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May 17th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

Abbott Derangement Syndrome Wanes

The reaction used to be predictable as the response to Pavlov's bell: mere mention of the Member for Warringah prompted immediate fits of spittle-flecked fuming and frothing. But last weekend, rather than insults, it was cheers that welcomed the ousted PM

abbott grey shadesThank Heaven for small mercies. We’ve only seen minor outbreaks of Abbott Derangement Syndrome during this campaign. The frothing at the mouth appears to have been reserved for, and directed at, Peta Credlin. Indeed, the Fairfax papers even carried a sympathetic story on the deposed PM on Sunday!

The ousted PM “was pilloried as the lonesome Liberal candidate handing out election leaflets to commuters last week,” it began, “but the scene at Manly Oval on Saturday afternoon was startlingly different when … Tony Abbott arrived to a hero’s welcome. In a public reception more enthusiastic than anything that greeted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the first week of the election campaign, a group of 150 Manly Rugby Club fans standing on the hill began to loudly chant: ‘Tony! Tony! Tony!’.”

And that’s where the trouble began. Or the attempt at trouble.

On Monday, Fairfax published a furious beat-up on MPs who don’t live in their seats. “Nearly one-in-10 lower house MPs – 12 out of 127 who are re-contesting the 2016 federal election – don’t live in the electorates they represent, according to a Fairfax Media analysis of the publicly available Australian Electoral Commission roll and parliamentary register of members’ interests,” it raged.

It forgot number 13. Tony Abbott, the Member for Warringah.

Abbott lives in Forestville, an awkward suburb that falls between two stools. It’s not North Shore, but it’s too far inland to really deserve its designation as part of the Northern Beaches. It’s in the Warringah local government area, but a little too north to really call it part of the Warringah Peninsula. The locals get round this by lumping it in with neighbouring Frenchs Forest and calling the region “the Forest District”.

The Australian Electoral Commission can’t take such liberties. A while back they lumped Forestville in with the firmly North Shore seat of Bradfield. They then moved it into Warringah. And at the redistribution before the last one they took a radical step and split it between Warringah and Mackellar. Tony Abbott was left on the wrong side of the line by a few hundred metres. He remains there today.

A link to the Fairfax article was quickly tweeted by a member of the perpetually indignant, inviting more of their rank to join in the fun: “Ignores the fact that Tony Abbott also does not live in his electorate.” But no one nibbled. Accusations were made about Fairfax going soft. These also failed to provoke a response. Yes, a couple of matches were struck, but a look at social media for the 24 hours since the story appeared shows no sign of a firestorm.

It would be both premature and overly optimistic to say we may have finally developed a mildly mature attitude to our twenty-eight prime minister. But if even blithering idiots can’t get other blithering idiots angry about Abbott perhaps we can soon safely say Abbott Derangement Syndrome has been safely contained – and just avoid a few quarantine zones in the inner city.