'Abbott as a leader had his snout deeply into the public trough to fund his excursions around the country for recreation and entertainment.' Photo: Wayne Taylor
We know that you expect us to be as frugal and prudent with your money, which we hold on trust from you, as you would be with your own hard-earned savings.
Tony Abbott, policy speech, August 25, 2013.
The Prime Minister is a bludger. A loaded word, I know, but it is a perfectly good Australian expression and it describes exactly what Tony Abbott was up to as he swanned around from bike ride to fun run at the taxpayers' expense. He was bludging on us.
The greed and gall are eye-watering. To throw up a few of the more brazen examples: a one-day trip to the 2011 Birdsville races cost us $12,482 in charter flights, he hit us for $9347.12 for another chartered plane to the 2012 Tamworth Country Music Festival, and $5622.73 for yet another private flight to the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar races in 2011.
He did manage the 2010 Melbourne Cup a little more cheaply, slumming it with the peasants on a regular airline flight, but with his wife Margaret and daughter Frances in tow that gouged us for $2376.87. We bought the plane tickets for all three.
On and on it went. We were lumbered with the bill for triathlons and ocean swims and bike-athons. Abbott, as leader of the opposition, had his snout deeply into the public trough to fund his excursions around the country for recreation and entertainment. Time and again.
No doubt there was some politicking involved in a few of these frolics. The Tamworth Music festival was held bang in the middle of the federal seat of New England, which the Coalition was keen to claw back from the independent Tony Windsor. It is safe to assume he went there to drum up votes rather than to enjoy the undoubted delights of Ah Bin So Blue Since Mah Baby Done Left Me, etc. The public purse was funding what was, in effect, a perpetual election campaign.
Abbott is unrepentant. At the APEC summit in Bali, pausing in his energetic diplomatic round of apologising to Asian leaders he offended while in opposition, he blithely assured a news conference that he had done nothing wrong. These frolics were ''official business'' or ''community events''. Best of all, his annual Pollie Pedal excursion was ''a serious act of community engagement''. The dough will not be paid back.
While we are at it, let's hear it for Barnaby Joyce and his junket to the ''mind blowing'' wedding thrown by the Indian squillionaire industrialist G.V. Krishna Reddy in 2011. The outward trip was funded by Gina Rinehart. We punters picked up the airfare of $5500 for Barnaby and wife on the homeward leg from Malaysia, where he spent an afternoon in Kuala Lumpur.
This he justified as a study tour, reporting back the stunning news that ''Malaysia has recently experienced high levels of economic growth'', and that ''proximate to Kuala Lumpur and running to Singapore are substantial freeways that would look quite in place in an Australian major capital city''.
Economic growth! Freeways! These cunning Asians will stop at nothing. How fortunate we are to have elected representatives of such piercing intellect and towering moral rectitude to deal with this mounting threat from the north.
A few years ago - 2006, to be exact - I boldly predicted here that rugby league would be ''on a slow but inexorable decline''.
There was a case to be made. The game was in a slump on and off the field. Every week there was another ugly ''nightclub incident''. Some big stars were switching to rugby union, and NRL crowds were down by 10 per cent on the previous year.
''The once mighty Roosters, now bumping along near the bottom of the comp, have lost around 23 per cent of their home game fans,'' I wrote. ''Union, with the glamour and money of big time international football, will cream off more and more league players and crowds''
Ahem. Such are the pitfalls of crystal ball-gazing in sport. Leaguies keep writing to remind me of this wretched excess and they have been again since, er, the Roosters won this year's premiership.
OK, I give in. League has never looked better and union has rarely looked worse. The NSW Waratahs have been a sorry disappointment again this season. And the Wallabies have been crap all year, a team that cannot decide who will play at five-eighth for two games in a row.
Australia had a record win over Argentina last weekend, 54-17 and seven tries to two, but I did not bother to watch it. A lot of my friends didn't either.
We are tired of the bungled passes and dropped balls and missed tackles and pointless kicking and idiotic scrum penalties and butchered tries and - most of all - the repeated promise that all will be well if ''we can just get the little things right''.
The Wallabies tour of Europe starts next month. I have given up predicting, but I am prepared for the worst.
We have the late Chopper Read to thank for one of the truly great moments in Australian television.
It was 1998. The colourful old killer had made a drunken appearance on an ABC chat show hosted by Libbi Gorr, aka Elle McFeast, the two of them wallowing in sexual innuendo that outraged the Taste and Decency Police.
On Channel Nine's The Midday Show the next day, that stalwart guardian of public morals, Alan Jones, was waxing hot to Kerri-Anne Kennerley.
''It could only happen on the ABC, and taxpayers fund that sort of stuff,'' he fumed. ''And I think responsible and decent Australians find that whole treatment absolutely horrific and appalling.'' (APPLAUSE)
At which point, as if by magic, Chopper himself appeared on the telephone.
''People who throw stones better make sure they don't live in glasshouses, Alan,'' he barked. ''We're not talking about anyone living in glasshouses, Chopper,'' retorted the great broadcaster.
Read hit back with the lethal force that had made him feared and famous in the criminal milieu. ''Yeah, well I never got arrested in a public toilet in London,'' he snarled.
Jones froze, his mouth locked in a rictus oddly reminiscent of the ABC logo. Kerri-Anne hurriedly introduced a commercial break and the two were seen and heard no more. Happy days.