‘If he’s elected as our PM in the future I would be very
scared for women everywhere.’ — Mia Freedman
When Julia Gillard — a woman who was unmarried and childless, and an atheist — became prime minister in 2010, Tony Abbott was left boiling with rage. Not only had he lost, but he had been defeated by a modern woman. For the time being, the ambitions of this fundamentalist Catholic and fiercely combative reactionary politician had been thwarted.
Tony Abbott, a former pugilist and would-be priest, has dedicated his public life to the prosecution of his deeply traditional values. A favoured son in his own family, and raised in a cloistered world of male institutions, he has always been drawn to powerful mentors from his own caste — priests, zealots, and father figures. Perhaps this is why so many voters, especially women, dislike him: they sense in Abbott’s default aggressiveness and lack of balance a man not attuned to their centre-of-the-road, secular interests.
In this blistering critique, Susan Mitchell explores how Australia’s would-be prime minister became the man he is today. He is at war, not just with the government, but in an unrelenting battle for the hearts and minds of the Australian people. There is still time, he believes, to achieve the position that his male mentors think he is destined to hold — that of leading the country back to ‘the proper order of things’. But is he the prime minister-in-waiting that the country has to have — or does he pose an unacceptable threat to his own party and to the nation?