These are dark times for would-be political satirists. We've now got a self-proclaimed “government of adults” headed by Tony Abbott and featuring the likes of Christopher Pyne and Cory Bernardi. These jokes are just impossible to top.
But the situation is getting worse. Abbott joined in the US-led condemnation of Russia for its “unacceptable behaviour” in militarily intervening in Crimea, insisting on March 2: “You cannot just cross the border of another country with military force, with aggressive intent.”
It is really kinda hard to know how to respond to such a statement because it is nearly impossible to believe you are meant to take it seriously. It is as if Abbott is expecting his audience to respond with an outburst of laughter and a chorus of “Great one, Tony! Cannot cross another nation's border! HAHAHA, I bet that joke slays them in Kabul!”
And surely Abbott was poking fun at himself when he told Russian President Vladimir Putin to “back off”.
He cannot actually expect Putin to be sitting in the Kremlin only for an adviser to rush in to inform him of Australia's strongly worded stance, with Putin responding: “What, the country that participated and strongly backed the US-led illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan on entirely false pretenses that killed hundreds of thousands of people?”
“Yes Mr president, that's them.”
“The nation that has been caught repeatedly violating the sovereignty of its nearest neighbours by carrying out wholesale spying operations against them?”
“Yes, Mr president. The nation that has also just been caught repeatedly violating its maritime border with Indonesia in a bid to force back desperate people seeking asylum in actions that have killed at least three people.”
“Right, well why did no one tell me this sooner? Get me Crimea on the phone, if the Australians say this is morally wrong, we're pulling out!”
The actual response, should Putin have been informed of the news of Abbott's chest beating, would no doubt have been a bemused Russian president asking: “Sorry, why do I care what the Austrians think again?”
I am really starting to believe that Abbott must go home after press conferences and complain to wife Margie: “I just don't get it, no one laughed again! And that bit about respecting other nations' sovereignty is my best line!”
But the point at which I figured I might as well give up and, rather than actually try to write a column, just print Abbott's press releases verbatim, was when Abbott delivered his March 4 speech praising the logging industry as the “ultimate conservationists”.
Abbott told the Australian Forest Products Association that his government fully supported the timber industry, saying: “We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.”
Abbott's justification? When he looked at his audience of logging company reps, he said: “I don't see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists.”
"I salute you,” said Abbott, “as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us.” We can only assume they were rolling in the aisles.
Presumably, the next night, Abbott fronted a tobacco industry dinner to praise those present as “the ultimate fighters of cancer” before heading to a Qantas function to praise the company for its recent work in job creation.
In his speech, Abbott complained that the “Green” ideology was destroying Tasmania, and said: “It's got the lowest life expectancy in our country. It's got the lowest education attainments in our country.”
Because if there is one thing all the research points to as a key cause of early deaths and lack of educational ambition, it is an over-abundance of old-growth forests. Too many trees and you just lose the will to live, much less bother with higher education.
But Abbott went on to point to the island's high unemployment rate. And fair enough, because when you think of the Abbott government, one of the first thing that comes to mind is “jobs”.
True, usually associated with headlines featuring phrases like “more to go” or “thousands under threat”, but still, when Abbott insists jobs are a key issue for his government, the evidence is he is not, for once, actually lying. He may, however, be trying out new material, and you have to admit, Abbott claiming to support jobs is quite a joke.