Goebbels Gaffe: Distasteful, But Abbott No Worse Than His Critics

TWO WRONGS do not make a right, and the use of personalised Nazi slurs in Australian politics is, on balance, a practice best avoided. Yet the depiction of ALP “leader” Bill Shorten as “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy” is no worse than similar smears used against Tony Abbott, and other Liberals, by Labor: including by some who now feign outrage. The thrust of Abbott’s remarks, however — that Shorten is a bullshit artist — remains accurate.

Having long been active in Melbourne’s political and business circles, it probably comes as no surprise that I have a number of associates and cherished close friends who are Jewish; yet even if this were not so, I have never had any time for anti-Semitic filth, and I make no defence of others who see slurs against Jews as an acceptable form of discourse.

Yet when Prime Minister Tony Abbott got himself into trouble earlier this year over his use of the term “Holocaust” to describe an employment crisis, this column remained silent; that word — replete with its evocative imagery of the evils inflicted on the Jewish people during World War II, and rightly so — has plenty of other applications in the English language that ostensibly have nothing to do with Jews at all. Do we associate “a nuclear holocaust” as a smear against Jewish people? Of course not.

And given prominent figures on the Left have seen no bar to the use of “holocaust” themselves, I opted not to dignify the hypocrisy with comment.

But Abbott today finds himself under fire again, this time for his description of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten as “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy,” and whilst this description is tasteless (and would perhaps best have been avoided), it has been blown out of all proportion by Australia’s outrage industry, sections of the Left-leaning press salivating over anything it can turn into indignant attack material against Abbott, and by the Labor Party — including some of its MPs who it seems have chosen to hurl stones at Abbott from their brittle glass houses.

Abbott’s comments, made in the context of remarks from Shorten in 2012 that the Gillard government had “brought the budget back to surplus” — the deficit continues to stand at some $50bn annually, with Labor under Shorten explicitly refusing to allow savings measures aimed at redressing it to pass the Senate — sought to portray the Labor “leader” as a propagandist, a snake oil salesman, and a bullshit artist.

Shorten is certainly all of those things, and more.

But I think the invocation of Third Reich imagery — on all sides of politics — is, whilst perhaps mostly not the hanging offence the sanctimoniously aggrieved political opportunists might suggest, nevertheless a practice that should be summarily dispensed with.

Even so, the most outraged of Labor’s MPs — shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC, also Jewish — had neither the right nor the standing to profess offence, having himself accused Abbott of “Goebellian cynicism” four years ago, over the latter’s campaign against Labor’s carbon tax.

Federal Labor has been free with its Nazi portrayals of both Tony Abbott and others in the Liberal Party for many years, as this report in today’s Herald Sun evidences.

And anyone who has studied politics at an Australian university knows that interaction with even Labor’s youngest and greenest acolytes quickly uncovers a narrative of all conservatives as “Fascists,” and the ALP’s use of Nazi insults is an old story, not a new one: a ready example is Labor’s decades-long likening of former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen to Adolf Hitler personally — a practice that continues many years after Joh’s death — and routinely saw Labor protests in Queensland featuring collateral portraying the Queensland Premier with swastikas, dressed in Nazi uniform, and other examples of the conduct is now seeks to decry.

Its demonisation of Campbell Newman was enacted, in part at least, on exactly the same basis.

Can I just say that whilst throwing Nazi insults at each other is a practice that our politicians would be best served avoiding, the assumption of some moral high ground by the ALP is every but as repugnant as the words it seeks to crucify Abbott over: were we to catalogue every Nazi insult levelled publicly against conservative figures by the ALP, we would be here for a very, very, very long time indeed.

And that doesn’t make it right either.

Tony Abbott is of course no saint and, like anyone else, comes with his faults.

But I am getting really tired of beat-ups in the national press, seeking to crucify him over relatively trivial incidents, as often as not aimed at the Prime minister from a position of utter hypocrisy, and all concerned with the destruction of a Liberal Prime Minister at any cost.

Any genuine regard (in this case) for the sensitivities of the Jewish community Labor purports to express outrage on behalf of is, as best, an afterthought: not least when the likes of Dreyfus have been guilty of throwing the very same taunts at their opposite numbers when it has suited them.

Yes, Shorten is a complete bullshit artist; only an idiot would pay any attention to the story he seeks to peddle. Yes, Abbott could have better chosen his remarks, and it’s not the first time such an observation could be made of the Prime Minister: he hasn’t needed to invoke the spectre of the Nazi Party to attract controversy in the past.

And two wrongs certainly do not make a right.

But in the final analysis, this — like Abbott’s “job holocaust” remark — is little more than a storm in a teacup, and what currently passes for political discourse in this country serves it badly enough as it is without cynical ALP MPs trying to create major political controversies from such trifling errors as Abbott made yesterday.

Everyone should grow up, smarten up, and move on: and leave the Nazi jibes out of the political arsenal, where they have no place anyway.