Tony 2.0: is Abbott really a changed man?

tony abbottHe’s in for the fight of his life as tries to gain the trust of the Australian voting population; but is Tony Abbott the new-age sensitive man he says he is?

On Sunday night, Abbott tried to present as a changed man in an interview with Liz Hayes for Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes.

Nothing was off the table for the interview. His views on sexuality, marriage rights and how his religion impacts on his politics were all discussed. The Abbott presented was a family man, pouring dressing on a salad and joking with his three daughters at a family BBQ.

But like all families, this one has had its dramas too.

Mr Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster came out as homosexual four years ago, ending her 19 year marriage.

It was a family secret, one which he says impacted on his now infamous response to Liz Hayes in 2010 when asked about his feelings on homosexuality.


Tony Abbott and his sister, Christine Forster

“I probably feel a bit threatened,” was his response at the time.

He reasoned the response in Sunday nights interview as due to the tough times his family was going through, due to his sister’s revelation that she was gay.

“Now I couldn’t talk about that then because it was deeply personal and deeply private. But certainly, they were very tough times for our family, hence my comment,” he told Liz Hayes.

But, how did Ms Forster feel at the time when she saw the comment?

“In the first instance I was surprised. I was kind of taken aback. But it doesn’t really reflect what I know of my brother. I was a little disappointed – I’ll be honest,” she told Liz Hayes.

While Abbott said he felt threatened, according to his most recent interview with 60 Minutes, he was “unfazed” by his sister’s coming out.

Ms Forster was forced into an awkward position when questioned on her brother’s views on same-sex marriage.

While she says he does accept her relationship with Virginia Edwards in the same way he accepts their other sister’s relationship with her husband, he doesn’t want to extend the same rights to Ms Forster and her partner.

“He defines marriage as it is defined under the marriage act,” she told Liz Hayes.

“Well, he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m not trying to defend him on this, but his opinion is his opinion.”

While he continues to hold a very traditional and conservative view on marriage, Mr Abbott says he is a changed man: “I don’t have the views that I had 35 years ago”.

Tony Abbott and 60 Minutes reporter, Liz Hayes

Tony Abbott and 60 Minutes reporter, Liz Hayes

It’s easy to assume that it is his Catholic beliefs and values that are dictating this traditional and conservative view, yet he tried to tell 60 Minutes that Australians could be assured his belief system would not impact upon his politics.

“Faith is important to me, important to millions of Australians. It helps to shape who I am, it helps shape my values. But it should never dictate my politics,” he said.

This seems hard to believe when it’s his faith that informs his values, and his values that inform his politics. How can we accept that his Catholic views on abortion and on marriage will not influence his politics? Can we risk it as a secular, multicultural nation?

While the eight of the ten commandments forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others, Tony Abbott, the strict Catholic, doesn’t seem fazed with being loose with the truth.

“All of us say things in the heat of debate and argument which on reflection could be better said,” Mr Abbott told 60 Minutes.

Is this a trait we want in our Prime Minister?

And it’s the members of his own Party that don’t trust what he says. Malcolm Fraser, a former prime minister of fraserAustralia, resigned from the Liberal Party on the appointment of Mr Abbott as Leader of the Opposition. Fraser has described Mr Abbott as “dangerous”.

“[He’s] unpredictable. He says what jumps into his mind,” Fraser told Melbourne University political scientist Professor Robyn Eckersley for The Conversation in 2011.

It’s now 2013 and Abbott is in the fight of his life for his most cherished childhood dream: the prime ministership of Australia.

And the image we’re being sold is of a changed man: the sensitive Tony I’m still sceptical about.

“I said some things which I believed then which I don’t believe now. Because like everyone who’s had a long time in public life – in particular – I’ve changed and I’d like to think that I’ve grown,” he told Liz Hayes.

Yet, while he says he’s changed and no longer holds some of the views he held 35 years ago, there was no apology offered for the impact of his conservative viewpoints.

