On 31 May 1990, a journalist named Tony Abbott wrote a refreshing article as part of The Australian’s ‘IMMIGRATION DEBATE – A SPECIAL WEEK-LONG SERIES BY EXPERT COMMENTATORS ON THE ISSUES THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO AVOID’. By March 1994, Abbott had entered Federal Parliament at the Warringah by-election. He has been re-elected seven times since, and has been Prime Minister of Australia since September 2013. We publicised his opinion piece, ‘The real issue is the changing face of our society’, on this website in August 2013, when Abbott was still leader of the Opposition.
Twenty-five years ago, Abbott’s honest and patriotic writing robustly defended both academic Geoffrey Blainey and politician John Howard. His article was the first significant dust-up over things immigration since John Howard’s popular, but ultimately unsuccessful, 1988 immigration policy intervention – a move which cost him the Opposition leadership in 1989.
By inference, Abbott’s article also defended the position taken on immigration and multiculturalism by the political party Australians Against Further Immigration. AAFI was not invited to contribute to The Australian’s ‘special week-long series’ despite the so-called ‘debate’ being clearly prompted by dust kicked up around their first electoral challenge at the March 1990 Federal election.
Fast forward to this year, when PM Abbott foreshadowed (ABC 7.30 program, 20 February 2015) new legislation to deal with ‘home grown’ and imported jihadi terrorism security risks. This might seem to be a natural, easily-predicted, straight-line progression from his 1990 views:
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: We are a free and fair nation, but that doesn’t mean we should let bad people play us for mugs, and all too often, they have. Well, that’s going to stop.
DYLAN WELCH, REPORTER: Tony Abbott is planning tougher measures on terrorism. His announcement came days after police charged Kuwaiti national Mohammad Kiad and Iraqi refugee Omar al-Kutobi with planning a gruesome terrorist attack in Sydney.
TONY ABBOTT: Under the influence of the Islamist death cult, all you need to be a terrorist is a knife, a flag, a camera phone and a victim. That’s all you need. …… It’s clear to me that for too long we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt. There’s been the benefit of the doubt at our borders, the benefit of the doubt for residency, the benefit of the doubt for citizenship and the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink. And in the courts, there has been bail, when clearly there should have been jail.
DYLAN WELCH: Lindt cafe gunman Man Monis ticked all those boxes. He was a refugee from Iran living on welfare. He was on bail for a string of sexual assault charges as well as his alleged involvement in the murder of his ex-wife.
Similarly, PM Abbott’s recent ‘Nope, nope, nope!’ reply to pleadings by the mainstream media for him to allow refugee / asylum entry to Australia by the latest boat people du jour, Bangladeshis and the Rohingya from Burma would seem straightforward enough. Having successfully staunched the inflow of boat people to Australia that, on coming to office, he inherited from the previous ALP administration, Abbott cannot now afford to flip back to courting such disaster again – even if influential commentators want to unleash another ‘Camp of the Saints’ wave of the unwanted upon Australia’s shores (#).
In his 2009 autobiography (and, arguably, his Prime Ministerial job application) Battlelines, Abbott provided a number of carefully couched apologies for his previously well considered, crafted and printed thoughts regarding immigration and multiculturalism policy problems. He asked readers to believe in his complete conversion (following his 1990s experience with Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy) from antagonist to believer in multiculturalism, and distanced himself further from his 1990 opinions by attributing them to the 1980s (see Battlelines, pages 161 to 163).
This anomaly was also noticed by journalist David Marr who in 2013 cited and commented critically on Abbott’s 1990 article. Marr clearly found Abbott’s anecdote about his own conversion to multiculturalism unconvincing, self-servingly convenient, and hard to believe:
It beggars belief, perhaps, but working with people like Sophie Mirabella nee Panopoulos in his mid thirties reconciled Abbott to multiculturalism. He told Paul Kelly [a long time political journalist at The Australian] a decade later: ‘I had been altogether too ungenerous to migrants. I had it wrong and I made a mistake.’
Source: David Marr, Political Animal: The making of Tony Abbott, 2013,
pages 80 and 81.
In late 2010/11, when European leaders Merkel, Sarkozy, the Dutch and Spanish PMs and the new British PM Cameron all in concert bagged multiculturalism as dangerous policy gone wrong, what did Australia do? Our then-PM Julia Gillard and her Immigration Minister Chris Bowen spent tax-payers’ money to re-launch Multiculturalism in Australia. And what did ‘conservative’ Opposition leader Tony Abbott do? He agreed wholeheartedly with Gillard and reaffirmed his commitment to multiculturalism.
At a press conference when he became Opposition leader on 1 December 2009, Abbott said:
‘I probably should, I suppose, apologise now for all my errors of the past and make a clean breast of them … and ask the public to judge me from this point.’
Since winning government, Abbott has held to the ALP’s high annual immigration targets and has committed to a stepped increase to the humanitarian / refugee intake.
We don’t trust him to return publicly to his 1990 opinions, but we do like to remind Abbott that many Australian voters still agree with those views.
Please help PM Abbott understand what is important by spreading the REDUCE IMMIGRATION write-on idea far and wide!