Politicians can generally expect a certain amount of ridicule when they take office. Everyone loves to make fun of people in power, but the current Australian prime minister has been getting more than his fair share of jokes. This is not simply an opposition laugh-fest or the normal humor at the expense of leading politicians. Instead, Tony Abbott is having a hard time in Australia because his monarchist policies are reaching ridiculous heights.
When Abbott announced that he was going to reinstate the orders of knights and dames for Australia, most people were so confused they could not help but laugh. Even his own cabinet and party members were surprised because other than discussing the matter as his personal desire, he had not mentioned it as a serious policy change. Out of the blue, he made the announcement to Parliament and created not only controversy and comedy, but some really fantastic puns.
The prime minister’s decision was “damed” from the start as even his political allies came out in disapproval of the measure. The worst for Abbott was his political hero, former Prime Minister John Howard, saying that he has not supported such a move nor would he accept a knighthood if it was offered to him. This was a blow for Abbott since it came from his hero, but some speculated that it was a personal disappointment for him since he privately intended to give Howard the honor, which was quite hilarious to those who do not like Abbott or his government. Any public humiliation was worth a laugh or two.
Less comically, the decision points to Abbott’s strong monarchist inclination, one that affects the current debate over Australia’s status as a British colony and whether it should become an independent republic on its own terms. Abbott has been on record as saying that Australian independence will not happen while he is prime minister and this move towards a monarchist honor is a symbol of that. More than any other move he has made so far in his administration, it shows just how firmly he is allied with Britain. This is not the most popular viewpoint in the country at this time and has no doubt contributed to the hard time Tony Abbott has been having recently.
It is important to note, however, that this stance is a recent change in the prime minister’s stance on the issue. In December of last year, he said he did not support restoring knights and dames to Australia, despite the fact that he resurrected an oath of allegiance to the Queen of England in his swearing-in ceremony. At the time, the media speculated that such a move would result in the outright mockery of the Liberal party to which Abbott belongs. It seems that they were completely correct in that assumption.
In a flip-flop worthy of Mitt Romney in the last presidential campaign, Tony Abbott has placed himself on the weaker side of the debate on republicanism for Australia. By making such a joke-worthy move without consulting his cabinet or apparently anyone else in his party, he has shown his stripe of monarchist support quite clearly. Not only does this give his political opponents something to attack him effectively on, it weakens his support within his own party. He is not making anything easy for himself at this rate.
The seriousness of the debate between remaining a colony and becoming an independent republic should not be included in the mockery going around at the moment. Scotland has announced that it possibly might make such a move and speculation over whether New Zealand is going to do the same. Australia could very well be the next country to contribute to the final breakdown of British Imperialism. But Abbott is doing everything he can in a bumbling, pun-worthy sort of way to prevent that from happening. His anglophilia is apparently so strong that he would make a politically indefensible move to prove it.
Abbott is no revolutionary. There will be no declaration of liberty or death and no Australian declaration of independence from him. Colony and monarchy jokes can continue indefinitely under his leadership. But people are not going to let him off easy. If he is going to put himself in the realm of absurdist comedy, he will be absurdly ridiculed for it. Even his allies will join in the fun and poor Tony Abbott will continue to have a hard time being a monarchist in Australia. No doubt he is enjoying the comedy far less than anyone else making puns in the headlines right now.
Opinion By Lydia Webb