Australia has a new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Hope Mornings listeners heard from three people who know him well – his former biographer, Christopher Pearson, his former colleague Bruce Baird and his surfing partner, NSW State Treasurer, Mike Baird.
The Federal Member for Warringah is well-known to most Australians, having served in the Howard government as the Minister for Employment and later as the Minister for Health and Ageing. Since 2009, he’s been the Leader of the Opposition where he’s been relentless at attacking the Labor Government.
In spite of his success in this publicly negative role, those who know him well talk about a softer, more compassionate side of Tony Abbott. His biographer and friend, the late Christopher Pearson, told Hope Mornings back in 2010 that Tony is almost ‘embarrassingly’ faithful to his friends. “I think that Tony’s one of those people that’s never willingly renounced a friendship, however inconvenient,” Christopher said. “One of his advantages is that he has very few enemies within his own party and very few whole-hearted enemies within the political class, because whatever you might think about his policy, there’s no doubt that he’s a decent, complex human being”.
Christopher Pearson also said that Tony Abbott would be faithful to his commitments, “I think the things that most get to him are the way politics betrays people, lets people down, creates false expectations. He thinks the first job of a politician is, like a doctor, to do no harm… not to promise the world and give people an Atlas.”
Former Liberal Member for Cook, Bruce Baird also knows Tony Abbott well. He served as his parliamentary colleague in the Howard government until 2007. He believes Tony Abbott has a number of qualities that will help him in the top job, including his physical fitness. He recalls Tony running around Parliament House after Question Time. Bruce believes that Tony’s religious background, including a stint studying for the Priesthood, means he has higher values than just materialism or looking after himself. He also admires his qualities as a devoted husband and family man, his intellect as a former Rhodes Scholar, his passion for Indigenous affairs and his consultative leadership style. “I think people might be surprised at how easy he is to work with,” Bruce says, citing the fact that even his drivers, who see him in a more private setting, always comment on how easy he is to get on with.
AUDIO: Hear Bruce Baird discuss the election result and his views on Tony Abbott
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NSW State Treasurer Mike Baird has also spent a lot of time with Tony Abbott in their beachside electorates around the Manly area. “I’ve been in this role coming up towards seven years now and during that time he’s been a wonderful Federal member who has gone out of his way to help me and get to know me and we found a good way to get together was to catch up for a surf and a coffee,” Mike says.
Though Tony has only been surfing for a few years, Mike says the Prime Minister has ‘no fear’. “I’ve had him out in a couple of situations where I’ve thought, ‘I don’t know if Tony should be out here’, but out he goes, he charges ahead and he loves it!”
“The more you get to know him, the more impressive he is,” Mike says. “He is genuine, he’s compassionate, he’s considered, he’s tough, he’s resilient.”
Mike Baird agrees with Christopher Pearson that Tony Abbott is an extremely faithful friend. “In any political life and any business life you’re going to have ups and downs and at some of the lowest points that I’ve had, one of the first phone calls I have had has been from Tony.”
AUDIO: NSW State Treasurer , Mike Baird, talks about his friendship with Tony Abbott.
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