaway line,” and defends the stealing of over 100,000 children and advocates a, “new paternalism,” as the basis for his policies towards indigenous peoples.

But for Brickley, Abbott offers the blueprint for the “Palinista” takeover of the GOP.

Brickley concludes:

‘’Polls last week showed that 23 percent of Australians think Abbott would be a better Prime Minister than [the Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd]– 9 percent higher than Turnbull’s dismal 14 percent showing the previous week — and the Liberal party has picked up 4 percent in general election polls. Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports the Abbott is trying to reclaim the working-class voters who put Liberal John Howard in the Prime Minister’s office and then deserted him to install Rudd — and he has the message to do it. Rudd is pushing a huge cap-and-tax plan, and many Australians are rightly worried about whether the prime minister is too busy playing global-warming-messiah to worry about the recession. These Joe Six Pack voters were once known as “Howard’s battlers”, and as of today their new leader has re-christened them “Abbott’s Army”. In a way — it’s like watching the Tea Party movement swallow the GOP from the inside, and the polls are going up rather than down as a result.

If this is a collapse, then parties should collapse more often.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


One Comment

  1. In this piece you’re employing “tea-baggers” and “tea partiers” as equivalents? Uh, I think tea-bagger (as in tea-bagging) has a different meaning. Or are we just being a little risque today? The headline, “Tea-baggers Should Look Down Under” is just shot through with possible double-entendres.

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