Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution
Gerard Charles Wilson
In 2012, a passage in David’s Marr book Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott caused uproar across Australia. The passage was about an incident that occurred thirty-five years earlier when Abbott was a student at Sydney University. Abbott’s many critics in politics and the media considered the ‘undisputed’ incident indisputable evidence for the views they had long held about him. Abbott was sexist and hated women; men were the natural leaders of society; in politics he was brutal and insensitive. Above all this was the irrational discriminatory religion that motivated him. Abbott had no place in politics. Indeed, Susan Mitchell strove to make the case in her book Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man that Abbott was ‘dangerous’. Marr’s and Mitchell’s books were bestsellers, and determining for many in their judgement of Abbott.
But how well do they stand up to scrutiny? How well does this widely accepted opinion of Abbott bear close investigation? How much is a caricature for political purposes, and how much is supported by the evidence?
In Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution (the first of a two-book series), the author investigates. He traces Abbott’s political development from school through to the end of his time at Sydney University (1963-1980). A contemporary of Abbott’s and sharing a similar background, the author draws on his experiences and reactions to the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s in addition to the documentary research. The book is in three parts: the school years and the 1960s revolution; student radicalism at Sydney University 1973-1975, the prelude to Abbott’s arrival on campus; and Abbott’s engagement with the far left (1976-1980).
What emerges from the author’s tracing of Abbott’s combat with the left and far-left on campus is the waging of a fearless heroic battle on behalf of Western Civilisation against the combined forces of Marxism in its multiple manifestations. As Greg Sheridan wrote about Abbott in his book When We Were Young and Foolish, ‘It was impossible to intimidate him.’
But the book is not only about Tony Abbott, the student motivated by a carefully defined natural law conservatism. It is as much about the social upheaval of the times and about the author’s reflections. Whether the author makes his case or not, most readers are sure to find the account of the rough and tumble of student politics fascinating. There are startling parallels with Abbott’s time as opposition leader and then as prime minister.
Publication: second half of 2018
Cover: a temporary mock-up