Carlo's Corner: Abbott's 'shirt front' threat was not even his craziest statement that day

Issue 
Most polls have bear wrestler Vladimir Putin beating budgie smuggler Tony Abbott in a fight.

Now I know things seem pretty bleak in this country right now, but we must remember there is always hope. After all, in 1967, an Australian prime minister entirely disappeared without any warning after he went swimming — and Tony Abbott loves to swim!

So don't give in to despair — it might happen again. The key thing is to not lose all hope.

And yes, of course, I can already hear all the cries from the purists out there that the problem is “not just Tony Abbott”! Should the prime minister simply disappear one day, all that would happen is another, equally repulsive anti-poor, pro-war, racist, misogynistic creep would take over and continue the destruction of anything that benefits ordinary people or provides any protection at all from the ravages of the powerful corporate interests that back the Abbott government.

And yes I know, full well, from painful experience, that even if we vote out the Coalition, a new Labor government would seek to leave as much of its savage “reforms” in place and continue, at best, governing as a sort of “Coalition-lite”, merely presenting a slightly softer form of class war on behalf of the corporate elite that wields real power in this godforsaken country.

And yes, OK, the only answer to the brutal class war coming down on us is to build up a “resistance from below” based on organising and mobilising communities into a powerful democratic mass movement able to oppose the corporate agenda destroying our livelihoods and environment and push pro-people-and-planet alternatives.

A sort of movement that could take at its starting point the kind of powerful community campaigns against mining companies in places like the Illawarra, Bentley and other communities right across the country.

Yes, sure. I know. I realise all of that. But for Christ's sake, can't you let a man dream?

Because Abbott is getting beyond ridiculous now, even by his own insanely low standards. The point at which Jacqui Lambie castigates you for being “extremely immature” is the point at which you have crossed some political line no one previously knew even existed.

Yet that was the line Abbott managed to cross on October 13, when he threatened to “shirt front” Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane.

A shirt front is Australian Rules football jargon for an often brutal hip-and-shoulder bump delivered to an opponent's front — although whether Abbott, a Sydneysider and fan of NRL team Manly — actually knew that is unknown.

It is probably likely he actually had no idea what he was really saying, he was just trying to sound both tough and “in touch”, using a term he bizarrely imagined “an ordinary bloke” might say in a pub to some prick who'd spilled his beer.

After all, what Abbott actually said, word-for-word, was: “I am going to, um, shirt front Mr Putin ... ah, you bet you are … ah, you bet I am, ah ...”

Such a mangled sentence suggests that a) the line was carefully scripted and b) Abbott is really bad at delivering his lines.

Abbott's use of an obscure Aussie Rules term to physically threaten Russia's head of state managed to both confuse and anger the Russians — as it no doubt did to many in Queensland and New South Wales, who, having looked the phrase up, must have wondered what the hell was wrong with a decent spear tackle?

The threat provoked a Russian spokesperson to publicly remind Abbott that Putin has a black belt in judo. So who knows, maybe rather than hoping for Abbott to fall off the face of the Earth, we just have to wait for Putin to meet Abbott's challenge head on in Brisbane.

In fact, rather than leave this to chance, we should organise a Putin-Abbott cage fight as a G20 side event. What's more, if the treasury ran a book on the event, we could even wipe out the budget deficit.

The stupidity of Abbott's threat actually helps cover up the stupidity of the reason for the threat — Abbott's insistence that Russia was in some way responsible for the shooting down of Flight MH17, in which 283 civilians, including 38 Australians, were killed.

But there is no serious evidence to suggest Russia had any hand in the shooting down the plane. It remains unclear who was responsible, with one study by the Russian Union of Engineers concluding the most likely culprit was a Ukrainian fighter jet.

For their part, the families of German MH17 victims are suing the Ukrainian authorities for their culpability in the tragedy — on the grounds they failed to close the airspace despite the obvious risks to a civilian flight.

But the really frightening thing about the “shirt front” threat is it wasn't even the most ridiculous, insane or dangerous thing Abbott said that day. It wasn't even close.

No, that was Abbott's statement at the opening of the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance Caval Ridge coalmine in central Queensland, that, “Coal is good for humanity”.

Yes, coal is good for humanity. Just like war is good for peace, cancer is good for health, and Justin Bieber is good for music.

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.