All hail Tony Abbott,globe-trotting expert of everything

Since the unravelling of his brief prime ministership and his subsequent dumping by the good electors of Warringah,Tony Abbott has emerged as a man of considerable expertise,opining on everything from the future of the Liberal Party,to climate policy,the lateShinzo Abe and now,the parlous state of Indian democracy.

Tony Abbott continues to flex his geopolitical expertise.

Tony Abbott continues to flex his geopolitical expertise.Shakespeare

The former PM will appear at a special event held by the Centre for Independent Studies,a conservative think tank,entitled “Indian democracy:troubled or triumphant”,to mark the country’s 75th year of independence.

It’s a topic worthy of serious discussion,given the well-documented erosion of democratic norms,press freedom and civil liberties in India since the election of Hindu nationalist Prime MinisterNarendra Modi in 2014.

But is Abbott really the man to do it? Well,the former somebody has form for offering his two-bob’s worth on the affairs of state of foreign nations. His memorable 2018exhortation to Britain to embrace a no-deal Brexit certainly hasn’t aged well,but he did end up scoring a Brexit trade envoy’s job with Her Majesty’s government a couple of years later. And last year,he was sent over to India as the Morrison government’s special trade envoy. Truly Mr Worldwide.

Joining Abbott will be University of Sydney associate professorSalvatore Babones – a guy who once called the US Capitol riots a “mostly peaceful protest”,so you know it’s going to be good stuff!

Sick burns

New Australian Medical Association presidentSteve Robson thinks he may have contracted COVID-19 in Sydney,where the union’s national conference was held over the weekend,after he woke up with a scratchy throat on Monday. The last CBD heard,he was awaiting the result of a PCR.

Robson said while the conference “was the most COVID-safe event I’ve been to” with “just about everyone” masked,the risk of contracting the virus on flights,in Ubers and at cafes around Sydney was significant as the city reached the peak of the current wave.

It’s an unfortunate time for Robson to be crook,as some of his comrades look to escalate their feud with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency over its attempt to get some medicos to cool it with the online commentary.

A few high-profile doctors,some of whom want a royal commission into the authority,have shot back – again. Melbourne paediatricianAndrew Watkins told theMedical Journal of Australia he was “particularly angry” over AHPRA’s “ridiculous” stance.

Former AMA president and ex-temporary Wentworth MPKerryn Phelps was a little more measured in her criticism,but she said doctors needed to be able to speak freely and publicly,and that outspoken medical professionals had a huge role to play in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

We wonder when federal Health MinisterMark Butler might decide to deploy a peacekeeping force.

Australian Broadcasting Cowed

The ABC has made good on its promise to appoint an ombudsman to head its editorial complaints unit:Australian Communications and Media Authority memberFiona Cameron has been given the nod.

Cameron’s appointment was announced in a long media release outlining her credentials. But while the statement did briefly mention her early career work as a federal government political adviser,it neglected to mention that the recipient of said advice was Howard-era communications ministerRichard Alston,one of the ABC’s most vocal critics.

Cameron was Alston’s chief of staff during the late 1990s. Her old boss,who would later accuse the public broadcaster of bias over its coverage of the Iraq invasion,has lost none of his anti-ABC fire. Recently,he published a book calledTheir ABC:Inside Australia’s Largest Sheltered Workshop,and called star7.30 chief political correspondentLaura Tingle “an absolute disgrace”.

Given that background,we reckon Cameron would be well-versed in dealing with complaints.

Also working in Alston’s office with Cameron was a youngPaul Fletcher,who as communications minister in the Morrison government pushed the ABC to investigate its complaints,helping kick off the process that led to Cameron’s appointment.

Perhaps someone at Aunty forgot that,with the Coalition in opposition,it no longer needs to bend over backwards to appease the Libs and Nats.

Bubble (scuttle)but

The second sitting week of the 47th parliament still felt a bit like a chaotic return to a new school year.Scott Morrison andBarnaby Joyce made their return to Canberra after missing week one. Morrison skipped to attend a conference in Tokyo backed by an eccentric Japanese religious leader,while Joyce was grieving the death of his father.

At least two MPs were lost to the inevitable Parliament House COVID-19 cluster:independentsHelen Haines andKate Chaney were sidelined. We’re surprised it’s not more,given the bubble was back in full swing – lobbyists roaming the building and filling Canberra’s worst establishments,not to mention Coalition MPs’ pointed reluctance to wear masks.

Meanwhile,some former ministerial offices are learning fast about the ignominy of being punted into opposition. CBD hears the Department of Home Affairs was busy requisitioning stationery,laptops and other office essentials from the staff ofKaren Andrews,formerly the portfolio minister turned shadow,leaving some of her new minions without essential equipment.

Things aren’t quite the same when you lose.

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Kishor Napier-Raman is a CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Previously he worked as a reporter for Crikey,covering federal politics from the Canberra Press Gallery.

Noel Towell is Economics Editor for The Age

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