The last thing the United States probably needs
right now is another Republican presidential
The race is already chock-a-block with
conservative white middle-aged men.
But if pledging an entirely different vision to Barack
Obama is a key credential of any serious
contender, the Australian Prime Minister Tony
Abbott would slot quite nicely into the Republican
field (notwithstanding his monarchist leanings).
Who knows what was discussed in the intimate
moments of chitchat when the two men met last
November at the G20 in Brisbane? (You’d have to
ask the koalas.)
But you can’t imagine the leaders see eye to eye
When Obama says yes, Abbott cries no.
When Obama turns left, Abbott veers right.
“Barry” goes for shrimp. Tony orders the prawns.
His legacy in mind, Mr Obama has recently
chalked up the legalisation of gay marriage and a
serious drive to tackle climate change.
Meanwhile, Mr Abbott is blocking attempts to
introduce same-sex marriage in Australia and has
said environmental concerns cannot take priority
over economic ones when it comes to tackling
The gay marriage issue in Australia is an
interesting one, not least because Tony Abbott, and
indeed politicians in general, are out of touch with
Polls show the majority of Australians support
And that’s why it’s a potentially dangerous issue
for Mr Abbott who admits to feeling “a bit
threatened” by homosexuality – even though his
own sister Christine is a lesbian.
And it’s not just the public Tony Abbott is out of
Some MPs within his own Liberal Party are in
favour of legalising gay marriage.
So if the prime minister continues to deny his
parliamentary colleagues a free conscience vote
on the issue, he risks alienating some within his
Of course, in both Australia and the United States
much of this comes down to political number
crunching rather than personal soul searching.
It’s important to remember that Mr Obama didn’t
come out firmly in favour of gay marriage until
Was this because his opinions on the matter had
“evolved”? Or was it because his pollsters and spin
doctors were telling him being anti-gay marriage
was no longer a net vote winner in modern
You could say the same in the United Kingdom
where in 2015 it would seem very old hat for a
leader of a mainstream political party to oppose
But in Australia, Mr Abbott is perhaps calculating
that the political maths do not yet persuade him to
change his position.
While the majority of Australians support gay
marriage, in key marginal constituencies, crucial to
electoral success, that is not necessarily the case.
And while the opposition Labor leader, Bill
Shorten, has pledged a bill to introduce gay
marriage within 100 days of being elected, many
MPs in marginal seats within his own party might
not necessarily back him.
Gay marriage is not an entirely left/right issue in
If we turn to the issue of climate change, Mr
Abbott and Mr Obama are also far from singing
from the same hymn sheet.
Announcing his action plan to tackle global
warming this month, the US leader said climate
change was the greatest threat the world faced.
Compare that to Tony Abbott this week as he
pledged to cut carbon emissions by at least 26%
by 2030, a target the Greens party called
“The last thing we want to do is protect the
environment and at the same damage the
economy,” said Mr Abbott.
Doesn’t sound quite such a committed tree-
hugger as Mr Obama does he?
Of course you could argue that Tony Abbott is just
being refreshingly honest.
After all, behind closed doors, most world leaders,
and indeed most people, would probably admit
they care more about a strong economy than
tackling climate change.
And that’s one reason why it’s important not to
underestimate Tony Abbott.
While his critics are quick to mock him for what
they see as his gaffes or outrageous remarks,
politically he seems to thrive on it.
Going back to those US Republican candidates,
you could say Tony Abbott has something of the
Donald Trump about him.
Both men trumpet their “plain speaking” and trash
Trump currently leads the Republican Presidential
And if there were to be an election in Australia
tomorrow, there’s a fair chance Tony could come
out on top too.