The Tony Abbott Rage Controller

A day-to-day guide on how to read the news without punching yourself repeatedly in the face.

by Lee Zachariah
Aug 17 2015, 11:50pm

Image by Ben Thomson

Prime Minister Tony Abbott didn't have a great week last week. It came right in the middle of the not-great month he's having, which is the eighth consecutive one in this not-great year, which is smack dab in the middle of his not-great first term.

But there is one thing going for him: it's impossible to know what we should be the most outraged about. If you're a progressive Australian citizen (which, in the current political climate, includes anyone slightly to the left of Anton Drexler), then you may be facing a form of analysis paralysis. When a government does one outrageous thing, it's a very simple matter to concentrate your ire. When it's two or three, maintaining focus is still fairly straightforward. But when you're staring at an oncoming avalanche of poor governance and disastrous decisions, it feels pretty futile to point to the single snowball you're most incensed about.

Perhaps that's part of the strategy. Maybe next week Abbott will invade the Arctic or try to remove the semi-vowels from the constitution because he knows that news is a zero sum game: there's only so much time you can devote to writing or reading about his nonsense before it's just too much. The more time you spend outraged about an oil painting of the Duke of Edinburgh replacing the Aboriginal flag, the less time you can devote to the live export of ABC presenters to a small Pacific atoll.

It's a cunning-as-fuck plan, and it's worked well... until now. We've taken the time to devise a system to combat this distraction. Call it a schedule, call it a diet, whatever. The point is that if you keep to this, you'll no longer struggle to focus your rage.


You don't want to exert yourself right at the start of the week. You want to begin with something you can ease into, so Mondays will be devoted to the ongoing war the Abbott government is waging on the ABC.

For a government that seems sporadically intent on protecting unpopular views, it has leapt upon a single comment made on the ABC by a non-ABC employee during a program set up specifically by Liberal Prime Minister John Howard to ensure conflicting views are aired *pauses for breath* in order to advance their agenda of defunding and dismantling the public broadcaster.

Monday is the day that you can tweet, Facebook, and generally bitch about the incredibly selective war against the ABC. You'll never be short on fodder for this.


On Tuesday, you'll want to shift to the environment and climate change. There's a metric carbon ton to cover here. Whether it's Abbott directing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to not invest in wind power for some reason, or his opinion that coal is "good for humanity", a view he apparently inherited from Mr Snrub, there's always something going on in this area.

If you have time, dive past the headlines and look at just how ineffective Abbott's new climate policy is, and examine how it's purely created to deflect Labor attacks. Or the fact that Kiribati is begging for a worldwide moratorium on new coal mine projects so it doesn't have to transition from terranean to aquatic. A plea that is, in Australia at least, falling on deaf ears.

Remember, all the smartest people in the world (who are busy not governing Australia) have said we're pretty much at the point of no return when it comes to catastrophic climate change. On the other hand, coal good for humanity.


If you're upset at the treatment of Indigenous Australians AND you hate humpday, why not combine them? Spend your Wednesday focusing on the truly ridiculous path that Tony Abbott is leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Australians down.

The quest for constitutional recognition—the fairly un-outrageous idea that we could perhaps mention that an entire race of people were living here for thousands of years before the rest of us turned up a few years back—is a tough one. And even if you personally don't think that such a change should be a priority, we can at least agree that a change to Section 25 of the constitution, which still astonishingly permits the government to discriminate against any race it feels like, is a bit overdue.

This is an issue that goes back decades and decades, so it's not all on Abbott. But after claiming he would be "a Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs", he has essentially done the opposite: closing down remote communities because living there is a "lifestyle choice", cutting millions of dollars from Indigenous programs, and telling Indigenous Australians they can't decide how they would like to be represented in the constitution because it could lead to "something akin to a log of claims". That's just the last few months, incidentally.

If you can spend a day each week on this issue, you're doing much better than Abbott, who promised to spend a week each year in an Indigenous community, and then promptly broke that promise halfway through the first week.


Whether you call it Marriage Equality, Gay Marriage, or Holy Fuck Why Are We Still Debating This, Abbott's approach to gay marriage has been the strangest of all. So determined is he to prevent his sister from getting married, he's bent over backwards to prevent it happening, spending political capital he simply doesn't have. Maybe he can borrow some from China.

With many even within the Liberal Party hoping for a bill on same sex marriage, Abbott twisted himself in knots to prevent this from happening, and was accused by Christopher Pyne of "branch stacking". Christopher. Pyne. When Pyne's telling you to tap the brakes, you have to ask how far from the pack you've strayed.

But either way, it sounds like the only way gay marriage will take place under an Abbott government is via a plebiscite. Plebiscites are votes that are only wheeled out for the most important of decisions, like the issue of conscription in 1916 and 1917, and when we had to vote on a National Song in 1977. That's it. Same sex marriage would be the fourth plebiscite, joining a truly eclectic club.

You should feel free to devote all of Thursday to getting upset about this. Or maybe you'd prefer to react against Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi's Socratic assertion that gay marriage shouldn't be legal because children should have both a mother and a father, despite gay adoption already being well and truly legal. Or you can get upset at the somehow-more-absurd argument put forward by Eric Abetz that gays don't actually want marriage! There's really just so much to choose from.


That leaves Friday to the plight of asylum seekers. With allegations that women and children are being raped, men are being murdered, and kids as young as six are trying to commit suicide, a single day may seem like a paltry amount of time to devote to this. And it is.

To be fair, the Abbott government has acted on these allegations, cracking down on whistleblowers who attempt to speak out about what's going on in detention centres. Because not hearing about atrocities is the same as atrocities not happening. It's a pretty philosophical position. But whistleblowers are the only real way we can find out what's actually happening, given the press have been shut out of Naura and Manus Island. Just to clarify, we're talking about Australia, not North Korea.

Placing a bet that this will be remembered as one of the most shameful chapters in Australian history gives you better odds than Powerball.


It's the weekend! That means it's Cheat Day. Throw the outrage diet out the window, and just rant about whatever takes your fancy.

Maybe you're upset that the already suspiciously partisan Royal Commission into Trade Unions is being headed up by a man who was scheduled to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser until he got called by a journalist. Or maybe you want to read up on fact that an Australian Senator was spied on in her hotel room during a trip in which she was trying to find out what was happening in detention centres. Or maybe you're concerned about the manufactured ramp-up in national security news items between now and the election.

And that's just from this week. There'll be more next week.


Take a day off, for Christ's sake. You need it.

Follow Lee on Twitter

Like this article? Then like VICE on Facebook for more political content