Abbott’s Right-Hand Man

by on 26 February, 2013

Abetz RathChris Rath praises the character of Senator The Hon. Eric Abetz: 

In the political world there will always be the purists and
the pragmatists, the idealists and the realists, the ideologues and the
ambitious. Nobody better straddles this divide in the Liberal Party than
Senator the Hon Eric Abetz. Libertarians and conservatives alike should feel at
ease that the next Leader of the Government in the Senate and one of the most
senior members of the Abbott Cabinet will be one of us. Senator Abetz is a fusionist
(economic liberal/social conservative) and a culture warrior for the right.
Unlike some of his colleagues he did not enter politics for personal glory; his
politics is about fighting for the cause. He leaves the limelight for others,
yet everyday he puts on his armour, travels deep into the jungle of the left,
and fights the gorillas head on, whether they be in the Labor
, the
, the
gay marriage lobby
, the
trade union bosses
, the
or any dangerous
form of 'ism' that threatens Western Civilisation
. However, Abetz is not a
firebrand nor a day dreamer, he is of the belief that it is better to get 80%
of something than 100% of nothing. He is effortlessly both Leader of the
Opposition in the Senate and one of the most conservative members of the Abbott

I was fortunate to meet Senator Abetz in his Hobart office
on the 1st February 2013 where we spent a solid hour over coffee
discussing a myriad of political issues. This was just two days after Gillard
called the election and the day after Thomson was charged with 154
fraud offences
. He was extremely busy, however Abetz has always been
generous with the time he gives to Young Liberals. Abetz came from humble
beginnings and was not born into the Liberal Party establishment or the ‘big
end of town’. He was born in Germany and migrated with his family on an assisted passage to Tasmania where his father
found employment on the Hydro Scheme. No doubt he learnt the virtues of hard
work and initiative whilst working as a part-time
taxi driver and a farm hand alongside studying his Law and Arts Degrees at the
University of Tasmania
. Abetz looks back fondly on his university days
where he took the fight to the socialist left and earned his political stripes.
After university Abetz was a practicing lawyer, however, he made a deliberate
point of telling me that it was not in the corporate sector or government but
instead working directly with individuals and their legal problems, “a good
training ground for a political career” he explained.

Whilst the ALP has strong formalised factions, the Liberal
Party does not. However, Senator Abetz gives the conservative movement within
the Party meaning and direction; he is regarded as the leader of the Federal
Right. When I met with Abet, he proudly recounted the election of Tony Abbott
as leader of the Liberal Party and the rejection of the Emission Trading
Scheme. He reported that some Liberals wanted to jettison all of the policies and
values of the Howard years. This created a “crisis in confidence” in the
Liberal Party and we became a pale imitation of the Labor Party. However, when
I asked him if this was his proudest achievement in politics he was quick to
remind me that politics is about service and not about personal achievement. He
then reminisced on the small ways in which he had helped constituents, such as
assisting an adopted lady track down her birth certificate; she had been
waiting a lifetime.

Senator Abetz’s Christian worldview is that we are all
called to serve, but not necessarily to succeed
. He also answered that his
favourite book is the bible and then explained how there is no such thing as a
neutral or unbiased worldview. At this stage I remembered the time he addressed
the Mainstream
Policy Forum in Sydney
: “that is why when the odd journalist seeks to
introduce me as someone from the religious right, I ask whether opponents will
be classified as being from the godless-Left. Have you noticed – no one ever
has been so introduced. Why? Because the thinking – deficient as it is –
presumes that godless-Left is the neutral and thus a superior position for
public policy making.” It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Senator
Abetz is the conscience of Australian Conservatism.

Upon leaving Senator Abetz’s office he gave me the guarantee
that an Abbott Government will abolish the carbon tax and mining tax and will
adamantly support free speech, particularly through abolishing 18C of the
Racial Discrimination Act (the Andrew Bolt Clause). He also gave the commitment
that he personally would do everything in his power to protect the institution
of marriage, defend Australia’s constitutional monarchy and advocate for the
abolition of the Student Services Amenities Fee. However, when asked about his
own portfolio area and whether we can expect much needed workplace relations
reform, the pragmatic Abetz surfaces. Abetz proposes cracking down on union
militancy and reinstating the Australian
Building and Construction Commission
, however, he also understands that
radical workplace changes have negative electoral implications. There will be
more freedom and productivity in the workplace under an Abbott-Abetz Government,
but perhaps not as much freedom as us free marketeers would like.   

Overall Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz is a very inspiring and
successful fusionist politician who excels as a warrior within Australia’s
culture war. He is a man of integrity and ambition who looks up to Thatcher and
Reagan for inspiration, but ultimately to Christ before any others. The Abbott
Government will be a reformist and effective conservative Government because
Abbott’s excellent judgment will be further strengthened with the wisdom and
values of people in his cabinet like Senator the Hon Eric Abetz.

Rath has just completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney and
has commenced a Masters of Management. He is President of the Throsby Young
Liberal Branch and works as an adviser to a Liberal Parliamentarian.    

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