When asked about his controversial “abortion is the easy way out” comment, he responded with:

“Liz, I don’t want to minimise from time to time the errors that I’ve made.”

Liz followed up with: “Was that an error?”

His response was vague at best: “Well, I didn’t express it as well as I could have or should have. And I absolutely accept that for any woman facing an unexpected pregnancy, the choices are tough.”

No apology, no admitting he was wrong. He might be a changed man, but he’s an unrepentant one.

The key message from the 60 Minutes interview seemed to be “I’m not homophobic”, but Mr Abbott needs to realise he’s not going to win the gay vote without committing to something more, and that means changing one big belief.

It’s hard to tell who Mr Abbott really is when so many versions of the man are trying to be sold as the truth. Is he the misogynist Julia Gillard says he is? Is he the family man his wife Margie describes? Is he a dangerous politician like Malcolm Fraser says? Or is he a homophobe? It’s a question Australians will have to answer themselves when they head to the polling booths in September.

What did you think of Tony Abbott’s 60 Minutes interview? Do you believe he is a changed man? Let us know in the poll, in the comments below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter.



Filed under News Wraps, Politics in a Pinch

6 responses to “Tony 2.0: is Abbott really a changed man?

  1. Heather

    This man makes me very afraid for this country

  2. Geoff

    Honestly Miranda, you know better than that. Abbott wasn’t in control of the interview or where it was going. In fact it was on the whole an attempt at negativity towards him by Hayes.
    Abbott is a family man, with a wife… and apparently 3 loving daughters.
    Yes he has a sister, who was married (to a man)… and now is in a lesbian relationship. Apparently for Abbott is isn’t a drama, nor is it one for his sister, tsk, tsk, tsk. As for your beat up…. and I quote…”it doesn’t really reflect what I know of my brother.”

    It would be good if you could work out that this issue does not define the man. Nor the rest of us.

    As for him changing his views etc, I’d suggest to you most people do change their views over time on a whole range of topics.

    I’d also suggest you stop with the ALP propaganda re his Catholicism and how it will affect our “secular” society, I suggest to you he acknowledged we are secular and democratic not some dictatorship you seem to believe will become a religious one under an Abbott led government.

    As for your confection about apologies… puhlease. Your personal and political bias is showing once more.

  3. Taff

    The two big values that have been constant in Tony Abbott are Duty and Honour. Conservative he may be but your mum and dad may be too and too many people that is a comfort. Surf life saver, volunteer fire fighter, lives each year in indigenous communities, volunteer teachers aid to intellectually handicapped children…the list goes on. Abbott is a true servant of the community. Compare these services to those provided through life by Ms Gillard.

    • Hi Taff, thanks for the comment and for checking the blog out.
      Mr Abbott’s community service is impressive, it doesn’t change the fact that I disagree with many Liberal Party policies. But I do applaud his community service, as I applaud any person who donates time, effort and/or money to others. I always hope to find a job that means I can have more time to donate to others, I would love to donate more of my time to the Wayside Chapel in the Kings Cross in Sydney – I’ve helped out a couple of times there on company days and it’s a great organisation.
      And also, my parents are proud swinging voters and sit more in the centre of political ideology, not quite conservatives, not quite progressives 😉
      Hope to see some more comments around the blog or on our Facebook page Taff, happy to have you on board as a reader.

      • Geoff

        It’s one thing to disagree with a political party’s policies and another thing completely to attack an individual.
        As for political ideology there is more to it than right and left there is conservative and progressive as well they are not the same things at all. I’m a LW Conservative.
        One thing is certain though and that being an extremist of any variety cannot be a good thing.

        I remember this quote also Miranda…
        “If you’re not a progressive at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a
        conservative at forty you have no brain.”
        The supposed original; “N’être pas républicain à vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de cœur ; l’être après trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tête.”
        Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.
        Attributed to:- Francois Guizot and Georges Clemenceau
        Another form…
        “A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.”

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