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Australian Politics: PM Tony Abbott has stooped to grubby "new low"

The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sunk to a pathetic new low, never before seen in Australian politics. 

Australians have never seen such a disgusting and pathetic performance by an ill-equipped Prime Minister who has demeaned the high office which he holds.

The forces of Liberal Party decency are slowly gathering against this man who is destined for high office in Australian politics - as the newest backbencher in the House of Representatives!

Australians are ‘sick and tired of an
angry Tony Abbott’: Bill Shorten
 in question time on Wednesday.
The Guardian reports: Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott sank to 'a new low' over Gillian Triggs's treatment.

Opposition leader accuses PM of being ‘psychologically unsuited’ to the prime ministership.

Bill Shorten has launched a strongly worded attack on Tony Abbott over the Gillian Triggs saga, with the opposition leader accusing the prime minister of sinking to a “new low” and being “psychologically unsuited” to the nation’s top job.

Labor sought to cut short parliamentary question time on Wednesday to condemn the government for “forgetting the rule of law”, saying it had ignored the separation of powers in an attempt to force the resignation of the Human Rights Commission president.

Shorten said Australians were “sick and tired of an angry Tony Abbott” and the government’s treatment of Triggs was “a new low by the most powerful man in Australia against an upright, proper and decent woman”.

But Abbott and his senior frontbencher, Christopher Pyne, dismissed Labor’s focus on official testimony to a Senate estimates committee hearing, suggesting it was “Canberra insider nonsense” and a “beltway” issue that was not the most important priority for the public.

The Australian federal police confirmed they would evaluate a referral from the opposition relating to accusations – aired during a committee hearing on Tuesday – that the government had offered an inducement to Triggs to quit the Human Rights Commission by suggesting she could be given an alternative job suited to her legal skills.

The secretary of the attorney general’s department, Chris Moraitis, denied specifically asking Triggs to resign, but said he had told Triggs during a meeting in Sydney on 3 February that she had lost the confidence of the attorney general, George Brandis.

Moraitis said he had also conveyed a message from Brandis that “the government would be prepared to consider positively a senior legal role for her”.

Triggs told the committee hearing that there was “no doubt” in her mind that the job offer was connected to her resignation and she immediately turned down the “disgraceful proposal”.

During question time on Wednesday, Abbott reaffirmed that the government had lost confidence in Triggs continuing as commission president, citing her “political inquiry” against the Coalition on the issue of children in detention.

But Abbott rejected suggestions of government impropriety. “The president of the commission has not been asked to resign; no inducement has been offered,” Abbott said.

Labor asked the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, who represents Brandis in the lower house, to elaborate on the specific job offered to Triggs.

Bishop said she had spoken to Moraitis “and he confirmed to me that Professor Triggs was not asked to resign, that she was not offered an inducement to resign”.

“I would back the secretary of the Attorney General’s Department over anyone on that side [Labor],” Bishop said.

Shorten pointed to Brandis’s comment to Senate estimates that the attorney general hoped Triggs would recognise her position was untenable and that she “could be encouraged or be willing to serve the government in other capacities”.

Abbott replied that Shorten was “not interested in the real issues that concern the Australian people – yet again Canberra insider nonsense; that’s all this is”.

“Every day this government is getting on with the job of looking after the Australian people,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s comments stood in contrast with earlier remarks by the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that Triggs was “a very distinguished international legal academic”.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to criticise Triggs’s recommendation that the government pay compensation to a convicted wife killer who continued to be detained after he served his court-imposed jail sentence.

“If members opposite think that people like that should be let out, if they think people like that should be compensated, they had better stand up and explain themselves to the Australian people,” Abbott said.

Shorten attempted to suspend standing orders partway through question time to move a motion that would censure Brandis for undermining the Human Rights Commission’s independence and “treating an independent statutory office holder with contempt”.

The opposition leader said the prime minister had underestimated Australians in dismissing the Triggs controversy as an “insider” issue.

“I think there are a lot of Australians who have been appalled by your conduct and your character assasination of this president of the Human Rights Commission,” Shorten told Abbott.

“Australia has been reminded of the character of this prime minister and of this attorney general. I know there are good members of the government … who are deeply uneasy, deeply uneasy at the open attack on an independent statutory office holder.”

In a later speech, Shorten said Abbott’s decision to use his position of power to launch an “undignified, unedifying” attack on Triggs was the worst moment of his political career.

“He is psychologically unsuited for the task of leadership. He cannot restrain his anger at people who disagree with him,” Shorten said.

“He is an arrogant, cynical prime minister whose government is taking Australia in the wrong direction and it needs to stop.”

Pyne leapt to Abbott’s defence, labelling Shorten as “Beltway Bill” and “Backstabber Bill” who was poorly placed to give lectures on integrity given his role in removing Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard from the prime ministership.

“We aren’t elected to be involved in beltway discussions about what happened at Senate estimates yesterday,” Pyne said.

“We will be getting on with good government as soon as we have dispatched this particular motion.”