Contrary to the Marr-peddled myth, Abbott’s more a chivalrous romantic when it comes to women, sometimes to his own cost.
An incident I observed first-hand from his time as health minister highlights this. As defeat loomed in 2007, then Prime Minister John Howard and Abbott announced a federal takeover of the struggling Mersey Hospital in northern Tasmania. Unsurprisingly the state Labor government went ballistic, and shortly afterwards I accompanied Abbott to meet the Tasmanian health minister (now premier) Lara Giddings.
It wasn’t pleasant. For the best part of an hour a fiery Giddings (physically a diminutive she-cub) berated and harangued Abbott in an aggressive one-sided tirade. At one point she even reached across the table as if to throttle him. Abbott was utterly taken aback by Giddings’s ferocity – he was uncertain about how to respond and where to look, and the meeting ended none too soon.
Had Giddings been a man there’s no way that Abbott would have passively absorbed such aggression. As we came away I asked why he didn’t respond to Giddings’s provocation. “Mate”, he said, “I just wasn’t brought up that way.”
The Giddings episode illustrates that despite his hard-man reputation, Abbott has an old-fashioned code of personal conduct that treats women with consideration and respect. If anything, this sometimes gets him into trouble when knowing female opponents like Giddings, PM Julia Gillard and, notoriously, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon in the 2007 election campaign, exploit his scruples by goading him to the limit.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
A Gentleman at his Peril
TONY ABBOTT really does have a problem with women, according to Terry Barnes, who saw it firsthand: