What a self destructive Pathetic Attempted Hit Piece against Abbott. Propaganda masquerading as scholarship. Here’s a book that I will definitely not be buying. Susan Mitchell’s bizarre rant about Tony Abbott is riddled with errors of fact, and …. According to The Age, … Mitchell didn’t even bother to interview Tony Abbott before writing A Man’s Man.
FACTUAL ERRORS AND TENDENTIOUS CLAIMS IN SUSAN MITCHELL’S POLEMIC TONY ABBOTT: A MAN’S MAN (Scribe, 2011)
Susan Mitchell’s Anti-Catholic Sectarianism
In the Acknowledgements section of her book Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man, Susan Mitchell praised Scribe managing director Henry Rosenbloom “for his impeccable taste and fine-tuning”. Dr Mitchell’s book is essentially an anti-Catholic sectarian rant in which the author claims that the Opposition leader “never left the Catholic Church”. Mitchell’s anti-Catholic sectarianism was analysed by Gerard Henderson in his Sydney Morning Herald column on 4 October 2011 – here. The focus of this MWD analysis turns on Mitchell’s factual errors – which Rosenbloom left uncorrected in the text – along with some tendentious claims which are not supported by evidence.
Susan Mitchell’s Howlers
▪ Page 3. Susan Mitchell writes that Tony Abbott is “also opposed to RU 486 (the morning-after pill)”. In fact, RU 486 and the morning-after pill are not the same. Abbot publicly opposed the former (RU 486) – but not the latter.
▪ Page 4. According to Susan Mitchell, “an analytical study of the results of the 2010 election show that Tony Abbott had “a woman problem”.
Since the last election was nearly a dead-heat between Labor (led by Julia Gillard) and the Coalition (led by Tony Abbott) – if Mr Abbott had a “women problem” at the August 2010 election then, to be consistent, Ms Gillard must have had a “men” problem”. Yet no such claim is made in the book.
▪ Page 5. Mitchell claims:
Even now, when the polls demonstrate the Coalition’s lead over the Labor Party, and Abbott’s current dominance over Julia Gillard as the country’s preferred leader, there is still a consistent lack of approval for him from women.
Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man coincided with the release of Newspoll’s reanalysis of surveys conducted over July-August 2011 (The Australian, 27 September 2011). According to Newspoll, some 39 per cent of female voters think that Gillard would make a better prime minister than Abbott – compared with 37 per cent of female voters who think that Abbott would make a better prime minister than Gillard. In other words, Susan Mitchell’s assertion is not supported by evidence.
▪ Page 5. Mitchell claims that “every one of Abbott’s policies has been reduced to simplistic mantras beginning with the word ‘stop’ or ‘kill’”. This is mere hyperbole – unsupported by any evidence of any kind. For example, Abbott’s parental leave plan does not commence with mantras such as “stop” or “kill”.
▪ Page 11. According to Mitchell:
The Jesuits are the intellectuals of the Catholic teaching orders, open only to men of the highest intelligence.
▪ Page 14. According to Mitchell, Tony Abbott had an “adoring father who believed that not only was his son brighter than his intellectually superior Jesuit teachers, but that he could do no wrong”.
This is pure mythology. Many teachers at Jesuit run schools in the 1960s and 1970s were laymen – who were neither priests nor Jesuits.
▪ Page 15. Mitchell writes:
During his time in power, Menzies had rebuilt the conservatives and skilfully manipulated the anti-communist fears of the Cold War in the population. In 1954, he had engineered a massive scare campaign based on the defection of Vladimir Petrov, a junior diplomat and Russian KGB agent, who claimed there was a large spy ring operating in Australia that included members of the Labor Party. This accusation caused great turbulence in the party.
This is an old-fashioned leftist conspiracy theory. If Mitchell has read such books as Robert Manne The Petrov Affair, David McKnight Australia’s Spies and their Secrets, Desmond Ball and David Horner Breaking the Codes : Australia’s KGB Network and Mark Aarons The Family File, she would be aware that (i) Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia Petrov were among the most important Soviet diplomats to defect to the West during the Cold War, (ii) there was a spy ring operating in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s and (iii) some spies for the Soviet Union in Australia were members of the ALP while most were members of the Communist Party of Australia.
▪ Page 15. Mitchell claims that, following the defection of Vladimir Petrov:
Eventually, a split resulted in the emergence of a right-wing Catholic splinter group that became the Democratic Labor Party, which helped keep Labor out of power for a generation by giving its preferences at elections to the conservatives. Bartholomew Augustine (“B.A.” or “Bob”) Santamaria was their evangelistic leader.
More mythology. The principal cause of the Labor Split of 1955-1957 was the erratic behaviour of the then Labor leader Dr Bert Evatt. The Democratic Labor Party was not a “Catholic group”. Its inaugural leader, Robert Joshua, was not a Catholic. Nor was Jack Little, the DLP Senator for Victoria between 1968 and 1974. B.A. Santamaria was never even a member of the DLP – although he had some influence, but no more than influence, within the party.
▪ At Page 19, Mitchell writes:
During his university days, Abbott was heavily influenced by his mentor, B.A. Santamaria, the evangelical-like leader of the Democratic Labor Party and the man responsible for the split in the ALP, which helped keep it out of the office for 23 years.
As discussed, Santamaria was never the “leader of the Democratic Labor Party”. Nor was Santamaria “responsible for the split in the ALP”. The highlight of the Split occurred in 1955 when seven Federal Labor members crossed the floor and voted with Robert Menzies’ Coalition government. They were Tom Andrews, Bill Bourke, Bill Bryson, Jack Cremean, Robert Joshua, Stan Keon and John Mullens. Of this group, only Andrews and Mullens were close to Santamaria. Santamaria did not control the likes of Keon, Bryson, Cremean and Joshua. And Bourke disliked Santamaria.
▪ At Page 21 Mitchell writes:
Abbott also loved the aggression with which Santamaria had smashed the power of the communists, whom he believed were infiltrating the trade unions in the 1950s. Santamaria’s favourite tactic was to create a climate of fear and terror by the use of inflated rhetoric7.
▪ At Page 24, Mitchell writes:
The National Civic Council was aggressively hostile to the new social movements such as feminism and gay liberation: Robert Manne noted that when Abbott joined, it was characterised by a “profound hostility to the new social movements – feminism, gay liberationism, environmentalism”. Santamaria was a political and religious zealot, and so was Abbott: “Santamaria believed that a New Dark Age was approaching, like at the time of the fall of Rome…the role of young Catholics like Tony Abbott was to devote their lives to the grand battle to save civilisation and turn back the cultural tide”.
▪ At Page 53, Mitchell writes with reference to Christopher Pearson:
During his university days, he [Pearson] also voted for the ALP at state elections, marched in the anti-Vietnam moratoriums, and registered as a conscientious objector – all common political activities for students in the 1970s (except, of course, for Tony Abbott).
▪ At Page 65-66 Mitchell writes, that at the 1998 Constitutional Convention, Abbott “backed Howard’s preference for the McGarvie model, in which the president of the republic would be nominated by a council of three wise elders”. In fact, John Howard always supported the continuation of Australia’s constitutional monarchy – and did not support any of the proposed republican models, including that proposed by one-time governor of Victoria Richard McGarvie. This is made clear in John Howard’s autobiography Lazarus Rising. As Howard points out, the prominent Liberals who supported the McGarvie model were Peter Costello, David Kemp and Jeff Kennett. Howard opposed the McGarvie model.
▪ At Page 81 Mitchell refers to Liberal MP Don Randall as being “a member of the Queensland right-wing conservatives then representing the Swan electorate”. Mr Randall is a West Australian.
▪ At Page 86. Mitchell writes:
When [Cheryl] Kernot ran for the Senate again in 2010, she did not secure a seat. We can only speculate as to the reasons for this, but it is likely that the damage that Abbott and [Laurie] Oakes had done to her career almost a decade earlier had played a role.
The fact is that Cheryl Kernot announced her intention to contest the 2010 Senate as an independent relatively late in the election campaign. She did not head a political party. Moreover, Kernot had no campaign and no funds. She was never likely to win a Senate vacancy, irrespective of the likes of Laurie Oakes or Tony Abbott.
▪ At Page 128, Mitchell writes:
By early June , Rudd’s approval ratings were dropping and Abbott’s were rising. On the evening of 23 June, Julia Gillard spent two-and-a-half hours in Kevin Rudd’s office, having been told by key Labor powerbrokers that she had the numbers to win a leadership challenge. On 24 June, just before Question Time, Gillard sounded out a select group of cabinet colleagues, after which she agreed to challenge Rudd in a leadership ballot. Rudd at first decided to fight, but eventually stepped down when he saw that he didn’t have the numbers to win.
This is hopelessly wrong. Julia Gillard announced on the night of 23 June 2010 that she was intending to challenge Kevin Rudd. Rudd, realising that he did not have the numbers in the Labor Caucus, stepped down as prime minister during the morning of 24 June. Ms Gillard was sworn in as prime minister of Australia at 1 pm on Thursday 24 June 2010. This was well before Question Time, which commenced at 2 pm. This can be ascertained by going toYouTube.
▪ At Page 138, Mitchell writes:
On 14 September 2010, Julia Gillard was sworn is in the first Australian female prime minister by the first Australian female governor-general.
Once again, this is hopelessly wrong. Julia Gillard was sworn in as the first female prime minister on 24 June 2010. She contested the August 2010 election as the incumbent prime minister. Mitchell and Rosenbloom should know this. Clearly Scribe does not employ a fact-checker.
▪ At Page 139, Mitchell writes that, following Julia Gillard’s formation of a minority government:
He [Abbott’s] first reaction, born of rage, was to declare that Gillard’s government was illegitimate, and to consider refusing to grant supply. This was the equivalent of throwing a bomb into our system of democratic government. Wiser heads must have dissuaded him from considering this course of action, as he didn’t pursue it.
Tony Abbott never spoke about refusing supply to the Gillard Government. No source of any kind is cited by Mitchell for her wild assertion.
▪ At Page 163, Mitchell writes:
It took the news of a massacre of more than 70 innocent people in Norway by a white Christian far-right extremist to stop all talk of killing anyone. Chilling, too, was the praise of John Howard, Archbishop Pell, and Keith Windschuttle that appeared in the murderer’s manifesto. This man was not mad; he just saw himself as an instrument of a cause far greater than himself, and he believed that his mission was to destroy those who opposed him.
Anders Behring Breivik, in his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, wrote favourably of Australia’s border protection and unwillingness to appease Islam. He then murdered scores of non-Muslim Norwegians. For the record, the Norway judicial system has yet to determine whether Breivik is sane. Once again, Mitchell just made this up.
▪ At Pages 168-169 Mitchell writes:
The previous Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull, is so broadly popular with both Labor and Liberal voters that he may ultimately defeat those conservative members of the Coalition who have taken control of the party under the leadership of Tony Abbott.
There is no evidence to support Mitchell’s assertion that Malcolm Turnbull is popular with Liberal voters. Moreover, the leader of the Liberal Party is elected by Liberal MPs – not by the Coalition, which comprises Liberals and Nationals. Susan Mitchell is one of many Labor or Greens voters who want Turnbull to lead the Opposition at the next election.
Apart from her evident sectarianism, Susan Mitchell clearly dislikes Tony Abbott because she regards him as a proud-and-out heterosexual who once expressed views that the focus of women should be on domestic duties and who had older male role models. Apparently, according to Dr Mitchell, this makes Abbott unsuitable to become prime minister. However, she is not on record as finding that such traits should have hindered the likes of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating – and John Curtin – from making it to The Lodge in Canberra.
In her 1982 book Robert J Hawke: A Biography, Blanche d’Alpuget wrote about Hawke’s “emotional relationships with older men”. In his 1996 book Keating: The Inside Story, John Edwards recorded that in his first speech in 1970 Paul Keating suggested that governments should act “to put the working wife back in her home”. Keating then believed that, wherever possible, mothers should be at home with the children.
Both Hawke and Keating became successful prime ministers. Yet, according to Mitchell, the case against Abbott includes the fact that he “has been very reliant on a series of older male mentors throughout his life” (Page 3) and because he once supported the idea that “women belonged in the home and the kitchen as wives and mothers” (Page 22).
On the Showdown program on Sky News last Tuesday, Susan Mitchell acknowledged that her book on Tony Abbott was “a polemic”. She should have added that it was replete with errors and should have confessed that Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe does not have a fact-checker.