Wet lettuce versus a real PM

by DAVID FLINT – I WAS asked recently to introduce Tony Abbott at a function. 

Along with national leaders of the standing of John Howard and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump, Tony would not have shamed the nation by slapping a foreign dictator with a wet lettuce for his clear acts of aggression, as Anthony Albanese did recently. 

Importantly, Tony Abbott has not changed any one of his intellectual and moral allegiances, for which he is celebrated around the world.

And this is not the first time.

(On this, cartoonist Johannes Leak has cleverly drawn an enthroned Dictator Xi, with a newspaper at his feet bearing the headline, “Chinese jet’s aggressive action”. Beside him a sweating and nervous PM, holding a wet lettuce leaf, says, “You had to know there would be consequences”.)


Tony Abbott was to launch a magnificent book by Chris Reynolds, Australia, A Capital Idea.

If parents are looking for a gift for children about our history beyond the usual propaganda, this is it.

The indefatigable Sophie York organised the function at Sydney’s Royal Automobile Club near Circular Quay, which also houses active pioneering organisations and societies.

This is a beautiful old building with magnificently decorated rooms. The meal was the best I’ve had in Sydney for some considerable time.

I told the audience I had known Tony Abbott for more than three decades.

While he has not changed much in that time, more importantly, he has not changed any one of the several intellectual and moral allegiances for which he is celebrated.

Among these are ones most relevant to Chris Reynolds’ wonderful book.

I first met Tony in the lead-up to the republic referendum when he had just been made Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy’s first executive director.

On the way to lunch, I was struck by two things. First, the number of people who knew him and greeted him and his universal reply, including to some distinguished-looking citizens, of “G’day mate”.

The other thing was that to maintain the same speed, I found myself unthinkingly falling into, indeed shadowing, his walk.

This, no doubt, looked ridiculous.

As you have probably noticed, Tony’s walk is distinctive. It got him into trouble one day in parliament.

When a Labor Opposition member was noisily demanding Tony table some paper, Tony got up and crossed the floor with it.

The member rushed out of the chamber.

My recollection is that Tony was the first minister to be suspended, albeit briefly, from the house.

He was not threatening. This is his normal walk.

I then mentioned four things to explain to the audience what he’s like and what others think of him.

In 2018, when we invited the nation’s leading broadcaster, Alan Jones, to deliver the Neville Bonner Oration on the crucial issue of watering the continent, I asked Tony to introduce Alan.

When he began the Oration, Alan Jones said, “I regard Tony Abbott as a remarkable person, one of the finest people I have ever known…”.


I could not read his tribute in full because it would have exceeded the allotted time.

(Alan’s eulogy ended with something along the lines of, “David Flint’s not a bad bloke either”.)

Second, I asked Tony as prime minister to deliver a keynote speech on the constitution at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Knowing how busy he was, I offered to write a draft. “No Dave,” he replied, “I like to write my own speeches.”

Now, apart from Menzies and Howard, how many politicians write their own speeches?

With an ability to write and speak, invariably based on strongly held principles, Tony is now being noticed around the world.

Third, I recalled that when he was health minister, he designed a pandemic policy that would apply in the case of some plague reaching Australia. It was praised internationally.

But when it came to COVID, it seemed to have been shredded. It wasn’t mentioned, nor was his advice sought.

His policy lacked the bizarre measures taken, most of which were unnecessarily burdensome, expensive and incompatible with a free society.


I concluded by pointing to a weakness spotted by Alan Jones. But in any epitaph, it will be lauded as a strength.

It is something rarely seen in this world, especially in a strong man.

This is Tony’s Christian sense of forgiveness, of seeing the best in everybody.

Alan recalled how he had warned Tony about those undermining him. As I have. Tony’s response has always been along these lines: “Dave, he’s not a bad bloke, you know.”

Now I believe in forgiveness, but not in the heat of politics nor war.

Tony Abbott’s belief in forgiveness is precisely the reason – and it is the only reason – why his first term as prime minister ended.

That’s why the plotters and a delinquent media had to turn something thought of as entirely appropriate in over 40 other countries, the knighting of that admirable man, the late Prince Philip, into the equivalent of a mortal sin.PC

David Flint

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Abbott. (courtesy YouTube)
RE-PUBLISHED: This article was originally published by The Spectator Australia. Re-used with permission.

6 thoughts on “Wet lettuce versus a real PM

  1. Seems that David has totally forgotten Abbott’s famous threat to “shirtfront” Putin; only to disappear and leave it up to Julie Bishop to do that. If Abbott had indeed fronted Putin, it might only have been to offer him a knighthood, LOL!
    Or, he might have got someone with real power to “shirtfront” Putin- his then Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin for example.

  2. If it wasn’t the Libs wet lettuce people that teamed to get Tony out of the PM role and the Teal who stands behind Albo and a bunch of elites Tony would still be there.

  3. If it wasn’t the Libs wet lettuce people that teamed to get Tony out of the PM role and the Teal who stands behind Albo and a bunch of elites Tony would still be there.

  4. Tony Abbot is a monarchist.
    He thinks Australia’s sovereignty belongs to a foreign family.
    He wants a foreign monarch to reign over Australia as a birthright.
    He is too gutless to back Australia.
    He is a pathetic specimen.

  5. “Along with national leaders of the standing of John Howard and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump, Tony […]”

    Making such so-called “leaders” the object of one’s slavish and uncritical adulation is, sadly, the mark of the feckless and the gormless. The individuals to whom you make reference are, in this context, nothing more than politicians.

    Surely you know enough of politics to understand that it’s the *voters* who are the principals, whereas politicians are *agents* – politicians work for us; we do not work for them. They are nothing more than highly-paid public servants in better-cut suits, and, oft-repeated claims by some to be conservatively-minded paragons of rectitude notwithstanding, they often disappoint by virtue of being found to be abrogating their clear responsibilities and being derelict in their duty of care to people like me – people to whom they are supposed to be accountable – and, I might add, by whom they are paid.

    No Australian worth their salt needs to look to a so-called “leader” for inspiration or direction, because Australians are quite capable of ordering their affairs and pursuing their goals without the need for someone to hold their hand (perhaps you’ve never read of the exploits of our countrymen during wartime, when their hallmarks of initiative and self-sufficiency won the unstinting praise of our Allies, and had them rightly feared by their foes). I personally find the constant inferences to the contrary to be highly insulting, and I think it’s about time it stopped. To be frank, when writers who are supposedly possessed of prodigious intellects can do no more than fawn over such unremarkable individuals as those mentioned above, it comes across as an exercise in infantilising by proxy.

    The people of this country most certainly deserve better government than which is on offer, and in fact we deserve much better than that which we have had for a long time now. When is someone going to admit that our supposed democracy is nothing more than a rotating duopoly in which mediocre careerists line their own pockets and sell out their constituents, whom they treat with nothing but undisguised contempt? One thing is certain: watching yesterday’s below-average has-beens in the rear view mirror as they fade into the distance is not going to to do a single thing to effect the change that Australia so desperately needs. Perhaps someone should write an article about that.


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